Pat Kinnison

Spencer Likes What He Sees in KU's Willis

Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer says KU freshman quarterback Ryan Willis continues to improve

That's a mix-up headline. Honestly, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer would rather not like what he sees in Kansas freshman quarterback Ryan Willis. The newcomer from Florida has stepped in and done a good job advancing and improving as the Jayhawks also have started to improve.

They were in the game late Saturday against Texas Tech before losing 30-20. The last touchdown came with under three minutes to go when Willis, in his own territory, misread cover two by Tech and hung a ball up toward the sideline that the safety was able to get to and pick and then return for the score. Otherwise, Willis played pretty well with 35 completions in 50 attempts for 330 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"He is getting better and better and they have done a good job coaching him," Spencer said when asked if it reminded him some of the way the Cowboys pulled the redshirt and broke in Mason Rudolph last season. "They are working with him on what his best throws are and each week he has become more effective, and he played well last week against Texas Tech."

Last week Spencer and the defensive staff encouraged players to watch tape as the Cowboys went light on practicing but heavy on mental preparation. Last year's close call with the Jayhawks in Lawrence was not much good.

"We did watch the game so we could see their returning guys play," Spencer added. "They've done an outstanding job of finding their quarterback and settling in on how he can move the ball."

Rudolph won't have to worry about defending Willis. Rudolph is focused on attacking the Kansas defense, but he did watch the Texas Tech win over Kansas and he did notice the play of Willis. 

"I thought he did a good job of handling high-pressure situations," Rudolph said while admitting that he watched bits and pieces of a number of games. "You're going to make mistakes but you just have to learn from them and get better."

Spencer is now zeroed in on the preparation this week. Spencer, as his players know, is very consistent and he does not change the routine much at all. It is that routine and as Spencer likes to call it, the defense's culture, that is the backbone of their success.

"I'm trying to get ready for tomorrow's practice. I stay in the day, not the week. With the players, we just talk about the next practice and getting ready," Spencer explained. "All of the sudden, it's Saturday and they go out and perform with the intensity that we've coached them to play with."

Praise and all of the awards that are coming the way of the defense and especially defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah aren't something that Spencer is crazy about either, although he admitted that he does want to see his players get recognition. He also appreciates that Ogbah is sharing the spotlight and telling teammates that the awards are for all of them to share and be proud of.  

"You know I'm not big on throwing out praise because I see the negatives, but we function," Spencer continued on the Cowboys defensive culture. "We've had issues, but they've made a lot of big plays. We have contributors all over the place. Good defenses have a lot of people contribute. There are too many moving parts. We have to have all 11 as contributors. We can't have too many weak chains."


They certainly haven't and I don't see any weakening anytime soon.  


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