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September 10, 2014

David Cutcliffe

DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  I am looking at Kansas, and I see a much improved team.  It doesn't surprise me, but even as I watched them last year, an extremely well‑coached team.  They know what they're doing in all three phases.  They know what they're doing in the kicking game.  The players execute well on offense with what they're trying to accomplish and do, and certainly defensively they've become more and more veteran.  Great secondary, veteran, good football players at linebacker and up front, and a formidable opponent, a true Big 12 opponent, so it's a big challenge for our team as we continue to try to get better.

Q.  I was working on something yesterday coming out of the press conference about Issac Blakeney, and it just slipped my mind that he played on the same high school team with Jamison.  I looked back and there are a few other instances where that's happened.  How often do you find more than one player at the same high school?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, not that often.  There are programs around the country, though, that produce high numbers of college football players, but Monroe High School is extremely well‑coached; Johnny Sowell seems one of the best stories there is.  He is their head football coach.  He is their head basketball coach, and he is their head track coach, and all those guys did all of that for him.
We've obviously recruited others, Clay Chambers.  We've signed others and recruited others from Monroe High School.  It's a great town, a great community.  A former Duke football player, Brad Breedlove, is now the principal at Monroe High School.  So it's a great story, and those two, of course, won the State championship Issac's senior year.  Issac is a year ahead of Jamison and won a lot of football games while they were there.

Q.  I know you had Jamison playing wide receiver from the moment he walked on campus, and he played as a true freshman.  Can you talk about trying to find the right slot for Issac?  You had him at a lot of places before he finally wound up where he is now.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Issac played corner and receiver, believe it or not, in high school.  He was so big, he just didn't know what he was going to do best.  Certainly we were needing defensive help.  We looked at him as a big defensive end, a pass rusher.  We looked at him as a big safety, he's so athletic.  We certainly looked at him at tight end, and it just wasn't clicking really anywhere.
And when Scottie came back and joined the staff, I wanted Scottie to coach him.  I felt like Issac really needed to have a challenge like Scottie Montgomery brings, and I think that was a saving grace for Issac, a year ago making that transition, and making it as well as he did even then, and I think it's a work in progress.  I think his talent level is exceptional, and I think he has no ceiling.  He's a lot faster than people think he is.  He ran track for us this spring on the 4 x 100 meter relay team, and he has got outstanding speed, as well, and just got to keep working to be a complete player.

Q.  Seems like a lot of teams these days are taking a running back by committee approach.  Why do you think that's becoming more common now, and are we seeing the days of the 20‑ to 25‑carry running back sort of fading away?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I think in the style of offenses that we are seeing more and more people run, including ourselves, you've been able to commit to not quite that big I‑tailback or that big‑‑ when everybody went one back initially they went with big, strong 235‑pounders that were running the zone play between the tackles, etcetera, and now we're getting up off the ground, snapping as fast as we can, and a lot of guys are smaller, quicker, but they're not going to be able to take the hits that 25 carries bring, and it's a long season, we're committed to a 12‑game regular season, and you're going to need three or four that are regular players, and I think it's a challenge sometimes.  Backs need their carries to get rhythm to get going, and I think there's a reality to that, so you have to balance that as a coaching staff.
Boston College a year ago had a great one, and he could carry it 30 times a game and keep it coming.  Big man that could do a lot of great things.  You just don't see it very often, though.

Q.  Anything about your team that even after two games you're still unsure about and looking to learn about your team that playing a Big 12 opponent can help you figure out this week?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, we've played two really well‑coached teams, which has made us execute, and it's also displayed some things that we badly need to work on.  You know, it's kind of hit or miss.  We're still focusing on all three phases.  In the kicking game I'm looking for some consistency that we normally have that we haven't had, whether it's the specialists or whether it's the coverage or whether it's the blocking on a return.  I just think we can get a lot better.  If we're going to beat a Big 12 team, we're going to have to play great in the kicking game.  That would be the start.
Also from the standpoint of offensively and defensively, for us to win this game, we're going to have to be better on 1st down than we've been on both sides of the ball.  We're putting ourselves behind in the chains on offense, and we're putting ourselves in some difficult circumstances at times defensively, so we're working hard on that, and it's one of the things I was doing previous to this call is writing down all the continued things we've got to emphasize to get better at quickly, not even just this week but as we move forward.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about DeVon Edwards.  He made a nice impact for you last year as a red‑shirt freshman with three picks returned for touchdowns, and this year he's averaging 10 and a half tackles a game.  He's listed at 5'9", 175.  What makes him so effective back there?  Is he a big hitter, or does he have technique and he can strip the ball because he had a couple of forced fumbles?  How does he do all that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, the first thing is he can fly.  He may well be‑‑ they'll all argue about it, but he may well be the fastest player on our team.  I mean, he can fly.  That always helps any football player.  He gets where he's going in a hurry.  He is an extremely committed young man to the process.  He studies tape, he does exactly the best he can what he's coached to do.  He's fearless.  He's about 180 probably right now, but in that pound per pound, we do a lot of work in the weight room, we're not interested in all the big numbers that people want to put up on bench press and squat.  We do a lot of strength testing in what we call pound‑for‑pound strength, and DeVon is through the roof.
You remember Bob Sanders that played great for a lot of years for the Colts?  He's a similar kind of guy.  I went to watch ‑‑ Peyton was with the Colts when he was there and watching him in camp, and I think DeVon is going to do nothing but get better and better.  I think he's an All‑American football player is what he is.  He's that good.

Q.  And he's a safety this year as opposed to a cornerback?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  He can play all of them, but he is a starting safety for us.  But he's probably our best corner, also, but we don't have two.  We've only got one of him.

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