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September 30, 2014

Clint Bowen

CLINT BOWEN:  Good to see some of you guys again, some familiar faces from the last couple busy days, and they have been busy days.  But at KU football, everything from right now on to this weekend is all about preparing to head to Morgantown and win a football game.  That's our players' focus, that's our coaches' focus.  That's the entire program's focus from this point forward.
At West Virginia, Dana Holgorsen has done a great job of getting these guys ready to play this season.  They're sitting at 2‑2 after I think even what Dana would consider probably a disappointing year for himself, a year ago sitting at 2‑2 and two of those losses were highly competitive games against highly ranked opponents.  West Virginia is playing at a very high and competitive level, and Coach Holgorson has done a great job of getting them in that position.
I hope that this week his stomach has settled down a little bit, he's not so sick from last week, and he shows up in good health.
On offense, very potent, very potent offense.  They're averaging about 400 yards passing a game, 150.  The key players on that, the quarterback is playing exceptionally well; Clint Trickett is off to a great start.  The guy is throwing the ball 400 yards per game is what he's averaging, but the key number there is he's completing 72 percent of his passes, and it's not the 72 percent of dropping the ball off on short passes.  The guy is throwing the ball downfield and completing a high percentage, doing a fantastic job, and if a quarterback is having that, obviously he has some wide‑outs to throw to, and No.11, Kevin White, is off to a phenomenal season.  The guy has made some very tough catches, ran away from some good people.  He is playing as good as anybody I can imagine is playing in the conference right now.
The other wide receiver, No.5, Mario Alford, is just as dangerous.  He's a guy that had a couple nice catches against us a year ago on this field, very explosive player, and then Rushel Shell at tailback is doing a nice job.  Those three guys combine with an O‑line, I don't know them, but they look like they must have some nastiness to them.  They play hard, they play downhill, they're a physical bunch.  They're well coached.  The O‑line is taking very good care of the quarterback and allowing him to run the ball.
Defensively, Tony Gibson, who I've known for years, is running their defense and doing a good job with that.  They're a three‑man front team, an aggressive team, high‑pressure team, some of the impact guys, they have two returning Second Team All‑Big 12 players in their safety Carl Johnson who's leading the team in tackles, and their linebacker Nick, and I'm not going to try and embarrass my man's last name, No.35, wouldn't do that to him.  He's playing well up front.  Dontrill Hyman is leading the D‑line in tackles.  Defensively they're getting after it and doing some good things.
It's a great challenge, great opportunity for us to head to Morgantown and play a team that's playing well, playing competitive, and for our guys to go there and get after it and show everyone what our brand of football is going to be.  From here on out, any questions we have.

Q.  I always like to ask this one, and it's probably a dumb question but I'll keep asking, do you take anything from last year?  Do you think your guys will have confidence?  I know this is a different team and you mentioned Trickett, but they did beat this team last year.  Will that be a factor this week?
CLINT BOWEN:  Well, you know, I think it always is.  It's a team that we were successful against a year ago.  Our guys came out and played well.  We won a Big 12 football game, and it's one of those deals, and it's like we say, Mario Alford was on the field last year, Dexter McDonald was on the field last year.  It's the same show, it's just who got better over the course of that year and who's going to compete this game.  I think that we're going to go into every game believing that we're going to go play the way we practice to play and get things done.
Obviously it's in our heads that we did win last year.

Q.  Dana and his staff had two years to kind of figure out what Coach Weis did here and what Kansas was about under him.  Now it's just a little unpredictable.  They know what you do defensively for us a little bit, but they don't know what to expect from this point on.  Can that play in your favor at all, or do you think so?
CLINT BOWEN:  You know, I guess it could be an advantage to us.  We're going to go into this game, and we have had a lot of meetings in the last 24 hours to try and find the best plan, the best strategy to give our kids a chance to be successful when we do go to that game.
Everything won't be the same.  We have made changes on offense.  We have made changes on defense.  There's things that have been changed and implemented in the last 24 hours and things that we'll do that will be different than they have been.
You know, we're going to continue to try and be as creative as we can on both sides of the ball and give our kids a chance.

Q.  As far as confidence in Montell, what do you see in him that makes you confident going forward that he can be the guy?
CLINT BOWEN:  Well, if you guys have been around the Montell, the guy shows up every single day with a great attitude, shows up every single day willing to go to work and putting in his work.  His teammates respect him, his teammates trust him.  He's a guy on this team that has earned his way through there.  He's a young quarterback that is developing in a new offensive system.  It's not always going to be perfect.  There's some new things, there's a lot of things to learn.  The kid is working as hard as he can to improve each week, and we're all behind him.

Q.  Can I ask you a couple questions about Ben Heeney?  As you're going through this transition, what kind of role does he play helping you make this successful?  What kind of legacy‑‑ where do you think he can fit in the legacy of KU linebackers?  And also specifically from the game Saturday, there was one play where he came from the far side, kind of circled around the back, caught the quarterback from behind.  To my eye that was one of the more impressive plays I've ever seen.  Can you comment on that play specifically, as well?
CLINT BOWEN:  Is that the one headed to our sideline?

Q.  Yeah.
CLINT BOWEN:  Yeah.  People all the time kind of label Ben Heeney as a throwback linebacker, and I keep saying that he's not a throwback linebacker.  The guy is every bit the modern‑day spread offense‑type middle linebacker that there is out there.  People don't give him enough credit for how athletic and fast the guy can move on the football field.  In my mind people say old‑school linebacker, you think of the big blockhead guy standing in the middle, plug and run all day, and Ben is more than willing to do that, but the guy can run.  That's a play that you're talking about that he was actually an underneath coverage dropper.  It was a 3rd‑and‑long situation, the play had kind of broken down on their part of it, and it was an obvious deal where the QB was going to scramble, and it's just a fine line of where you talk about guys willing and able to pull the trigger; Ben knows the guy is going to scramble, he pulls the trigger, and you guys saw him flash across the screen.  He has unbelievable talent for that.
I can't go back forever on where he fits in the legacy of Kansas linebackers.  We've been fortunate to have some really, really good players here, as a kid going back to the Willie Pless type guys to ‑‑ and I don't want to leave guys out.  Beyond that it's just they're not in my head, they're in Mac's and Bob's but not mine, so if I leave one of them guys out, I sure apologize about that, but the Nick Reids and Mike Rivera and those guys, James Holt, through there, but he's definitely one of the better linebackers we've had in the time I've been here.

Q.  There was some talk about some illness spreading kind of through the team.  Is everybody pretty healthy?  I know those two offensive linemen were out there last week.  Do they seem okay right now?
CLINT BOWEN:  Yeah, those guys are over that.  There was a case of that.  Some guys had had some different deals, but we are.  Meeting with Murphy Grant, our trainer, he does a great job, does an unbelievable job.  We're back to a healthy football team.

Q.  You've got Larry at first string now.  Is that a John decision?  Is that a you decision?  Is it a collective thing, and can you tell us why?
CLINT BOWEN:  It's always an us decision.  John obviously is coaching that position, and those are the guys he feels the strongest about, but it's the spot that Larry is in, and that's the way we're starting this game, with him at the right tackle, Pat at the left, Ngalu, Keyon and Smithburg at the right guard.  He's back and going again.  The only thing new I think you see on there is Joe Gibson is back at our second‑team center, and we're happy to have him back in the mix of things.

Q.  Have you spent more time the last two days thinking about the offense than maybe you have all year, and what's your role in that?  Do you have ideas from a defensive point of view or are you taking more of a hands‑off perspective?
CLINT BOWEN:  Yeah, any amount of time I would have spent has been more than I did in the past but I really never gave it one second of a thought, but yes, I have went down and visited with John, and I have no ideas for him.  I'm no help.  Kind of the strange thing about it is I ask him why he doesn't do these things so that I can learn why I may or may not want to.  It's been good.  We've had some good conversations.  I think he is excited to get up there and make a few changes on offense, one, for example, you already brought up that he's going to go upstairs into the box and call the game up there, which I think he feels is more comfortable for him.  He can speak on that later.  You'll get a chance to ask him.  But he's going to do that, and he feels good about his plan for the week.

Q.  Have you thought about how your game day may or may not be different?
CLINT BOWEN:  Yeah, we have, and that's actually‑‑ there's a lot of elements to that because I am still going to stay very active and I'm going to call the defense for the game and continue with that.  I didn't feel it was the right time to make that significant of a change.  I will be calling the defense, and then with that comes the defensive adjustments and the things that go on there.  So during those time frames we have implemented some plans on how we're going to handle the game management situations that come up, whether it be a go for it on a 4th down, take a time‑out here or clock management toward the end of a half kind of a deal.  We've given that considerable thought and believe we have a really good plan to handle those deals.

Q.  You said at the beginning here that you're all business, and that's what everybody is about right now.  Have you seen your players be able to kind of do that and get over sort of that honeymoon of the transition and being excited about you and being excited about what's ahead?  I know that's your plan, to be business, but have you seen it from them?
CLINT BOWEN:  I believe I have.  We got today started off pretty early.  We had the 6:00 a.m., 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m. lift groups, and of course we were down there as coaches to be around the players.  I believe that's important to let them know that if they're down there, we're down there with them.  It was rocking in the weight room this morning.  Coach Holsopple had it going.  Kids were working hard, bright‑eyed, and just got them all talking about being ready to put in a solid day's work this afternoon.

Q.  I heard you say that you believe that KU football is a sleeping giant.  What exactly do you mean by that?
CLINT BOWEN:  Well, if you take all the things that we have to offer at Kansas for recruits that want to come here, for people to be a part of it, I mean, the most obvious one is the tremendous university that we're a part of, the academic reputation of Kansas University, the opportunities that exist there, part of an unbelievable community of Lawrence, Kansas, that always offers the ability for recruits and student athletes to have an environment that's a true college environment, lots of stuff to do but not too much to do to have the dangers of different universities, a football program with tradition that has the support of an administration that's willing to put everything into it, a fan base, a central location within the United States to be able to do things, but there's so many countless, great things about this job and this situation that it is what I said it is.  It's a sleeping giant.  It wakes up, we're going to take this thing off and keep it going.

Q.  Jumping off on that, there's different rules on how you can contact recruits and what you can say to them.  When you go through a turnover like this, is it difficult to put together a class or keep the guys you already had?  How are you going to approach that?
CLINT BOWEN:  Well, recruiting is a highly competitive business, and if we do have‑‑ we're fortunate to have some commitments that we feel good about.  We're going to do everything we can to remind those guys on a daily basis of all the things that ‑‑ I just answered a question before about why they chose Kansas, and that was a decision that was more than just one person.  It's a decision for a lot of reasons, and I keep reminding them of all those positive reasons of why they made the decision in the first place, and we'll work hard to keep those guys on board with us through this whole process, and as we find if there's other opportunities out there to increase our recruiting pool, then we'll obviously keep our eyes open for that.

Q.  A lot of times when there's a turnover like this or a transition, a coach will say, hey, there's nothing given to anybody, you have to prove yourself to me.  Did you do anything like that, open up competition at positions, or is that too hard to do mid‑season and certainly mid‑week?
CLINT BOWEN:  No, actually I did do that.  I think that sometimes players get labeled a certain way, put in a certain role that may be fair or not fair, deserved or not deserved.  I wanted all these guys and I made the comment that we are going to start clean.  We're going to start with a clean slate for every one of these guys, and our 2:00 meeting is going to prove that today, or our 2:45 meeting when we get them all in here, because there's going to be some guys that show up with some chances on some special teams units.  Our special teams is going to be competitive today.  There's going to be some guys that earn things, and in this program no one‑‑ players, coaches, everything is going to be earned, and there's going to be some guys that get some chances to earn some things today, and if they earn them, then they'll be rewarded.  If they don't take advantage of it, then they won't get the rewards that they hoped to get.
We're going to have some fun with it.  We're going to keep all these guys involved because like I told a lot of people, we have a great group of players that have worked extremely hard, and we've got to give them a chance to go have some rewards.

Q.  Special teams, does that mean some young guys maybe, or are you looking at using more first‑line guys on special teams or all of the above?
CLINT BOWEN:  Yes, we will have first‑line guys on special teams.  I've already made that clear to this team, that as a player on this team you have a responsibility to do everything in your power to help, and that's every single one of us, and you will see first‑line guys on from.  Some of the other guys that are going to get chances are older guys, some are younger guys, but I want them to know that they have a chance, and if they earn it, they'll get it.

Q.  The last couple weeks the practices have been amped up a little bit more, a little bit more physical.  Is it where you want it now or will you amp it up even more as the season goes on?
CLINT BOWEN:  Well, I don't know so much about the physical part of practice in those terms.  We definitely are going to put our own stamp on this deal, just going from‑‑ in this position where we are right now, I just believe it's important that myself and our coaches, we do what we feel is best for the University of Kansas football program and we do what we believe in in terms of practice, how we're going to practice, the way we set it up, and that's the way we're going to move forward.
Our practices, they'll be quick, they'll be efficient.  They'll be physical when they need to be physical, but we'll be intelligent with how we handle those guys and how much‑‑ it is week four into the season, but we're going to practice at a very high tempo with enthusiasm, get them in, get them out.

Q.  How has Dave Campo transitioned to the new coaching role?
CLINT BOWEN:  You know, Dave has always been a tremendous resource for us.  The years of experience that he brings, all the things that he has seen through his coaching career, it's always a comforting sight to see him when you come in there and you have something on your mind and you know you can bounce it off of Dave and come up with an answer that comes from years of experience and wisdom.
Appreciate everything Dave brings to our program and what he does for me.

Q.  Louie Matsakis on the staff, how can he help out?
CLINT BOWEN:  Well, Louie, he's been in this conference before as a special teams coordinator, been a successful one at that, so it's a great feeling.  I just finished meeting with Louie at 11:30, and already what he's put together that our kids will see for the first time at 2:45 when we hit a special teams meeting, I think they're going to be blown away by what he has prepared to show them.  We're going to practice ‑‑ our special teams starting today will be drastically different because of his ideas and his input.  But right away I think it's going to be‑‑ we're not going to be more than a minute into special teams, and think the kids are going to understand there's a difference.

Q.  You mentioned that you didn't have a ton to offer for Coach Reagan as far as offense goes and that kind of thing, but we know you thought about this, becoming a head coach some day, that over the years you've thought about that, and you've also coached so much defense against Big 12 offenses.  What about philosophically?  What do you think you would want your team to be identity‑wise offensively?
CLINT BOWEN:  Well, you know, obviously that always starts with personnel, who you have and what they can do, and I think that's in football in general.  Now, if you're talking about the perfect world, Dr.Zenger last season would always come in on Mondays and sit down with me and we would talk through some things, and there are some unbelievably creative things going on in offensive football.  Outside of being a defensive coach or that role, you sit back and you look at it, and you've got to give credit to some guys who have come up with some new revolutionary, very innovative things on offense.  What some guys are doing out there in terms of the tempos, the run‑pass conflicts, the reads that they're making on second‑level people, the run‑pass reads, the different things where offensive football has gone, you do have to step back and kind of appreciate the minds that are going on in college football right now.
So I see all those.  I do have in mind a blueprint of what I believe just from my point are the offenses that are hardest to stop, no matter what kind of players you have.  I'm not going to give credit to the ones that are running those offenses now.  We're right there.  John Reagan is in that train of thought.  He is part of that family of guys that are finding ways to make life difficult for defensive coordinators.

Q.  You guys have had some well‑known issues on the road.  Is there something you can pinpoint or something that you can look to to say we need to do?
CLINT BOWEN:  You're right, there have been some‑‑ the streak or whatever it is of us losing on the road.  It is what it is.  It's out there.
When you go on the road, everything has to be just a little bit sharper.  The margin of error is smaller, and your focus has to be that much better.  We're going to address that during the week, that guys, this is a mentality that you go there, you embrace that the crowd is against you, you embrace that someone else is against you.  You come together tighter as a group, you stay together tighter as a group, and you find a way to overcome things, and just having that mental toughness that we're going to begin working on every single day to go on the road in a difficult situation and be mentally tough enough to come out of it.

Q.  Is it helpful with all the change that's taking place to get out of Lawrence and get on the road and just get the team kind of separated from everything?
CLINT BOWEN:  I don't know if it's helpful.  We love being right out there first.  It's what it is.  We're a team.  We're together, and we're going to have our way of playing, and that's what we're going to go execute.

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