K-State travels to Lawrence this weekend to meet KU in the 109th Sunflower Showdown. Thanks to Owen of Rock Chalk Talk for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. You can check out my answers to his questions at RCT.
BOTC: I have a friend who believes that Turner Gill isn't qualified to be a Big 12 coach, and doesn't care if KU keeps losing if it means they get rid of him earlier. Is that a common sentiment, or is there still a belief that KU can turn it around under Gill?
RCT: Right now there is HOPE that Turner Gill can turn it around but I would say belief is hanging on by a thread. I do think that many Kansas fans do believe that some level of continuity is pretty key in building a program in Lawrence so from that standpoint I think there are plenty that are willing to give him some time to see what really takes shape. Yes there are those that want him fired asap and then there are those that are blind supporters, but I would say most of us are not satisfied with what is happening on the field, but we have seen some positive things in terms of recruiting and we're ready to see it through another year at the very least. Now if he's fielding the worst defense in the country next year and allowing 66 and 70 points to be put on us, then we might have a different conversation.
BOTC: What's the biggest cause of the defense's struggles? I felt like the move to a 3-4 was a mistake, but is it the scheme, the personnel, injuries, poor coaching, a combination thereof, or something else?
RCT: I wish I knew. Up until last week it seemed so horrendous that I don't think anyone had an answer. Vic Shealy put together a somewhat aggressive scheme last week against OU and that seemed to help a bit which was nice to see but overall it's been fairly vanilla. Injuries haven't been a huge issue, but I do think from a personnel standpoint we're really hurting on the defensive line in terms of depth and that has been a back breaker in making the move to the 3-4. All in all I'd say it's a huge combination of factors, but I say that because it's been pretty much impossible to pinpoint one thing that could fix it. I will say that they at least played with some fire and passion last week and as I mentioned that was a HUGE relief because this team felt like it was on the verge of rolling over to die.
BOTC: Which players should K-State be concerned about on offense and defense?
RCT: Offensively Kansas will need to run the ball to have a chance. I think James Sims and Darrian Miller are the one two combo in the backfield and Darrian Miller might have worked his way into the top running back spot over Sims at this point. But if I really had to pick one player on offense that is pretty key it's Jeremiah Hatch at center. You won't here his name and obviously he doesn't get any of the glory, but when he went out last week the Kansas offense stalled and the running game took a bit of a dip.
Defensively I'd have to point to Steven Johnson. He's a walk on that is now a scholarship player and he has a GREAT story to tell. He's overcome a lot and worked his ass off to be where he is today. I don't know if concerned is the right word, but he's the one guy that Kansas can count on to show up ready to fight every week. Some of that personality seems to be rubbing off but it's a bit of a shame that he's on the worst defense in the country because he obviously isn't going to get the exposure that I think he deserves.
BOTC: Does KU keep this one close and have a shot to win at the end?
RCT: Well I think those are two questions and I think they are also a matter of perspective. I do think that Kansas State's style this year leads to the type of game that Kansas could keep close. How long it stays close, I don't know. Shot to win at the end? One second I think yes, the next I think no. I guess when I look at this game and realize that a year ago it was a 52 point difference I have a hard time getting too excited especially since one team has improved and the other really hasn't. I'll be watching, rooting and I wake up Saturday morning with hope, but the six days of the week leading up to Saturday I try to be "constructively critical" and that part of me is less confident. Did I answer the question or does this come off as a Dan Hawkinsesque excuse?