Completed chat with KU football beat writer Matt Tait

April 26, 2012

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Matt Tait

KU football beat writer Matt Tait will be taking your questions at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 26.

Moderator:

Good afternoon everyone, and thanks for logging on to KUsports.com to check out our "30 for Thursday" spring football chat with KU football beat writer Matt Tait.

We're now less than two days away from the annual spring game and interest in the KU program and first-year head coach Charlie Weis seems to be at an all-time high for this time of year.

Lots of good questions today, so let's jump right in. You ready, Matt?

Matt Tait:

Absolutely. Counting down the hours until the spring game and ready to talk some football. Let's do it!

Tribehawk:

Wanted to get your take on the recent dismissals from the team vis-à-vis the punishment handed out to Sims. Does Weis actually view Garrett and Robinson's misconduct as worse than Sim's, or did Sims receive special treatment because of his importance to the team on the field?

Matt Tait:

Excellent first question, and I'm glad you asked because Coach Weis went into great detail about this during Tuesday's press conference.

The quick version of what he said is this: Garrett and Robinson both had previous strikes against them, which made their most recent trouble a last straw of sorts. Not sure what their previous strikes were — grades, behavior, who knows? — but they definitely contributed to Weis' decision here.

As for Sims, that's also the reason he was given a softer punishment. Sims has been a model student-athlete in just about every way since arriving at KU and Weis obviously knew that. A three-game suspension is much more than just a slap on the wrist, but it also shows that Weis is willing to give guys second chances and allow them to learn from their mistakes.

When those second chances are burned, though, it makes the decision very easy for him, regardless of how talented the player is.

Garrett had a chance to become a big-time player here. He learned a lot last year, was very raw, but had tremendous upside. It's a shame to see him go, but it's exactly what this program needs right now and Weis was not about to let his chance to set the tone slip past him.

jhawkjunkie:

Do you have any feedback from players or fans, especially the seniors, from the hard nose coaching style of Coach Mangino, to what seemed like a laid back approach of Turner Gill, to back to the hard nose style of Coach Weis. Could the hard nose style of Coach Weis be ammo for those who want him fired if he isn't successful?

Matt Tait:

I'll say this, I know the players who were here under Mangino (and even most of the newcomers) prefer to have their football coaches be a little tough on them. That's the game. And it's the way most of them have been coached since Junior High.

Even though he's tough on these guys, I don't think Weis is a Mangino situation waiting to happen and I'll tell you why: Weis rides guys to inspire them to improve. He doesn't ride them to make them feel like fools or to embarrass them.

What's more, he's very consistent with his message and if the players don't understand what he expects and/or wants from them, that's their fault, not his.

texashawk10:

Thanks for all your hard work Matt. Do you have any updates on where some of the other players that are no longer part of the program like Jordan Webb may end up?

Matt Tait:

Thanks a lot. Glad you enjoy it.

I haven't heard a ton about most of the guys who left. I think the red-shirt offensive lineman who bailed, Travis Bodenstein, followed J.B. Grimes to Arkansas State, and I know there was talk of Darrian Miller and Keeston Terry headed to Northern Iowa - though I don't know if that panned out or not.

As for Webb, it sounds like he's headed to Colorado as a preferred walk-on of sorts. Nothing's official yet, but I know he has been in contact with the CU staff and I know they're exploring ways to get him onto campus. It'll be great for Webb if that happens and he would have a chance to bring depth and experience to CU's QB position.

Jayhawker28:

Tait, what are your thoughts on the Mckay's chances of winning his appeal? Has there been any sort of news? Thanks!

Matt Tait:

No new news on McCay as far as I've heard. He and KU were to file the appeal on Tuesday of this week and then the NCAA subcommittee has until 5 p.m. next Tuesday, May 1, to hand down its ruling.

I'm still very optimistic about his chances of being cleared.

For one, I think his case warrants that and I think it's a major disappointment that the NCAA didn't just grant him the waiver in the first place. But politics so often play into these things and it's my guess that the NCAA wanted to stand firm out front so it could use this in future cases, while also giving McCay a chance if he's willing to jump through a couple more hoops.

It's unfortunate that that's what he has to do here, but it's worth it. I don't think the NCAA would have encouraged McCay and KU to appeal the original ruling if there was not a good shot at him getting the waiver in the end.

We should know in a few more days.

SE_Hawk:

Coach Weis feels the DLine will be completely different after the June cavalry arrives. Do they have the same feeling about the OLine or is it pretty much set?

Matt Tait:

I think the O-Line is pretty much set, even as far as the two-deep. There is, however, one exception, as late pick-up Aslam Sterling, a 6-5, 330-pound lineman from Nassau CC in New York, could come in and earn a starting spot at right guard.

Beyond that, though, the three seniors — Hawkinson at LT, Zlatnik at LG and Marrongelli at C — are firmly entrenched as starters, and Riley Spencer appears to be a good option at right guard.

I think the coaching staff likes the make-up of this line and I think it could be one of the team's strengths this season.

clevelandjayhawker:

Could you give an update on transfers and scholarships availible for this year? Is it possible KU could pick up anymore transfers?

Matt Tait:

This one's always a little tricky, but I'll try to sort it out. With 26 players coming in, but only 24 counting toward the Class of 2012, the Jayhawks still have a few scholarships to give.

Add to that the spots opened up by the dismissals of Julius Green, Colin Garrett and Chris Robinson and you're looking at even more openings.

That doesn't mean they're going to use them all right now, though. In fact, that's highly unlikely. At this point in the game, most of the talent in the Class of 2012 is spoken for, so the staff would probably be better off sticking those in their pocket and using them to bolster the Class of 2013.

As for any more transfers, I've heard that there could be a fifth-year D-Tackle in the mix, but I'm not sure if that's still an option or not. As Weis has shown already, though, if there's a guy out there who he thinks can help this team win, he'll sign 'em, no ifs, ands or buts.

KansasOats:

The local newspaper in Pittsburg, KS (The Morning Sun) ran an article today that covered the signing of Colgan High School football place kicker Austin Barone by KU yesterday. I have not been able to find any other medai outlets which mention this signing. It has been readily apparent so far that Coach Weis has not been pleased with the performance of the current place kickers on KU's roster, so I was pleased to read this announcement.
Can you comment on this signing?

Matt Tait:

Haven't heard a ton about this, but I did just read the story (thanks, by the way).... Looks like the kid is a likely walk-on who may have a chance to earn a scholarship for 2012 if he can contribute. If not, he'll just be added depth at a position of need and you can never have too much of that.

Sounds like he's a solid kicker, though, who has worked hard at improving and has his best days ahead of him. Here's the link for those who missed it:

http://www.morningsun.net/sports/x1783292118/The-magnificent-seven

The door is open for a kicker to come in and take that job. That could be Mueller or Doherty or it could be someone like Barone, who's on the outside looking in but doesn't have that far to go to make up ground.

I know it's not the sexiest position to track, but what happens with the place kicking will be an intriguing story to follow this offseason.

BradKU:

Vegas has Dayne Crist as a 20/1 to win the Heisman Trophy. That's a little high isn't it?

Matt Tait:

If, by high, you mean too generous, I think so. But that just shows you how much respect people have for Charlie Weis and his offense.

Crist will be put in a position to put up big numbers and if the wide receivers can help him out and the line can protect him, I think he'll have a shot to have one heck of a season.

As we all know, there's more to the Heisman than stats, though, so even if he's putting up monster numbers, unless KU is winning, they might not matter. Then again, if he's putting up monster numbers, KU's odds of winning increase tremendously.

In short, if you're dying to take him, make sure you don't put more than 10 or 20 bucks on it (not that we condone gambling)...

nschmi04:

First, thanks for your coverage of KU Football. It's refreshing to have somebody with a decent pulse of the program informing the masses. Second, what is the word from the new staff on their inheritance? How deep in the crapper were we?

Thanks again for your coverage of the program.

Matt Tait:

Thanks for the kind words, nschmi04... I'm enjoying it tremendously and really appreciate all of the die-hard fans out there for making it fun to keep you guys informed.

As for your question, these guys have been pretty honest about it, but also pretty kind. The read-between-the-lines answer is that they're a little worried about it, particularly on defense. But again, we all know that help is on the way, and, depending on how talented the incoming guys are, I could see a scenario in which five or even six defensive starters are not here yet.

So that makes you take their current assessment with a grain of salt.

That said, I know they're a little down on the overall team speed and also very focused on toughening these guys up. It's getting there, but it's also going to be a work in progress.

Altercations_with_a_shovel:

I think most would agree that Crist is a lock for starting QB this year. Knowing that what does the race look like for next year? Does Turner Baty have a chance to overtake Jake Heaps. Is it even a race?

Matt Tait:

This might be a question for another day, and we might know more after seeing Heaps on Saturday... But I'll say this: After talking to Baty a little this offseason, it's definitely going to be a race. The guy is competitive and he's also talented. He'll push Heaps and that will be good for the team.

Heaps appears to have some serious talent, though. He throws a great ball with plenty of zip and looks to be pretty mobile.

I know we've overstated it, but the quarterback position is in very good hands for the next few years.

ViperBlue:

Have you heard any rumblings of KU announcing a plan for stadium improvements?

When will us East Coasters have an opportunity to buy tickets tot he West Virginia game?

Matt Tait:

I've heard the rumblings, but not from KU. There isn't going to be any announcement any time soon. That's not to say it's not on KU's wish list, but there are several other things that need to be and will be addressed first.

But AD Zenger understands the importance of upgrading Memorial Stadium and as long as things remain stable, it'll come in due time. Naturally, winning will speed up the process.

As for tickets to WVU, I'll have to check on that one and get back to you. December 1st is a long, long, way away, and I'm pretty happy about that. Loving this spring/summer weather!!!

windycityhawk:

Has coach Weis ever made a comment about removing the track? If no, has anyone ever asked him what he thinks about it?

Matt Tait:

Good question. I haven't heard him say anything about it. I'll put it on the list of things to ask him.

Moderator:

Thanks to everyone for the great questions.... Let's knock out a few more and then let Matt get back to preparing for Saturday's spring game. For those who don't know, it's at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium and there are all kinds of events taking place around the stadium leading up to the game. So let's hope for a good weather day and a big crowd.

swunruhawk:

Any word on who might be replacing the long snapper who recently left the football team?

Matt Tait:

The loss of Tanner Gibas definitely hurts, but it's important to remember a couple of things here.

First, Gibas only handled snaps on punts. Current junior, Justin Carnes, handled field goals and extra points last season.

Second, Carnes has a full year of experience under his belt and you'd have to think he's improved at least some since 2010.

Give the guy a chance to show what he can do. It looks like that's what the coaches are doing, but you know they've got a Plan B and Plan C ready to go just in case Carnes can't cut it.

VaJay:

Hi Matt! Who's your surprise contributors for offense & defense next season?

And thanks to you & Jesse for keeping us updated on the upcoming football season!

Matt Tait:

I like these questions, even if they are a little tough to answer on the spot.

Offensively, let's go with tight end Charles Brooks. There are going to be plenty of balls to go around with Dayne Crist throwing and Charlie Weis calling the plays and I think the junior-college transfer could become a serious weapon at tight end right away. He's got good speed, is incredible athletic and seems to be pretty tough, too. If he and Crist can develop a good rapport during fall camp, look out.

Defensively, my mind keeps gravitating to cornerback Greg Allen. I know he'll be a true freshman, but he plays like a man and has good size, great speed and solid instincts. He'll get a shot to compete for the job and, if he performs, he could end up starting. I like Tyler Patmon a lot as a player and he seems to be a great option as the team's nickel back. He'll get the first crack to hold down that other starting corner spot opposite Greg Brown, but with Patmon being such a solid option at nickel back, there should be an opening at corner, too. If one of the newcomers (Allen, Nas Moore or Tyree Williams) can rise to the challenge and earn that spot, that would make the entire KU defense better.

d_prowess:

Jesse & Matt: What do each of you think the over/under is on how many fans are at the Spring Game this Saturday?

Matt Tait:

Depends entirely on the weather, if you ask me, but if we get a good day, weather-wise, I think we could see somewhere around 10,000 (maybe more) there. I'd put the number at 7,000 and see what happens.

As I mentioned earlier, there's a ton of interest around the program right now and has been since December. Saturday is where we see how much of that is from people killing time on the computer at work and how much of it is from people truly interested in helping KU football get to the next level.

Brock:

What is Michael Cummings up to these days?

Matt Tait:

Cummings continues to work with the quarterbacks and appears to be dabbling in some special packages designed to take advantage of his ability to run and throw.

Crist said the other day that the QBs are a tight-knit group and Cummings appears to be working his butt off, staying out of trouble and hoping to find a way to get on the field.

I still think he has something to offer this team and will be very interested to see how or if they use him.

swunruhawk:

Do you think the students will respond and participate in what coach Weis wants to do with the marching band and singing with the team after the game?

Matt Tait:

Good question for the last one of the day, particularly with the spring game coming up and fans getting their first chance to see this team.

Here's the deal, I know some people have been critical of Weis attempting to start a tradition here, but I don't see why. I think it's awesome that he cares enough to TRY to do something and he's putting himself out there and asking for help from the students. It's on them now.

The eternal optimist in me believes that they'll respond great and that this will be a pretty cool deal. But I'm also a realist and I understand that it's going to be a tough hill to climb.

I think it's a great first step, though, and, really, it's the first time we've seen the team and the coaches and the players being proactive in this. They've always wanted to the students to stick around but now they're giving them an extra reason to. Hope it works. I have fond memories of watching Texas and other schools do this, even on the road. It's pretty awesome.

Moderator:

Good stuff. Thanks for the chat, Matt, and thank all of you for joining us. If you're headed to the spring game on Saturday, enjoy it!

Matt Tait:

You bet. Another solid chat in the books, and we'll be back next week with another one, complete with fresh thoughts and observations from Saturday's game. Thanks to everyone for the great questions. Have an awesome weekend!

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