Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis is opening up the Jayhawks’ offense.
But instead of that meaning more shots down the field and trick plays on Saturdays, Weis is changing the way he builds KU’s offense each Sunday.
From here on out, that’s when quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus and tight ends coach Jeff Blasko will do the preliminary work on the week’s offensive game plan. Instead of Weis plotting out the plan of attack and handing it to his assistants, the second-year KU coach is asking them to start the process. Powlus will be in charge of coordinating KU’s passing attack and Blasko will be in charge of putting together the Jayhawks’ running game.
“More than coordination, it’s going to be more guys getting to interject how can we move the offense, how can we score more points,” Weis said Tuesday.
The idea for the change came from an offseason move with the defense, where defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt was put in charge of the defensive front, defensive backs coach Dave Campo was put in charge of coverages and linebackers coach Clint Bowen was given the task of blending the two together on game days. The same concept now will apply to KU’s offense, which Weis will still oversee.
“I had to back off a little bit or else we were never gonna get any better,” Weis said. “And it’s not easy for me to do it that way, but I sat back and said, ‘I was willing to do it with Dave, why am I not willing to do it with myself?’ I’m doing it because Kansas football needs it. I really don’t care about my ego. I just want to get better and win.”
With one round of chalk talk already in the books, KU’s second-year coach seemed pleased with the new format.
“(Monday) was probably the most refreshing day I’ve had in quite some time,” Weis said. “Because there was a much greater exchange of offensive ideas than there’s been since I’ve been here.”
As for what he thought of his staff’s first attempt at cobbling together the game plan for this week’s match-up with No. 18 Oklahoma, Weis reverted to his jokester self.
“The ideas were good,” he said. “Now, of course I shot a lot of them down. I can’t make ‘em feel that good. But I’d say the foundation of what we’re doing (this week) came from (those guys). ... I have to make sure that I let them do their job, and not sit there and say, ‘No, no, no, no.’ That’s the toughest part for me, but I think it’s the only way for us to get better.”
As Weis steps back from the coordination of KU’s offense, he plans to balance out the move by stepping up during day-to-day preparations.
“I’m gonna get much more involved in the coaching of the skill positions, which I think has been lacking,” he said. “I’m not pushing any coaches aside, I’m just getting more involved in all the skill positions and letting Ron and Jeff worry about the nuts and bolts.”
That means Weis will spend more time in drills with players during practice and more time in meeting rooms with the various offensive positions, all of which he coached in the NFL at one time or another.
“(That’s) a good thing for me,” he said. “It’s not a good thing for them. Because there’s different levels of hard coaching and mine is cranked up to the full gear.”
Weis has faith in both Powlus and Blasko because of what they have proven during their time working with him.
“I’ve always believed that our offense runs through the quarterback,” Weis said. “And no one knows what our quarterbacks can and can’t do any better than Ron.”
Of Blasko, he added: “(At Florida) he was with me 24/7. I never could get rid of the guy. I worked from early to late, and he was there with me every second. He was like a sponge. He’s the guy who knew how I think better than anybody.”
While Weis’ move heaps more responsibility on the shoulders of his assistants, neither seemed anything other than excited about the opportunity to get more involved.
“For me, I always have that same motivation to get it right,” Blasko said. “It’s obviously a great opportunity to have this responsibility but, at the end of the day, I want to do everything I can to help this program move in the right direction.”
Added Powlus: “We’re all in this together and we’re all doing anything we can to make progress. And I don’t think there’s any (better) example than coach Weis doing this. Clearly there’s no ego involved. This is all about how do we create some success, how do we make progress, how do we move forward? And I think it’s commendable. It’s impressive.”
Freshman quarterback Montell Cozart’s name appeared on the depth chart for the first time this season, listed as a second-string option with Michael Cummings behind Jake Heaps.
Many have speculated that Cozart was headed toward a red-shirt season, but with more than half of the year remaining and the KU offense struggling, Weis said he saw no reason to eliminate Cozart from the list of possible solutions.
“If a kid can be involved for half the season, sometimes it makes him that much more prepared to play the next season,” Weis said. “I would not put him on depth chart if he wasn’t a legitimate candidate to play this week. Right from the fall I told you that I’m really high on Montell, and I’m really high on Montell.”
Injured Jayhawks Ben Heeney (knee), Tony Pierson (concussion), Andrew Turzilli (ankle) Randall Dent (unknown) and Tedarian Johnson (unknown) all were listed as day-to-day on KU’s latest depth chart, and Weis said the fact that they appeared at all indicated they had a chance to play this week.
“I wouldn’t bet on that,” Weis said. “But, with every one of those guys, they’re not as bad as I thought they were or they’re not as good as they thought they were.”
The news on Pierson seemed to be the best. Weis said the junior running back, who leads KU in receiving yards and receptions, had passed his concussion test but still was dealing with headaches.
“He could be not symptomatic tomorrow and he could play this week,” Weis said. “If they were gonna be out for an extended period of time, I wouldn’t have ‘em on there.”