Completed chat with KU football beat writer Matt Tait
April 12, 2012
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Hey guys. This is Jesse Newell, KUsports.com online editor. I'm joined by Matt Tait. Matt, how is everything?
Everything? Man, that's a tough one. Thought you were gonna take it easy on me... KU football, though? That's doing pretty well. Let's get into it!
In what ways has Dave Campo changed the mindset and mentality of the KU defense through spring practices?
First off, Campo has a ton of energy and the players have really taken to that well. They love being around him, they love working for him and several of them have said that they're still a little in awe that the former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys is now coaching them. That will help them listen to everything he says.
Schematically, it's slow going there, but that's the way Campo prefers it. Rather than throwing a bunch at these guys, he wants to get them to the point where they are fundamentally sound and they do a couple of things really well.
I think that will help KU's defense in a lot of ways. Last year, way too many guys simply did not know what was going on or what was being asked of them. Obviously, that showed on the field.
Who will be the starting receivers for this season? How many will Weiss go with?
Tough one. I'm sure it will depend on who they're playing and what they're trying to accomplish, but the first depth chart we saw had three wide receiver spots so we'll go with that....
Assuming Justin McCay is eligible (still waiting to hear on that), he will be one and I think Daymond Patterson and Kale Pick will be the other two.
Long way to go before we get to that point, though, and things could change a lot. Weis seems to really like Beshears, too, and said the WR position is the most competitive in camp.
But those are the three I would go with right now:
...backed up by...
What veteren do you see as a "sleeping giant" coming into this season?
I love this question and I really think it could be Kale Pick. I had huge expectations for him last season -- based on how well he had picked up the position and his athletic ability -- and it never really showed. That was partly because of the offense KU ran and also because of trouble at quarterback and in protecting the quarterback.
So I'm going to pick up where I left off and believe that Pick will have a big-time season this year. I think he fits great into Weis' offense and it seems that he and Dayne Crist already have developed a nice bond. He might not lead the Jayhawks in catches or yards or TDs, but I think he'll be up there in all three and will have a solid senior season.
Other than him, I still think Darius Willis will show us something at linebacker now that he's working with a new group of coaches and I look for Riley Spencer to have a solid season on the O-Line.
First - thanks for all you & the rest of kusports.com do. There's gotta be thousands of us that cannot start the day without checking your website first!!
How about the over/under for TD passes by Crist next season. I'll say 18.
I've also read a little in another website that said Crist has been doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff with his new teammates to get everyone a head start for next season. Can you provide any further details?
Thanks a bunch. Glad to hear you're enjoying what we do. But what's this about you going to another website???? Kidding....
If you're setting the number at 18, I'll go over. Maybe not by a ton, but by a few. It seems that there already is some solid chemistry between Crist and his wide receivers and the players appear to be picking up the offense rather quickly. That can only mean good things for the offense, which will have better play at QB, should be solid up front and will have enough options in the running game to keep defenses honest.
As for your last question, Crist said the other day that his main goal upon arriving here was just to be one of the guys. It worked. These guys hang out quite a bit together and do the usual teammate type things like play video games, eat out and watch sports. Beyond that, Crist has served as an encyclopedia on the offense for the rest of the team and it sounds as if tons of guys are taking advantage of that, which means more hang out and bonding time.
Crist said he loves everyone on the team — particularly his offensive line (go figure) — but singled out Kale Pick and Daymond Patterson as guys he hangs with a lot. That, he said, could be because those are two of the older dudes on the team and are closer to his age. Plus, they're two of the guys who he's going to look to a lot when he drops back this fall.
I have read where the defensive line in particular may be completely different than the one practicing now. Are the newcomers that good?
It could be a little of the newcomers being that good and the guys that are already here being less experienced...
As long as they come in here in good shape and ready to work, I think three of your four starting D-linemen will arrive in June.
That's not necessarily a bad thing for the guys who are here, who (a) will work their butts off to earn a spot and (b) will provide good depth if they continue to improve.
D-Ends: Josh Williams (Nebraska transfer) and Toben Opurum
D-Tackles: Jordan Tavai (juco) and Ty McKinney (juco)
That leaves a lot of guys behind them for depth, including Keon Stowers (juco), John Williams, Pat Lewandowski, Keba Agostinho, Kevin Young, Ben Goodman and others....
It's hard to say how good this unit will be because so many of the guys they're counting on haven't arrived yet, but I think it's safe to say it will be better than what we've seen and will have the option to rotate fresh bodies in and out throughout each game.
Besides Dayne Crist, which 5th year senior transfer coming in do you see making the bigger impact? Mike Ragone or Josh Williams or a transfer we haven't heard of yet.
It's possible that it could be someone we haven't heard of yet... maybe a linebacker or a defensive lineman...
But of the two you mentioned, I think Williams is your guy. That's not a knock on Ragone more of a nod to Williams.
This guy played a lot of football on Nebraska's D-Line and even made a couple of starts. Beyond that, he was playing behind an All-American and still found his way onto the field.
I'm not quite ready to say he can be an all-Big 12 type of player, but I think he will make a huge impact on the KU defense.
Hi Matt, so any words on wether KU is playing a base 3-4 or 4-3 defense yet? Thanks Matt.
It looks like it'll be 4-3, but they won't be married to that. This defense will have a lot of variations and what they play will depend a lot on who they're playing and what type of offense they're trying to stop.
But it seems safe to say that Campo and company would like their base to be a 4-3 look and they would like to be able to play that very well before they try to unveil too many tricks.
I have read that KU now has very highly rated football facilities. How do the KU football facilities compare the rest of the Big 12? Do you think Coach Weis and his assistants are happy with the facilities and if not, what can be improved?
No question they're happy. I think the facilities that are in place played a big factor in Weis accepting the job, as people — recruits and coaches — have talked repeatedly about how KU's facilities are among the best in the country for football.
It's no joke. The Anderson Family Football Complex is as nice a football-only facility as there is out there and should be a huge advantage for KU in a number of different ways.
If there is a next step in improving the facilities, it will be at Memorial Stadium and could include everything from removing the track and lowering the field to just adding more seats or more suites like they once looked into with the Gridiron Club.
Long way to go before we get there, though. They need to get back to the point where they're consistently selling out what they have and, if they do, they'll look to build from there.
Time for a few more ...
Any additional insight (beyond what Weis said in the presser) about why Marquis Jackson moved to running back?
Not a lot, other than the fact that it was very clear that Weis likes Jackson's physicality and may be looking to find him a spot where he can use it more.
Could this the be the early stages of turning him into a goal-line back?
In a football conference where defense doesn't seem to be nearly as important as offense, how much ground do we have to make up to be competitive with the rest of the league?
Excellent question and very true. I think you've seen it during the past couple of seasons from teams like Oklahoma State, Baylor and K-State. You don't have to have a great defense to win this league, but you do have to have an offense that can keep up and a defense that can get you a stop or two when it counts.
In my opinion, that's great news for KU and the defensive coaches because taking what they have been and turning it into a Top 20 defense could take years. Turning it into a Top 50 defense is much more manageable and can be accomplished by lining up right, simplifying what you're trying to do and putting guys in position to make plays with their natural ability. We're already hearing about some of those steps being taken and it's going to be a lot of fun to see just how far this defense can go.
I agree, thanks for what you do on this great web site. We check it first and throughout the day. Are the young running backs that Weis has recruited, especially the young man from New Jersey capable of stepping right in...to fill the gap created by the suspension?
Lots of people on here now, Newell... I've got time for a handful more than normal if you do.
As for the question about the running backs, I haven't seen much of either one of them (Taylor Cox and Tevin Shaw) and highlight tapes can be misleading, but based on what Weis has said about both, I think they are very capable of playing right away.
The big question — as it always is — will be with the little things like pass protection. If they can't pick up a blitz and protect Crist, they won't play.
But from a pure sense of running the football and making plays, both guys have legit talent and should challenge for carries right away.
Hey, Matt: Thanks for the great job you do for KU Sports. com. There's been so much talk about KU being a basketball school and a nobody in football. How do you think HCCW is handling that perception? I know results show on the field, but has he talked about what he thinks it will take to turn KU into a winner?
Coach Weis loves college basketball and I think he sees it as a real asset to the football program to have KU basketball around. That said, he's a football guy and he believes in himself and I think he really wants football to be viewed in a similar light as basketball.
That's not a bad thing for KU, though, as it will be one of the many things that drives Weis to give all he's got to building this program.
He's opened his last couple of press conferences with little jokes about how all of the attention was on basketball. But I don't think they were anything more than little jokes and I think he, himself, got caught up in that awesome run that the Jayhawks made to the title game. He even went to New Orleans for the game against Kentucky.
I don't think he sees turning KU into a winner as something that will be all that difficult because of the facilities and the school support and the community. That said, the hardest steps always are the first steps, but it's clear already that he's been working his butt off to get a jump on things.
Last question. I deleted all the others thinking we were wrapping this thing up.
If you and Jesse could invite any 4 KU football people (players, coaches, whatever) to dinner, past or present, who would they be?
I like good storytellers, so I think a foursome of John Riggins, Don Fambrough, Steven Johnson and Mark Mangino would make for an entertaining night.
Yikes. No way I can come up with a good answer for that in just a couple of minutes. But I'll go with the first names that come to mind. Jesse, chime in if you want...
Don Fambrough - really, he'd be all you needed
Ray Evans - I've always heard he was one of a kind and an incredible athlete
Bill Whittemore - most underrated QB in KU history and an awesome dude
John Riggins - just because
Could be a wild night.
We had two of the same guys... Not bad.
I'd really be interested to hear other people's answers to this, so fill up the comment section below if you've got a dinner party in mind.
Thanks to everyone for the questions and for checking out the chat.
Another good one. We've got two weeks of spring ball left so the next couple of chats should be packed with more good information. Be sure to get those questions in and, if we have time, we'll try to go a little longer with the next couple of chats to make sure we get most of them in... Thanks for hanging out. Until next time!!!