The challenge of Texas
The Longhorns are a new-look team in 2011, and not just because of some true freshmen making noise on the field.
Manny Diaz and Brian Harsin were brought to Austin, Texas by Head Coach Mack Brown to take over the defense and offense respectively, and each has imbued the team with their own unique brand of football.
"Coach Diaz, you look at him, he's a guy that really does a lot of blitzing," said Kansas head coach Turner Gill on Monday, during his weekly press conference. "He does a lot of different things, a lot of different stunts, so we're going to have to be really well prepared to take on that task. He's done it in just about every single football game.
As for the Longhorns offense, it features more sets, shifts, motions and formations than perhaps any offense the Jayhawks will face this season.
"They run a lot of different things and have a lot of different people," he added, of the offense. "They get the quarterback run - they use different running backs, receivers, all different people in the quarterback position and QB-type runs."
To Gill, fixing the defense is a more complex task than simply pinpointing one problem and correcting it, as the issues are many; the unexpected departure of defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, for example, who retired to battle a low-grade case of prostate cancer following spring football.
"We are trying to do a few things different than what Carl did," he explained. "There is still some inexperience - the majority of it is coming in the secondary where we're having some things that are just guys making a mistake. And people are capitalizing on it. Everybody makes mistakes. One every team somebody messes up something, but they're able to exploit that on our defensive side of the ball."
All season long, Gill has praised his team for their ability to bounce back quickly in the wake of a defeat. But as the losses pile up, one has to wonder if the response time doesn't start to slow.
"This is life," he said. "That's life. That's football, just like each and every one of us today, you've gotta get back up and go to work. That's what you've gotta do. You've got a mindset to get yourself ready to improve. And we've got an opportunity to do that. We have five more opportunities to do that. And we're fortunate right now that we have those opportunities."
Gill on Zenger
Following Saturday's loss to Kansas State, Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger told members of the media the football program was being evaluated on a "week by week basis."
Monday, Gill responded to those comments.
"He's the boss," he said, of Zenger. "He's gotta say what he has to say. I came here to try to fix something, and that's what I'm here to do. Again, I still believe in the plan that we have intact to move forward, to do things in the right way. We're going to teach, we're going to develop these guys, we're going to get after them, we're going to challenge our coaching staff, challenge our players to do our plan. And we're here to do that."
"They hired me to come in here and try to build a winning football program," Gill added. "And that's what we're trying to do every single day."
Team progressing slowly
Though Gill is quick to point out the improvements on offense and special teams in his second season at the helm, he admitted things were progressing more slowly than he would like in certain respects.
"I'm a human being and a very good competitor," he said. "Obviously, I wanted it to happen immediately. I don't like to lose. But I also understand as you go into a program and then you find out where you're at, what you need to get corrected, none of us know exactly how long it's going to specifically take to say that we now have the program where you want it, where you can be winning on a consistent basis."