Head Coach Tuner Gill
"I want to start off by thanking Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little for the invitation to the fans to wear blue on Fridays and before every home game. That is a great way to get excited about college football here on the Lawrence campus and also for all our alumni and fans. I also want to add in there that I want our fans to wear blue as they come into the game on Saturday, so not just doing it on Friday, but carrying it over to the game Saturday. I think it would be great for our players and staff to see that on Saturdays."
"I want to give some reasons why I think our fans should get excited about this 2011 season. I think one of the big things is our team speed as well as our explosiveness. Another thing is our play makers. Some of our fans may think, `What do you mean by playmaker?' What I mean by that is, on offense for example, we have some guys now that are going to be able to make some longer runs. We have guys that are going to break some 20-35 yard runs or 80 yard touchdown passes. Also on defense, we're going to have chances to make tackles for losses and also creating more turnovers. One last thing about our football team is that they are far more physical (than we were last year). If we have speed and we have explosiveness, those will all factor into the team being more physical."
"We've talked about our upperclassmen, which we feel very good about. We also have some really solid freshmen. There will probably be seven to 10 true freshmen that will play in this game. If they don't play in this game, then they will play in some future games as we go along in the season. We're very excited about that. Not just about our freshmen, but our upperclassmen have shown me some great things as far as work ethic and I've seen that with our freshmen too. The freshmen have really learned to respect the upperclassmen, but they've also been able to come in and become a part of it and really gel with what we're trying to get accomplished on offense, defense and special teams."
"As far as formally announcing team captains, those guys will be Jeremiah Hatch, Steven Johnson, Toben Opurum and Tim Biere. That was all done by votes from our football team. I think that's a good representation (of our team) there. Those guys were good examples in my first full year here. Those guys have represented the program well on the field, off the field and in the classroom."
On McNeese State:
"They have definitely been known nationally as a very good program over many years. Coach (Matt) Viator has done a great job in his five years there. I think they've won two or three titles and have finished in the top two of their conference the five or six years that he's been there. They're obviously doing some good things. They have some talent both on the offensive side and the defensive side. One thing that stands out is that they can run pretty well, especially in their secondary. They have a lot of guys that stand out but particularly on the defensive side. I'll start with one guy; their defensive end, Desmund Lighten, is a guy that has some pretty good explosiveness and is able to come off the edge and make some plays and create some havoc in the backfield. On the offensive side, I think their running backs stand out the most. They have two or three guys that do some good things as far as running the football and can make plays there. They're a good football team and we're going to have to play well and I anticipate us to play well. Our team has responded very well since the last ball game of last season. Our guys have done the things that we've asked them to do and I expect us to play well this first ball game because of what they've shown here, not just in the offseason but in spring ball and in the preseason."
On how he makes sure that first game jitters won't be a factor on Saturday:
"During the preseason we tried to put them in a lot of situations as far as crowd noise and putting them in uncomfortable situations. Doing some spur-of-the-moment things that they don't anticipate and seeing how they respond. You can do all those things the best you can for the young guys and the guys who haven't seen much time on the field. We have tried to do some things that have made them uncomfortable because that's what's going to happen in a game. Sometimes in the first quarter, sometimes in the second half something comes up that is a little unusual and we can prepare our guys to know how to respond. We went through a lot of situations a lot of scenarios to prepare ourselves to do well, not only as players but as coaches, too."
On who has impressed him most among the true freshmen:
"The first guy that you've probably heard quite a bit about is Darrian Miller. He came in mid year and did some great things for us. I think he's probably stood out the most. All the other guys, we anticipate some of them playing right away. I don't want to back myself into a corner and give out all their names because things can change. I can definitely say though that Darrian Miller has stood out the most."
On how key it will be to develop confidence within the offense:
"I think it's key on every side of the ball. On offense, defense and special teams we need to have a great start. We need to have some guys making plays and getting some excitement for our team and our fans. We do have some guys now that I think can do that. That was one of the things we didn't have as much of last year. I think we have some people that can do that this year; making plays."
On the position changes of Bradley McDougald and Toben Opurum:
"I think the initial thing that got my considering that was we were lacking some speed and playmaking ability on the defensive side. Those guys have size and quickness. They have a great football savvy. I just thought we needed to get some guys that we needed to be playmakers on defense for us. We talked to them about it to see if they were open to it and explain to them why we thought they could still be productive on the defensive end. They bought into it and I think they see the results and I think people are going to see that this year."
On what he hopes to have established after the game:
"Speed and physicality. Those are the two things I want to look for, and obviously execution. I want to see us playing fast and physical."
On the linebacker group coming together:
"I feel very good about the position. I think we have depth and we have guys who can make plays for us. Now we just have to see if they can do it in a game. Steven Johnson is really the only guy that has had playing time. Huldon Tharp didn't play last year, but played two years ago. I feel good about our depth and we have some guys who will step up. I feel good about the five or six guys we have at linebacker. They've shown they can create some havoc against the offense."
On what he's seen in the offensive line:
"I think the great thing about the offensive line is they have all been together through spring ball and fall camp. There hasn't been any injuries to keep people out of it and that's key. We have six or seven guys that we can interchange. I'm very pleased at watch what Coach (J.B.) Grimes has done with those guys. We're very solid at that position."
On the team's mentality going into the season opener:
"We've just talked about getting better. They know what has happened in the past. We talk about what you can learn from last year and how you are going to change that. More importantly, we're talking about how we already have changed it. Going back to the spring and start of fall camp and pointing out certain things to our players. Here's why and how we've put ourselves in a position to win a ball game. Our guys are continuing to encourage and talk."
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb
On comparisons to last season's opening game:
"It really does seem like a long time ago as far as where our team is at now compared to then. We've worked harder than we ever really have to make sure that happens again."
On his relationship with wide receiver Kale Pick:
"We have definitely become closer. We were always talking on the field. We're both competitors and we try to bring the best out of each other. I think we tried that when we were quarterbacks and we both wanted to be the best. Now that we can work together to try and bring the best out of each other, it's really going to help."
On command of huddle and being more mature:
"As far as in the huddle, you can kind of tell when guys are looking at you differently, looking at you as a leader, kind of as a guy to look to in tough situations. I think that's really going to help our season."
Senior offensive tackle Jeff Spikes
On most intelligent lineman:
"Gavin (Howard) knows football. He wants to be a coach and he knows the dynamics of not just offensive line, but the receivers, running backs, quarterbacks, cover two, cover one, defenses and all that. He knows what works well for each play, what we can check to and things like that. He really has knowledge of the game."
On communication of offensive line:
"Communication in any aspect in life is the key. You can get through any situation and it can be better, worse, understandable or not understandable. Our communication through the offensive line just lets each player know each individual and how to perform and work with that person. There are different ways different players work. There are different things that certain players need. Like, I may need to yell out a call, but Jeremiah may not need that. In the communication area, you have to know who you're working with and what suits them best and that helps everyone better perform."
On the freshmen offensive linemen the with biggest upside:
"There are two of them that really stand out to me. One of them is Damon Martin and the other one is Luke Luhrsen. Luke is very aggressive. He goes hard and knows how to finish. He loves to get pancakes. Right now, he's a freshmen and leads in knockdowns. Damon Martin is a good player. He's athletic and he can play football."
Senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson
On thoughts going into the season opener:
"We're really ready for the new season to start up. Coming off a disappointing season last year, we're just ready to go out there and get the pads on and popping on the field against somebody else instead of spring practice and two-a-days versus ourselves. We're just ready to show that we're a different team this year."
On freshmen receivers:
"I don't think we've seen too much nervousness from a lot of our younger guys. I think it's a lot of confidence really. They've been getting a lot of reps in practice and getting in the mix has really helped them out with that. Actually throwing them in there and seeing what it's like to compete at this level and knowing what you're going to have to do. We need to make sure we're coaching them in the film room and getting them familiar."
On slowing the game down and getting into a game:
"You want to make sure you get a flow for the game and try to get that first catch as fast as possible. You want to try and get that first hit on that linebacker or safety as soon as possible. You don't want to go through a couple series and not be involved in the game because you feel like you're out of place on the outside when you haven't really gotten hit or touched anybody."
On blocking and the importance of it:
"Blocking has come along really well with Coach Beaty. He's put a big emphasis on it and we've all really fell into his mindset of being physical and tough blockers. This year we're priding ourselves on making plays and being really good blockers. I think we've all displayed that throughout this football camp. I think everybody will see a really big difference in how much passion that we're putting into the blocking on the outside."
Senior cornerback Isiah Barfield
On the younger players' impact this year:
"Every one of the young players can come in and make an impact. At any given time, anyone can come in and have an impact on the game."
On what Coach Gill did to motivate the team this week:
"He hasn't done anything different than what he usually does - he just wants us to stay focused in the classroom and prepare for the football that we need to be focused on."
On what he has seen on film from McNeese State Quarterback Cody Stroud:
"He is a very good player; they have a good team with good team speed. They will compete with a lot of people, so there is no reason to overlook them. We have to focus every week on the team we're playing."
Sophomore linebacker Darius Willis
On Coach Gill and why he believes in him:
"Coach Gill is an awesome guy; he comes to work every day with the same mindset. He wants us to come out and be the best player and the best person we can be. That just drove me to want to come to Kansas and play for him. He is the type of person that I know I can depend on. Just having someone in your corner that can help you when you think you're by yourself is a really nice thing."
On the team intensity and focus for the first game of the season:
"One thing that we are all coming together on is to just do our job. We have to instill that in each other. The only thing we have been thinking about is to do our job and help us become a better football team."
On playing in the 3-4 defense:
"Scheme-wise I think (playing a 3-4) helps us a lot. It enables a lot of different players and positions to make plays. I feel like the scheme is right where we need it to be."
Junior Cornerback Greg Brown
On his excitement to get the season started:
"Very excited. I've been waiting a long time for this week."
On his offseason:
"Overall, I think I've had a very good offseason. I've put in a lot of time and effort, especially on my back-peddling and transitioning. It has shown a lot during training camp."
On what he has seen so far in the defense:
"We have a lot of speed and physicality; we have a lot of speed everywhere on the depth chart."
On who he looks up to in the secondary for leadership:
"I look up to (junior safety) Lubbock (Smith). We took our official visit together, so we've always been close."
Gill announced that freshman tight end Jimmay Mundine and sophomore wide receiver Erick McGriff have been suspended for the first two games of the season, while sophomore defensive end Tyrone Sellers will also miss the McNeese State game for violating team rules. He also announced that senior defensive tackle Patrick Dorsey, freshman linebacker Jake Farley and sophomore wide receiver Chris Omigie have been ruled out for Saturday's game due to injury.