Defensive coordinator adjusts to Kansas football

Dave Campo

While one of the biggest transitions in football is when a player leaves college and begins playing professionally, Dave Campo, Kansas’ defensive coordinator, is making the jump from coaching in the NFL to coaching in the Big 12.

Campo’s biggest challenge during the transition has been switching his style of coaching defense and making sure that his players can get a good grasp of the system.

Campo said the Big 12 is different from other athletic conferences in many ways.

“When you talk about the SEC or the PAC 12, they are almost more NFL-type leagues from the standpoint that they are all like what Texas is doing,” Campo said, explaining how the Big 12 is more fast-paced with a spread offense.

For the past 22 years, Campo has coached with the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars while serving different roles throughout his professional coaching career including the head coach of the Cowboys from 2000-02.

His most triumphant run in the NFL came during the 1992-93 season through 1995-96 season where Campo was the secondary coach and defensive coordinator while helping the Cowboys win three Super Bowl titles in the span of four seasons.

Campo is learning that coaching players in college is not like coaching players in the pros. For him, leading college football players through teaching is a new, enjoyable learning experience.

“It’s a breath of fresh air for me.” Campo said. “You don’t do quite as much technique stuff when you’ve got guys that have been in your system for seven or eight years. I feel good about that. I think we’re making progress in those areas.”

Toben Opurum

Despite having a new defensive coordinator, Toben Opurum, senior defensive end and captain, said that he has been able to pick up Campo’s defense. His shift with a new coach is not something that is setting him back, but rather helping him sharpen and elevate his game.

“He’s been able to coach guys who have been in the same position as I have,” Opurum said. “I know the technique he wants me to use and I know what he expects out of me and he has helped me get better.”

As Opurum and his teammates prepare for the season to kickoff in less than two weeks, he knows that his team will be ready against South Dakota State.

“Come September 1 we get a new opponent,” he said. “I think we’ll really be able to see what we’re capable of. I’m confident in what we’re doing and I really like what coach Campo has us doing out there.”

At the start of fall camp, Campo made it clear that his Kansas defense won’t be one-dimensional, but it’ll more versatile. “Right now South Dakota State has no idea what we are going to do, because I have been in about five different defenses in the last three or four years,” Campo said. “I think you would have to say we are a multiple defense. We are capable of doing a lot of things, if the personnel fits.”

After giving up 393 points in the conference last year, Campo is working on implementing a sound defense in hopes that the Jayhawks can improve. Campo has no set expectations in his first year with the Jayhawks, but he sees a better football team going into a new season.

“I think fundamentally, we’re a better football team than we were when I came in here,” he said. “I think eventually that will pay dividends.”

—Edited by Vikaas Shanker

  • Updated Aug. 20, 2012 at 9:08 pm