The Daily Texan spoke to Jack Johnson, sports editor of The University Daily Kansan.
Daily Texan: What can you tell me about (sophomore running back) Pooka Williams? How has his body of work looked this year, and what kind of matchup does he present to the Texas defense?
Jack Johnson: Well, (Kansas) originally had (senior running back) Khalil Herbert to start the season, and he was dismissed before the TCU game now three weeks ago. But up until then, they were about splitting carries. … But most of Kansas’ production really does come from how he does in the run game, (and) how accurate (Kansas) is in the passing game. Outside of that, it’s pretty much Pooka Williams and (junior wide receiver) Andrew Parchment as far as (the) offensive weapons that (senior quarterback) Carter Stanley uses, so (Williams) takes probably the majority of the workload.
DT: The Kansas passing offense — how do you think it matches up against a Texas defense that has been pretty depleted by injuries?
JJ: Well, the Kansas passing game is … all dependent on how accurate Stanley is in the early goings on the short gains. They usually like to open up going about five or six-yard outs, and that opens up the game more (like) in the Boston College (game) when Stanley was able to get that going. But if Texas is able to come out, get pressure on him and force him to make throws further than 10 yards, it’ll be rout. So usually when Stanley’s going good, it’s when they get him passing early and get him easy completions to get him comfortable. But that’s basically what it’s going to come down to, that first drive.
DT: So with the Texas offense last week against Oklahoma — Oklahoma brought pressure, and that’s where they made Ehlinger uncomfortable. Do you think this Kansas defensive front will have the ability to get some pressure on Ehlinger and maybe force Texas into some tough spots?
JJ: Well (the Jayhawks) have about two guys on the line that are pretty active in the backfield — (senior linebacker) Azur Kamara and (senior defensive end) Darrius Moragne. Both are bigger guys. They weren’t able to get to (Oklahoma quarterback Jalen) Hurts as often as they’d like to. In the past, they usually get in the backfield more when the plays are extended, they’re not really guys to blow off the ball and be able to get to the quarterback quickly. I don’t think they’re going to do it as successfully as Oklahoma was able to. So yeah, I mean usually Kansas has pressure in the backfield — it comes from just the plays being extended when the coverage in the secondary is good. But other than that, I don’t see the KU defensive front putting that much pressure on him.
DT: So what is the feel around the program right now as far as with (head coach) Les Miles, and has there been a change in culture from what you’ve seen so far?
JJ: After the Boston College win, it was really high. People were starting to feel like maybe the program was turning around (in) a good way, and then after that — it seriously all happened after Herbert missed that TCU game. Then there were questions about whether he was returning, and obviously he ended up leaving the program. After that it’s been, you know, the West Virginia game they lost when Herbert was there, but then after that the TCU blowout and the Oklahoma blowout. And I think the goal this year would have been to be at least competitive in each of the games, and that obviously hasn’t happened now in the last two weeks. I think the feel around the team now is just kind of same old, same old.