KU's defense against Southern Miss gave me horrific flashbacks to a time (last season) when our secondary was horrendous, our pass rush was non-existent, our star linebackers didn't have a place in our defense, and Clint Bowen's idea of a solution was turning unathletic safety Justin Thornton into a cornerback.
This year, Bowen seemed to have some things figured out. He has fresh faces to choose from at cornerback, endless depth at safety, a good defensive line, and a linebackers coach in Bill Miller who more than makes up for inexperience at the position.
However, the Duke Blue Devils and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles both proved any such theories completely false by posting 394 and 395 net offensive yards respectively against the Jayhawks, mostly through the air.
I don't want to take anything away from the four consecutive stops made by the Jayhawk defense at the end of the game to seal the win; those stands were as big as they come. However, Bowen should've been making changes since that unimpressive Duke game the week before.
For instance, Chris Harris played great in game one as a safety, but gives up way too much cushion to be an effective corner. This also places Justin Thornton at free safety, again, and while he may be a ball-hawk, his lack of athleticism and risky play has resulted in some huge plays these past two weekends.
And don't forget the linebackers. Drew Dudley has been solid, and Arist Wright and Huldon Tharp don't look bad either. However, Arist and Huldon have been caught up in coverage against massive tight ends and quick receivers, which are not places they'll be very effective.
I'm not a defensive guru, but when things aren't working, you need to fix them, Clint!
Why not let red-shirt sophomore Ryan Murphy start at corner? He may not be much use against the run, but neither is Daymond Patterson, and Murphy has looked very solid in coverage on third downs.
Or what about Calvin Rubles and Anthony Davis? Did mishaps in their first collegiate FBS action condemn them? Davis' youth should merit another chance, and Rubles' 6' 3" frame and 4.3-40 make up for his unpolished coverage skills. The best part is that Chris Harris could move back to safety where giving up too much cushion would happen anyway.
And I haven't heard Phillip Strozier's name much this year. Maybe he's that great in coverage, but a tackle once in a while would be accepted. I thought Lubbock Smith had a great off-season?
Also, if Tharp and Wright aren't covering a running back, they should not be in pass coverage. They should be blitzing. Athletic tight ends are more than they can handle, and it's time to put Drew Dudley or Darrell Stuckey into that role.
Dropping more guys into coverage is not always the answer, and I'm not saying blitz every time, but with the right personnel in the secondary, I think Tharp and Dudley would be vicious coming off the edges.
If the Hawks weren't getting picked apart, I wouldn't be complaining, but Bowen seems adamant in his strategy of rarely blitzing more than four men and never more than five, no matter how easily the opposing quarterback picks us apart. Bowen also likes a deep safety in the middle of the field, but they haven't been much help around the sidelines that I can see.
Maybe blitzing six would prevent the cornerbacks from having enough time to get burned.
Excuses have been everywhere this week. Off-the-field issues have ruined focus, Southern Miss is underrated, and the offense wasn't that good are just a few that I've heard.
None of these things should prevent Clint Bowen from making an effort, should they?
All I'm saying is that KU has a young, athletic, healthy defense, and that Clint Bowen is too stubborn to take advantage of it.
I want to see some shake-ups, and not just turning an average safety into a bad corner. I want to Clint Bowen send his incumbents a message. I want to see young guys get a real chance in a meaningful situation. I want to see competition and improvement.
Oh yeah, I'd also like to see some blitzes. The defensive line is better, but four-on-five is still a mismatch, in case you haven't heard, Bowen. I think they'd appreciate some help more than once every quarter.
I'll give Bowen all the credit into the world for finding Daymond Patterson (although he wasn't that good on Saturday, either), and for having the tough, experienced defense necessary to perform well in a pivotal fourth quarter.
However, that doesn't get him out of scrutiny. Clint Bowen's problems were exposed already last week against Duke.
They need to end now.