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Kansas Football Press Conference Rewind: Oklahoma State Week

This week Turner Gill talks Texas Tech, looks ahead to Oklahoma State touches on a few players and addresses the difficulties faced by the defensive staff.

From the player side we hear from Brandon Bourbon, Jordan Webb, Bradley McDougald and Greg Brown.  One of Webb's statements addresses the crowd after halftime and it's something I'll chime in on with my thoughts later in the week.

Head Coach Turner Gill 

Opening Statement:

"I think our guys are really upbeat. We still do a very good job of instilling a culture in our football program that everybody believes in. I think we are making some good progress. Obviously it's not going as good (as we'd like) as far as wins, but again I feel very good about where we're at and where we're going. Our guys have made some good progress." 

"There are a lot of things that are going pretty well, but just a couple things on the defensive side of the ball. The first three games we only had three three-and-outs. Against Texas Tech, we actually had three three-and-outs and that's very important for us. We did make some improvements from the previous three ball games to the last ball game. Another thing is pass break-ups. We have actually doubled those compared to where we were last year at this time. There are some good things that are happening and that are improving. Obviously we have a ways to go as far as getting a level we want to be at, but there are some positive things happening."

"Offensively something that's jumped out has been the 9.9 yards per (pass) attempt. That's very good. We try to get somewhere around six to seven yards per attempt, but we're right there at about 10 yards and that's exceptional. We are second in the conference in that area. We're averaging 36 points a game, which is a very big improvement (over last year). There are some other things we've improved on, but those are a couple things that we're feeling good about our football team." 


On injuries:

"There are really no significant injuries as far as anyone being out. (freshman running back) Darrian Miller was a guy who pulled his hamstring in the game (against Texas Tech) but we anticipate him to be ready to go. We'll see how he does here toward the end of the week." 

On Oklahoma State:

"They're obviously a very good football team. Coach (Mike) Gundy has done a very good job. I think he's been there seven or eight years now. They are a very good team on offense, defense and special teams. You hear all about their offense. Their quarterback (Brandon) Weeden is extremely talented. He's done a tremendous job understanding that offense. They've got a hot tempo. Their receiver (Justin) Blackmon is a very talented person. He's done a lot of good things. Those two guys are very good."

"Defensively, the thing that jumps out at me are their stats. They have caused 13 turnovers, so we have to make sure that we have extremely good ball security. We also need to take care of the ball as far as not throwing any interceptions. We've got our work cut out, but our guys are responding well. I love the way they have come in (this week) and are really getting ready to play. They're really staying engaged as far as what they're trying to do game plan-wise offensively, defensively and on special teams. There's good progress. It's going to be a tough challenge, but we're ready to go on the road and make it happen." 

On how the coaches and players have changed the adjustments made at halftime:

"We've talked about it amongst our staff as far as what we did at halftime when we get into the locker room. We've made a few adjustments with what we are going over and trying to be a little more specific in what we want to get across coach to coach and what we want to get across from our coaches to our players. We talked about things we are going to do in practice, which will probably help ourselves at halftime when we're sitting around for 15-20 minutes. We are going to do a couple little things that are going to help us improve when we come out after halftime in the third quarter. We haven't responded as well as we've wanted to on all sides of the ball, so we need to get those things worked out." 

On improvements we would like to see on special teams:

"The one area is probably the return game. Punt returns and kick-off returns. Punt returns have probably been the one area where I've been very disappointed. I don't like to see that we haven't had any significant plays where we've had positive returns. You can't help your football team make more positive things happen when you're not doing anything in the punt returns. We are going to spend a little more time in practice working on that and make sure we improve in that area." 

On the play of senior linebacker Steven Johnson:

"He's improved in a lot of ways. He's gotten better physically. He understands the game better. Coach (Vantz) Singletary and Coach (Vic) Shealy have done a great job talking to him and teaching him about what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. (Johnson) has really done a fantastic job; he's a leader. He's a very good player and has done a lot of good things for us. I hope he gets recognized by the conference as one of the top linebackers." 

On Johnson's improvement after earning a walk-on spot:

"It's great to have a guy come from where he's come from as far as his background. He's really worked hard. He's one of the hardest workers in every phase, not just in football but in classes too. We're very proud of him and I think he's going to have an opportunity to play at the next level." 

On how hard Johnson takes losses:

"We all hurt after a loss, in particular when certain things happen. You always think about what you could've done better. I think he's one of those guys. He looks at himself, which we all should do. He wants to be the best and that's a good thing. He wants to be the best in the country, not just the best linebacker at KU. He's a guy that's very consciences and is very demanding of himself and of his teammates. That's a great quality to have and a great player to have on your football team." 

On if Oklahoma State has changed since the matchup last year:

"They still execute. They execute their game plan. Everybody tweaks something here and there, but 90 percent of their stuff we know what they're going to run but they're going to execute which is what you've got to do as a football team. It doesn't matter what kind of offense or defense you run, but if your players are able to go out and do what you have taught them, then it really doesn't matter what you do and how you do it. They've done a good job though. It definitely helps when you have Weeden and his maturity. If he makes mistakes, he knows how to respond. We just need to do some things to knock off their rhythm. I think we're putting together a good game plan so hopefully we're going to take it after them." 

On how his team plans to combat Oklahoma State's experienced quarterback:

"We need to knock him out of his rhythm. We cannot allow them to get their running game going. If they get their running game going, they can do what they want when they want. They've been able to do that because they have a very good running back. If you don't stop their running game then you're going to have a lot of difficult things to try and stop. We need to make a decision of what we want to try and prevent and go from there. We have to make sure we keep control of the ball and we need to put points on the board because they're going to score some points." 

On how his team will overcome the fast tempo of the Oklahoma State offense:

"You first have to make the decision if you're going to substitute when they change their personnel because that's the only time you're going to have an opportunity to do that. When they don't change their personnel, it's going to be very important for our coaching staff to make sure we get our calls in. We may only have to have some one-word calls or some signal calls that you can give your defensive guys to try and catch. We are going to minimize our signals and our calls to make sure we get lined up and not have any confusion."

On Coach Shealy:

"It's a tough deal when you don't have a spring practice. Some of it is just adjusting to what they're doing. We have to get to know our guys. He knows our guys but there are a few little things we tried to implement a little bit more as far as what he would like to do. Our players are maybe not quite as adjusting as fast as we had hoped for. We, as a staff, have to take a step back as we're trying to go through each game and saying where are we at, what can our players do and trying to be successful. We continue each week to try and make transitions. Then you have all different types of offenses that you face. If you're trying to face one similar offense all the time, then I think you make some adjustments a little bit quicker. Now as we get into the Big 12, there is going to be a little bit more similarities. There are going to be a few differences but you get into a little more similarities as offenses. I think that's been the biggest adjustment to all of us on the defensive side particularly trying to adjust to each other and what we're trying to do. I think that's why you see the offense a little bit more smooth, (this being the) second year being in our offense and understanding what we need to do and how we need to do it."

On his impression of freshman safety Keeston Terry's interception:

"He read the quarterback's eyes, happened to see the receiver coming through there, jumped the route, saw the guy and did a good job. He has good hands so we always know he has opportunities to make interceptions. It was good to see him have some success. Again, he's really a freshman even though I know he's been here two years but this is his first year playing a lot of ball and playing on the defensive side. There are a lot of things he's seeing. He's seeing three or four different offenses and there are always some different reads you have to have. He's a good football player and I think he's going to be a heck of a player for us as we continue to move on."

On freshman running back Brandon Bourbon's performance Saturday:

"I saw toughness. I saw determination and good running football skills. The biggest thing with Brandon has just been always been getting dinged, something comes up injury wise, nothing real major. It seems like he comes along in practice and then all of a sudden something sets him back a little bit. I think as long as he continues to stay healthy, you're going to see him be an outstanding running back for us. He has the talent. He has the skills and now is just trying to get it all down. When I say getting it all down, I'm talking about the blocking, pass receiving and obviously the running part of it, too."

On Brandon Bourbon receiving more playing time:

"They're all going to play. We don't get a whole lot into the depth chart. Obviously, we have to put a depth chart up and we tell them it's a position chart. (Sophomore running back) James Sims is our starter and after that, we rotate them in and make it all work."

On the running back group's potential:

"I was really excited when we signed them all. I was very excited knowing we will have a very talented group of guys for the next four or five years. I really believe that you didn't know which one would step up and be ready to go. I expected them to do well. They've done well. The biggest thing that I would probably be surprised at, and hope it continues, is the ball security. That's the probably the first thing, do they know where to go and then are they going to take care of the football. They've done that. They've shown their skills; that they can run the football and do it all as far as making people miss and run over some people and do the things they need to do."

On junior Linebacker Malcolm Walker:

"He made plays. He showed up. He wasn't just a guy out there, he made plays. He was noticeable on special teams. This is probably the first game that he's shown up and made some plays when the opportunity presented itself. It was good to see because he does have some talent. It was good to see him get out there and make some plays for us. He's going to have to continue to do that as we move along."

On the progression of the Jayhawks' inexperienced secondary:

"We're not handcuffed by what they're doing. I brought it up as a staff early on about the pass breakups; we've doubled from what we did last year. I know you look at the secondary and say they're not covering or doing this or that and obviously you have to get pressure on the quarterback. They can only cover for so long. The big thing you don't want in your secondary is where you have some miscommunication misalignment or a bust as far as somebody let somebody go scot-free. I think we have some talent. I think we're just going to have to continue with (playing) our guys and make a few little adjustments here and there technique-wise, we're trying to help them in that way. There are some guys that have played quite a bit and there are some guys who haven't played quite a bit. I think the corners, quite a few of those guys have played quite a bit of ball. We're just trying to figure it all out. I think (junior cornerback) Greg Brown has probably played the best at corner so far. He's been challenged and risen to the challenge for the most part."

Sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb 

On what goes on in a typical halftime inside the locker room:

"Coach Long will come in and talk to the offense. He'll talk to us about some of the things the defense is showing us. He'll go over what expects after halftime. The coaches aren't doing anything wrong at halftime, we (as players) just have to come out and execute."

On the coaches changing things up during halftime:

"We have to try something because we haven't come out with that same fire that we did coming out to start the game. We feel like we're going to be consistent and if we play four quarters we're going to be a hard team to beat." 

On seeing the student section empty after halftime:

"It's tough on us because we're beating a Big 12 opponent at halftime then we come out of the locker room and see everybody walk out, it's kind of like well thanks for the support. It's something we can't focus on. We have to try and play our game no matter what. It definitely hurts when you're playing well and there isn't much support." 

On being familiar with Oklahoma State:

"We feel like we know what they are going to throw at us. We feel like we can come out and play with them. Offensively, we know we can play with them and we feel like we can put up some points. I think our defense is going to turn it around and I'm excited to see them play."


Freshman running back Brandon Bourbon 

On what he sees from Oklahoma State:

"They're a good team offensively and defensively. We're going to have to bring four full quarters to have a shot against them." 

On what OSU does well defensively:

"I think they are a fast team and they fly around to the ball real well." 

On getting all the running backs touches:

"We're distributing it out pretty well. We're all getting some touches. It's a tough job for Coach (Reggie) Mitchell to deal with, but he's doing a good job so far." 

On if he is 100 percent healthy:

"I feel really good. I feel really great, so I think I'm back." 

On what the morale of the team is like:

"I think we're all working as hard as ever. We knew the schedule was going to be tough. You're going to have adversity throughout the season, but we just have to keep fighting and we have a lot more games to play."


Junior cornerback Greg Brown 

On if he feels like the defense has made progress from last year:

"Overall, we haven't progressed as much as I think we should have. But this past week, I feel like, as a defense, we came together and we made more plays than we did in the previous three games. Coming out and getting the turnovers, as well as (Freshman safety Keeston Terry) getting that pick and some of our cornerbacks breaking up passes showed a lot of confidence in our secondary." 

On if Coach Gill tells the defense that it is making progress:

"It's always a good thing to bring it upon somebody and let them know that they're progressing as a team or as an individual. Coach Gill telling us that we've progressed helps our confidence as a team, so it's always a good thing when he lets us know." 

On what he remembers from Oklahoma State's offense last year:

"Oklahoma State has a really up-tempo offense, and their quarterback, (Brandon Weeden) really displays great leadership, he is always making plays, he's a very accurate passer. Then you have (Oklahoma State receiver Justin) Blackmon who is a great receiver, he is a really strong guy out there making plays. When you bring all of that together, that's what makes their offense so special. That's why they are a top-10 team."


Junior safety Bradley McDougald 

On Keeston Terry's performance against Texas Tech:

"It was a great game, I was definitely happy to see Keeston perform the way he did. I really think he grew up and showed a lot of maturity on Saturday. On the road, he is my roommate, so I was talking to him and letting him know that a lot of teams were going to pick on him since he's a young guy and he doesn't have a lot of experience - but when he got that turnover, it was a great moment and perfect timing for our team. I was very proud of the way he played." 

On the transition he made when he switched safety positions:

"The coaches know that I'm a flexible person, so wherever the team needs me, that's where I'll play. I don't think there's much of a difference between (free safety and strong safety), so I was up for the challenge." 

On the differences between playing strong safety as opposed to free safety:

"There are a lot more one-on-one battles, so I have a lot more work on the new position, and of course I'm up for the challenge."