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August 22, 2012Jayhawk Slant talked with linebackers coach DeMontie Cross after practice on Wednesday.
Cross on how Ben Heeney has taken over at middle linebacker?
He is a high speed high energy guy. It's a combination of him wanting to get to the ball so bad that he forgets his assignments. It's amazing that you have to get him to slow down where as other players you tell them to go faster and go harder. You got to get him to slow down because he plays at one speed all the time. I have been impressed with the kid and he has gotten better since the last time we have visited.
Cross on evaluating the linebackers?
We watch the film to see who had missed assignments, loafs and guys who aren't hustling to the ball. For us in the linebackers the bar has been set and they know what the expectations are. I always talk to them about our standards and we don't want to lower our standards or compromise anything for what we are trying to achieve as a group. I am starting to see a little more leadership out of Huldon Tharp. It's nice that I don't always have to emphasize guys running to the ball and missing assignments because he is really locked in. It's good because you want to have the coach be the one who is yelling or providing leadership all the time. It's good to have some of your players taking over that role and he is doing that a little bit along with Ben Heeney.
Cross on what Tharp has done to show leadership?
It happens. I don't want to go into detail but it happens and it is not only noted by myself but also Coach Campo. It's got some guys looking around thinking that's good to see. Also in my classroom he will chirp and get up and say some things to the guys. He's doing some things behind the scenes but it's good because I am always looking for who is going to step up when guys don't really want to hear it. He's been that guy quite a bit lately.
Cross on what Toben Opurum has brought at strongside linebacker?
Just his energy. When he is going he can really bring it off the edge. When I do see him he is a lot more physical in doing some things I didn't see from the spring. I don't get to work with him as much as I did in the spring but just seeing him challenge people and do some things up front. It's fun to watch him and if he can keep it up he will make a big impact on what we are doing defensively.
Cross on if he is allowed to name which linebacker graded highest during camp?
I wish I could. It really is up and down. When one guy is on the other guy may be off. It just depends. I keep a production sheet for who is making big plays, interceptions, fumbles and turnovers. I make a big emphasis on turnovers and coming out of camp it was amazing once you tallied them up to see who was productive and who wasn't. That's still the emphasis that we still have to get the ball back on defense.
Cross on an update on Schyler Miles?
He' still growing. I mentioned before that the MIKE linebacker position is a difficult position because there is a lot going on with that position. Sometimes things get a little bit fast for them. He's handled it well for a freshman but he has a ways to go. The encouraging thing is he hasn't let up or decreased in anything that has been asked of him. He still has to get used to the speed of the game and his responsibility for what we ask him to do out there. I believe he can handle it. It is just how much can he handle. Can he handle the full package right now? That would be a stretch but he continues to work hard in practice.
Cross on if McDonald's experience will help him catch up when he returns from injury?
That's hard for me to say. I know he comes highly touted with his physical play and the things he can do between the tackles. I know that will be a big boost for us defensively. We got to get him out there. It is a big difference sitting in the classroom then being out on the field. I remind him of that constantly. The big thing is in the classroom he can give me the right answers but it's always different when you are out there practicing and have to get those fits and get those reads. He's day to day and hopefully we can get him back because he is a full speed type of guy.