According to first-year University of Kansas defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, there are four principles to a successful defense:
1. Don't give up the deep ball.
2. Keep plays within "the box."
3. Make big plays.
4. Don't give up big plays.
If the 2010 Jayhawks defense can manage to adhere to those four
principles, they should be set. Sounds simple, right?
If only. Like most things in life, achieving those four principles is –
for all but a few collegiate defenses each year – easier said than
However, one doesn't become one of the most respected defensive
coordinators in the game without knowing a thing or two about coaching
successful defensive football. From 1995-1997, his defenses at the
University of North Carolina under head coach Mack Brown ranked as the
best in the nation statistically, and featured players the caliber of
Julius Peppers, Greg Ellis and Dre Bly.
Fast-forward 13 years, from Chapel Hill, N.C. to Mount Oread. How does
Torbush plan to replicate that past success in Lawrence, now that
offenses are bigger, faster and more successful than ever before?
By adopting the role of the aggressor.
"We're going to be aggressive, we're going to be physical, and
hopefully we're going to attack and put stress and pressure on the
offense," Torbush explained. "Because if we do that then we at least
get them where they have to get rid of the ball right now. The worst
thing we can do is sit back there and let them progress, 'one, two,
three, four.' "
Last season saw the Jayhawks, under defensive coordinator Clint Bowen,
take a stab at stopping the spread by shifting to a nickel-heavy
scheme. The hope was that the presence of an additional defensive back
on the field during most plays would give the defense a leg up against
the Big 12's pass-happy offensive systems.
The system produced mixed results. While the Jayhawks finished the
season ranked sixth in the conference in both total defense and pass
defense, the 4-2-5 scheme left them vulnerable against the run. The
unit ranked 10th in the conference in rush defense as a result.
Which isn't to say the 2010 defense will be married to the 4-3, Torbush
"We'll be multiple," he explained. "We'll line up with several
different fronts and different coverages. I think you've gotta do that.
I don't care how good you are personnel-wise, you've gotta be able to
mix things up. Offenses have gotten too skilled and too good."
Unfortunately, just how good the Jayhawks are personnel-wise has been
the subject of much off-season discussion. Gone is All Big 12 safety
and team leader Darrell Stuckey. Questionable linebacker play and the
overall lack of a pass rush in 2009 has Kansas fans wondering who is
going to step if the Jayhawks are to be successful under the new regime.
A few weeks in to spring practice, likely candidates are starting to
emerge. Several members of the defensive secondary – an area in which
the previous coaching staff recruited extremely well – have earned
praise from Head Coach Turner Gill, including seniors Olaitan Oguntodu
and Chris Harris, and sophomore Lubbock Smith.
Leaders are stepping forward at other positions as well. Jamal Greene,
long believed to be one of the most talented players in the program, is
making noise at defensive tackle, and both Justin Springer and Steven Johnson have distinguished themselves at linebacker.
"The linebacker position, which I coach, has been the biggest surprise
for me," Torbush said. "We've got more guys there that I feel like have
a chance to play in a game than I originally thought. I think we've
right now got about 6-7 guys who truly have a legitimate chance."
Of course, nothing is set in stone at this early date, and many
position battles will continue to rage into the fall. But thus far,
Torbush is encouraged by what he's seen of both the talent level and
the effort on the field.
"It's a great place," he said, of KU. "We've got a great school, a
great athletic director, a phenomenal head coach, and we've got a group
of young men who do everything they can to please us. They want to get
Torbush on the KU Defense
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