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KU football playing to strengths in spring game

Kansas quarterbacks Jake Heaps, front, and Michael Cummings (14) throw to receivers during a spring practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterbacks Jake Heaps, front, and Michael Cummings (14) throw to receivers during a spring practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Memorial Stadium.

April 12, 2013

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Toss Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis onto the list of people in Lawrence excited to get a look at the Jayhawks in Saturday’s spring game. But don’t expect the second-year coach to have a much better view than any of the fans in the stands.

“I will not be on the field,” said Weis, who is recovering from a broken ankle. “I will be in the coaches box, watching the game from up there. I am not calling plays for either side.”

During his final spring session with the media Tuesday morning, Weis confirmed that the game once again will feature a blue squad against a white squad. However, instead of pitting the first string against the second string or dividing up the ones and twos down the middle, Weis formed two teams based off of his two quarterbacks, Jake Heaps and Michael Cummings.

The blue team, led by Heaps, features more offensive skill players, including the team’s top three wide receivers (Christian Matthews, Justin McCay and Tre’ Parmalee), first-string tight end Jimmay Mundine and running backs Tony Pierson and James Sims.

“I would think you would see the blue team throwing the ball a lot, and you would see the white team running the ball a lot,” Weis said. “Offensively, one of the biggest things is playing to the strengths of our two quarterbacks. If Michael were to be the quarterback, it would be a run and play-action featured team. If Jake were the quarterback, it opens up a whole set of passes that he would be more efficient at in the drop-back passing game.”

Heaps remains at the top of the depth chart heading into the final days of spring drills, but Weis said Cummings, who was a part-time starter last season as a red-shirt freshman, has made significant progress this spring.

“There are a lot of things he still needs to work on,” Weis said. “But I think that the team views him as somebody they can win football games with.”

As for those who will protect them, Weis split up the offensive line according to individual strengths. He said the squad’s best pass blockers were on the blue roster and the best run blockers on the white.

Saturday’s spring game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium and will be open to the public free of charge.

Tight end talk

Red-shirt freshman Jordan Shelley-Smith has made the biggest splash of the tight ends this spring, according to Weis. With junior Jimmay Mundine entrenched as the clear-cut top option and Trent Smiley sidelined for much of the spring because of injury, Shelley-Smith has taken advantage of his opportunity for extra reps.

“(He’s) been one of the biggest pleasant surprises,” Weis said of the 6-foot-5, 247-pound target, who has added more than 30 pounds in less than a year. “He might be our best blocking tight end. All we thought he was gonna be was a pass-catching tight end, and he’s bigger than everybody.”

Line leaders

Junior defensive end Chris Martin and junior defensive tackle Keon Stowers were recently singled out by their head coach as the two top performers in the trenches this spring.

That assessment included all players on the offensive and defensive lines.

Secondary praise

Asked how the secondary had performed this spring, Weis pointed to the strong play of three defensive backs, while noting that more were on the way.

“The guy who makes the least amount of mistakes and shows up every day is Cassius (Sendish),” Weis said of the juco transfer from Arizona Western. “I like the improvement that JaCorey (Shepherd) has made. (Dexter) McDonald can cover anybody. Remember now, we have three defensive backs coming in that can all play. The change from last year’s secondary to this year’s secondary will probably be as dramatic as any position on the team.”

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