Takeaways: Players felt bye week went well, ready to take on the Jayhawks
The Red Raiders will take on Kansas in their Big 12 conference opener on Thursday night in Lubbock. Several players met with local media members ahead of the matchup to review the bye week and preview the contest...
-Outside receiver Dylan Cantrell on what he thinks the receivers really needed to work on over the bye week: "I think just be more physical in the run game. We did a good job of that against Arizona State, kind of fell off a little bit against Louisiana Tech, so really just in the run game being more physical, getting after it on every play."
-On Kansas last year, and if he thought it was maybe the worst game the offense played in 2015: "That was one of those games I think we just went into too confident and didn't give them a whole lot of credit, which we should've. We need to approach every team like they're the number one team in the country."
-Cantrell was asked about where he feels the team is right now heading into Kansas: "We feel good. I think we know we haven't played our best football yet, and that's exciting," he said. "September doesn't really matter once conference starts, so we are what we put on paper, put on film right now. So, we're gonna go out there and give it our best."
-I asked safety Jah'Shawn Johnson what it was that the defense really needed to improve on over the course of the bye week. His answer won't surprise you: "We've been focusing more on turnovers. We went two weeks straight with zero turnovers, and that's unlike us. We've been stressing that a lot this week and just staying in our gaps, tackling a lot better, just getting better as we go."
-With fellow safety Keenon Ward out, Payton Hendrix and Kisean Allen will take the reps vacated by the senior for now. Johnson on how he thinks both of them have come along in the last week: "They know what they're doing, communicate well, and we have great chemistry when we're back there since we've been doing it since fall camp, rotating in and out, so they know what they're doing, and I'm excited to see them play."
-Johnson thinks one thing above all will push the defense forward a step on game day: "We've got to finish. We've started fast in a few games, gotten off the field, and then we get lazy in the second half. So, I think we need to tackle better in the second half, don't think we've done that this year. We definitely have to get turnovers to get our offense back the ball."
-I asked the redshirt sophomore about what appears to be an increased number of blitz packages and looks the team began implementing against La Tech. Johnson said he felt like they're really starting to learn those blitzes and are really trying to create some pressure with a bunch of new looks: "It's been getting a lot better, trying to pressure the quarterback so he can hopefully throw us a ball or two, get us some sacks, hopefully get our offense back the ball. We've had a lot of guys going in and out with a bunch of different positions, so we've done a great job with that, and it'll be great when we get to use it."
-Johnson was asked about tackling, and he said they definitely do a lot of tackling against the scout team every week, just not any against the first team offens