Campo sees bright future for team in the defense

Dave Campo may not admit it, but last year’s lack of depth on defense plagued Kansas against the Big 12’s hellish, up-tempo offenses.

On paper, at least, that seems to have changed for the better.

It all begins with Kansas’ lengthy and skilled defenders Dexter McDonald and Kevin Short, who are looking to hold down the two starting cornerback spots.

Both Short and McDonald boast impressive wingspans and athleticism that will help the Jayhawks defend against the pass-heavy league.

McDonald, a local product from Rockhurst High School, returns to the Jayhawks after being dismissed from the team when coach Charlie Weis first took over at Kansas.

Short, who transferred from junior-college and was recently cleared by the NCAA, looks to bolster not only the Jayhawks secondary, but also their return game with his top-flight speed.

While he has a little catching up to do, Short still has a legitimate shot at playing a fair amount when Kansas takes the field against South Dakota on Sept. 7.

“He’s one of the guys, in my mind like Dexter McDonald, he’s a bigger athlete,” said Defensive Coordinator Dave Campo. “We won’t know exactly what we have until he’s going.”

While Short may be a little behind in adjusting to the new system, Campo said cornerback is one  position in which relying on athletic ability is more crucial than anything else.

Two other guys that have been a part of the corner competition are junior JaCorey Shepherd and junior-college transfer Brandon Hollomon. The tight position battle speaks volumes to the added depth that Campo has been embracing throughout camp.

The big rotations define defenses in this league. Having two shutdown corners can help matters but the comfort of being able to shuffle players in without suffering a major drop-off in talent is even more beneficial. That’s something Campo feels he can now do.

“With the tempo of the game and 90 plays a game, you can’t just play two guys,” Campo said. “That’s something I did last year. I had no confidence whatsoever in guys that were backup positions.”

Last season, Campo came to Kansas after a lengthy NFL career coaching defense for the Dallas Cowboys. He had to deal with facing these cutting edge, no huddle offenses in the Big 12 that were unlike anything he was used to. Now, one year later, Campo feels much more confident and comfortable in preparing to face the conference’s best.

“It’s a different game,” Campo said. “I know the offensive coaches around this league are going to get mad when I say this but they’re cheating. The game of football is not football it’s fast-break offense. So, you have to be ready to cheat right along with them.”

The league has made it abundantly clear that tempo is the name of its game and they aren’t turning down the engine anytime soon.

“In critical situations we gave up big plays,” Campo said of last year’s team. “I feel like we were tired and we weren’t mentally tough enough and that comes from the way you practice. If you’re forced to do it, it becomes a habit. We needed better practice habits.”

  • Updated Aug. 28, 2013 at 8:46 am
  • Edited by Ashleigh Tidwell