Gill hammers keys to seeing the field in '11

Kansas football hosted its final press conference of the 2010 season Friday afternoon, and Head Coach Turner Gill went in-depth about what fans can expect to see in 2011, and what his staff looks for when recruiting a prep athlete.

Let's play Jeopardy: speed, athleticism and physicality.

What are three things sorely missing from the University of Kansas football team this past season?

Correct! We also could have accepted, "What are three things Kansas head coach Turner Gill promises Jayhawk football fans they'll see much more of next season?"

A relaxed and uber-optimistic Gill met with media Friday afternoon to wrap up his first season in charge at Kansas and hammered on these three qualities. The message was, if you don't have them, you won't play.

He started off his sermon by announcing the official signings of Blue Valley West's all-state offensive lineman Dylan Admire and Blue Valley's runningback Darrian Miller.

In talking about Admire, Gill articulated his vision for next year's team.

"(Admire's) strong, he's athletic and he's explosive. That's a word I've used here toward the end of the year. I want to make sure we're more explosive, so all the players we bring in need to have some explosive movement. Doesn't necessarily mean they have to be fast, but we need guys to have a suddenness, a burst, be able to explode into contact. Dylan Admire fits that.

Miller, whose commitment to Kansas was somewhat tenuous at times during the fall, has the speed and vision to be a legitimate division I playmaker.

"Whenever the ball is in his hands, he's able to take it to the end zone on any given play," Gill said. "We're extremely excited about him, even more excited because he's going to be here in January."

Gill also put to rest any thoughts of turning him into a defensive back.

"Runningback all the way."

Gill didn't hesitate to talk about one of the elephants in the room: the poor performance of his special teams all season. He didn't talk in terms of "I think." Friday was all about "We will."

"We will have better speed. I know we will have better depth. The guys we redshirted, they're going to have a lot more speed as we've already evaluated some of those guys."

Gill highlighted long-snapping, kicking and punting as two key areas that would be improved next season. Kicker Jacob Branstetter and punter Alonzo Rojas both graduate, and Gill said that improvement during the season by snapper Justin Carnes, combined with the possibility of bringing in some competition, would improve that position.

The defense, Gill again promised more of just about everything they needed but didn't have to be competitive.

"I know we're going to be faster; I know we're going to be more athletic," he said. "I already know that and see that just because, the guys that are coming back, they're more experienced. They understand what they need to do and how they need to do it."

Gill didn't mention any names, but look for a couple of safeties to move to outside linebacker to increase the team's explosiveness on defense.

Finally, Gill said that his defense would benefit greatly from getting linebacker Huldon Tharp and defensive back Keeston Terry back. A foot injury ended Tharp's season before the season ever began. Terry suffered a leg injury against Southern Miss. He was originally expected to miss a couple of weeks but didn't see the field the rest of the season. He will likely get a medical redshirt.

"Having them back is going to be tremendous," the coach said.

Gill was extremely gracious when talking about his offense – in particular, his quarterbacks. He promised more offensive productivity, saying that many of KU's offensive woes stemmed from inexperience.

"We had so many people who had not played a whole lot of football. You start with the quarterback, you start a little with the runningbacks and also with the receiver position. We had one or two guys, but again, we didn't have a whole lot of people with a whole lot of experience at the skill positions."

Gill said his offense had their moments; they just couldn't string enough of them together.

"We showed explosiveness. We showed the potential (that) we have it; we just didn't do that on a consistent basis."

He continued, "Particularly in the three wins where you saw, offensively, we could be explosive, we could make plays and guys could dominate a game or quarter. But, we just couldn't do it consistently. So, that potential is there."

Gill was also pleased with the late-season running game, thanks to dramatically improved blocking by the offensive line and tight ends game. He saw his team playing the kind of physical football he'd wanted from day one. This means his strength and conditioning staff has been given their marching orders.

"The biggest thing I mentioned to them and our team, I want our guys to be have more explosive movements. That's what I've demanded from our strength coaches: to get our guys to go so when we get into spring football practice, our guys have at least improved in that area.

Another point of optimism is the redshirts who will play a prominent role as Turner Gill's Jayhawks move forward.

Tight end Jimmay Mundine, "has what you're looking for," Gill said. "Explosiveness, he can make plays down the field, he can make plays on the short pass, he can make people miss and go the distance."

A couple of transfers from Buffalo University, Gill's prior coaching stop, will be impact players, as well, as Gill continues to try and balance the run and the pass a little better.

Nick Sizemore, a fullback, will see action from the get-go on special teams, but he'll also help the run game.

"We are definitely going to run more two-back (sets) as we have a guy we're confident that can get the job done at that position. Nick Sizemore has shown on the compete team, really shown some good things for us. He's going to be an impact player."?

The other transfer, linebacker Darius Willis, is already being looked to – not only by the coaching staff but by his peers – for leadership. Gill issued a survey to his players, asking who they saw being strong leaders during off-season work this winter. Willis was mentioned on about 80 percent of the surveys, the coach said.

"That was kind of an eye-opening thing that this guy was on the scout team this past season, and our guys have already spoken about him as a leader."

Redshirt Brandon Bourbon, who's already on my all-name team, will "be in the hunt," for touches at runningback, a tremendous complement to leading rusher James Sims.

Gill also shot down rumors about unseated starting QB-turned-WR Kale Pick leaving the program. When asked specifically about whether or not Pick would be a Jayhawk next season, Gill said, "He's all on-board, full-throttle, ready to go."

Okay, so if Pick's not going anywhere, will he ever go under center again? Don't count on it.

"I'm never going to say never, but at this time, he's a wide receiver," the coach said.


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