This week we have the regular suspects for this week’s press conference featuring head coach Kliff Kingsbury, defensive coordinator David Gibbs, offensive coordinator Eric Morris, DE Branden Jackson and C Jared Kaster.
Before we get to the meat of the presser, Kingsbury did confirm that WR Devin Lauderdale will be back this week for Kansas, so that’s good news. WR Dylan Cantrell is getting closer and QB Patrick Mahomes felt better than it previously has, so that’s good.
Let’s get to it.
1. Let’s first get to Kansas. As we are reminded in the presser, Kingsbury and Coach Beaty were at Texas A&M together (I think) and Beaty is known to be a fantastic recruiter with ties in Texas.
Q. What are your concerns going up to Kansas? Defense, offense, what do you see so far?
COACH KINGSBURY: I know they’re well-coached, being very familiar with Coach Beaty. I think Coach Bowen did a great job last year as interim head coach and playing hard. So defensively they’ll be lined up and playing well. They’re trying to build it. Playing a true freshman quarterback, I know what that’s like. But they’re still a well-coached team, that anybody in the Big 12 can beat anybody on any given day. So we have to be prepared and make sure we try to get better this week.
2. You usually don’t get much out of Kingsbury and he rarely gushes about a particular player and I think this is the closest you’ll see to Kingsbury doing that in talking about QB Patrick Mahomes:
Q. What is your assessment of Mahomes’ play halfway through the regular season?
COACH KINGSBURY: He’s getting better. He made some tremendous plays on Saturday where he just kind of made it all happen. But he’s getting more comfortable in the system. Watching him operate, everything’s happening at the line of scrimmage faster. He made some great checks, and so now it’s just continue to protect the football and when things are there throughout the read, get it to him. If it’s not, now go do that stuff that you can do. He’s got a chance to be very, very good if he continues to work hard at it.
3. The other interesting thing about Jackson is that his play really isn’t showing up on film, but he is giving full effort. It’s just not working out for him. I’m not sure how or where Texas Tech turns next year, but he is working hard.
Q. Did the defensive film you saw after the game look better than maybe what you thought Saturday?
COACH KINGSBURY: It’s always not as bad as you think or as good as you think. But I think there are some guys growing up, some of those young linebackers, some young guys in the safety. Then Breiden Fehoko gets better each week. The guy that’s really standing out to me is Branden Jackson, how hard he’s playing. He looks like night and day. The film this year as opposed to last year, just effort, consistently play in, and play out.
4. Now we get to the coordinators, where Gibbs talks about the reason why he wanted Gaines at safety over Keenon Ward. It is interesting to see Gibbs talk of Gaines as being a solid tackler, as I thought that’s exactly what Ward is.
Q. You talk about starting JJ at safety this week?
COACH GIBBS: Trying to get a better tackler. Trying to get better tacklers on the field, then lo and behold, he doesn’t have a lot of chances to make any tackles so it’s typical. You put a guy in there to tackle, and he gets the interceptions. If I had put an interceptor back there, he would have missed all the tackles. But it’s where we are. At least he caught the ball when he had a chance to. We’ll continue to play him back there and hope his body can hold up, because the reason we moved him to nickel and corner was to try to keep him from having to make too many tackles because of his shoulder injuries. But he did a decent job when he was in there.
5. I thought this was a good question, one of where and if Gibbs would every be happy or a good performance. The latter part of the quote, where Texas Tech was “out-gapped” for so many of those plays. Just have to actually line it up right.
Q. What would you consider a good performance by the defense? How would you quantify that?
COACH GIBBS: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I probably won’t ever be happy. I’m disappointed. I’m not discouraged. I see progress. I do. I realize that you’re playing defense with the spread offense, and they might score in 25 seconds. I understand that. But if they outexecute us or their running back is better than our linebacker or safety and we can’t tackle him, I’m okay with that. Some of that happened against TCU and Baylor. That’s okay. But certain things aren’t acceptable. When you’re gapped out in the run game and they run for 315 yards and you’re gapped out for 270 of those yards, they should have to make at least two people miss to get those yards. So I think execution would make me happy. Players’ efforts have been awesome. I thought they played hard again. I really did.
6. A couple of questions and answers here, when asked about how or what the coaches are doing to make this situation better.
Q. When you say that coaches need to do a better job, what specifically do you mean? Is it what goes on in practice? How you deal with them during the game?
COACH GIBBS: No, ma’am. I think every one of them are excellent teachers. I listen to them, watch them coach, we film every individual drill, we watch them all together. I like the process. But at the end of the day, the product that you’re putting on the field, if they’re not playing good, you have to change the way you’re approaching it. The truth is we tried that last week. After five games, it’s not working. I realize we played three pretty good teams, so we’ve just got to keep grinding. We’ve got to keep grinding. Do a better job coaching, better job recruiting, and players got to do a better job playing.
Gibbs is also asked about Dakota Allen and D’Vonta Hinton and I do think they do have some bright futures.
COACH GIBBS: They’ve grown. They’re babies. They drive you crazy because they make one play and then you don’t see the play they miss. They don’t even miss the tackle because they’re not lined up right, so then you put a safety in a bad situation, but they’re only going to get better. They have a bright future here. You just wish they didn’t have to go out there and play 40, 50, 60 plays. But right now, that’s the way it is. They’ll continue to develop. But they’ve got bright futures here.
7. Up next is Eric Morris and a similar question was asked to him about Mahomes, so here we go.
Q. You think over the last few weeks even with not only Mahomes’ injury but being down three of your top four guys, you’ve even been a little amazed at the production that Mahomes has been able to create with the lack of starters around at least?
ERIC MORRIS: Yeah, no doubt. He’s pretty special. It’s fun to watch him create these plays and find people down field, and how accurate he throws the ball on the run is what’s really remarkable to me. But some of these young guys are going to end up passing up these older guys. They’re doing a great job right now. They have some real skills on the outside. So we’ve seen that throughout it. I think the more impressive thing is Pat more so than these young guys. We trust these kids. For them to get this experience at this time is great. The stretch that we’re about to go through here in the last six weeks of the season, we’re going to play some really good defensive backs. So they’ll be battle tested. They’ve seen the speed. They’ve made plays during games. So that is the key thing to me is they’re getting experience. But we have plenty of firepower at receiver to win any of these games we have left to play.
8. Interesting to see how Morris thinks of Mahomes from the standpoint that what he does even makes the coaches a bit uncomfortable with what
Q. What is your in-game reaction when you see Mahomes do his thing and scramble it? Coach Kingsbury said over the headset it’s almost like no, no, and then yes.
ERIC MORRIS: Yeah, no doubt. He missed a couple early reads that he’ll continue to get better on. And he made a lot of good early reads too. But it’s definitely a sense of that. I’m getting more and more used to it up there. You keep thinking he’s going to run out of luck one of these times and throw an interception, but he never seems to do it. It’s pretty remarkable, the play he threw to Reg and in the back of the end zone, which is — that rule is a little bit different. You all know the Hill rule? I don’t know, because I’m watching it up there because we have a TV, and I didn’t know that rule. The heel, I didn’t think it counted as a toe. It touched his heel first, so it counts. His heel came down in, and the rest of his foot landed out near the ball, so it counts just like as a toe touching first. So a little bit of a change. I’d never seen that before. That was good. When he found Jakeem, it was just remarkable. I think our offensive line is getting better at continuing on their block and being able to redirect because you never know where he is behind you. So, yeah, I think in game, you just kind of let him do what he’s doing.
9. I also thought that you all would like a bit of an update on Quan Shorts and Donta Thompson. The idea that Thompson might be a mini-Amaro is interesting.
Q. Donta Thompson (off microphone). Where do you feel like they’re at, and how do you feel about taking the red-shirt off those guys?
ERIC MORRIS: Yeah, they’re getting better, that’s for sure. I think both of those kids are going to be really good players here. None of them are even close to a bus. I think we’ve signed five really good wideouts in this class. Donta we moved inside last week. So he’s going to turn into a big wide. We’re going to try to put 20 pounds on him and make him into a little bit of a smaller Amaro. And Quan is going to be a really good player here. Just need a little bit of time to adjust to the system as fast as we run call plays. So I don’t think we’ll take either one of them off. I think we’ve got enough, and it’s too late in the season, and the guys — we’ve got a couple guys coming back from injury here in the next couple weeks that will help us. Now, what’s going to be hard is figuring out how you get Giles enough touches when Sadler comes back, and how you get Zach Austin some touches. So we’ve got plenty of kids that are playing hard, playing good, so we’ll be all right.
10. The players are up next and Branden Jackson answers what the defensive line needs to do be better.
Q. How do you feel the defensive line played? Because there was a lot of pressure on the quarterback.
BRANDEN JACKSON: Yeah, I really wasn’t satisfied with our performance last week. I feel like we let them sit back there a long time and stroke the ball. He went through heavy reads before we were getting to him. We had some times where we had pressures, and at the same time we popped a few gaps. And that talented running back they had shot up there for a couple long runs, 300-something yards on the ground solely on the defensive line. And we talk a lot about being different characters and stuff like that. But right now there are times we don’t show we’re a better group. So I expect a hard practice this week, and I know Coach Gibbs is going to rip us when we get in there as a team and evaluate the film.
And Jared Kaster talks about the offensive line.
Q. Where have you seen improvement from the offensive line?
JARED KASTER: There’s a lot of things we’ve still got to work on. I think effort. My effort individually, I need to pick that up. Communication is a big key. We kind of have guys shuffled in around there. And us all staying on the same path and same page is a good thing.