Defense shows improvement in football spring game
- Apr. 29, 2012
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In one of the Kansas football team’s practices last week, sophomore linebacker Michael Reynolds had three different coaches talk to him about running the play full speed.
At the end of practice, head coach Charlie Weis called him out for it, trying to explain to him that they are going after him because he is one of the few players on the team who can make that play.
“My whole coaching point to him is that he is one of the guys that can really help us and hopefully today is another step in him turning that corner.” Weis said.
Reynolds burst onto the scene at the Jayhawks spring game, making five tackles and recording three sacks on his way to being named defensive MVP. In 2011 he appeared in 10 games as a true freshman, but did not have the same impact.
His performance helped lead the blue squad to a 45-0 victory over the white squad. The shutout victory by no means thrusts the Jayhawk defense into the upper echelon of collegiate defenses, but it is a welcomed sign for a team that allowed the most points per game in the NCAA D1 FBS last season.
Reynolds, along with fellow linebacker senior Toben Opurum, played a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position normally seen more in a 3-4 defensive scheme than in the Jayhawks’ 4-3.
“I’m very comfortable with it because it gives me the chance to stand up and rush the passer and also play in coverage.” Reynolds said.
Weis likes playing more versatile players at both positions because it allows him to keep his best players on the field no matter how the opposing offense lines up.
Sophomore running back Marquis Jackson also showed improvement after converting from receiver earlier this spring. He ran strong and hard as he piled up 76 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.
“I’m looking at this big, physical kid, saying, ‘He looks like a running back, he doesn’t look like a wide receiver,” Weis said. “So I sat down and talked to him and said ‘You play running back?’ and he said ‘Yeah, I was a running back,’ so I said ‘Good, you’re a running back again.”
While Weis was impressed with Jackson, he is still trying to figure out what his role will be in the fall. Because of Jackson’s bigger build, he has the ability to play in the traditional halfback position as well as a bulkier fullback.
“He could very easily be at 230 with a couple of cheeseburgers,” Weis said. “That’s what were going to have to decide, what weight we want him at, but you can see he has some natural running instincts.”
The zero on the board beneath the white squad’s name is an impressive feat, but it must be noted that the teams were not matched equally. The blue squad clearly had more of the first team guys while the white squad, which struggled to move the ball all day, had more players that are expected to be second and third string on the depth chart this fall.
“I think that offensively, we’re ahead of our defense,” Weis said. “But I truly believe we’re going to be much improved on defense. Not only philosophically do I believe in what they’re doing, but I do believe that with some of the guys that we have coming in, interjected with the people we have here, I do think that come September, we’ll be much improved.”
Edited by Christine Curtin