Last year was University of Kansas head football coach Turner Gill’s first season with the Jayhawks.
KU was able to finish 3-9 in 2010, including one win in the Big 12 Conference, coming against Colorado 52-45.
Now Gill is beginning his second campaign and he said at KU’s media day on Tuesday that he feels that the team has come together well after only five practices.
“First of all, I feel really good about the cohesiveness,” Gill said. “I feel good about the work ethic. I also feel really good about coming together as a unit offensively, defensively and our coaching staff.”
The Jayhawks will be light on seniors this season with only 15, including walk-ons. Gill said that senior leadership will be necessary for the team to improve.
“I spoke to them a little bit after spring ball about some of the things they need to try and get done and accomplished,” Gill said of the seniors. “They’re the ones who are going to move this football program forward in a faster way, as far as doing things on a leadership side of it and on the football field. We only have 15 of them, as far as seniors, including walk-ons. Those people are going to be very instrumental in what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
One such senior is tight end Tim Biere, who said that the team will be more relaxed after spending a year under Gill and his assistant coaches.
“We feel a lot more relaxed this season” Biere said. “Last year in the spring and the preseason we didn’t know the coaching styles of any of our position coaches or what our role was going to be with the team, but now we mostly know each other’s roles and that is a big benefit for us going into this year.”
Sophomore Jordan Webb and senior Quinn Mecham are 1-2 in the starting quarterback battle. Former QB Kale Pick has moved to wide receiver.
“I love his dedication,” Gill said of Pick. “I love his work ethic. He’s very good receiver and blocker. He loves the game. If I had to say one guy that understands the word passion, I point towards Kale Pick. He understands how to play the game with passion and he’s not a vocal guy so it doesn’t mean to have passion you have to be verbal and talking a lot.”
Webb played nine games for Kansas last season, completing 121 of 214 passes for a 56.5 completion percentage. He passed for 1,195 yards and seven touchdowns while throwing eight interceptions.
“Body language is excellent and again coming more from our players, not necessarily verbally, but I can just watch quarterbacks and see how our players respond to him as he walks on to the field even as we come to practice,” Gill said. “As we get up to the line of scrimmage and how the players respond when things are going well and then when things are going not so well for him. He just needs to be more consistent.”
Improvements on defense will be needed as well for a team that was outscored 187-40 in a four-game stint in the Jayhawks’ conference schedule last year.
“Defensively, no question speed and being more physical,” Gill said.
“In the five practices we’ve had, I’ve seen those two things for sure. We’ve gotten faster, and now we just have to continue to fine tune some things and make sure we stay together as an offense and defense and also in special teams.”
Senior linebacker Steven Johnson, who led Kansas with 95 tackles last season, said he expects his team to be better this season.
“I really believe we’re going to be good this year,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to put a number on how many games we’re going to win or anything like that because I don’t want to do that. I know we work hard every day, and I know the hard work we put in the offseason and in training camp right now is going to pay off.
“Not only myself, but there are plenty of us busting our tails out there on the field, just out of breath and can’t breathe, our chests are hurting. It’s going to pay off in the game, and I just have a better feel because we know the coaches.”
Single-game tickets for the upcoming season will be available to the general public on Aug. 15. Tickets are already available for purchase by members of the Williams Education Fund.
2011 football schedule
Sept. 3 — MCNEESE STATE
Sept. 10 — NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Sept. 17 — at Georgia Tech
Oct. 1 — TEXAS TECH
Oct. 8 — at Oklahoma State
Oct. 15 — OKLAHOMA
Oct. 22 — KANSAS STATE
Oct. 29 — at Texas
Nov. 5 — at Iowa State
Nov. 12 — BAYLOR
Nov. 19 — at Texas A&M
Nov. 26 — MISSOURI
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS