Kansas Football Press Conference Rewind

This week Turner Gill talks Iowa State, showing people that the program is moving forward, Baylor and of course the senior class.

From the player side we hear from Brandon Bourbon, Tim Biere and Malcolm Walker on the opportunity that Baylor provides the defense.

Kansas Head Coach Turner Gill

Opening Statement:

"Good afternoon, we are really looking forward to show our determination of our football team and trying to make sure that we finish this thing on a positive note. (We) also (want) show that we are moving our program forward. Our players are continuing to believe in our coaches, they are continuing to believe in their teammates and that is what you have got to have as you continue to move forward for the rest of this season."

I do think Gill can show that the program is moving forward and I'm glad that he makes a point of stating that as a goal, but it's going to take a pretty dynamic change in these last three games to form new opinions regarding his future.  As Matt Tait said yesterday, I'm not even sure just one win, even if it is Missouri, helps Gill's cause.

On the Iowa State game:

"I thought it was great that our defensive guys continue to get multiple turnovers. You have heard me say throughout the season that our defense has to be sure and get multiple turnovers, (which means) having three or more. Actually three out of the last four ball games we have had multiple turnovers. I am very pleased with what I was able to see there. The last two games we have improved in the third quarter on the defensive side of the ball. That was one area that we talked about quite a bit this whole year. We have got to improve in the third quarter. This last ball game we held Iowa State scoreless. Against Texas we held them to seven points, so those are some areas where we have improved. Also against Iowa State, we held them to 13 points, first time that has happened since 2007, as far as fewest points allowed in a Big 12 game so there is some improvement there."

I'll echo the turnover statement.  In doing the weekly tale of the tape that is an area that has steadily improved as the season has gone on and that's not something you can say about this team when it comes to many statistical categories.  The defense has capitalized on opponent mistakes, the offense just hasn't capitalized on those opportunities.

"Offensively, I thought we moved the ball well between the 25 and the 25. The one stat that we look at that lets us know where we are at offensively is that we had 63 plays and 65 knockdowns (on the offensive line). We are always trying to look at it, saying did we have at least one knockdown per play, to let us know that we are playing physical football. That is what we need to do as far as the offensive side. So there are some positive things that happened from that perspective."

I'm curious how many of the knockdowns were in the first half of play.  We stalled big time in the second half and it makes you wonder if that number is skewed toward the early portion of the contest. 

On the seniors last game:

"It is the final game for our seniors here going into Memorial Stadium. I think that is one big (source of) motivation for our players and I think it will be great for our fans. We appreciate what our support has been and I think it will be important to see our seniors go out in a good way and that is our players' motivation, to send our seniors out in a good way."

On the Baylor game:

"I have known (Baylor head coach) Art Briles for quite a long time. He has done a good job turning their program around. He has been there four years now and I know he has made some good progress in their program. Their quarterback (Robert Griffin III) is a guy that is very talented, he can throw the football and he can run. The word explosive is fitting to him, because he can do a lot of good things with his arm and he can also do some outstanding things with his legs. It is going to be a tremendous challenge. We have got to make sure that we contain him. We are not going to stop him, we might slow him down a play or two here and there, but we have to make sure that we contain him. He is in my eyes probably one of the best quarterbacks in the country this year, as far as what he is able to do. On the defensive side of the ball I have known Phil Bennett a long time as well. He was an assistant coach at Nebraska, used to be the defensive coordinator at K-State, was a head coach at Pittsburgh, so I am very familiar with his schemes and what he has done and what he is doing, as far as the defensive side of the ball. I think the keys for us in this ball game: Our defense has to have multiple turnovers in this game to give us a chance to be successful.  On special teams, we have to win that area, and get a big play. I think those two areas are very important for us. Offensively, we have to score touchdowns; you can't kick field goals and expect to beat Baylor."

The only thing that sometimes makes me hesitant to move on from Gill is the fact that he hasn't had a dynamic quarterback to run the type of offense that I believe he would like to run.  If in fact Berglund makes it to campus and the two incoming quarterbacks can compete along with Cummings, then we have four quarterbacks in the mold that Gill is looking for.  They are also four quarterbacks that represent a noticeable upgrade from an athleticism standpoint for Kansas at the position and that goes back for quite some time.  Bill Snyder develops quarterbacks, Art Briles recruits quarterbacks and Mack Brown tries to stay out of the way.  Maybe Gill is in the Briles role and his fortunes could change if we get the right guy in place.

On last year's loss to Baylor:

"Let's talk about this year. Last year is last year. Our guys are responding how I would hope they would respond. They are still competing every week and it is good to see how our guys have responded. I think that shows that our guys are still engaged, they still believe in what we are trying to do offensively and defensively and on special teams. They are coming to work every day and that is all you can ask them to do. There are some small improvements and we haven't put together a full four quarter game in a while, so that is what we are trying to get done."

"Our guys are responding how I would hope they would respond".  These are the statements that concern me.  And I get that Gill is standing up for his playes, but check out this quote from Bill Self after last nights beatdown of Fort Hays State "Practices have been too inconsistent for us to make great jumps in improvement. We got to do it everyday and we aren't quite mature enough to do it yet. I think our focus and attention to detail isn't very good right now at all."   Now Self also praised the in game play but at some point you have to challenge people a little bit.  Some disagree with doing that in the media, but sometimes just being honest gets the job done.  If this is how Gill wants them to respond this season and Gill believes this is competitive, I have reservations.

On whether decision making will be different this week:

"It could be. It is always a situation that you state what you are going to do here and in most cases I will follow that, but there are always some circumstances where you have to make decisions as a head coach, whether to go for it or not go for it. Sometimes you have to kick a field goal to take something positive out of it. I know in the back of my mind that we have to score touchdowns."

On Robert Griffin:

"There have been a few things that people have tried. (But) they are going to make their yards. They are going to score some points. They are talented on both sides of the ball, particularly on the offensive side. He is a catalyst. You can draw up a scheme and then all of a sudden he makes somebody miss and there he goes, whether it is throwing it or running the ball. You are just trying to mix things up with him, trying to get him out of rhythm and we also have to make tackles and that is a challenge."

I don't envy Gill, Vic Shealy or anyone responsible for the defensive performance this week.  I hope they do well, but Robert Griffin is a scary matchup for Kansas.

On the development of Jordan Webb:

"I think everything has been good for the most part. I can't say that he has been 100 percent, but I also can't sit here and say that he has been below average. He has been above average on what we tell him to do, so he has really improved in everything that we have asked him to do. We have to help him out a little more with our running game and our receivers, but I think right now it is just maintaining things when we get into the red zone. 

In the last two or three games we have to finish some drives. Sometimes as a quarterback, whenever you don't move the ball quite so well, you are looking for a trigger guy to do some things within the system to still score touchdowns. When you look at the quarterback, you ask `is he still able to move our football team down the field and then is he able to have those guys score touchdowns?'"

On the defense against Iowa State:

"We didn't have any major busts as far as assignments. I thought the big thing about our guys that I was very pleased with is they played hard, they tackled fairly well and I think we had a lot of guys around the football. It was good to see our guys play a four-quarter game. We played four quarters of very good defense."

Couldn't agree more.  Minus the glaring hole in the middle of the field for the quarterback to attack this defense did a nice job.  And that's not a slam against the defense at all because I watched 2 NFL quarterbacks have field days against solid defenses doing the same thing.  Sometimes it's just a product of man coverage.

On losing potential for bowl eligibility:

"That is a huge thing that we would all love to have at the end. Bowl games and winning championships is what we all have our goals set to do every year. That is our job as players and leaders and coaches to continue to find things that are going to motivate our players to continue to play well. I think if you are a competitor you always want to compete and play well and coach well. We are just trying to translate that to our players. Our guys are really in tune with trying to get better and that is what we talk about. What you can control is trying to get better as a football team and as individuals. If all of our players get better, then collectively as a team we are going to be more productive on the football field on game day."

On Bradley McDougald:

"He played three games last year (at safety) and I think now he is really getting in tune with what he needs to do as a safety. It is great to see him do that over the last two ball games, really understand what he needs to do. He was a bit more hesitant early in the season about some of his reads, what to do and when to go. So now he gets it, which is good to see. We have to have those guys there in the run game and in the passing game. They have to be able to make plays. He has done that here in the last two games and hopefully he will continue to do that, because we are going to need that. You have to put them in position to make plays and they have to have the opportunity to make them."   

On how important guys like McDougald and Steven Johnson are for keeping guys motivated:

"They are upperclassmen and they are the ones who keep our players moving in an excited way for the next ball game. It's important for the upperclassmen to continue to work hard, continue to talk football and continue to talk to our guys. I have no doubt that they will. They've done it for the two years I've been here." 

On what it has been like to have Steven Johnson around for two years:

"It's the exciting part of coaching, being able to see the development of a guy. When I first got here, I saw where he was at, (he was) not quite sure where he was supposed to be. He was hesitant on the football field. Now, to see where he's at today and more importantly his ability to communicate, that's what is exciting about coaching. (You get to) see guys develop in a short period of time and how much he's grown as a person. I think he will definitely have an opportunity at the next level if he continues to do what he's been doing here the last three games." 

On if he would have imagined Johnson being the face of the program two years in:

"I had a question mark because I didn't know whether he would be talkative enough as far as coming to us as coaches. (My other concern was) As a leader, being able to talk to his players and demanding a lot of his teammates. I didn't know that part, but it is exciting to see how he is taking information that we give him and then doing what he needs to do to grow as a man and then also as a football player. You have to have some player leadership. The way you move your program in a great way and consistent way, is you have to have players who take charge and demand the best out of their teammates. When that happens, then you know you have your program going in the right direction."

Steven Johnson is most likely your RCT Mr. Jayhawk this year.  We'll vote, but I'm a big believer in him as a person.  I think it's probably doubtful, but I'd love to see him get a shot somewhere at the next level.

On the senior class:

"In the two years I've been here and seeing those guys who have really contacted us as coaches. They come into our offices. They gather their own position groups on their own and bring them in at different times. They come ask us for suggestions and then go out and do it themselves. They do the extra things on the practice field, in the classroom setting and even in academics as far as helping teammates out. Just making sure we're all on the same page. It's great to see those guys take everything they can as a team and then they take it amongst themselves to go and do the things they need to do; to be close. This group of seniors has continued to keep this team close even through the unfortunate circumstances as far as where we're at in our season. This team is still very close. They come in and are ready to work every day. I give a lot of the credit to the seniors, because we talk to those guys." 

On what the senior class has been through the last four years:

"I always talk to them about it's like life. You're going to have some ups and downs. You're going to have some things that you are going to have to stop and think about and then you have to think about `how am I going to continue to do this?' Football is a part of your life experience. It teaches you a lot about things you will have to deal with down the road. This won't be the last time they will have ups and downs. I think these guys understand that. I've talked a lot about those things and we've spent a lot of time with those guys as a group and individually. I think it's going to help them to deal with things and make them better people in our society. That's the overall picture of college athletics. Obviously, we all want to win championships and all those things, but you can still teach people a lot of things about life. That will help all of us in our society. It's a win-win deal for our guys and I really think our guys believe in what we're doing here. They see that and I think they've bought into it all. It's unfortunate we won't have the W's as far as for our seniors like they wanted, but they are still teaching these young guys and still encouraging them." 

On how impressed he's been with the seniors buying into your program:

"I think that shows what type of people they are. To understand that it's about the program, the team and the university shows how unselfish they are. The best way to describe this senior group is they are unselfish and they understand the big picture. I think when you're able to teach young people to look at the big picture, they're going to be successful as they move along in their lives. I know success in football is about wins, but I think it's also going to help those guys understand when they go up against things in life, like interviews and jobs and decisions. We all know in our society today that there is so much instability in our country. Football just helps our guys to be prepared to go on in their lives. We can all be proud of this senior group because of how unselfish they are and they realize what the big picture is all about." 

On if the seniors can try too hard because it is their last home game:

"I've definitely seen guys get really emotional on the field as they get announced. Then they come on the sidelines and they have about two minutes to get ready for the first play that is coming out. A lot of times you try to get some of those things out of the way, like on Friday night or Saturday morning, as far as trying to get some of those things out, but as a human you can't diminish the emotion you may have the day of the game. It's our job to prepare them and talk to them about that. If you have emotions, go ahead and let that happen. Then you have to tune yourself back in to get ready to play. So there is a slight concern of that, but the big thing is communication." 

On not having to worry about a guy like Steven Johnson showing up to play:

"I think that describes a leader. He leads by example. I've talked about him trying to talk a little bit more than he has in the past, but he's also got to do it within his personality. It's always good if it's more about your actions than your words and Steven Johnson is a great example of that. He comes to work every day. He does all the right things, both on and off the football field, academically and taking care of his business. I think the one thing he gains a lot of respect from people is because he came all the way out here from Pennsylvania and being a walk-on and all the things he's been through and showing that he worked and worked and then seeing what the results are. The opportunities he may have in the future and not just football, but other things in life."

 

Sophomore running back Brandon Bourbon

On Baylor's defense forcing at least one turnover in each game this season:

"Recently, we've had some turnover issues sneak up, so we're going to have to be extra cautious with the ball. Their defense definitely forces turnovers, but they have weaknesses as well. I was watching the Missouri game, and they allowed a lot of yards. They had a lot of yards and scored a lot of points (on offense), too. We just have to be extra careful. That's the same with every game, though."

On Baylor allowing two touchdowns in the last four minutes against Missouri last week:

"That's with every game. College football is so crazy. The time stops every time there's a first down, so no game is really out of reach in college football. You definitely have to play hard the entire game and finish it strong." 

 

Senior tight end Tim Biere


On the team's attitude after last week's loss to Iowa State:

"The team's still pretty positive. Last week, we were in the fourth quarter for the first time in a while. We see this team going in the right direction. We just have to finish these last three games off. The motivation as a senior would be to finish on a strong note, win your senior day, beat Missouri and beat Texas A&M. For the younger guys, there's an opportunity to grow this program still. They have to work really hard to do that."

On if the motivation changes without the possibility of a bowl game:

"Maybe a little bit. Now as a senior, you want to win your last game at Memorial Stadium and you really want to beat Missouri. It might be the last time we get to play Missouri ever. To go out, knowing we beat them the last time we ever played, it would be a really cool thing to say." 

Please Tim...please, I'm begging.  If I could have one wish and we ultimately end up paying Gill $10 Million for two seasons, I would be perfectly fine with that if it included a win in the FINAL Border War.

On if last week's game had a more positive feeling after losing by three to Iowa State:

"I think it did. It was heartbreaking, because as an offense, we were in the red zone a bunch of times and didn't score. We were so close; we should have won that game. Everybody knows that the defense played great. We feel like we were so close to winning that game. It was heartbreaking to see that one slip away, but it was positive. We were in the game. We did some good things and we saw some improvement."

 

Junior linebacker Malcolm Walker 

On the defense holding Iowa State to 13 points:

"It started in practice; the intensity was up all week. We wanted to come out and show everyone that we are a better team than the numbers are showing. We went out there and played our hearts out." 

On the opportunity that the Baylor game presents to showcase the defense:

"Baylor is the last home game for our seniors, and it's a big opportunity, because they are a good team. To be able to go out there and play them, and attempt to get a win against them is big focus - especially at the end of the season." 

Huge opportunity for the defense to showcase any improvement, but it's also a HUGE test. 

On playing against Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III:

"It is a great opportunity to play Robert, he is a Heisman candidate and he has put up great numbers each year that he's been at Baylor. It's very exciting for us to get to play against them." 

On if Senior Day brings any added pressure to the team:

"I don't necessarily feel any extra pressure, I just feel more excited to be able to play a great team like Baylor. For me to go out there and play my heart out for the seniors and give us a chance to win, it makes it a little more special since it is Senior Day."

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