Completed chat with KU football beat writer Matt Tait

May 3, 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 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 3.


Good afternoon and thanks for logging out to our "30 for Thursday" KU football chat. This week, KU beat writer Matt Tait will cover a little reaction to last weekend's spring game along with plenty about what's ahead for the Jayhawks.

It's 3:00 on the nose, so if Matt's ready, let's get to it.

Matt Tait:

Ready to roll... Can't wait to see what's in store today.


Matt, thanks for all your hard work on reporting KU football — great stuff!

In several of your articles and chats this spring you’ve mentioned how KU football fans seem to be more engaged now than you’ve seen in quite some time.

That seems apparent when looking at these chats, your stories’ comments and the spring game’s turnout, however, I was wondering if you might have more details to boot.

Are you perhaps familiar with the traffic KUsports’ football page typically generates, compared to now? At risk of stating the obvious, why do you think fans are in a frenzy?

Just curious of your take on KU football fans this spring and during the winter …

Matt Tait:

Our football traffic has been way higher than it normally is this time of year. Part of that is because of the extra attention we've given to the program, but the majority of it is the presence of Charlie Weis and some of these well-known recruits that Weis has brought in.

I can't give you the specifics on our traffic numbers right now, but I can tell you that I've never seen our football coverage get nearly as much attention as our basketball coverage in March and it almost did this year. Incredible.

We've got a lot of fun stuff planned for the summer so be sure to check back throughout the next few months as we prepare for Weis' first season with the Jayhawks.

Beyond our traffic, I can tell you that everywhere I go, whether it's in Lawrence or not, people stop and talk to me about KU football.

It's pretty cool to see.


I know a lot of the pieces aren't here yet, but can you give us an evaluation of the defense by line, linebackers and secondary?

Matt Tait:

Sure, but let's do the quick version.

Remember, I'm expecting at least 4 or 5 (and maybe 6) defensive starters to report to campus in June, so we won't know a ton until we get to see them.

Here goes:

D-Line - As many as three starters here could arrive in June, which means they won't have as much time to get used to the staff. The fact that most of them are older (juco and fifth-year guys) should help in that area, though.

Linebackers - There is some talent here and KU should have at least 5 or 6 guys they feel good about when the season begins. I like the freshman, Schyler Miles, a lot and expect him to have a chance to start. Beyond that, the speed of Tunde Bakare, Huldon Tharp and freshman to be Courtney Arnick should make this unit better.

Secondary - Scheme will make all the difference here as the man-to-man coverage principles should make KU better suited to play the pass. Speed of the incoming defensive backs should help a lot, too.


Could there be any more fifth year transfers coming in that we don't know about yet? Hafis Williams ( DT Notre Dame) seems like he would be a good fit for our D-Line.

Matt Tait:

I've heard for quite a while that one of those fifth-year guys was a D-Lineman. Williams would make a lot of sense, but I haven't heard his name mentioned much.

If he comes, he'll add bulk and depth to the position. And, hey, you can never have too many big bodies up there. If not, KU's coaches should still have guys to work with that they like.


Matt, the conference schedule looks brutal. How many top 10 and top 20 teams will KU face this year? And will they be double digit underdogs in all conference games?

Matt Tait:

The conference schedule is a beast and Oklahoma, Texas, TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and K-State should all be ranked for much of the season.

Not sure yet, which will be Top 10, 20 or 25, but in the Big 12, you kind of get used to playing those teams. In the past couple of years, that's been bad news for KU because they didn't have the talent to compete or the coaching to find ways to hang tough. This year, though, even those top-ranked programs should get a legit challenge from the Jayhawks.

KU will see its share of double-digit underdog games, but nothing like we saw in 2011 or 2010.


Is litigation against the NCAA an option for McCay? I'm sure I have a fraternity brother or three that would do some pro bono work for him. In Texas kids are always suing the UIL on eligibility issues (and usually winning).

Matt Tait:

If that's an option, it doesn't sound like KU is exploring it. The McCay news was disappointing for all, but the young man handled it with a ton of class. I'm sure once the disappointment passes, he'll realize that he has the entire year to develop good chemistry with Jake Heaps and those two will get to work with the idea of proving something to people in 2013.

At this point, after the McCay thing dragged on so long anyway, I think KU would be wasting its time to pursue further action and I don't think they would find any luck either.


What is your unbiased take on the Justin McCay situation?

Matt Tait:

My unbiased take is that the young man should have been given the waiver. I've read about and researched other cases that did not have nearly the adversity that McCay does and many of those were given the waiver.

That said, I don't think people should feel like KU or the kid got screwed here. Is it a bummer that he can't play this year? Absolutely. But the NCAA did not prevent him from transferring (neither did OU by the way) and, ultimately, he is where he needs to be -- closer to home, around his family.

That's a good thing and, even if it would've been better if he could play, at least he has that much going for him.


Tait, what happend to Neal Barlow? The tsll WR who originally committed to Arkansas?

Matt Tait:

This question comes up a lot and I'm sorry we haven't addressed it more, but Barlow's name hasn't really come up much this spring.

He moved to tight end this winter and, right now, appears to be trying like heck to add weight to be able to play that position. Besides that, he's still learning the ins and outs of tight end and he'll have a ton of guys to compete with in Jimmay Mundine and Trent Smiley, who already are here, as well as incoming talents Mike Ragone (Notre Dame), Charles Brooks (juco) and Jordan Smith (high school).

There may come a time where Barlow makes an impact at KU, but I wouldn't expect it to be in the near future.


Let's knock out a couple more on McCay real quick and then move on...


I know you have stated you felt considering the situation McCay would be allowed to play, now that it has been denied will the common fan find out what the situation is? If it was just to be close to home, just because, there was never a chance that would be approved.

Matt Tait:

I don't think we'll ever know all of the details... nor should we. It's a private matter between McCay and his family and he deserves for it to be kept that way.

I know that's tough to hear and, therefore, it's tough for fans to say that he should've been cleared, but based on what little I was able to learn as well as the language used by both Weis and Grunhard, I truly believe the kid had a strong case.


Plenty of fans are blaming the NCAA for the failed Justin McCay waiver and appeal (myself included.) However, I'm wondering if some blame should be on KU and whoever helped word his appeal. Seemingly the NCAA didn't grant it because there was nothing new precipitating his move closer to home. Any thoughts on if a little more "creativity" in the wording of his request and/or appeal would have made the difference?

Matt Tait:

Trust me, KU did all it needed to do in this case and wording it in a more clever manner would not have helped things.

McCay received great support from the university in filing his request and appeal. Sometimes things just don't work out the way you want them to.


Matt Tony Person is extremely fast. Can he catch the ball and is there any plans to play him in the slot to get him the ball in open space. He does not seem to run well up the middle

Matt Tait:

Weis said after the spring game that Pierson's touches would be in the mid-teens to high-teens per game this season. That's perfect and Tony seemed just fine with it.

He'll get those from the backfield most of the time, but he can be used in the slot and he can work a few trick plays, as well.

I don't think he has great hands, but he can catch the ball and will be used in that way depending on what the defense shows.

That's the great thing about having a guy like Crist in there. If KU lines up with Pierson in the backfield and the opposing D looks poised to stop it, he'll be able to audible and put Pierson out wide, which would give KU the advantage in terms of personnel and also immediately put Pierson in space.

It's going to be fun to watch all of the creative ways the Jayhawks get Pierson the ball this season. Enjoy!


KU went on the offensive in Kansas City over the last few months yet Mizzou is killing us in commitments from the top prospects in the area. I'm not from the KC area, but some people have cited Grunhard's recruitment of high school kids while at Meige as a possible reason we're not gaining the favor of the local kids. Any truth to that? Who are we actually sitting pretty with right now?

Matt Tait:

Recruiting's a beast and even though you want to make your backyard your priority, you're still not going to get every prospect you want there.

That's the case with KU and KC and I can tell you that Grunhard will help KU in Kansas City as much as he'll hurt them. It's natural to expect that there are those out there who don't and/or didn't like Grunhard from his days at Miege, but there's nothing KU can do about that now.

Weis, Campo, Bowen, Mitchell... Those guys will help attack KC, too, and the Jayhawks will get their share, no doubt about it.

As for the O-Lineman who recently committed to Mizzou, a lot of people seem to forget that KU just recently landed a commitment from a linebacker in the Class of 2013 out of St. Louis. Going into STL and getting a kid to come to KU is no different than Mizzou getting a kid out of KC. If anything, KU's ability to pry a guy away from St. Louis is more impressive than MU's ability to land KC kids.

It'll all even out and KU is definitely making Kansas City a priority.


I knows it early but do you see any jayhawks getting drafted in the 2013 NFL draft?

Matt Tait:

Nice! Love draft questions...

I do. I think Crist will have a good shot if he stays healthy all season and I think Opurum, Greg Brown, Bradley McDouglad and Josh Williams (DE from Nebraska) all will get looks, as well.

A lot of if they get drafted or not will depend on how the season goes and how they do in individual workouts after the season. But the NFL Draft should start to become a little more exciting around here during the next few seasons.


Hi Matt!

Now that I've seen a couple of prognosticators predict the Big 12 pecking order next season (us last of course) - assuming you have your optimist hat on where do you see KU end up in a (realistic) best case scenario?

Matt Tait:

It's still too early (for me) to be talking wins and losses, but I think the best-case scenario for KU's finish in the Big 12 would be 7th.

That would mean KU had a great season, finished ahead of Texas Tech and Iowa State and crept up on somebody else that maybe underachieves a little bit like a Baylor, TCU or K-State.

I wouldn't bet on 7th, but that's the best-case as far as I can tell.


Has there been any information leaked about how many season tickets have been sold?

Matt Tait:

Haven't heard a ton on that lately, but as of about a month ago, I know they had sold 3,000-5,000 more NEW season tickets and were still waiting to receive the renewals from previous season-ticket holders... Good news on all levels for KU.


What is your take on the rumors of FSU and Clemson joining the Big 12

Matt Tait:

My take? I hope it doesn't happen this summer. I need a break from the realignment news.

That said, I think both would be good additions if the Big 12 looks to expand.

I've been told over and over and over by many different people that expansion isn't happening any time soon. But that's if things stay the same. If the Pac-12, SEC or Big Ten got the ball rolling again, the Big 12 would likely have to get in on the act, as well.

Again, please say it with me: "No realignment this summer, no realignment this summer, no realignment this summer!"

Interesting stuff from Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly the other day too about why preserving the independent status is so important to them. Made me give up a little on my pipe dream of the Irish joining the Big 12 someday. Just a little, though.



I'm a huge fan of your articles as well as all the writers for the LJW. You guys do a great job. I still think Opurum is an option to be used in the backfield. I know we have a slew of good backs now, but what's the chance Weis might use Opurum in goaline situations. Seeing live in the spring game, the dude is huge now and can obviously carry the rock.

Matt Tait:

Thanks a lot!

And I love your read on the Opurum situation. I don't think we're done with him toting the rock. Weis is no fool and he knows that Opurum could help them in a goal line back role.

Couple of things will have to pan out for the idea to ever see the light of day, though:

1. KU's defense will have to have depth so they can spare giving TO some time to work at FB.

2. Marquis Jackson will have to develop as a tailback. If Jackson goes the fullback route, KU won't need TO to do that.

But Weis has mentioned it as a possibility and I know Toben would be open to the idea. We'll just have to see if it ever actually happens.


I thought Dexter Linton is a guy who looked good in the Spring Game and not a lot of people have been talking about... Thoughts on his production next year?

Matt Tait:

He'll have a chance and he better do what he can now to solidify his spot. Because once those new D-Backs get here, they're going to push everybody.

Just a reminder as to who I'm talking about: Greg Allen, Nas Moore and Tyree Williams. I think all will play in 2012.


You seem to be plugged into the Big XII Conference stability/realignment moreso than anyone, so I ask you, what do you think of the new commish?

Matt Tait:

If it's Bob Bowlsby, I think it's a great pick.

Here's why: The guy has great experience in the Big Ten (Iowa AD) and Pac-12 (Stanford AD) and, therefore, would give the Big 12 knowledge of the inner workings of both of those ultra-successful conferences.

What's more, he's very tight with Pac-12 commish Larry Scott and seems to have Scott's endorsement.

That should help with a couple of things: No. 1, it might make it less appealing for the Pac-12 to poach the Big 12 in the future. No. 2, it puts Bowlsby (and therefore the Big 12) on equal ground in terms of respect among the power conference commissioners.

It's too early to compare him to Beebe, but I think that's his biggest advantage over Dan -- he has great ties and is highly respected by all kinds of people in all kinds of places.

It seems to be a really good fit.


Let's take a couple more...


Prediction: Which running back will lead the team in rushing yards and how many will they get? I have Sims leading a talented committee with 600 yards.

Matt Tait:

I love these kinds of questions and hope to have a lot of fun with things like this over the summer... We'll start with this one just to whet the appetite.

I'll take Pierson and I'll put him at 831.

I just think he's clearly the guy that will get the most opportunities. If Bourbon can stay healthy, he'll easily have a chance to be the leader because he can burn outside and gain tough yards inside. Until he stays healthy, though, (which I see him doing) we can't count on it.

Lots of talent here, yet again, which should make KU fans (and Dayne Crist) very happy about the prospects for this offense.


Hey Matt, several reported comments from the coaching staff over the last several weeks have made it clear that they are somewhat concerned about the lack of overall team speed. As I recall, Turner Gill made this a priority in their recruiting efforts and felt that they had significantly upgraded team speed. If that is true, it makes me wonder just how bad our team speed must have been at the end of Coach Mangino's tenure. Can you comment?

Matt Tait:

Coaches view speed in different ways. It's not always just about 40 times.

That said, I think the guys that Gill saw as "speedy" were guys who were faster than what he inherited but not necessarily as fast as the guys that Weis and Campo want.


If you were in charge of Marketing for KU Football, what would be the theme song for this upcoming team/season?

Matt Tait:

Solid question to finish it out. One of those that I would LOVE to see others comment on after the chat closes...

Off the top of my head, I'll have to go with this:

It always makes me think of football and ALWAYS pumps me up! I finally think we'll see football again at Memorial Stadium this year and I think the fans will have plenty of reasons to be pumped up.


All right, everyone. Thanks so much for joining our "30 for Thursday" chat today and for submitting so many great questions. If we didn't get to yours today, check back next week.

We're hoping to keep these going throughout the summer and we have plans to introduce a couple of different ones, too. So you should have plenty of chances to get be heard.

Matt Tait:

Yep!!! One of the best chats yet. Thanks for hanging out, everyone. See ya at the next one.


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