Turner Gill, Steven Johnson, Tim Biere and Jeremiah Hatch are all on hand in Dallas Texas representing the Kansas Jayhawk football team at Big 12 football media days this week and Turner Gill just wrapped up his allotted time at the mic with a few words about the upcoming football season before answering a handful of questions.
Thank you. I'm definitely excited about this football season. I think the second year when you get into a football program, you are a little bit more comfortable because you have a better opportunity to know who your team is and what they're all about, the areas they need to improve on.
Also you understand a little bit more what their strengths are. So that's why I'm a little bit more at ease as I go into this football season here, because I do know what we need to do and how we need to go about doing it.
Last year at this time I didn't really quite understand all the deep details about where we were at and what we need to do as far as a football team.
Also, my coaching staff, they have a little bit better understanding of what I do and how I go about doing things here on a day-to-day basis, the things that are happening on the football field, and also things that don't happen on the football field and how I go about making my decisions.
So everybody is a lot more confident. The one thing about our football team here briefly, then open up to questions, is that I really feel good about our work ethic. As we went into the winter offseason program, and spring football season, I saw a better work ethic. When you have a better work ethic, you have a better opportunity to be successful. That's what makes me a little more excited about our upcoming season.
The other thing, too, we have gotten faster. I think the key thing is when you get a work ethic and you get a little bit faster, particularly in this league, then it's going to get you a better opportunity to be successful and get things going in the right way. I think those things are going well. We've made some good adjustments and we're going to continue to make adjustments to make the University of Kansas a championship football team here in the Big 12 Conference. Questions?
Q. Before you took this job, you knew it would be difficult. Is this job harder than you originally thought it would be coming from a pretty challenging place like Buffalo?
I had just an open mind and an open heart about what to expect in my first year, particularly. I knew when I came in, as I talked through the interview process a little bit about the team, was a little bit fragile as far as some of the student-athletes, so I had a similar situation as I went into Buffalo, the situation there.
So, again, you never know how it's all going to be. So, again, I had a plan being able to recruit, being able to teach and develop young men to play the game of football and also play in the game of life.
And so I'm excited about where we're at today. Again, just because I know a lot more details about our football team and about the University of Kansas, too. So there's a combination of knowing the players and also you gotta understand the University of Kansas, what all the things you have to do to move forward in that program, too.
Q. Turner, how difficult was it to redshirt most of your first-year players last season, and was there much temptation to use more of the guys you recruited?
So this year we got competition. That's what we didn't have last year at positions. In some positions we just didn't have competition. And I think if you talked to most of us as coaches, when you've got competition at just about every position, you're going to improve your play of your football team.
Well, that was a big decision. I decided to redshirt the majority of them because I thought there would be a better situation as far as the following year and two or three years down the road they would be bigger, faster, stronger, and I thought that would benefit our program definitely in the long term. So I think that's why I feel even greater about this upcoming season, because we redshirted about 15, 16 guys, who will be redshirt freshmen. We're also bringing in about 25, 26 new freshmen.
We're excited about it. Every single position we have competition at that and I know we'll be a better football team because of the competition.
Q. You mentioned you learned a lot. What was the biggest thing you learned about your team through last season that maybe you didn't know at Media Days this time last year?
How they can respond to adversity. I think that's on any football program. You really don't know until you go through things. Everybody handles adversity in different ways.
So I needed to find out how do the upperclassmen seniors, do they know how to respond to adversity to help their teammates. And how much involvement do we as coaches need to get involved when adversity comes. Again, whether it's football related or non-football related, we need to have some leadership and knowing how our players respond.
Because every team, every player, every group of players at each year it's unique. And so that was the thing that took a little bit more time to understand, how I need to approach each individual guy, but more importantly to try to get our players to be able to teach the other guys how to respond to adversity so we could move faster.
When the coaches have to go in and make a decision, it takes a little bit longer process to get your team to move forward. If you've got your players being able to respond to the things that are happening on and off the football field to your players and they can handle some of those things, then I think your football program can move forward in a faster way.
Q. When you played at Nebraska in the old Big Eight, everybody knew everybody. They faced each team every year; going to be facing that same situation now this year with a round-robin schedule. Is that going to bring more rivalries between the former North and South teams, do you think, or what's going to be some of the ramifications of that?
Yes, I think that's a plus for overall the Big 12 Conference. I think it's going to be great for our fans, great for our players and the coaching staff. Now we're going to know each other a little bit deeper way as far as not only from a football standpoint. I think it's great for our fans because they have a chance now to travel to really every game pretty reasonable.
And now, you know, each other, the teams, how they are, what they do, and get to know the players even better, opposing teams, and even more deeper in the scheme. So I think all that's a plus in the Big 12 Conference, and I'm glad to be a part of it, and I think I'm excited about this situation. I think it's going to be a long-term deal, and I'm very, very excited about it.
Q. You talked about how your team handles adversity. You had the bad loss early. You came back with two memorable victories, you come back from Colorado and beating Georgia Tech. Were you pleased with what you found out about the way the team handled adversity?
Overall, I think I would have liked it to have been a little bit better but I'm glad to have seen them respond. It would have been the other way around if I had never seen our players to respond to overcome adversity, then you've got a little more concern.
But overall I thought our players did respond in a good way, particularly I think even with the last four ball games, even though we didn't win those games, I thought there was tremendous improvement as a football team.
And I saw us continue to mature. I continue to see us do that. I think one of the biggest other things that I look for in a team to see how they improve is there was communication. I thought early on in our season and all that, our players didn't talk to each other very much. Not just football-wise, I'm just talking about just in general.
And I think I'm trying to find ways and did a little bit of seminars and trying to get our players to be able to communicate.
So I thought our guys did a little bit better of that and include our coaches being able to communicate to our players how we need to expect and how we need to go get it done. If you're not able to communicate we're not going to be able to move forward in our program to be champions.
So I thought our things were definitely done better in our last four ball games and no doubt in our winter conditioning and also in our spring football practice. We did a better job of seeing our guys talking to each other, both ways in trying to challenge them but also in ways that they corrected them in the right way and being well on the football field.
Q. You mentioned the sizable freshman class that you guys brought in, and during your signing day press conference you said you thought many of them would have a great opportunity to see the field this year. Now that spring football is behind you and you know a little more about the team, do you still feel that way?
Yes, I feel pretty good about that. But again what that number is, I don't know. Again, I think the thing I'm reflecting on there is competition. We do know that our incoming freshmen and the redshirt freshmen, they are bringing some speed.
And that excites me because when we have some speed then I'm going to give you more opportunity to showcase your skills. So when you have that I think it's going to be a better competition for our players to respond in the right way. Therefore we'll be more productive in being able to win championships in the Big 12.