Defensive Backs Covered Tuesday’s Media Session

PRESS RELEASE KU:

A few hours before the Kansas football team took to the practice fields for its first session wearing full pads on Tuesday, requested defensive backs took their turn speaking with the media at the Anderson Family Football Complex.

Some of the defensive backs on the roster made their appearance with the press on Saturday Aug. 9, with the ‘defensive leaders’ so they were not in attendance at Tuesday’s session.

The defensive backs who were available for interviews and who shared their thoughts about the upcoming season included; junior corner/nickel Kevin Short , junior corner Ronnie Davis , junior safety Isaiah Johnson , sophomore corner/nickel Greg Allen and sophomore safety Fish Smithson.

The Jayhawks will often be relying on their secondary this season to jam and cover opposing receivers. Speed is a necessity on defense, but even more so in the pass heavy Big 12 Conference, which boasts offenses that want to spread out opponents and create one-on-one matchups with fast and physical receivers. Assistant head coach of the defense and cornerbacks coach, Dave Campo , gave his thoughts on the speed and athleticism of some of his players in the second level.

“We can run,” Campo said. “On defense, I feel like for the first time, this year we’ve got athletes that can line up and run with the guys that you are playing against. That’s not saying that one guy is good as another guy he is playing against, but when you look out on the field and see guys that can move you feel like you are closing the gap on the competition a little bit.”

Seniors Dexter McDonald , JaCorey Shepherd and Cassius Sendish along with Johnson, who was the 2013 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, have all seen success in the Jayhawk secondary in the past, but there are a plethora of newcomers that look to make an immediate impact.

Standing 6-2 and weighing 195-pounds, Short, who was forced to sit out a season ago, has the size to contend with bigger receivers and go up and highpoint passes that smaller corners may not be able to get to. He explained that he used sitting out last year as motivation to get better and improve his skills and get faster so he can be a reliable option.

“I worked on my craft and I got a lot better,” Short said. “I got stronger and faster, I worked on my technique every day and watched film. I did this day in and day out. I believe I have good instincts. I’ve played receiver before and so I know what the receiver is going to do. I know their movements, so my instincts are good to break to the ball and go get it.”

Providing help for Short over the top will be Johnson who led the Jayhawks with five interceptions last year. Although Johnson had some success in the previous season, 2014 is all about improving as a whole and becoming a confident group.

“We want to get even better,” Johnson said. “We have to lead this team; the defense has to put the team on its back this year and I think we can. I also think that the offense is doing really well and we can make a run.”
Providing depth behind Johnson and Sendish at the safety spot is Smithson who can come up in run support and make plays as well as disrupt plays in the passing game. Smithson believes that the secondary, which will return all four starters from last year, is going to improve because of familiarity with one another.

“I would say a strength (of the secondary) is communication because you have everyone in a group back there, and most of the guys all played with each other last year,” Smithson said. “I feel like the communication part is key because playing in the Big 12 there is a lot of up-tempo offense and the thing that can get you beat on just one play is not communicating.”

Safeties coach Scott Vestal has seen improvement in all facets of the secondary and believes that the group along with the whole defense may open some eyes this year.

“I would say we have some quiet confidence,” Vestal said. “Out of all three years (he’s coached at KU), this is the best team we’ve had. Everybody is saying it and I’ve got the feeling we can go out there and back it up.”

Looking Ahead
Preparations for the season are in full-swing now that the Jayhawks have completed their first practice wearing full-pads. The team will be back at it Wednesday for the first two-a-day of 2014 with a practice at 9 a.m., followed by a press conference featuring head coach Charlie Weis at 11:45 a.m. Before the second practice Wednesday, requested running backs and tight ends will get some media exposure at 12:15 p.m.

Fans can get their first opportunity to see the 2014 edition of the Kansas football team on Saturday, Aug. 16 for Fan Appreciation Day. The festivities will take place at Memorial Stadium beginning at 1:30 p.m. Practice will end at 4:15 p.m., and those in attendance will have the opportunity to get autographs from players and staff who will be set up around the newly renovated field inside the stadium.

To stay up to date during fall camp follow the Jayhawks online via 2014 Fall Camp Central and on Twitter @KU_Football.