Posts tagged with Jayhawks

Breakdown: Crazy? Yes. But KU fake punt ‘definitely had a chance’ if blocked correctly

For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Let's take a look at the Kansas football team's much-talked-about fake punt attempt in Saturday's 54-16 loss to Texas Tech. A reminder of the game situation: The score was tied 10-10 with 6:08 left in the second quarter, with KU facing fourth-and-13 from its own 16.

Right away, Coach can tell this is a punt return for Texas Tech by the positioning of its players.

How does he know? Look at each of Tech's players pre-snap and you can do the same.


If a Tech player is going to rush the punter, he gets in a runner's stance, putting one foot in front of the other like a sprinter would.

If a Red Raider is blocking, he squares his feet up to the line to get ready to run backwards.

Ready to test your skills? Just for fun, here's a punt from later in the game. Can you tell me how many Texas Tech is rushing on the play?

Later punt formation

Later punt formation by Jesse Newell

If you said three, you are correct. Each of the players that had one foot in front of the other made it upfield, while the other players blocked.

Let's get back to the fake punt.

Coach says the two players going upfield for Tech (red circles below) are called "check kick" guys. Their job isn't to block the punt ... it's to make sure that KU punter Trevor Pardula actually kicks it and no fakes are on.

Coach notices that Tech isn't necessarily sound in its formation, though. He says when his team sends two "check kick" guys, it sends one guy from each side to make sure that they funnel the punter back to the inside.

In this play, Tech has one player coming from the right side of the line and one coming from the middle — potentially leaving the left side open for a big play.

Whether they know a fake is on or not, most of KU's line does a good job of clearing out space. They sprint downfield to cover the punt, dragging nearly every Tech player along with them.

That leaves KU three players in the shield (blue circle below) to block the two "check kick" guys.

From here, Coach says it's hard to tell why the play went wrong.

On his team, when a fake punt is called, every one of his players on the field knows it, as it is signaled to the team based on the call and cadence of the snap count.

From the video, Coach says one of two things happened to KU: 1. The three shield players didn't know a fake was on, or 2. They all failed miserably in trying to execute blocks.

One reason Coach doesn't believe the shield players knew about the punt is the action of No. 99 Tedarian Johnson, who is on the far left of the shield. When the Texas Tech player rushes toward him, he protects his inside shoulder. That makes sense on a normal punt, as he wouldn't want the Tech player to get to Pardula.

If Johnson knew it was a fake, Coach says this should be an easy block. Johnson could take a couple steps to the outside shoulder of the rushing Tech player, then pin him to the inside. The other personal protector (No. 91 Shane Smith) could then flow upfield to serve as a lead blocker on the play.

Notice at the top of the screen, No. 73 Damon Martin also doesn't try too hard at a block on Tech's other "check kick" guy, who eventually makes the tackle on the opposite side.

It's still hard for Coach to tell if it's bad execution or bad communication, as KU's shield players do run hard after the play is a few seconds in, making it difficult to know if they knew the fake was coming.

Either way, the Jayhawks had three players to block two, and they ended up blocking neither guy.

From Jayhawk Slant's Hawk Talk Recap from Monday night, here's what KU coach Charlie Weis said about the fake punt: "I think even when you are backed up in that situation and the look wasn't identical (to what team wanted to run the fake), if the two things that weren't done were done, it would have been an easy productive play."

Now, you know which two things he was talking about.

As for the situation is was called — on a fourth-and-13 at KU's own 16 — Coach said this might be a better play for fourth-and-seven or fourth-and-eight, which wouldn't put as much pressure on KU to make a big play.

Also, the field position definitely is a factor.

"It’s also an area where a team is not expecting a fake either, so it might work out even better," Coach says. "When we watch special teams film every week, we look for certain fakes or different things we can use against a team.

"Now, I’m not sure the head man would let us call it on our own 16-yard line, but it is something that we look at every week and try to have different wrinkles in."

The bottom line for this fake from KU?

"Big-time risk-reward," Coach says, "but it definitely had a chance."


Box score breakdown: Don’t blame KU’s defense for Texas Tech’s 54-point outburst

Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 54-16 loss to No. 20 Texas Tech.

A reminder: This box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

"New" box score. Remember, sacks are counted against passing yards (and not rushing yards), as they technically were pass attempts.

"New" box score. Remember, sacks are counted against passing yards (and not rushing yards), as they technically were pass attempts. by Jesse Newell

Here are a few takeaways:

KU's defense played horribly ... wait, no it didn't

This game is a perfect example that shows why it's best to give football box score numbers more context.

A quick glance at the numbers, and someone would see that KU gave up 54 points and 518 yards to Texas Tech and assume the Jayhawks played lousy defense.

That wasn't the case, as Texas Tech's yards per play (5.2) and yards per possession (30.5) were actually below the NCAA average.

So what gives?

Kansas defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson brings down Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson brings down Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Much like basketball, raw numbers can be skewed based on possessions. If North Carolina's basketball team leads the nation in scoring each year, that doesn't necessarily mean the Tar Heels have the best offense; it simply means they've scored the most points, which is affected by a team's scoring and pace.

The same applies to football. On Saturday, Texas Tech — mostly because KU's offense couldn't stay on the field for any length of time — ran a whopping 100 plays, which is 26 plays above the NCAA average.

And while KU's defense didn't necessarily have a good game, it certainly played well enough against a talented offense to not allow 54 points.

It's not easy to see at first glance (or with a standard box score), but Tech's high scoring on Saturday said was much more a result of KU's failures on offense rather than its defense.

Nothing is working for KU offensively

Let's not sugarcoat it: This was a truly putrid performance by KU's O.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Texas Tech linebacker Brandon Jackson during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Texas Tech linebacker Brandon Jackson during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks mustered just 16.1 yards per possession, which is barely half of the NCAA average (31 yards per possession).

But the bad news doesn't end there. Even after taking sacks out of the rushing equation, KU averaged just 2.1 yards per carry on 34 carries. What's scarier for KU: Just six of those 34 rushes (18 percent) went for five yards or more. Six. It can't be easy to commit to the run when an inexperienced offensive line is only clearing a hole on every fifth play.

Meanwhile, the passing game — after showing better efficiency against LA Tech — also regressed, as the Jayhawks completed just 18 passes on 38 dropbacks (attempts plus sacks). It's the third time this year in four games that KU hasn't been able to complete passes on half its dropbacks.

KU can be proud that it did produce some explosive plays (seven total), but that also is a bit of a downer. Tony Pierson, who had three of KU's 20-plus-yard catches, will most likely miss a few weeks after suffering a head injury in the third quarter.

In short, a KU offense that can't move the ball will now have to go without one of its only explosive playmakers.

Weis has quite a task ahead of him in preparing an offensive gameplan for TCU.

KU's defense not giving up big plays

Out of 100 plays, Texas Tech had just six that I would label "explosive" — runs of 12 or more or passes of 20 or more. Again, this is significant progress, as KU's defense is making opponents earn the points they get with long drives.

Remember just a couple years ago when Georgia Tech had four, 50-plus-yard plays against KU in a 66-24 win? Those days of the Jayhawks getting gashed for huge yardage appear to be gone, thanks to better players and also improved organization with defensive coordinator Dave Campo and linebackers coach Clint Bowen in charge.

Still ... KU's pass defense wasn't as good as past weeks

The Jayhawks allowed a season-high 6.8 yards per pass attempt and 10.9 yards per completion to the Red Raiders. While those numbers aren't awful, they are the highest KU has allowed this year (The previous highs against KU: LA Tech averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt, while Rice was at 9.8 yards per completion.).

Though most of the plays were small chunks — KU allowed just three, 20-plus-yard passing plays — the Jayhawks did finally show some vulnerability in their pass defense after an excellent first quarter.

KU had some bad luck with turnovers

No, it wouldn't have made a difference in the final outcome, but the score would have been closer had KU gotten a few more bounces.

While forcing fumbles is a skill, studies have shown recovering fumbles is basically luck (and a 50-50 proposition for each team). Out of seven fumbles Saturday, KU fell on only one of them (14 percent). That might not seem like it would make much difference, but turnovers, on average, are worth about five points each when you take into account the field position lost by the offense and gained by the defense. Normal fumble luck (and three recoveries instead of one) could have resulted in a 10-point swing for KU.

The Jayhawks also continued to display active hands in the secondary. KU had 10 pass breakups, and studies have shown that over time, 21 percent of pass breakups result in interceptions. KU probably was "due" one extra interception based on the number of times it was able to knock away throws.

This is a big reason why I believe KU will win at least one Big 12 game this year: Turnovers make a huge difference in games, and the Jayhawks' secondary has shown a tendency to always be around the ball.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald gets called for interference on an endzone pass to Texas Tech receiver Bradley Marquez during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald gets called for interference on an endzone pass to Texas Tech receiver Bradley Marquez during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks should be intercepting quite a few more passes before the year is out.

KU killed by field position

Another reason Texas Tech racked up 54 points that wasn't KU defense's fault? Terrific field position for the Red Raiders.

TTU's average start was its own 44, while KU's was its own 26 ... an 18-yard difference.

In games between FBS teams last year, teams with a 16-yard-or-greater advantage in field position went 62-2 (96.9 percent win percentage).

Field position is a combination of many factors, but obviously the Jayhawks' six three-and-outs, four turnovers and failed fake punt all contributed to Tech's domination in the stat Saturday.


Box score breakdown: Should we still consider KU a run-first team?

Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 13-10 victory over LA Tech.

A note for first-time readers: this box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

KU-LA Tech "new" box score

KU-LA Tech "new" box score by Jesse Newell

Here are a few takeaways from the box score:

Turnovers saved the Jayhawks

Kansas defensive lineman Keon Stowers comes away with the ball after recovering a Louisiana Tech fumble late in the fourth quarter to give the Jayhawks the ball back.

Kansas defensive lineman Keon Stowers comes away with the ball after recovering a Louisiana Tech fumble late in the fourth quarter to give the Jayhawks the ball back. by Nick Krug

One glance at our "new" box score shows that LA Tech was the better team Saturday. The Bulldogs were better in yards per play, yards per possession, average field position, explosive plays ... pretty much any category you want to look at.

That sometimes isn't enough, though, when you can't hold onto the football.

Though Tech had only one more turnover than KU (3-2), the Bulldogs' miscues were much more costly. If we look at equivalent points — the number of points a team is likely to score on a drive from a certain yard line, plus the average number of points the opponent is likely to score on the ensuing possession — we see that quarterback Ryan Higgins' fumble cost his team an estimated 6.79 points (the ball at the opponent's 2 is worth 7.11 points; KU getting the ball at its own 20 is worth -0.32 points to KU) and Kenneth Dixon's fumble cost his team an estimated 5.54 points.

Add it up, and those 12 points given to KU — along with some timely offense from the Jayhawks — made up for KU's other deficiencies.

It's time to be concerned about the run game

Remember, for this box score, any negative yards on sacks go in to "Passing Yards" category, which makes the Jayhawks' 3.8-yard-per-carry rushing average look even worse.

KU coach Charlie Weis said after the game that his offensive line was getting beaten routinely inside by Tech's front four, so he altered his game plan to try to attack the Bulldogs with the passing game on the edges.

Playing musical chairs with the offensive line probably didn't help, either. At times, the right side of KU's line (Dylan Admire, Damon Martin, Riley Spencer) featured three players that didn't even start in the team's previous game against Rice.

After watching this year's struggles, it seems likely we probably didn't give enough credit to offensive linemen Tanner Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Duane Zlatnik for clearing the holes they did for the running game a season ago.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with our Div. II assistant coach from the breakdown blog last week.

After I showed him the video of KU's offensive line getting blown up by Rice's front four, "Coach" made the comment that there was a possibility that this year's Jayhawks might not be suited to be a run-first team.

"You have to tailor your offense around the type of players that you have," Coach said. "Last year was the 2012 KU Jayhawks. The 2012 KU Jayhawks are only going to happen once ever. The 2013 Jayhawks are a new team, so maybe they’re not going to be as great at running the ball, so maybe they need to do other things."

It's looking more and more like that with each passing week.

KU's passing game much more efficient

Kansas receiver Christian Matthews hauls in a pass with Louisiana Tech defensive back Xavier Woods on his back during the fourth quarter.

Kansas receiver Christian Matthews hauls in a pass with Louisiana Tech defensive back Xavier Woods on his back during the fourth quarter. by Nick Krug

For the first time this year, KU completed more than 50 percent of its passes in a game, as Jake Heaps was 28-for-46, good for a 61-percent completion rate.

One encouraging sign for KU was that many of its pass plays were simpler. Heaps said after the game that the Jayhawks took quite a few "free" yards on rollout plays, simply taking advantage of what the defense was giving to pick up some short yardage.

The Jayhawks still aren't much of a threat to break a deep pass play, but some passing game is better than none. With KU's run getting stuffed all game, Heaps at least showed the ability to get moderate gains through the air, while the receivers limited their drops to help the pass game's efficiency.

KU's run defense starting to show some holes

KU's pass defense once again was a bright spot, coming up with nine pass breakups while holding Tech to an excellent 4.5 yards per pass attempt.

On the other hand, the Jayhawks continue to get gashed by a variety of running plays.

Against Rice, it was the read- and speed-option that burned KU. Against LA Tech, KU struggled against more traditional running plays, allowing an "explosive run" (12 or more yards) on nearly a-fourth of the Bulldogs' rushes (seven of 29 run plays).

Almost every team in the Big 12 is pass-happy, so KU is better off having a team that is built to defend the pass rather than the run.

Still, KU is about to face better running backs, so some improvement is needed to get opposing offenses into passing downs so KU can take advantage of the impressive secondary it has assembled.

Take a bow, Trevor Pardula

I believe I'm safe in saying this is a game KU definitely would have lost a year ago without punter Trevor Pardula.

The juco transfer saved the Jayhawks on Saturday when it came to field position. Though KU didn't get good field position often (average start of own 19), Pardula made sure that Tech didn't have better field position, as his booming punts ensured that Tech's average drive start was its own 28.

Field position matters, too. Tech had a nine-yard advantage on average field position, and in 2012, FBS teams won 71.6 percent of the games when their field position was eight-to-12 yards better than their opponents.

As mentioned in the first week's blog, when two FBS teams played in 2012 and one team had an advantage of 12 yards or more per drive in field position, that team's record was 151-10 (.938). And without Pardula netting 55.8 yards on his five punts, KU most likely loses the field-position battle by at least 12 yards.

Through three games, Pardula has probably made the biggest impact of any juco player Weis brought in for this season.

Playmakers needed

Kansas receiver Rod Coleman has a pass broken up by Louisiana Tech defenders Thomas McDonald (33) and Le'Vander Liggins (13) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas receiver Rod Coleman has a pass broken up by Louisiana Tech defenders Thomas McDonald (33) and Le'Vander Liggins (13) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

KU had more possessions and more plays than an average contest, yet the Jayhawks mustered just six "explosive" plays.

What's also troubling is that KU had quite a bit of issues on first down — a down where a team should have most of the playbook open. KU averaged just 3.1 yards on first down, with the same number of first-down plays going for negative yards (three) as 10-plus-yard gains (three).

The Jayhawks performed some second-down miracles while doing a good job of avoiding sacks to keep their third-down distances manageable (6.1 average yards to go), but the fact is, KU's offense is going to continue to struggle if someone doesn't emerge to break off 30-plus-yard plays every once in a while (KU had none against LA Tech).

Weis did a better job of getting speedy Tony Pierson the ball on Saturday, but there's still work to be done to get him more opportunities in the open field.

Through three games — and a 2-1 record — I'd argue that Pierson and receiver Rodriguez Coleman are the most significant players for this team moving forward.

Those guys provide KU with the best hope at breaking off big plays, which will be vital if the Jayhawks can't get their offensive line — and running game — back to last year's form.


Breakdown: An example of KU’s offensive line getting out-physicaled by Rice

For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Kansas coach Charlie Weis has made a few mentions this week about how he was disappointed in his offensive line play.

With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at a failed running play from the Jayhawks' 23-14 loss to Rice on Saturday. At this point, KU was leading, 14-13, with possession in the fourth quarter.

This is a basic "Power" run play. Those offensive linemen on the "play" side — the direction where the ball is going to be run — are down blocking, meaning they are blocking the defenders to the inside of them (with the left tackle going upfield to take out a backside linebacker). Meanwhile, the right guard pulls around to kick out a linebacker in the hole.

I've made a GIF showing each KU player's blocking assignment.


This play falls apart on multiple levels, the most glaring of which coming in the battle between Rice's defensive tackle Christian Covington and KU's left guard Randall Dent (No. 64).

Right after the snap, Dent is driven backwards by Klare, in essence getting "his (stuff) pushed in," Coach says.

This disrupts the entire play. KU right guard Mike Smithburg tries to pull around to block, but he bangs directly into Dent instead.

Smithburg runs into Dent's back.

Smithburg runs into Dent's back. by Jesse Newell

Smithburg's blocking assignment on this play is Rice linebacker James Radcliffe (No. 10), and with a free path, Radcliffe is able to get to the backfield to trip up KU running back James Sims.

"That’s a good indication of a defensive tackle not getting in on the stats and making a tackle or tackle-for-loss, but the defensive tackle is the one who makes this play," Coach says. "He’s getting a pat on the butt in the film room after this one."

Sometimes a team can help out its left guard on this play, as the left tackle can combine with him to form a double-team on the defensive tackle. After that block is secure, then the left tackle can move forward to take out the backside linebacker.

"I guess KU just thought that the left guard could handle this block one on one with the defensive tackle," Coach says, "and really, it didn’t end up working."

Dent isn't the only one who struggles, though.

Notice the left tackle Aslam Sterling (No. 77) almost completely whiffs on his block of Michael Kutzler (No. 42), who is listed at 110 pounds lighter than Sterling. Because of that, Kutzler is able to get to Sims and help finish off the tackle on the one-yard gain. Look closely at the end, and you can even see Sterling slap his hands together in frustration.

Coach also says KU tight end Trent Smiley (No. 85) isn't perfect here against Rice defensive end Tanner Leland (No. 13) either, as he allows quite a bit of penetration and at least needs to work for a stalemate to keep Leland out of the backfield.

Bottom line: Coach says this a good example of KU getting "out-physicaled" up front.

And while many fans have questioned why Weis didn't run the ball more against Rice, Coach says no play call is going to work if it isn't run correctly.

"You can call the hook-and-ladder, you can call the double-reverse pass, you can call this simple power play, you can call a simple inside zone running play," Coach says. "No matter what you call, you have to execute it."


Box score breakdown: KU’s running game against Rice wasn’t what we’re used to

Let's take a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 23-14 loss to Rice.

For those who didn't check out last week's blog, this box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

KU-Rice updated "new" box score

KU-Rice updated "new" box score by Jesse Newell

Here are a few takeaways from the box score:

KU's pass defense, once again, was stellar

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald celebrates his interception during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald celebrates his interception during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. by Nick Krug

If you're looking for positives, this has to be the biggest one. After a dominating pass defense performance in Game 1 against South Dakota (2.8 pass yards allowed/attempt), the Jayhawks backed it up with an effort that was nearly as impressive against respected Rice QB Taylor McHargue (4.1 pass yards allowed/attempt).

Not only that, KU's secondary is making plays on the ball. KU's 11 passes defensed (pass breakups plus interceptions) is a huge number that hints the Jayhawks should me more competitive defensively this year in the pass-happy Big 12. Through two games, KU's 7.5 passes broken up per game leads the conference, while Dexter McDonald is tied for fourth nationally with five pass breakups of his own.

KU's pass offense, once again, was pretty bad

Remember, in our "new" box score, sacks are counted against the passing totals, as technically, they are passing plays. Through this prism, KU's passing numbers go from bad to cover-your-eyes awful.

The Jayhawks mustered just 4.2 net passing yards per attempt after posting an identical 4.2 net yards per attempt against South Dakota the week before. Notice that if you look at yards per completion, KU's passing numbers jump up to 9.8 yards per catch. So what does that tell us? In short, KU isn't completing enough passes. For the second straight week, quarterback Jake Heaps failed to complete more than 50 percent of his throws, and once again, costly drops kept KU from having a more efficient passing game.

Trevor Pardula had another great game

Again, if optimism is your thing, KU punter/kickoff guy Trevor Pardula is another reason to believe KU can be competitive in Big 12 games. After seven punts, the junior still maintained a healthy 40.4-yard net punt average, and that was a big reason KU stayed close in the field-position game (KU's average start was its own 27; Rice's was its own 30). Pardula also blasted three more touchbacks, and through nine kickoffs this season, his six touchbacks are already more than KU had in all of 2012 (five in 47 kickoffs).

KU's offensive numbers were even worse considering the opportunities

In 2012, during games between two FBS teams, the average squad had 13 possessions per game. The Jayhawks had it 15 times against the Owls and still never managed to find a rhythm. To be fair, one of those possessions was a kneeldown at the end of the first half, but the numbers are ugly regardless. KU managed just 18 yards per possession, which is barely half of what an NCAA team averaged a year ago (31.1 yards per possession). Remember, that was against a Rice defense that allowed 52 points in 14 possessions to Texas A&M two weeks before.

It was a weird game for KU's running game

The last few years, KU has had success in the running game by getting modest gains to keep the chains moving. Against Rice, the Jayhawks were the total opposite of that, featuring a boom-or-bust tendency while playing without backup RB Taylor Cox.

Kansas running back Darrian Miller is upended by Rice linebacker Nick Elder during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Kansas running back Darrian Miller is upended by Rice linebacker Nick Elder during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. by Nick Krug

KU had three rushes of 12 yards are more, and all were by James Sims, who has been more of a grinding back during his career. On the opposite side of the spectrum, though, KU had seven rushes that went for no gain or a loss, indicating the Jayhawks' offensive linemen were getting overpowered too often.

That made for some weird stats. KU's 4.2-yard-per-carry average might be more acceptable if the Jayhawks were better able to avoid losing plays. Instead, KU averaged just 2.6 yards on first down because of all the run stuffs, and that put the team in tough situations on third downs, where the Jayhawks' average gain to go was 7.9 yards — much too high for a team that is still trying to find itself in the passing game.

The pick-six was a killer

The box score above shows this game wasn't dominated by Rice. The Owls had slightly better numbers across the board, but statistically this game was close enough for KU to win if it had a positive turnover margin.

Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, Heaps' pick-six in the first quarter put the team in a huge hole. Bill Connelly has done the math to compile an NCAA football chart for equivalent points — the number of points a team is likely to score on a drive from a certain yard line.

When Heaps threw the pass, KU was on the Rice 46 — a yard line worth 1.62 equivalent points to KU. The interception return for TD then gave the Owls seven points, and the ensuing kickoff was a touchback, putting KU on the 25 — worth 0.01 equivalent point.

Do the math, and that was a 8.61-point swing because of a single play — definitely enough to swing the balance of a game that the Owls won by ... nine points.


Cliff’s Notes: Charlie Weis press conference, 9/10/13

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.

The updated depth chart (only second-team changes) and full press conference audio have been posted.

Most weeks, KU’s opponents are running schemes where the quarterback is involved as a runner. Weis says KU is going to have to do a better job of tackling the quarterback than it did a week ago against South Dakota, or Rice’s QB Taylor McHargue will gash the Jayhawks. You have to be ready to defend him. You can’t just treat him as a passer.

Weis feels a lot better about his team after it got a game under its belt. He says going on the road can be good for a team, because there are fewer distractions. It’s a lot more of a business trip on the road than people would think.

Connor Embree has had good punt returns the entire spring. This is the first chance he’s had to do it in a game. Weis says he stepped up to the plate and delivered. Embree catches the ball really well on punt returns and makes good decisions. Weis says one of Embree’s best plays was the return when he only gained a couple yards. The ball was bouncing, and he decided to catch it to keep it from rolling. That probably saved KU 20 yards.

From what Weis understands, Rice typically doesn’t have good home crowds. Weis says that’s probably a good thing for his team’s first road game. To go on the road and not have it be 80,000 people going bonkers is probably a good way to ease into a road schedule.

KU’s offensive line had good run-blocking against South Dakota. The pass protection is yet to be determined, because KU didn’t throw it as much. Any time you rush for close to 300 yards, though, obviously the offensive line had something to do with it. Weis believes what KU lost in experience on the offensive line this year, it gained in physicality. He especially believes that’s the case with KU’s two guards Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg.

Weis says he’ll use last year’s Rice game as a teaching tool. He says Rice deserved to win the game last year, and KU deserved to lose it. KU didn’t close out the game. Give credit to Rice. KU played not to lose instead of playing to win.

Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan has a lot of familiarity with KU defensive backs coach Clint Bowen from their time together on KU’s staff a few years ago, so there shouldn’t be many surprises with Rice’s offense for Bowen on Saturday.

Weis says the situation this week for the coaches has been utopia after a win, because it’s allowed them to be harder on the players to make them better. It’s been a bad week for some of KU’s players, because you can really get on them hard because they’re feeling good about themselves after a win. Weis says it’s great as a coach when you can give constructive criticism after a victory, because players are more open-minded and listen to you better.

The entire night against South Dakota, the only real throw that quarterback Jake Heaps would have liked to have back was the deep throw to Rodriguez Coleman that he overthrew by a few yards. Weis liked that Coleman laid out for the ball. Weis says Coleman’s on the cusp of taking a meteoric rise up the depth chart. When he gets it, it’ll be tough for others to get him off the field. He’s playing from behind a little bit, because he got in late and was banged up a bit in fall camp. He’s healthy now. He has plenty of time to catch up.

Weis has no update on cornerback Kevin Short’s status (he missed Saturday’s game because of personal reasons). Short has some personal things he’s working through that were a bit of a surprise to KU’s coaching staff. When Weis knows something, he says he’ll be sure to tell everyone.

Running back Taylor Cox is going in practice today after suffering a leg injury at the end of the South Dakota game. Weis will have to see visual evidence to see what he looks like out there. No one else on the roster would be in the “questionable” range if an injury report was released.

Weis says it is too early to determine for sure if some guys are red-shirting. You have to see how things go at each position. Especially with freshmen, Weis tries to not make a decision with them until it gets closer to halfway through the season. If Weis is going to use a true freshman, he’s going to use him. He doesn’t want to burn a red-shirt year to get a guy a couple scrub snaps at the end of a game.

Weis says KU’s passing game against South Dakota was nothing like any game last year. No games last year looked anything like that. KU had four or five dropped balls and three throwaways out of 20, and KU completed 10. KU had two or three balls that were clear incompletions out of 20 throws. If KU gets that percentage this week, Weis will take it. Throwaways are part of what you do. They’re a good thing. Weis writes them down as a smart play.

For the program, winning last week got the losing streak out of the way. Winning this week could get the road losing streak out of the way. Winning against Texas Tech could get the conference losing streak out of the way. Saturday is a chance for another KU to get another stepping stone.

Weis says receiver Justin McCay was excited for his first game. It’s been a while since he played. The same could be said for Heaps. Weis expects both to be better this week.

KU’s pass defense didn’t really get threatened against South Dakota. KU did give up the one long gain on third and 19. There will be more time for evaluation of the unit in future weeks.

Weis liked having all his defensive coaches on the field. They were able to work through some kinks against South Dakota, too. People want to make a big deal about how KU is coordinating the defense. The only position that ties all the units together is the linebacking corps, and that’s why Bowen puts the defense together.

KU has a whole package for the Wildcat (or Jayhawk) formation. You have to put it in there so other teams have to work on it. There were a lot of things that KU did in that game on purpose. As the season plays out, it won’t be the last time you see Christian Matthews out there in that formation.

Defensive lineman Ty McKinney is playing really well, and defensive lineman Marquel Combs isn’t getting many reps. So KU bounced McKinney out to end so Combs could potentially get more time at nose tackle behind Keon Stowers, who is playing at a high level. McKinney also will have a chance to get first-team minutes at end, because he’s not beating out Stowers. So KU could get two positive residuals out of that.

KU has been practicing getting the ball snapped in 15 seconds or less. Weis doesn’t stand there with a stopwatch, but that’s probably close to what it was. Weis figured if he was going to have his defense practice against a high-tempo pace, he might as well do it on offense as well.

Victor Simmons has finally found a home at nickel back. He’s bounced between safety and linebacker at KU. Now, he’s settled into a position that he seems to be comfortable at. If you’re a good athlete and know what you’re doing out there, usually you start to make plays. That’s what’s happening with him.


Breakdown: Why KU’s Wildcat formation didn’t work against South Dakota

For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Following Kansas' 31-14 victory over South Dakota, I heard many Jayhawk fans suggest that coach Charlie Weis should ditch the Wildcat (or Jayhawk) formation altogether.

I wanted to ask our expert "Coach" to see what he thought. Below are three of KU's unsuccessful Wildcat plays from Saturday's game.

After watching the clips, Coach says KU has different issues on each of the three plays.

On the first play, KU actually has a numbers advantage if you look before the snap. KU has five blockers on the left side of the line to take care of five South Dakota defenders: two linemen, two linebackers and a safety.

Coach says KU is trying to execute a "pin-and-pull" technique here. The two tight ends (Trent Smiley and Jimmay Mundine) have the objective of "pinning" the South Dakota players in front of them back to the inside. KU's left tackle (Aslam Sterling) and left guard (Ngalu Fusimalohi) then "pull" around the outside to block, along with Tony Pierson out of the backfield.

Pin and pull

Pin and pull by Jesse Newell

So where is the breakdown? As the red arrows show above, USD's linebacker and defensive tackle stunt on the play, in essence looping around each other to confuse the offense.

With this extra movement, Mundine — the inside tight end (yellow line) — misses his pin block completely.

Instead of three on three, it's now USD with a four-to-three numbers advantage toward the bottom of the screen.

4 on 3.

4 on 3. by Jesse Newell

Though the linebacker that got by Mundine doesn't make the tackle, he does force the left guard Fusimalohi to block him (blue circle above). That leaves a second USD linebacker unblocked and unimpeded, and he's able to pull down Matthews.

Coach says the Mundine missed block is the key to the play. If he's able to seal his man — or if he and Smiley communicate better on the fly and switch their assignments to block the two stunting USD players — then Matthews likely scores a touchdown. Instead, he's dragged down at the 5.

The second play actually is a different play from the Wildcat formation, with Coach diagnosing it as a double-option. Here, Matthews can either run it himself or pitch to Tony Pierson behind him.

Double option

Double option by Jesse Newell

Once again, KU appears to have a numbers advantage. With good KU blocking, South Dakota is left with one linebacker to defend both Matthews and Pierson.

Coach says Matthews job here is to attack the linebacker's outside shoulder to make him commit. If the defender shades toward the outside, Matthews should cut inside and run past him. If the defender commits to Matthews, he should pitch it to Pierson, who then would have lots of running room.

Matthews' attack point.

Matthews' attack point. by Jesse Newell

There's one problem, though: As you can see from the picture above, Pierson is in no position to accept a pitch. Coach labels this as "bad pitch relationship," saying Pierson should be further back and toward the sideline to make himself an option for Matthews.

He never makes it there. With no other options, Matthews is forced to turn upfield right into the linebacker, who makes the open-field tackle.

Coach says Pierson's positioning isn't necessarily his fault. Remember where he was to start the play?


Alignment by Jesse Newell

Pierson is aligned on Matthews' right when the play is going left, meaning he will really have to hustle to get in proper position on the other side of Matthews.

Coach says KU can do a few things to help him. Many times, teams will motion that back presnap to the left side, which gives him a bit of a head start. KU also could run this play out of the Pistol formation, which would put Pierson directly behind Matthews instead of to his right.

Coach also says a lot of times on these types of plays, the quarterback will catch the snap then take a step back, which allows the back to get an extra step to the outside.

Though these might be tweaks for a future game, they don't happen here, and the result is no gain.

Coach says there's little KU can do to prevent the third play from being a failure.

Corner blitz

Corner blitz by Jesse Newell

The Coyotes have seen enough of Matthews to realize he's not much of a threat to pass, so they send a corner blitz. Though receiver Josh Ford at the bottom is supposed to block the corner, he can only watch as his man runs right by.

This is a read-option play, so Matthews is reading the outside defensive end, whom KU leaves unblocked on purpose. That end immediately crashes towards running back James Sims, and Matthews makes the correct read to keep the ball.

End crashes.

End crashes. by Jesse Newell

It doesn't make a difference, though, as the cornerback has a running head start and immediately is there to wrap up Matthews for no gain.

Notice at the bottom of the screen that because of its blitz, South Dakota has rolled a safety to cover KU's No. 1 receiver Josh Ford with minimal help deep. If Ford were to run a vertical or out route, he'd basically be going one-on-one against a safety — a huge mismatch in football terms.

Basically, South Dakota is daring Matthews to throw it, and Weis' next step could be calling for Matthews to heave a pass. Doing that not only would take advantage of the mismatch, but it also might prevent run blitzes like this in the future.

Though KU didn't have much success with its Wildcat plays Saturday, Coach says it's not time to ditch the formation. Having this package on tape — if nothing else — makes KU more unpredictable and a tougher scout for opposing defensive coordinators.

"It’s easy to give up on things real quick," Coach said, "but I would say the problems they had are very minimal problems, and they’re easily fixed."


Cliff’s Notes: Charlie Weis press conference, 9/3/13

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.

KU's updated depth chart and full press conference audio from Weis have been posted.

KU’s coaches were happy with the play of nickels Victor Simmons and Coutrney Arnick in camp. KU’s staff decided to strengthen a weakness by moving Cassius Sendish to free safety. Simmons and Arnick are playing good enough where it allowed the team the flexibility to move Sendish back to safety.

Weis said offensive lineman Pearce Slater is not on campus. The coach said he’s only going to talk about players that are here.

The college football upsets got the Jayhawks’ attention. Weis says while FBS teams have more scholarships than FCS teams, typically no one is hurt early in the season, so that’s not as big of a factor as it might be late in the season.

KU’s only injury list right now is linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, who is out for the year with a knee injury. If Weis had to do an NFL injury report, no one would be listed below probable. It’s a pretty healthy team as of now.

Weis has showed his players video tapes regarding targeting. The staff has instructed players on the field as well. The bottom line is that Weis believes there is good and bad with the rule. The intent is good. Safety of the players should always be at the forefront. The bad part of the rule is that it’s very subjective.

Weis says he’s looking forward to the offense being more balanced. Last year, when KU had to run so often, it was challenging, but that’s what had to be done. Weis believes his team did come out of last year with a staple. At the end of the year, Weis believed that almost every team KU played would say it could run the ball and run it with toughness.

Receivers Justin McCay and Josh Ford aren’t afraid to mix it up. They aren’t guys who don’t want to get hit. Both will play a bunch of special teams. Weis says McCay is anxious to get going. Watching him day in and day out, Weis says he has a lot of attributes that still look desirable. The passing game is going to have to be a group effort, though. Weis is still expecting big things from McCay. McCay will never run a 4.3 40-yard dash. When you’re bigger, you have to find different ways to get open.

Linebacker Samson Faifili’s advantage over Jake Love was that he was about 30 pounds bigger and ran about the same. Weis says Faifili and linebacker Ben Heeney look good next to each other out there. KU now has depth at the position, too. Weis says he doesn’t hold his breath when the No. 2s are in there now. Schyler Miles and Love are pretty good, too. If you play only one deep in this league, you have no chance. KU’s coaches expected Faifili to challenge to be a starter at inside linebacker when he came to KU. Love isn’t going away, but Faifili is just a bigger, more physical presence right now. He also plays with a lot of passion.

Weis says cornerback Kevin Short is probably as good of a talent as KU has on its whole team, but he’s catching up because he got in late. KU’s coaches were concerned about the safety position because of a lack of depth. Watching Simmons and Arnick develop has allowed the team more flexibility so that KU can roll corners and safeties into the game. Sendish has been practicing at safety the last two weeks. That wasn’t based off his play at nickel; it was based on KU’s concern at safety.

Linebacker Schyler Miles has had a nice camp. This is the healthiest he’s been since he’s been at KU. The staff is high on him.

Weis is confident with Trevor Pardula for punts and kickoffs. Pardula also made a 57-yarder in practice last week by about five yards. He won’t make all of his kicks, but he’ll give you a chance at those long kicks because of his big leg. One of the biggest surprises for KU’s coaches has been starting field-goal kicker Matthew Wyman. He moved up from originally being fourth on the depth chart this year. Wyman won the field-goal kicker competition, and it wasn’t really close. He has no problem making it from 50 yards.

The advantage for KU having a first-week bye was that the team got to go through last week like it was a game week. Now, the players know what the routine is. The negative for the team is that once school starts, you want to play a game. Weis said Saturday was awful for him, as he only was able to watch football instead of coaching a game. It was one of the least favorite days he’s had in the last six months.

Right tackle Zach Fondal is the best pass blocker KU has. He doesn’t have as much girth as left tackle Aslam Sterling has, but you have to be able to do something really well. KU’s coaches believe they have two good pass blockers at both tackle positions. Fondal is at about 290 pounds, and he’s getting better as a run-blocker every day. He’s very athletic. Weis imagines a year from now he’ll be a left tackle. The coaches were counting on Fondal coming in and competing to play. The coaches thought he might even play at left tackle this year, but Aslam Sterling has done a nice job. If something happens to Sterling, Fondal will move over to left tackle.

Weis isn’t worrying about the Rice game yet or potentially showing too much of the playbook in the first game. KU struggled in its opener last year. KU isn’t at a point in its development where it can save a bunch of things for the next week. Adding some new things to the offense each week, though, is part of the natural progression.

Nose tackle Marquel Combs is more comfortable inside, and Kevin Young was playing better at left end/tackle. You have to go with what you see. Young, other than Keon Stowers, might have the second-best camp of anyone. The best guy plays.

Weis went to running back Taylor Cox when KU signed Darrian Miller and told him it was his call on a red shirt. Weis told Cox he’d play this year, but he wasn’t beating Sims out as a starter. Cox told Weis he’d like a chance to play on Sundays, and he’s an older guy. Usually, running backs have a short shelf life. Cox’s concern was that he’d be too old to have a shot to play professionally if he sat out with a red shirt. He’s had a great camp. Weis says he’s worrying about this year now. The team will worry about next year next year. Cox has beaten out Miller for the No. 2 spot. Cox is playing really well.

Weis says every time his team goes into a game, it better be counting on winning. If KU loses, it loses. Weis says part of the problem when you get in an organization that is used to losing, losing becomes OK. Losing’s accepted. If you play close to winning, it’s OK. Weis says that’s a pile of garbage. That’s a loser’s mentality. It shouldn’t matter who you’re playing; the first thing you’d better do is change the team’s mentality to where it believes it can win every game, and that’s partly his responsibility. Weis says he wants to beat South Dakota, then Rice, then Louisiana Tech, then Texas Tech. That’s what he wants to do, and the team better be thinking the same way.

Is it going to happen like that? Weis can’t say. He has no idea, but that’s what he wants to do. He’s counting that the players are thinking the same way. Weis would like to think his team has made strides, but it doesn’t mean anything until you’ve done something. Realistically, KU is picked at the bottom of the pack, and until you win games, that’s where you’re going to stay. When you start winning, those close games become wins instead of losses. The light switch comes on, and the team isn’t waiting for something bad to happen, but instead is making something good happen when it comes to crunch time.


The Sideline Report with KU long snapper Reilly Jeffers

Today's Sideline Report is with Kansas sophomore long snapper Reilly Jeffers.

Reilly Jeffers (KU Athletics photo).

Reilly Jeffers (KU Athletics photo). by Jesse Newell

Jesse Newell: What’s the best part about long snapping?

Reilly Jeffers: The opportunity to get on the field. Being a part of the team and playing my role. There’s not a whole lot to it, but at the same time, there’s a whole lot to it.

Compared to other positions that I’ve played in the past, it’s a lot more mental. Just being focused, and if you screw up, you’ve got to go get the next snap.

JN: Is the toughest part mentally, then?

RJ: Yeah, I’d say it’s definitely the mental. Because it becomes a point where it’s muscle memory. You’ve got to focus on where you do it the same way every time. And if you screw up, it’s different from other positions. If a guy misses a tackle, you’ve got the next play. It maybe 20 or 30 plays before you get your next snap.

You’ve got to stay locked in mentally. I think that’s the biggest thing as far as the specialists go, kicker or snapper. If you screw up, you’ve got to go get it the next time. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself.

JN: When did you start long snapping?

RJ: My dad taught me how to do it in the third grade. I used always throw the ball around when I was younger. I looked up to Eric Crouch at Nebraska and quarterbacks.

I like throwing the ball, but I was a lineman-sized kid. So my dad was like, ‘Well, bend over and throw it between your legs.’ I did it in high school a little bit. I got hurt my junior year when I would have snapped it. Then my senior year, they were like, ‘Well, there’s no point. You didn’t do it last year.’ But I always knew how to do it. I was good at it. Coach Weis brought me in as a walk-on lineman, and they needed a backup long snapper. ‘Well, I know how to do it.’ The rest is history.

JN: How did that conversation go? They were looking for somebody to long snap?

RJ: They had some struggles as far as a backup long snapper my freshman year. They knew that I knew how to do it, because I had mentioned it. They were like, ‘Well, let’s check you out.’ After practice, I gave about five to 10 snaps, and they were like, ‘OK, you’ve got a job.’ I was like, ‘All right, well that works for me.’

JN: So all that happened when they took you out there?

RJ: Yeah, it was just after practice. Coach Bowen, when he was running punt team, was like, ‘All right, let’s see what you’ve got.’ I threw a couple back there, and it worked out.

JN: What’s a common misconception about long snappers?

RJ: Not athletic. (laughs) Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Dexter McDonald out there flying around.

Kansas defensive back Dexter McDonald waits in line to participate in a drill during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013.

Kansas defensive back Dexter McDonald waits in line to participate in a drill during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. by Nick Krug

I guess it would be they’re not really football players; they’re just kind of out there doing their thing. I think (teammate) John (Wirtel) and myself, we’d be able to play another position if we had to.

JN: What position would you play?

RJ: I’m not fast enough. I’d play offensive line. That’s what I played the whole time. I’d say that’s probably the biggest misconception.

JN: So you could play elsewhere?

RJ: Ah, if they needed me in a pinch.

JN: What was the highlight of your offseason?

RJ: Really seeing the guys come together as a team.

KU football coach Charlie Weis talks to the team during a break at practice Friday, August 16.

KU football coach Charlie Weis talks to the team during a break at practice Friday, August 16. by Mike Yoder

I think when you go 1-11, it can really run a team down. I don’t think that happened with this team at all. I think we came closer together as a team. I think we worked harder together as a team. I think we worked smarter together as a team. I think you could really see things start to mold together, and you could see that these guys really cared and bought in and wanted to win games. As far as me — because I want to win games as much as anybody else — I think seeing that, it gives you hope that, ‘No, we’re going to get this done.’ That would be the highlight for me.

JN: Do you have any routines or superstitions?

RJ: No, I’m kind of a chill guy when it comes to that. When I walk out there, I just kind of feel it. Like last year, when I played against South Dakota State, I thought I was going to be real nervous and everything. I kind of just went out there and was like, ‘All right, I got this.’ You just get loosened up and get ready to go. Just lock in.

JN: Do you have to be like that to be a long snapper?

RJ: At least for me, I know if I start thinking about something or I start tensing up, that’s when I’m going to screw up. I’m a relaxed, outgoing guy to begin with, so if I start locking up and start thinking about too much, that’s when I know I’m going to screw up. So I need to be out there kind of having fun.

I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Don’t turn it into a pressure situation for myself. Because when you get out there in front of 60,000 people, there’s going to be enough pressure already. So don’t put it on yourself. I’ve just got to go out there and have fun, sling it back there and I’ll be all right.

JN: Do you remember the first time you met Charlie Weis?

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt confer during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt confer during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. by Nick Krug

RJ: Sixth grade. My dad is in the media in South Bend (Indiana), and I used to tag along with him around Notre Dame and see what’s going on. I remember him just being out there. I introduced myself. He introduced himself, and that was it. It kind of just went on from there.

JN: What was the first impression when you met him?

RJ: This guy’s in charge. I don’t think that’s changed since. Through camps and school and sports and everything, I developed a pretty good friendship with Charlie Weis Jr. Tre' Parmalee and I have been friends since freshman year of high school. We would always be hanging out together.

Kansas receiver Tre' Parmalee has a would-be touchdown pass knocked away by Texas Tech defensive back Bruce Jones during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas receiver Tre' Parmalee has a would-be touchdown pass knocked away by Texas Tech defensive back Bruce Jones during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

It’s kind of crazy how it all worked out and we all ended up in Lawrence, Kansas.

JN: So did you have some interest in KU when Weis came here?

RJ: Definitely, yeah. My uncle had gone to KU. I’d always been a mild fan of KU. When coach Weis got the job, it was really like, ‘Oh.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Then they asked me if I wanted to walk on, and I was like, ‘I definitely need to check this out.’ I kind of took a chance, and it all worked out.

JN: How much do you guys talk other sports in the locker room?

RJ: Right now, it’s the awkward time in sports. Football hasn’t really started. You’ve got baseball that some of the guys talk. We talked a lot of basketball when the playoffs were going on. You had a lot of LeBron supporters, you had a lot of anti-LeBron guys. It’s fun to watch them jaw back and forth.

Sports are the channel that is pretty much always on downstairs. We go back and forth on it. Then during football season, it’s always … you’ve got a bunch of Cowboys fans, a bunch of Texans fans.

JN: Who’s the loudest when it comes to cheering for their team?

RJ: Probably Ty McKinney talking about the Heat.

KU defensive lineman Ty McKinney.

KU defensive lineman Ty McKinney. by Mike Yoder

He’s not even from Miami, so I can’t even take him seriously as a Heat fan.

JN: Ever cried at a movie?

RJ: I’m sure I have. I can’t remember. Oh … when I was in third grade, I cried at Monsters, Inc., because it made me miss my mom or something.

It was weird. I was a little kid, and looking back, I was like, ‘What was I doing?’

JN: That’s not the usual response, you know.

RJ: I know. It got me.

JN: What’s something that would stand out if I walked into your room?

RJ: It’s actually clean. (laughs) Yeah, (offensive lineman) Joe Gibson and I try to keep our apartment pretty tidy. I think that would be your surprise: two college football players actually keeping their apartment pretty tidy.

JN: What do you hope to accomplish here at KU?

RJ: Win a lot of games. And get to that point where you’re like, ‘KU’s a basketball school, but their football team is damn good.’ I want the culture to change, and I want to win a lot of games, and I want to win bowl games. I want to get back to that level of the Orange Bowl victories and the Insight Bowl victories and year in, year out, you’re competing for the Big 12 at the highest level.


Cliff’s Notes: Charlie Weis press conference, 8/23/13

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

KU junior college offensive lineman Pearce Slater came into Weis’ office early Saturday morning and told Weis there was a family emergency at home. KU got him to the airport, and Slater went home. Slater said everything was going OK when he first got there. The two communicated several times over the next few days. Weis suggested — if everything was clear — that it would be best for Slater to be back at least by this Sunday, as classes start Monday. Weis says he has no idea if and when Slater will be back on campus. Weis texted Slater this morning and hasn’t heard from him, and he’s taking him for his word that he'll return. Weis said when he hears something more on Slater, he’ll make sure everyone knows.

Weis says there have been good players at center in the past — Kevin Mawae of the Jets is an example — that have been taller players like KU's Pat Lewandowski. Sometimes shorter guys play at center because they can’t play at other positions on the line. Short arms are not a good attribute for a snapper, but sometimes, those guys can get their hands inside a nose tackle quickly. That’s the only advantage of having arms like that. Weis says there’s no disadvantages to having a tall center. Weis said he knew things were going to be rough in the beginning with Lewandowski. It took him a week to settle in with his shotgun snaps. There was a transition period, but for the last week and a half, his snaps have looked good.

Weis says he’s going to do everything he can to make sure junior college defensive lineman Andrew Bolton doesn’t play this year. He wants to red-shirt him. Weis has had a conversation with him, and Bolton is not 100 percent about it, even though he’s recovering from a previous knee injury. Weis said you can’t bring in this many juco kids in one year and play them all and have them all graduate at the same time in two years. That would put KU in trouble with its numbers on its roster. Right now, both Weis and Bolton would favor him not playing this year so he could get his knee fully healthy.

Weis’ next depth chart will come out a week from Tuesday. The depth chart is already done. If a junior-college guy doesn’t show up in the two-deep, you can assume that guy is probably going to red-shirt.

Weis has had to have his scout team practice how to run a fast tempo to give his team’s defense the best look. The scout team’s goal is to get a new snap at least every 12 seconds. That’s faster than almost all the Big 12 teams’ fast-tempo offenses.

Weis says a lot of coaches will tell TV announcers stuff they can use during telecasts. When announcers go into analysis, they usually don’t know that on their own; they are told that. Weis pays attention to what the TV analysts say when he watches TV replays of opposing teams because he can gain insight into what the coaching staff is thinking. When Weis gets coaches’ tape, he watches that without sound and uses that for scouting purposes.

Weis says in the NFL, coaches are more cognizant of playing complementary football. That’s an art that’s lost in college. Part of the job of the offense in the NFL is to score, but part is to help save the defense. A quick three-and-out with a fast tempo doesn’t allow a defense to rest. The college game lends itself to this, as there are more players available to play. NFL players have 45 or 46 guys that can play, and college teams basically have two teams on each side of the ball to play when guys are tired. In college, there is no concern for how fast the defense has to be on the field again. When looking at the gameplan heading into the week, KU’s coaching staff has to look at which offensive tempo gives the team the best chance to win. Sometimes, the old college basketball “four corners” stall offense is best. Sometimes, a fast tempo is better. Weis says his offense has to score more points this year or it’s a moot point anyway.

KU's players watch the tape and hear the critique from coaches after practice and can tell who is playing well and who’s not playing well. You play the guys who deserve to be out there and not necessarily the ones with reputation or so-called entitlement.

Right now, juco defensive lineman Marquel Combs is not a starter. There are a lot of guys in that category: their reputations are high and their ceilings are high, but are they better than the guy in front of them? Combs is indicative of a group of guys. Different guys have performed at different levels. Juco safety Isaiah Johnson has been the best safety since he got to KU, so he’ll be the starting safety. At some positions, it’s not as easy to step in and perform well early, just because of the demands of the position. Juco cornerback Kevin Short, who just arrived last week, will be playing Week 1. That might be starting or backing up. The best guy plays.

Weis says one of the guys that has had a great camp that he wasn’t expecting is Buck linebacker Michael Reynolds. Everyone’s been waiting for this, but he’s starting to deliver. He’s turned a corner. Last year, he had the most pass-rush ability on the roster, but KU couldn’t get him on the field because he wasn’t an every-down player. He hasn’t beaten Ben Goodman out, but Reynolds’ development has made Weis even more encouraged about that position, especially after Chris Martin’s dismissal from the team earlier this year.

Everything starts with the quarterback in Weis’ system. It takes about a year for quarterbacks to figure out the system, but once you get it down, it’s pretty easy. Talented transfers have some advantages, because they have a year to get the system down before playing. KU tries to cater to do what the quarterback does best. Last year, the passing playbook got smaller and smaller because KU didn’t show it could execute the more complicated plays. Weis says he turned into an option run coach — he had never done that in his career — because that was KU’s strength. He joked that his father would probably roll in his grave if he heard him say that, because Weis has always been a guy that has believed in 50-50 run-pass split on offense.

Quarterback Jake Heaps is unquestionably the team’s No. 1 quarterback and it’s not close. Michael Cummings has gotten significantly better from last year. The guy in the future of the program that is going to be tough to keep off the field is freshman Montell Cozart.

Weis says KU’s offense has always had a fast pace it could go to, but it goes back to the fact that if KU goes three-and-out a lot, a fast tempo doesn’t benefit the team’s defense. Weis loves going no-huddle, up-tempo, but you have to do what’s best for your team to give yourself a chance to win the game.

Weis wants to take another week to look at returners and especially Kevin Short, who could complete for a job there. Weis all but said Matthew Wyman will be the team’s starting kicker. Wyman came from the dorms. KU advertised to try to find walk-ons last year. He walked on in the spring and went through conditioning. He kicked OK, got to the spring game and made a few. He came into camp down on the depth chart, but he’s moved up because he’s kicked so well. He’s got good pop and good range. He has no problem making it from 50 yards. He’s been consistent.

Weis says that KU has some bumps and bruises, but other than linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore’s knee injury that will keep him out this season and a couple of appendixes that needed removed, it looks like KU won’t have anyone that’s not ready to go for the opener. Cornerback Tyree Williams also is a question mark for the opener, but Weis said it looks like he might be ready too.

Weis said he didn’t have to recruit new quarterback commit T.J. Millweard much. Millweard's high school coach reached out to one of KU’s staff members. He’s a top-line talent. This is a kid who’s going to come in to compete to play. His mom went to KU and lived in Kansas. Millweard spent his first eight years in Kansas. Weis had a long conversation with him. Weis said after watching him on tape, this was any easy decision. It’s nice when a top-line player wants you. Weis said he was only going to give a scholarship for a quarterback next season if a special situation presented itself, and he was was a special situation. KU is glad to have him. He’s a bright student.


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