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October 2, 2013When Victor Simmons first saw tape of the man he'd be guarding on Saturday, he only had one thought in his mind.
"That guy is huge," Simmons said.
Simmons will be charged with the difficult task of guarding Texas Tech's 6-foot-5, 260 pound tight end Jace Amaro who is averaging 91.8 yards per game and 12.7 yards per carry.
"I feel like I have enough size to challenge him so it will be fun," Simmons said.
Since switching to nickel at the beginning of the season, Simmons has 22 tackles, three for loss and one sack. He ranks second on the team in all three categories.
"This is my third position here so understanding the passing game and the running game has come full circle at this position from safety to linebacker and now at nickel," Simmons said.
He even said the switch has helped him advance his game mentally and physically.
"I feel like I am more energetic. I am ready to go," Simmons said. "I'm excited for things that most people wouldn't be excited for. We're running out to summer workouts and coach tells us we have this many 300s and I am yelling because it's not enough. I'm just motivated."
Jayhawks ready to break the streak
Head coach Charlie Weis has been focusing on two numbers with the Jayhawks this week:
When Kansas takes the field on Saturday against Texas Tech, it will have been 1,063 days since their last conference win and 1,455 since they defeated a current member of the Big 12.
"You hear, 'Oh, we haven't won one since 2009 against a current Big 12 team,' and that does something, but when you think about how it's been 1,455 days, that's amazing," tight end Trent Smiley said. "Think of how many different things you've done throughout those 1,400 days and we couldn't win one game? It needs to happen."
Facing Texas Tech in their first chance to break that streak will be no small task as the Red Raiders average 520 total yards on offense and 38.8 points per game.
"I think we just absolutely have to individually do our own jobs," Smiley said. "I cannot do anything more than my responsibility is on that play whether it is pass blocking or blocking the man on top of me or a combination block or whatever it is and that goes for every single person."
Heaps says offense is close
The passing game may still look a little shaky, but the statistics are showing improvements.
For example they've increased their passing yards from 110 to 170 and 279 in the first three games and Jake Heaps is positive there are even more improvements to come.
"We're very close and that's what makes this thing so frustrating is it's not our inability to do anything, it's just a couple execution errors that make or break a great play or allow us to score or not," Heaps said. "We've got to be better execution-wise and take advantage of the opportunities that we're given and if we do that, we can go out there and score a lot of points and be the offense that we know we are capable of being."
He said that the 13-10 victory against Louisiana Tech was a big step for the offense as a whole and they carried that into the off-week.
"We just continued to work. We used it as an opportunity to grow and get better. We didn't look at it as a bye week or a chance to rest up and say, 'Hey, this is our off-week, we don't need to practice,' or stuff like that. We really took it seriously and practiced hard," Heaps said. "I was really pleased with how our guys approached the bye week and we worked extremely hard in that off-week and it showed in our last practice yesterday. It was a really good, clean practice and we are going to continue to grow on that."
Sterling pleased with offensive line development
Entering the season, the offensive line was one of the biggest question marks on the offense. For a group that had a combined eight Division I starts before the first game, left tackle Aslam Sterling said he is pretty happy with their progress.
"I think we're doing well right now, we've just got to find that continuity," Sterling said.
Sterling and Dylan Admire are the two returning players with Pat Lewandowski set behind Admire at center. Junior college transfers Ngalu Fusimalohi, Mike Smithburg and Zach Fondal fill out the line.
Admire is by far the smallest of the group at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, but Weis said on Wednesday that he brings some speed and athleticism to the otherwise physical line.
"He's definitely able to get the jump on these bigger guys out front so that should be able to help us," Sterling said.