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Kansas Press Conference Quotes 9.15.09


Coach Mangino looks back at UTEP and ahead to Duke.  He also discusses the improvement with the defensive line as well as the fact that the running game is coming along nicely. 

On the player side of things we hear from Steven Foster, Toben Opurum, Bradley McDougald, Daymond Patterson, Todd Reesing and Jake Sharp.  Nice to see that some of our younger guys in the program are stepping up enough to get noticed, things look good for the future.

Players of the week and press conference quotes after the jump...

KU Players of the Game vs. UTEP

Offensive: Sal Capra

Defensive: Max Onyegbule

Special Teams: Kick-off coverage unit

Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week: Prinz Kande

Scout Team Offensive Player of the Week: Erick McGriff


Head Coach Mark Mangino

Recap of last week's  game vs. UTEP

"I am very pleased and our staff is pleased with the effort on both sides of the ball, as well as our kicking game. I thought it was one of those games where we really felt like we were in control of the game from early on, and maybe just left some points on the field, but still played pretty well on offense. We did some good things in the run game and pass game, and we did a good job controlling the line of scrimmage on offense, which is something we really needed to do."

"On the defensive side of the ball, I think we are improving. We are improving in areas of playing the run better and getting pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush. We closed the zones hard and played well in the secondary, as well as some good man coverages. I liked the way we attacked the ball and attacked the receivers. So, overall it was a good effort."

Opening statements on this week's game vs. Duke:

"Duke is just in their second year under David Cutcliffe, and you can see they are a team that is getting better. They are a team that stays on track. They do not panic. They stay with their game plan. Their offense is deliberate. They are always trying to get better at the plays they run, which you can see is part of their coaching philosophy. They beat Army last week, but they were going into the fourth quarter 14-13. They came back on a drive with Sean Renfree, who is actually the back-up quarterback, and then they had two interceptions for touchdowns as well. So, they don't panic, they are able to stay calm and do what they have to do. They are using two quarterbacks. Thad Lewis has been their starter and he will start this week, but their back-up is very capable as well. On the defensive side of the ball, they are sound fundamentally. They have a good-looking defensive tackle named Vince Oghobaase. He is a big, strong guy who comes off the ball well. They are smart and play good, sound, fundamental defense. So, we are looking forward to getting back to Memorial Stadium and playing very well."

On the speed of running back Jake Sharp:

"He is physically quicker. He is quicker and faster to acceleration than he was a year ago. He had a great offseason of working out and doing the things that are necessarily to make you better. He is a very, very hard worker."

On the team's improvement of making sacks:

"Based on Saturday night's performance, I am pleased, but we need to continue to do that. A lot of it is just fundamental play and I felt coming in to this season, we needed to be better pass rushers and in order to do that, we needed to be better fundamentally. I thought we needed to take care of the little things in a pass rush, like rushing a half-man instead of a full-man and getting a good jump on the ball. We tell them to use their hands, for instance we tell our defensive lineman that if your numbers are exposed to the offensive lineman, he is taught to punch those numbers and lock out. But if you come off flatback and ready to dip or rip or swat or whatever move you want to use, the offensive lineman will have trouble getting his hands on those numbers. You have to play at ‘pad-level.' Getting your pads down is the whole start of good pass rush. We drill the heck out of pass rush work in training camp. I know the kids are probably sick of it, but they are starting to see the benefits of doing it. Saturday was a good night but we have to continue to do that now. As we keep going in competition, we'll be stiffer and stiffer."

On rotating centers Brad Thorson and Jeremiah Hatch:

"Hatch was just not feeling good and could not function. Thorson is our back-up center and he plays it well, and we also feel good about our back-up guards. We would like to play the way we started the game with Hatch, but we were forced to do that and that is okay. It is good we were forced in that situation because we know now what kind of work we can get out Thorson at center."

On progression of Justin Thornton:

"Justin is an intelligent player. He is a smart kid. He knows our defense very well and has played in it for a number of years now. Because he understands the mental aspect of it and he is a good athlete, he is able to fit in different places and help us. I would be comfortable if we needed to use him at corner, although I would prefer not to do that. He understands the nickel position, the free position and the strong position. He has made himself useful. He is like a utility player in baseball; those guys who stay on rosters for years because they can do more than one thing. He is able to do it because he understands it and he is very smart."

On KU's run game:

"The defenses that we have played in the first two games wanted to stop the pass. Watching how they played us and the adjustments they made kind of told us what they were going to do. They [our opponents] do not want Todd [Reesing] coming in there and passing for 400-500 yards. So, it is great because if they are going to play us that way, we can run the ball."

On progress of Toben Opurum:

"Toben has done a good job. Now, he has a lot to learn, as there is a lot more to this game than getting the ball and running up field with it. He has to learn the little things that come with being a good running back. He is just a true freshman, who is learning something new everyday either on the practice field or in the classroom. But he is doing well and I am impressed with his progress."

On defensive end Max Onyegbule:

"It does not matter what you look like. There are a lot of guys out there that do not look like players, but are very productive. There are others who really scare you when you see them, but then they cannot play. Max came in here as a linebacker, never having played defensive end, but he looked like a defensive end to me, so we made the change after his first year. He really worked his tail off in the weight room. You can see he looks bigger and stronger because to play the end position you need to be able to pass rush, squeeze guards, full backs, run plays. There are big tackles that are trying to smother you on run plays, so you have to be physical and Max did a good job of getting himself ready in the weight room. The next step was understanding everything that was going on, and I thought toward the end of last year the light really started to go on for him. Now, he is really playing with confidence and playing hard. I think he had to learn how to play the game hard on every snap. Those are the reasons he is much improved."

On Kansas' offensive performance vs. UTEP:

"I think our expectation, as coaches, is perfection. We know our offensive unit has the chance to be really good, so where there is a little mistake here or there, we think that should not happen. Most teams in America would like to have the offensive performance we had Saturday night, but yes, we did leave points on the field. There were a couple reasons, for instance there were a few times we were not real crisp on routes and did not recognize things right away. We had bad communication in the pass game on a few things, but nothing major. Sometimes it was just flat-out execution. We dropped some balls that we do not normally drop. We had a fumble, which we seldom do, because we get after our kids and work them pretty well fundamentally on how to hold on to the ball. But 34 points, and all the yardage we had, is pretty good for our first road game and I think we will take that and run with it."

Sophomore Defensive Lineman Steven Foster:

On having to learn fundamentals on the fly after switiching from fullback to defensive end:

"I have never really played defensive end before, but with Coach (Tom) Sims, he really just simplified everything for me and he taught me the basics. I still work with him after practice a little bit because I don't have everything down perfect and nobody else does either. It's just a continuing process. We go over it every single day in the meeting room and at practice. So it gets easier for me."

On the importance of the defensive line:

"In the passing game, obviously it's important in the pass rush. We have got to get the quarterback.  If he has too much time he can stand back there and make plays, especially with some of the quarterbacks we have in the Big 12 like (Sam) Bradford and (Colt) McCoy. If we give them too much time, then they are going to make plays. In the run game, the defensive line does a lot because we can hold up offensive linemen so our linebackers can run free and make plays."

Freshman Wide Receiver Bradley McDougald

On what caused some miscues in the first half:

"I would say it is the momentum. We were driving, but then later on in the drive, it would seem like we were going through the motions and not fully focused. Once we came back out in the second half and started scoring and started moving the ball more efficiently, things started to sharpen up a little bit."

On the first road game:

"It was good. It wasn't as hostile as I thought it was going to be just because our offense was moving the ball and taking the crowd out of it, which helped a lot. It was good to get that under my belt to build my confidence so I know what to expect when I go on the road from here on out."

On playing Duke and being back at home:

"Being back at home, we will have our fans behind us. We are looking to have a big turnout with the fans. Just coming in and looking at the film, we are trying to pick up their tendencies as always. This week at practice, I think the coaches are going to stress the little things to make our overall game better so we can actually punch it into the end zone instead of just kicking field goals."

Freshman Running Back Toben Opurum

On his first road game:

"The road game was definitely a different atmosphere than what I am used to. Playing here, we have all the fan support. It is a different atmosphere going to UTEP. They have got crazy fans down there. The stadium was beautiful."

On whether he is feeling more comfortable on the field:

"I feel like the coaches are working me a little bit more. I was able to work with the offense and I am getting a more comfortable being able to just recognize signals and recognize different things."

On how Jake Sharp is able to help him:

"Jake (Sharp) has had a great season. I think it really helps that he is doing so well because that helps me do well when I've seen what he has done off the field. I get to look up to that. Anytime before practice, he is helping me out on certain plays and all the time trying to get me to become a better player for this program."

Sophomore Cornerback Daymond Patterson

On how KU's pass rush has helped him:

"The pass rush this past weekend was real good, probably one of our better ones. It really made it easy out there playing DB this week just because the quarterback was out there scrambling so much and he didn't know where they were coming from."

On the nickelback position:

"You have got to be more physical to play the nickel because you are basically a linebacker removed from the box who is covering people. Also you have got to be able to come in and fill gaps inside and outside and make plays on the run a lot. It is probably more of a safety position than a corner position."

On Duke:

"We have watched a little film on them, so I am not really aware of everything they do. I do know they are trying to get their program moving forward. We are just looking to get a little scouting report on them and go in and watch a little film and see what they have got."

Senior Quarterback Todd Reesing

On Duke:

"They are a BCS conference team. They are a talented team with a lot of kids that have a lot of ability. Just like last week, we were going to a place with a defense that has guys that can play and guys that can make plays and it is something we have to get ready for."

On Duke's recruitment of him:

"They recruited me. They were my only other school that I was looking at that I had an offer from before I came here. I had a chance to go up there and went to their camp. They hadn't offered me anything, so I went up there and threw and ended up getting an offer after that. It is a school, that obviously academically, was very interesting for me, but after I came here I kind of knew that here is where I wanted to go. It was definitely a school I looked at. It is a school that has a very good reputation academically and they were looking to build their program at the time and it was something I saw as an opportunity."

On Coach Mangino saying the team left points on the board at UTEP:

"Absolutely. I don't think he needs to tell us that for us to know that. There is no question that we left points on the board. We got down to the red zone and were not able to convert touchdowns. That is my fault for not getting the ball where it needs to be sometimes and guys not executing, so it is disappointing. It is encouraging though that you put up 570 yards of offense and walk away a little disappointed, but that is the truth of it. We did not feel like we played our best game on offense. That was on me. I did not have my best game. It is hard to be too upset after a loss, but now after it is all over and we enjoyed the fun of a win. I am ready to get back to work. I did not play my best and was not as sharp for whatever reason. No one always can play their best - I mean, even (Roger) Federer lost yesterday - so it's good to get back to work. I can't wait to get back out there this week and get that passing game back to where it needs to be."

Senior Running Back Jake Sharp

On the first two weeks of play by the offensive line:

"I think, basically, we come out with the same mentality - whatever they are going to give us, we are going to take. And with two great outings, those guys have really come together and I am really happy to run behind those guys. I think that is the basis of the success of our running game."

On his increased speed this year:

"I keep working hard on my lifts and stuff like that. Coach (Chris) Dawson - he is the man to ask on that one. I just do the same stuff, but increase the intensity. Being in my last year, guys like Kerry Meier and I just put in extra work. We just do a little extra every day and it has paid off so far."

On how his extra work has brought a good start:

"It is something where you can see the results. It is very pleasing and I am very happy with it."

On the team's early road success:

"It was a definite emphasis. We goofed a bit in the past going on the road early. It was an emphasis that we were going to go out and play a great game. We were going to play a team that was more than capable of beating us and causing us problems, but with the right metal attitude and mental frame of mind, we were able to do what we wanted to do."