New-look defense? Torbush supports direction, potential changes with Kansas football ‘D’

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum hits the sled during football practice on Monday, April 18, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum hits the sled during football practice on Monday, April 18, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.

Though he won’t be around to see it, former Kansas University defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said in no uncertain terms at his retirement news conference that the KU football defense was a unit on the rise.

“There’s no doubt, athletically, we’re better now than we were last year,” said Torbush, 59, who stepped down May 31 to focus on his upcoming battle with prostate cancer. “We’ve got more depth here than we’ve had before. We’re faster than we were before.”

And now, with cornerbacks coach Vic Shealy being promoted to defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt bumped up to co-coordinator, the Jayhawks appear to be headed toward a slight change in the way they play defense.

Along with head coach Turner Gill, Shealy and Wyatt made sure to emphasize that the foundation for what KU would do on defense was in place, thanks to Torbush.

“Even though it’s been a short term here, it’s been a really important term,” Gill said of Torbush’s one year with the program. “I appreciate what he’s all about, and I know that he’s a person that’s going to continue to have KU in his heart and in his mind.”

Now it’s time for the fine-tuning.

The early word out of KU’s camp is that Shealy and Wyatt will coach pressure defense and strive to create havoc for opposing offenses. There’s even been talk of switching the base package from a 4-3 to a 3-4, a move that would allow KU to put more linebackers on the field and better utilize the speed it brought in at that position. That’s about as detailed as the group got about any upcoming philosophical shifts.

“I think you’ll see some changes,” Shealy said. “Inevitably, it’s going to happen when you get a different personality. There are many ways to skin a cat, and football is no different. I would rather not get too much into the scheme stuff because we would like to have some surprises out there in that first game or two.”

Added Gill: “We’re gonna do some things maybe just slightly different than we’ve done in the past, but it’s not gonna be a whole lot.”

Throughout the offseason, Torbush talked about improving the defense with better speed and better depth. On his way out, he continued to stress the importance of those elements while also touting how much a year of experience would help this year’s defense.

“There’s no question that will help them be better this year,” he said. “The more battle-tested you get and the experience that you gain, you can’t replace that.”

Torbush also was happy to give his endorsement to KU’s new defensive bosses.

“I have no doubt that the defense will be in great hands with Vic,” Torbush said. “I’ve known Vic a long, long time. He’s a tremendous football coach, he’s got great knowledge and will be a great leader of men. I’ve been around coach Wyatt for a number of years and he’s been around some great football coaches. I don’t have any doubt that he’ll be a great defensive coordinator, as well.”

Torbush continued: “This program’s not gonna miss a beat. It’s just a situation right now that I feel like I need to move on with my life. I’ll never forget my time here. I’ve been at some great universities. Academically, it’s a great school. Athletically, it’s a great school. It’s got great tradition, great coaching staff, great facilities. They’ve got everything that needs to be here to have a chance to succeed.”