Kansas Football Media Day: Jayhawk Player Recap

Photo Courtesy KUSports.com

Notes and quotes from DJ Beshears, Tim Biere, Brandon Bourbon, Duane Zlatnik, Jeff Spikes, Steven Johnson, Bradley McDougald, Keeston Terry and Kevin Young.  On a sidenote it appears the team is going with the dyed hair look in many instances from Kale Pick to Jeremiah Hatch you'll find different players sporting some lighter than normal color. 

Junior Wide Receiver D.J. Beshears

On having more specific role this year:

"Coach (Gill) really emphasized me playing outside receiver more. I'll probably play that position as far as catching the ball and making big plays. Not as much as last year, running the ball out of the backfield and stuff like that, more of a go-to-guy as an outside threat."

On what position he enjoys the most:

"I enjoy playing wide receiver. I played that in high school. I played inside, but being outside receiver now has made me see the field more, and I have more opportunities to make more plays.:

On the emphasis of blocking to play:

"(Wide Receiver) Coach (David) Beaty emphasizes that a lot. We have a job description that's called BBM. Being a tenacious physical blocker is the first B. The second B is 100 percent ball security and the M stands for making plays. If you do all those things right, he says you can be the guy or start for that position."

- Beshears looks to have an opportunity to settle into his position whereas last year he was very much a guy forced to move around quite a bit.  Adding team speed and players like Anthony Pierson along with Darrian Miller and Bourbon at running back allows for him to focus on where he can best help the team.

Senior Tight End Tim Biere

On if he thinks the shape of the team affected its play last season:

"I think a little bit. I think there were certain positions that definitely could have been in better shape. Tight ends included in that mix."

On why the coaches decided to put times on the sprints this season:

"Just accountability.  Having a goal set for making your times, it helped with the mental aspect.  If you are reaching that goal then it can help you reach other goals that the team has set."

On the biggest difference coming into this year:

"I think the tempo in practice is one of the biggest differences. This time last year we were learning the playbook and now this year we know the playbook and we are moving forward and putting in more plays and perfecting the old ones. That helps out a lot with everybody on the team with everybody already knowing the playbook instead of going into preseason practice and installing something brand new."

On if he feels more relaxed now with a year under Coach Gill's playbook:

"We feel a lot more relaxed this season. Last year in the spring and the preseason we didn't know the coaching styles of any of our position coaches or what our role was going to be with the team, but now we mostly know each other's roles and that is a big benefit for us going into this year."

 - Biere talks about tempo.  I"ve heard one of the things Gill has been focused on is "getting reps".  I'd say that's a good thing that we're focused on reps and not understanding things anymore.

 

Redshirt Freshman Running Back Brandon Bourbon

On how he feels if he can be the number two guy that can come into the game and be the one-two punch that Coach Gill wants to have:

"I want to be the guy that goes into the game, but I have to compete with the other running backs who want the same spot. I think we all can get the job done, but I don't know how it will shake out yet."

On what he can bring to the running game:

"I can bring some speed and athleticism to our running game. I think I can be a spark for the team and have some bigger gains this year because we didn't have a lot of those big gains last year. "

On what he thinks the identity of a Turner Gill team is?

"I don't know what it really is yet, but I think throughout the preseason practices our team will find that identity and let the fans embrace it. I think once the season starts we will really know what it is a lot better."

On how he thinks the running game can be a big part of the offense this year?

"(Running Backs) Coach (Reggie) Mitchell and (Head) Coach (Turner) Gill have both stressed to us that running the ball is going to be a big part of our offense this year. We can definitely push the ball down the field and force the defense to respect our run game this year."              

- Stiff competition at the position and it feels like they are all embracing it for the most part. 

 

 

Senior Linebacker Steven Johnson

On his thoughts on who he thinks the first four starting linebackers should be:

"It's hard to say, everyone is working so hard. (Linebacker) Coach (Vantz) Singletary is coaching us all up. Not everybody is making a lot of mistakes. It's going to be a battle. A lot of us can play. A lot of the linebackers can play and are going to play. It's going to be a great opportunity for this defense to be able to gel together like that."

On his thoughts on other people's opinions of the program:

"Ever since I've been here, Kansas has been the underdog. The year we won the Orange Bowl, we were the underdog so it's nothing new for me. Coming from where I'm from, I was always the underdog, so I like being in that underdog mindset. It allows us to work harder and it really gives you motives to want to prove people wrong. I try not to think about what everybody thinks, but at the same time, you have to have it in the back of your mind because it serves as motivation."

On the difference between year one and two under Coach Gill:

"Last year, I really knew what believe meant and now I'm really honing into it. I really believe we're going to be good this year. I'm not going to put a number on how many games we're going to win or anything like that because I don't want to do that. I know we work hard every day, and I know the hard work we put in the offseason and in training camp right now is going to pay off. Not only myself, but there are plenty of us busting our tails out there on the field, just out of breath and can't breathe, our chests are hurting. It's going to pay off in the game, and I just have a better feel because we know the coaches. The tempo has definitely picked up in practice. We are moving a lot faster so that's going to help us in the games. We know the coaches, we know what to expect, and I'm just ready to go. I'm ready for the first game. I can't wait for that day. It's going to be a good day."

On this being a young team:

"It's a young team, but you have a lot of hungry people and a lot of people from backgrounds where things might not have always gone their way, so now that they're here, it's a great opportunity for them to show up and show who they are and where they're from. I'm just glad I have this opportunity with this team, us coming together and we're going to be able to do some things this year."

 - Johnson was a natural fit for Big 12 media day. 

 

Junior Safety Bradley McDougald

On how much smoother practices are now compared to last year:

"It's definitely a lot smoother especially with the coaches; knowing their philosophies and what they really expect from the players, which are the main things that the coaches stress."

On how the offseason has helped the transition from offense to defense:

"The offseason has definitely helped me a lot.  Coach (Robert) Wimberly has helped me and has shown me different areas where he sees my athletic ability helping me and using my talents to do different things that I couldn't do last season."

On the move from wide receiver to safety:

"I think I bought in as soon as coach (Turner) Gill asked me if I wanted to switch over. I told him I would do whatever would help the team win.  When the offseason came I felt more comfortable with it and I feel a lot better practicing at safety instead of just going right into a game."

On what he knows about playing safety now that he didn't know last year:

"The biggest thing is probably the technique.  I had a lot of time to work on my technique, stance and the different ways to drop into coverage.  A lot of those things I didn't know only having six practices under my belt before each game against high power offenses like Oklahoma State and Missouri."

- Read the response to on the second to last topic. There has always been this fear that McDougald wouldn't embrace the change.  I think his play on the field late last year helped change that, but it's pretty clear that he's never been concerned.

 

Junior Offensive Lineman Jeff Spikes

On being locked in at left tackle or maybe another change:

"You never know what it is. That's a coaching decision. What I do know is any position on O-Line is pretty much the same technique, the same format, the same different scenarios. You just have to be prepared to bounce around if needed and bounce around when needed."

On the O-Line fitting together since the line has more experience:

"I think that camaraderie is always going to be good for any part of the game. I think the camaraderie we have on and off the field is really going to tie over to game time and practice and being together overall."

On paying any attention to polls:

"I don't believe that polls make that much difference to us. Coming from last season's predicament, we're all confident that we need to get better. It wouldn't matter where we're at. We know coming from last year, in general, we need to get better and prove to ourselves that we are a good team, we are good players and we can work together and get a common goal."

On if this team is better than last year's already or is it too soon to tell:

"The fact that a lot of our young guys have returned and we went through that whole thing where we got a new coaching staff, new players, new everything - so just the fact we're going into our second season around, we're going to get better and the more we're practicing, the more camaraderie we have and the more we can come together as a team, as a family, and as units, we're going to get better. There's no limit on how much better we've gotten this far, but I know we have and that's inevitable."

- This is a big year for Spikes.  It remains to be determined if he'll get one more year of eligibility or not so it could be his last opportunity to make an impression.  Physically he's an impressive player.

 

Sophomore Safety Keeston Terry

On his health:

"I'm pretty good health wise. I still don't feel 100 percent,  but I feel about 95 percent right now.  There's still some soreness in my knee, but other than that I'm pretty good. Most of it is a confidence builder. I need to get more confident in my knee, which might take a little while, but I will definitely be to 100 percent by the time the season starts."

On how disappointing it was getting hurt after playing so well at the beginning of the season:

"I was definitely disappointed because I felt like I had an opportunity - if I would have stayed healthy - to maybe start later on in the season.  But everything happens for a reason, so I think it's going to be better for the season coming up."

On how practices have been going so far:

"It's been going pretty good so far.  I'm still learning a lot and working on some things, but it's going pretty well."

On playing defense instead of offense:

"I thought I was going to be a receiver coming into college, but I'll take on my role and go with it.  I'm a bigger fan of wide receiver, but I'm going to do whatever the program wants me to do."

- Coach Gill said Terry has four years of eligibility remaining.  That's a GREAT thing to have. 

 

Sophomore Defensive Tackle Kevin Young

On if the team will use being an underdog to its advantage:

"We don't really look at it like that.  We're just going to look at each opponent and not put any team higher than the other and just play to the best of our ability every snap and every single game.  We're going to come out ready to play no matter who the opponent is."

On how important it is to come out strong for the first game:

"We're definitely taking it game-by-game.  The first game is McNeese State, but I'm not looking down the schedule to Oklahoma or any other games.  Every game is important and we want to set the tone and come out and play as hard as we can and hopefully get the win."

On the improved speed of the team:

"Oh most definitely, we have a few key position changes such as Toben Opurum changing to defensive end last season, but even as a whole team I feel like we're a lot faster than last season."

On how excited he is to get the season started:

"I'm so excited.  It's been pretty much a whole year since we've played so I'm definitely excited to get going again."

- Young definitely looks the part of a defensive tackle now.  Sounds like he's sitting at 280-285 and still has more agility and quickness that has carried over from his end position.  He's 100% healthy for the first time in a year as well so that should help him contribute.

 

Junior Offensive Lineman Duane Zlatnik

On the biggest difference switching to offensive line from defensive line:

"The technique is completely different with the offensive line. You have to stay low all the time, have the proper footwork and keep your hands inside. All of these techniques have to be right all the time and working together."

On his comparison to his high school days, how he has changed:

"In high school I weighed around 255 pounds and I am about 310 pounds, so since I have been at KU I've gained around 60 pounds or so. As far as muscles goes, I have gotten a lot stronger since I have been at KU. The strength coaches that we have here have done a great job at working us to the max and giving us the opportunity to get stronger in the weight room every day.

On what he has seen differently this year from the offensive line than what he has seen from the o-line in the past?

"I think the spring really helped our offensive line a lot, we all got used to playing together and it has carried over to our preseason practices. We are moving better with each other and communicating with each other.

- Very anxious to see the improvement here.  Zlatnik definitely had moments where he struggled last season but there have been a lot of positive comments about his work ethic, leadership and improvement in the offseason.

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