Posts tagged with Kansas
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis has changed his team’s schedule this week. He’s trying to get his team out of a routine. Routines can be good, but they also sometimes can be bad, too. Today, KU won’t practice any special teams. It will spend all its time on offense and defense. The reason for that is many guys aren’t on special teams, so once they get their juices flowing in practice, they have to stand around and wait to get going again. Weis says his team has to do a better job of translating things from the classroom to the practice field, then from the practice field to the game field. Changing the practice routine is an example of a tweak that Weis thinks about on Saturday nights. When you lose and you accept it and you stand pat, that’s never a good thing.
• Weis knows who’s starting at QB for KU. He says he’s not going to say who it is because there’s no reason to tell WVU more information than he needs to. As a coach, Weis says he can’t go into practice not knowing who’s going to start at QB. Now, WVU has to prepare for two different QBs and two different offensive styles.
• The only receiver KU doesn’t have this week is Tre’ Parmalee, and he will be out for another week or two. A lot of the receivers were turning a corner before they got injured. Weis says he’ll be interested to see how that position plays out.
• All of KU’s offensive linemen pretty much played the whole game against Oklahoma State. Weis said Riley Spencer was more physical at the point of attack than anyone else that KU has had at right tackle.
• Weis says KU is in a must-win situation like WVU. Since KU was eliminated from bowl contention, these last three games are KU’s playoffs. Its bowl game is against Kansas State the last week. That’s how KU is approaching this week.
• Weis says the big difference between KU and Oklahoma State was chunks in the passing game. KU’s rush defense stifled OSU pretty well. KU rushed for 200 yards, and OSU hadn’t been getting near that.
• JaCorey Shepherd is very gifted with the ball in his hands. That’s why he originally was an offensive player, though he had some problems as a receiver catching it earlier in his career. Catching a kickoff usually isn’t a tough thing to do, because no defender is around you when you catch it. Shepherd is good at kickoff return because he’s fast, physical, can read the openings and run with power. Weis is going to use him again at kickoff return this week. He’s proven to be KU’s best kickoff returner. Weis would rather not use him there, as KU is thin at corner, but you have to put your best player there.
• It’s been good for KU to ease quarterback Montell Cozart into games. In the beginning, he was pretty nervous. Each week, he’s gotten more comfortable. One tough thing is calling the plays. It’s not as easy as people think it is. An example of a play call is, “Zero out slot alert fip jep 36 sub Z swing on the second sound.” There’s a lot of talking in there. Then, the quarterback has to process that information.
• When Cozart sees something he doesn’t like on defense, he keeps the ball and runs. Sometimes in college football, a play looks like garbage, and a QB still takes off for 30 yards down the sideline. There were times in the OSU game when QB coach Ron Powlus wanted to say something to Cozart after he improvised, and Weis told him to not say anything. Weis calls those ‘Attaboy’ plays. Weis says the worst thing you could do is freeze on the field. Weis says there are times when he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Cozart gave Weis a heart-attack when he reversed field on one run against OSU, then he turned it into a nice gain.
• KU went through a brutal stretch with a lot of ranked teams recently. Weis doesn’t look at the schedule as being softer through the next three weeks. The good news for WVU is it scored 40 against a good defense (Texas). The bad news is it allowed 47. Weis respects everybody. He has to be more concerned with what his guys do, though.
• Weis hasn’t seen his team quit this year. A win against WVU would change the atmosphere in KU’s football facility.
• Weis thinks there was some good and some bad with Tony Pierson in his return against Oklahoma State. He looked a little tentative, but he didn’t look tentative when he ran the sweeps and reverses. Weis thinks he will be less tentative this week. Weis thinks that after you have a concussion, you probably have that thought in the back of your mind that another hit could give you a second concussion.
• Jake Heaps wants to be the starting quarterback and wants to be in there every snap. But he’s such a team guy that he’s handled the situation well.
• Running back Darrian Miller has some personal issues he has to deal with that are more important than football. When they get resolved, he’ll be back. He is not in trouble with school or with the football team.
• KU had a couple of screens that should have been home runs against Oklahoma State, but its receivers missed a couple of crack blocks. A couple plays that went a couple yards could have went for 50 yards. Weis went to the screen pass a lot against OSU because it’s a short completion that has little risk.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis says the balance Oklahoma State has on offense is what you’re looking for. Weis isn’t like OSU, which favors a lot of four-wide sets all the time instead of using multiple formations, but Weis admires the run-pass mix that the Cowboys have.
• When Weis gets ready to make a change in the depth chart, he first makes sure his conviction is right by re-watching the tape. Weis says it’s tough to see things from the sideline at the game. KU has been talking about cohesiveness on the offensive line the last few weeks, but that goes out the window if you’re not playing well.
• New left tackle Riley Spencer is a big guy that plays physically. He’s had knee issues. Weis joked that Spencer walks around like him a lot of times. In last week’s game, Weis saw a bigger and more physical presence when Spencer was in the game. Pat Lewandowski, who started at left tackle last week, is a little bit smaller at 280-290 pounds. If you aren’t out-executing the opponent at that weight, there are times you are going to get beat.
• A lot of KU's receivers are getting back into the mix and getting healthier. Tony Pierson has had his red, non-contact jersey taken off in practice. Pierson didn’t practice all last week. With Weis, if you don’t practice, you don’t play. Weis is hoping Pierson's a full go this week. Rodriguez Coleman — as ugly as his injury looked on TV — just ended up with a bruised knee after the Texas game. He’s in a rush to get himself back because he’s been playing better recently. Tre’ Parmalee is out for a few weeks, but that’s not as long as Weis was anticipating. Parmalee has a lower-body injury.
• When Weis started working with the receivers a few weeks ago, he thought their attention to detail was lacking. Any time the head coach comes to receiver drills, there’s a sense of urgency. Weis says he can be ruthless. Little mistakes can be magnified. Weis also thinks the receivers have been listening better to receivers coach Rob Ianello since Weis has been coming over more. When you teach a receiver how to run a route, you have to teach it different ways based on the players’ weight and weight balance. Weis believes there has been more attention to detail. For Coleman, when you’re tall like him, it’s important to keep your weight down when you’re coming out of a break. That helps a player’s separation if he can do that. Over the past few weeks, Coleman's done a much better job of staying low.
• Former KU cornerback Tyler Patmon is playing a whole bunch for Oklahoma State at right corner. Weis said he’s sure that Patmon will be looking forward to playing KU, and KU will be looking forward to seeing him, too.
• This week, Weis is going to split his practice time between the receivers and offensive line. Today, KU is going to work on combination blocks. The first step for an offensive lineman is by far the most critical, and on tape, Weis keeps seeing KU not having good first steps. So Weis will work with the guys on that.
• Stamina has not been the issue for KU in second halves. With the exception of Baylor, there has been a big play in the third quarter of every game that has turned the tide. This isn’t a question of whether the guys are playing hard or if they have had enough juice. It hasn’t been halftime adjustments either. It’s been big plays. KU hasn’t done a good job of overcoming those bad things that have happened in the third quarter.
• Ever since the Texas Tech game, when Weis tried to open things up and it backfired, KU has made an effort to be more conservative offensively and try to play lower-scoring games.
• Weis says he might be delusional, but he’s been very impressed by the lack of evidence that his team has gotten down during its losing strak. Weis breaks the season up into different sections. Today starts the last third of the season. Weis told his team Saturday after the game that it will be remembered by what happens in its last four games. It won’t be remembered by what happened in its first eight games. 2-10 wouldn’t be good. 3-9 would be a little bit better. 4-8 would be showing signs. 5-7, things are getting better. 6-6, Weis joked that people start building a statue. Joking aside, that’s the perspective KU is taking. The 2-6 is not what KU is going to be remember by. KU is going to be remembered by what happens down the stretch. That’s their legacy. That’s clearly the way the team is looking at it.
• Weis is going to be miserable no matter what happens this season. He wants to win every game. He’s not very happy in any capacity, but it’s not because the players aren’t playing hard.
• Freshman quarterback Montell Cozart didn’t play as much against Texas. When he carries the ball, he looks pretty special. In the Texas game, there were opportunities where he might have had a big play if he had kept the ball instead of pitching. Weis wants to see progression with him the last few weeks.
• Sometimes, you can learn things when watching from the sideline. Weis told Jake Heaps he’s played two of his best games the last two games. Weis says it might be because he’s taking in more of the game during his time on the sideline.
• Last week, after being uncomfortable with the consistency at kicker, Weis practiced two different groups at field goal. After Matthew Wyman missed the short field goal, Weis said he’d had enough. Ron Doherty knew it might be coming. This wasn’t a surprise for him. Weis would prefer he not hit the upright on the second field-goal attempt, but he’s happy for Doherty. He’s well-liked by his teammates. Weis hinted Doherty might have had a leg injury he was dealing with a year ago.
• If Weis had to kick a long field goal against Texas, he would have put Wyman back in. He’s shown the best accuracy on the 50-ish yard kicks.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis says making the change with his offensive staff a few weeks ago wasn't difficult. The trick was the timing of it. It's unusual to make a change like that two or three games into a season. Making a change is always difficult. Texas coach Mack Brown was looking for something he wasn't getting earlier this year. He wanted to let his athletes be athletes on defense. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (who was hired a few weeks ago) had been around the program as a consultant, and he was familiar with what Brown wanted to do defensively.
• KU's players should feel like they have a chance of winning this year after last year's close loss to Texas at home. KU came off a butt-kicking last week. Texas has momentum. But just as Brown is showing the UT players game tape to say, 'Don't overlook these guys,' KU's coaches are showing their own guys the same tape to say, 'Those are the same guys you had on the ropes.'
• Quarterback Montell Cozart has a lot of room for improvement. He got about half of the reps in practice, then he got about half the reps in the game. Weis wanted to make sure both QBs got an opportunity and weren't looking over their shoulders if they screwed up or had one three-and-out. Every time Cozart gets out there, he's going to gain valuable experience. He's going to get better and better, and he'll be out there a bunch this week.
• This QB situation would be a lot more uncomfortable if Jake Heaps wasn't handling as well as he is. Heaps is probably the most unselfish person KU has. He wants whatever will help the team win.
• Heaps was congratulating Cozart in the Baylor game on his own, and Cozart did the same for Heaps when he threw a TD pass. You could see they fed off each other, and Weis said that's a good thing to see.
• A lot of times when you're a freshman QB, you might be hesitant to take a leadership role. Heaps told Cozart last night to be more authoritative in the huddle. Don't just read the plays; call the plays. When you're in there, it's your team. Heaps has been great. It means a lot for Cozart to have the support from the guy who's been the starter at QB and who was a runaway captain.
• Ideally, you wouldn’t play both quarterbacks half the time. If Heaps goes in and throws four touchdowns in a row, he’ll stay in there. If one of the QBs gets a hot hand, Weis won’t take them out.
• Both Heaps and Cozart are just as effective as the other on about half the playbook. On about 25 percent of the playbook, Heaps is best. On the other 25 percent, Cozart is best. So when they the quarterbacks are in, they’re working with 75 percent of the playbook that is best for them.
• Weis is going to leave Cozart’s ideal body size up to strength coordinator Scott Holsopple. Weis wants Cozart to put on as much weight as possible without losing his speed. When Tom Brady came to the Patriots when Weis was there, he came in at 188 pounds, which wasn't very big. Cozart is big enough to take hits. Weis would like him at 200 pounds instead of 180 pounds (if that’s what he is), but Weis is going to leave that part up to Holsopple.
• Weis says sometimes you have to not only look at how things are going with your program at the current time, but how they finish. Weis has said all along that KU will be playing its best football at the end of the year. KU has five games to prove that. Baylor just stomped KU, but BU has been stomping a lot of teams. That’s not an excuse; that’s reality. Weis says if his team finishes this year 2-10, it’s going to be hard for Weis argue his team has made progress.
• Weis liked the way his receivers ran routes last week. He thinks they all played harder and with more definition. That’s not a knock on receivers coach Rob Ianello. Weis thinks part of it is that the main boss (him) was hanging around the receivers more often in practices. The receivers looked improved last week.
• Weis is coaching a lot more after he made the offensive staff shuffle a few weeks ago. He’s also allowed to focus more during the game. Weis says you miss a lot of the game when you call the game, because a majority of your interest is trying to prepare for the next series.
• The coaches haven’t been happy with the physicality they've gotten out of the tackle position. With Riley Spencer and Randall Dent now backing up the tackle positions, the coaches know they have guys on deck that have some experience and girth if KU needs them.
• Weis is concerned about Tony Pierson. There’s nothing medical that’s keeping him from playing. Maybe, Weis says, he is overly concerned. When a kid is out there for three plays and doesn’t get hit and is dizzy, that’s a concern. How hypocritical would you be if you sent a guy out there that is woozy without getting hit, if you’re a coach that says he cares about his players? If you go out there dizzy like that, you play afraid, and you can’t play like that. Pierson will not see the field until he feels like he is healthy and like he won’t get hurt.
• Linebacker Ben Heeney wanted to play last week. Until Friday, he was trying to get ready to go. The BU game was going to be a game that was played in space. Texas, meanwhile, will try to pound you. The Texas game will suit Heeney better. Giving him the extra rest will suit him well for a gameplan that is going to need him.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Andrew Wiggins is doing well. He's starting to feel more comfortable. He wants to please and not screw up. He's figuring it our fast. Each day, he's showing more of what he can do. Wiggins is a much better player than he was in June and July. He understands more what KU is trying to do. He's been more consistent with his energy. His ceiling is ridiculously high. Self doesn't think he will come close to reaching his ceiling this year, just because he'll be better at 22 than 20 because of strength and things like that. He does things others can't do athletically. His ceiling is still high just for this year.
• KU could red-shirt someone this year. The freshmen will play in the exhibition games, then Self and the staff will make a decision. Self is going to play all the freshmen in the exhibition games to see how they do. Self originally thought he would red-shirt at least one guy, but Self is not sure about that now.
• Tarik Black is the most mature guy on the team. He wants Joel Embiid to be good, and when Embiid does get good, those guys will start splitting time. Black knows that's best for the team.
• Starting practice earlier this year was good for the team. Self doesn't know if KU is any further along getting things implemented this year with the earlier start. Right now, the team tries to practice all facets. KU certainly doesn't have everything in yet.
• These exhibition games might be a little more important compared to other years. Self isn't going to try to make sure certain guys get certain minutes as he might in past years. A lot of guys need to get minutes. Self will be excited to see how different guys react in different situations.
• Self doesn't believe he's been impatient with the new guys, but he thinks he could be more patient. He doesn't think backing off the guys in practice is the best thing. He believes he should be demanding. Hopefully, Self says the guys figure out that KU plays only a certain way: hard with a lot of toughness.
• Andrew White III has emerged as one of KU's best performers in practice. He's more confident with his shot, and he's one of KU's best rebounders. He also tries "so darned hard."
• Self believes this team is better than the young 2005-06 team, but Self joked that team couldn't get it past half-court at the Maui Classic. KU is asking these freshmen to do everything from Day 1. That wasn't the case with that group in '05-'06. Self hopes this team progresses as much as the '05-'06 team did by January.
• Self says when you tell young kids to be aggressive, they think they have to go score. Self wants guys to be aggressive to open things up for themselves and teammates.
• Self said Frank Mason should change the pace every time he enters a game, because he'll only be playing 3-4 minutes at a time, whereas in practice, he goes for 2 1/2 hours and like all other players naturally wears down. Self is interested to see if his guys perform well in their new roles in a game.
• Self says his team has, knock on wood, adjusted to the new hand-checking rules well so far. Self heard one Div. II game had 72 fouls. That's bad ball. The scrimmages that KU has had, though, haven't had a lot of fouls. Self joked maybe that's because KU's guys aren't getting close enough to guard.
• Self said the five in the starting lineup haven't completely separated themselves. Andrew White III and Joel Embiid have played well enough to start some practices, and other practices, Jamari Traylor has been one of KU's best players. Those eight players, so far, have separated themselves from the others.
• Self thinks KU could be terrific defensively later in the year. The team isn't good defensively now. Self is excited for this team, because it has wings it can run through passes. But now, KU can't pressure the ball as well because of the new rules that don't let you get as physical with offensive players as you used to be able to.
• Wiggins needs to learn to deal with media, but at this point, Self doesn't see why Wiggins should have to do much more media from this point forward. He will be available postgame if he does well, but Self is going to try to protect him from getting worn down with having to do too much. Self feels for him, and he's never felt for one of his players like that. The less Wiggins wants the attention, the more he gets. Wiggins still has handled everything like a pro.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
I asked for requests on Twitter, and a majority of Kansas football fans wanted to know why the Kansas football running game was successful in the first half but not as much so in the second half.
With that in mind, I compiled some effective first-half run plays and some ineffective second-half run plays and had Coach give me notes on what he saw from each tape.
Here's the first-half run video:
The following are Coach's takeaways (said in his words) from watching KU's run plays in the first half:
• "OU brought edge blitz a couple times, and KU had a quick-hitting run right up the middle. The edge blitz didn’t really have any effect.
• KU used motion and got OU outleveraged a couple times. At 14 seconds, see how they motion the fullback from strong to weak right there? Then they run it weak, and they end up getting a cutback lane. OU overpursues just a little bit, and then end up finding a cutback lane and get about seven or eight right there. It changes the formation from a 3X1 to a 2X2 set. It changes the gap responsibility for OU, and they didn’t adjust very good until it was too late, and KU had a nice play out of it.
• "KU also used a couple counter plays, and OU overpursued. It left some nice cutback running lanes.
"On this play, see how the back takes a quick jab step to his left? That’s a counter. The right side of KU’s line, everybody’s blocking down. The left guard is pulling around to the right, and they’re running counter. You can see how OU’s linebackers overpursue to their right just a little bit. They get lost in the mix of defenders at the line of scrimmage. The OU defenders might not have done a good job of reading the puller (left guard). They’re coming downhill when maybe they should be scraping over the top to their left. The center (Gavin Howard) does a good job of getting off the ball and pinning back on that defensive tackle.
• "OU missed a couple tackles.
• "It looked like OU was on its heels, catching the running back instead of going to hit him and going to meet him. They were kind of catching. KU was doing a nice job of finishing their runs, falling forward for two or three extra yards instead of getting hit and stopping right where they were at.
• "It looked like KU was playing very hard in the first half. It looked like they were on a mission and were trying to take it to OU.
• "The thing I put a couple checkmarks by … the fullback (Nick Sizemore), he went in there and really demolished a couple OU defenders on a few different plays. He was coming downhill, and he was (smashing) some OU defenders.
"On this play, the fullback goes up in there and (smashes) that linebacker at the point of attack and gets No. 6 a nice big running lane.
"The fullback does a great job on the first play as well. They’re just running an iso. Everybody is iso blocking. It’s man-on-man at the point of attack, and it’s fullback on linebacker: old-school football. He just comes down and totally demolishes that linebacker and gives the tailback a nice running lane."
Here's the second-half video:
And notes from Coach:
• "Oklahoma was committing more guys to the box, more guys to the line of scrimmage. On the first play, see No. 14? He’s a safety right there. I think they’re playing Cover 1 right here. I think both of the corners are up top on the wide receivers. And there’s a safety deep on about the 40-yard line. Then there’s another safety here on the 33- or 34-yard line. I think he’s got the tight end man-to-man, but he realizes the tight end is blocking, so he can fit in in the run. They’re just playing Cover 1 (one high safety), saying, ‘You’re not just going to line up and run the ball against us. You’re going to have to throw it against us right here.’ I’m not saying you can’t run against Cover 1, but it’s not going to be quite as easy, because there’s going to be more guys in the box that you’re going to have to account for. They’ve got you outnumbered a little bit.
• "On the second play, Oklahoma brings an edge blitz. No. 19 does a nice job getting flat and running it down from behind. Your slot receiver up there could possibly take an angle to block him, but that’s going to be really tough on your slot receiver to get that guy blocked.
• "This play, same thing. They brought the same blitz off the edge. They brought 15 off the edge again. He ran it down, tripped him up."
• "The other thing was, on this last play (20 seconds), watch the D-lineman No. 90. He just takes the left tackle (Aslam Sterling on this play) and just shoves him right back into the backfield. The puller can’t take a good path to pull around here to the left. They’re running that same counter play again, and No. 90 just blows it up and puts it all the way back into the backfield and allows the linebackers to jump in there and get in on the play."
I asked Coach what KU's options were in the second half once OU started to run blitz more.
"There are different ways to adjust to it. There are different formations you can line up in. When they’re bringing that edge blitz, it’s harder to bring that edge blitz if you put an extra wing in there to block the edge blitzer, or if you have a two-tight-end formation. But the same thing is, then if you bring more guys into the box, then they have a chance to bring more guys into the box. So it’s kind of tough there.
"Sometimes, if you’ve got a quick pass go out to the receivers to negate the blitz and get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in a hurry, then that might be something you take a look at as well. There’s different ways to do it, but OU had a good gameplan in the second half to stop some of those runs we saw the first.
"They were starting to run blitz and have some good calls against it, but it also looked like they maybe got their rear ends chewed a little bit at halftime. It looked like they were playing a little bit harder in that second half as well."
Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 34-19 loss to Oklahoma.
A few quick takeaways ...
• About that passing offense ...
I mentioned this on Twitter, but KU's passing offense might have been even worse than you originally thought on Saturday.
KU had 16 passing yards but also lost 19 yards on three sacks. In our "new" box score, sacks count against passing totals, as the team technically was trying to pass.
In essence, on plays when the Jayhawks tried to throw the ball against OU on Saturday, they went backwards. And that was against an OU defense that continued to bring defenders closer to the line to stuff the run.
It's not all on KU quarterback Jake Heaps, and to be fair, he didn't have many opportunities to throw Saturday. But as the bad passing performances pile up, KU coach Charlie Weis has to at least consider shaking up the position because of its lack of production.
As bad as it was, KU's offense was better
Throw for negative-3 passing yards, and get better? Yep, that's the point KU's offense is at now.
Believe it or not, KU put up its best performance in Big 12 play against the Sooners. Take a look:
KU's 3.9 yards per play and 16.8 yards per possession are still not good, but they're better than what the Jayhawks put up in the previous two weeks.
The reason it doesn't look as good is because of context. KU (wisely) huddled on every play to slow down the pace of the game, and looking at the box score, it's one of the main reasons this game was close.
Give Weis credit for using this underdog tactic well (though he still needs a lot of work on fourth-down decisions). The Jayhawks will need to continue to shorten games against the Big 12's top teams to have a chance.
KU's defense takes step back
This game isn't like last week against TCU where nearly all the blame goes on the offense. KU's defense had its worst game in a few weeks.
KU allowed higher-than-NCAA-average totals in both yards per play (5.8) and yards per possession (31.9). The yards-per-possession number might have even looked worse if not for an OU game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter that gained a first down but netted just eight yards before a kneeldown.
On a windy day that should have hampered OU quarterback Blake Bell, KU's secondary wasn't its normal self. The Jayhawks had just two passes defensed (they average 6.7 per game) and also were burned repeatedly on third downs. Though OU averaged 6.8 yards to go on third downs, it converted seven of those 14 tries; the Jayhawks allowed third-down passing conversions on a third-and-12 (16 yards), third-and-6 (11 yards) and another third-and-6 (10 yards).
Though KU racked up the tackles-for-loss (nine), it overall didn't defend the run well, either. OU averaged a healthy 5.4 yards per rush and also had six 12-plus-yard runs on 44 carries.
Turnover luck helped Jayhawks
Honestly, it's tough from the box score above to see why this game was as close at it was.
Besides the aforementioned slow pace, KU's turnover luck also played the biggest role.
The Jayhawks had one interception while defending just two passes, which is a bit fortunate. Remember, about 21 percent of passes defended end up as interceptions.
On the flip side, OU's defense had five passes defended but no interceptions. Had one of those passes stuck, we're most likely talking about a blowout instead of a close game in the fourth quarter.
It's minor, but KU also recovered the only fumble of the game, which helped its cause as well.
Trevor Pardula doesn't save KU this time
The KU punter, who earned mid-season All-America recognition from Phil Steele earlier in the week, had by far his worst day while dealing with a steady wind and a flood of OU pressure.
Pardula's five punts netted just 27.8 yards; remember, this was the same player who netted 55.8 yards on five punts last month against LA Tech.
OU's punting wasn't any better (five punts, 25.8 yards), but on a day when OU clearly won the field-position battle (starting at its own 36 compared to KU starting at its own 30), the Jayhawks could have made up a lot of ground with an average game from Pardula. They didn't get it.
Can O-line keep it up?
The Jayhawks, who had no 12-plus-yard rushes last week against TCU and just two in Big 12 play coming in, had four in the first quarter and six overall against Oklahoma.
It was the most positive aspect of KU's game Saturday: The Jayhawks' offensive line showed flashes of knocking defenders off the ball after struggling with that virtually the entire season.
KU's linemen will have a chance to prove they can do it against Saturday against a shaky Baylor run defense
It'll sure help, though, if the Jayhawks can go forward — and not backwards — with their passing game.
Through five games, what are Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps' strengths as a passer?
With help from charting data, let's take a look.
After each game, I've made an attempt to chart every play of KU's football season, which has included direction of passes, pass yardage, formation and other tidbits that can't be found in the box score.
Let's start with this: Here's how well Heaps has thrown by direction of the field:
A few caveats before we get too deep into the numbers:
• There are about seven passing plays from the Rice game that I didn't get on tape — six incompletions and one two-yard completion. That's seven throws out of 149, so our data set isn't perfect, but it's still large enough to make general observations about Heaps and his throws.
• These are pass yards thrown by Heaps in the air ... not the total yardage gained on the play. For instance, if Tony Pierson caught a pass five yards down the field and ran it 72 more, the pass yards on the play is five yards.
• These numbers do not count passes Heaps threw that were incomplete/intercepted because of pass interference or illegal contact penalties, but they do include plays that happened that might have been called back for other reasons (like offensive holding). This increases the sample size we're drawing from.
• I took out all throws that I labeled as "throwaways" in my charting.
As a right-handed quarterback, Heaps has definitely favored throwing to the right side, as more than 42 percent of his charted throws went that direction.
It's also the side where KU has been the least successful in the passing game. Heaps' 4.5 yards per attempt on those throws is much lower than that on the other two sides.
Heaps' "hot spot" appears to be the middle, where he's thrown three of his touchdowns and averaged 9.4 yards per attempt. It helps that Tony Pierson's 77-yard receiving TD against Rice was a throw in that area, but Heaps' numbers still would be better in that section even without that play.
Let's look at Heaps' throws by distance now:
Heaps has been accurate behind the line of scrimmage (88 percent), but those plays have been the least successful in terms of yards per attempt. Long throws also have been risky for Heaps, as KU is averaging just 5.4 yards per attempt on those 24 throws with two interceptions.
Heaps' strong suit appears to be the intermediate routes, and especially those that require throws 10-19 yards downfield. In that area, Heaps has thrown three TDs in 22 attempts while averaging 8.1 yards per attempt.
Finally, let's see how Heaps throws by distance and direction:
This only confirms what we've talked about above. Heaps is throwing more frequently to the right in both short and intermediate passes, despite the fact that KU's yards-per-attempt are poor in those areas.
Heaps' best passing numbers are coming in the middle of the field, with his most success coming in the center of the tic-tac-toe. Notice also that three of his five passing TDs were in that area as well.
I wanted to give you a look at one last chart. This shows the distances Heaps passes have been going, then compares that to the 2012 NCAA averages for quarterbacks.
If you look at the far-right column, you can see KU's throwing habits with Heaps. For those saying KU should throw more deep balls ... the Jayhawks actually are above the NCAA average when throwing passes over 35 yards, and that's without much success.
Also, KU has thrown a high number of passes behind the line of scrimmage compared to the national average, and while the Jayhawks are completing an OK percentage, those plays haven't been particularly explosive (5.3 yards per attempt).
The sweet spot once again (in a small sample size) for Heaps has been passes between 15 and 19 yards, as KU is averaging 10.5 yards per pass attempt while completing an impressive 55 percent of those throws.
The conclusion from all the data above? Though Heaps has thrown the largest number of passes to the right this year, KU's had much more success when he's thrown in the center.
Heaps' best numbers have come on intermediate passes between the hashes, meaning that the Jayhawks might benefit if they gave Heaps more options in that area: a perfect spot for tight end Jimmay Mundine or KU's receivers on routes over the middle.
• Weis has been pleased with how things have gone on the defensive side of the ball after making changes on the staff to have Dave Campo overseeing the defense with Clint Bowen coordinating it. Weis has been happy with the special teams as well. The area where he’s been most disappointed has been on offense. Weis reflected on what he did with the defense in the offseason, and he said he realized he should be doing more of the same with the offense.
• From this point forward, KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus is running the passing game, tight ends coach Jeff Blasko is in charge of the run game and protections and Weis is going to oversee the offense. He’s going to get much more involved with coaching the skill positions, which he felt have been lacking. He’s been a position coach at all the offensive skill positions at the NFL level. Some of the areas KU is deficient at, Weis feels he can help with improvement. He’s not pushing assistants to the side; he’s just getting more involved with all the skill positions while letting Powlus and Blasko deal with the nuts and bolts of the offense.
• Sunday’s gameplan day was a refreshing day for Weis. There was a much greater exchange of offensive ideas than there has been since Weis arrived at KU. Weis says that might be because when the head coach is the offensive coordinator, sometimes guys can be stifled in making suggestions.
• Powlus has been in the coach’s box during games, and he’ll stay in the box. With this new distribution of labor, Weis will be more involved coaching the quarterback position at the end of series. Weis might miss a couple of KU's defensive plays talking to the quarterbacks. That’s the way he’s done business in the past, and that’s the way it’s going to be done now.
• This is a drastic change on offense, and it will be like this for the rest of the year.
• Powlus will still run quarterback meetings. When you have a veteran coach, a lot of times ideas are held in because the head coach or offensive coordinator already has a bunch of ideas on his own. Weis now lets his assistants put all their ideas up. He doesn’t say anything. Then, Weis went through play by play and asked the assistant coaches to explain why they thought a play would work and also had them show it on tape. Instead of Weis laying down the base for what KU is going to do, now the assistants’ ideas get to be the base for what KU does, and Weis can expand from that. This gives the assistants a lot more input.
• Weis believes the offense runs through the quarterback, and no one knows more about what the quarterback can and can’t do better than Powlus.
• Weis felt like he had to back off a little bit, or else the team was never going to get any better. It’s not easy for Weis to do it that way, but he sat back and said, ‘I was willing to switch like this on defense. Why am I not willing to do it myself?’ That’s not an easy thing to do. Weis is doing it because he thinks Kansas football needs it. He doesn’t care about his ego. He just wants to get better and win.
• Weis says the ideas were good. Some of them were shut down. It’s been a couple of long nights, because KU is not doing well enough on offense. You can sit there and blame the players all you want, but the bottom line is, the coaches’ job is to figure out how you make it better. This will give KU a better venue moving forward.
• Every week, Weis thinks about a lot of things after the game. He thinks about how he can make things better. A lot of the things KU said it wanted to do going into the game, it did. The Jayhawks didn’t have many mental errors after having a lot the week before. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough.
• Weis says there aren’t any potential pitfalls with this new setup. It’s more of an open exchange. Weis thinks it will be a better utilization of the coaches’ resources. Weis said he is going to position meetings now. There are different levels of hard coaching, and Weis’ is cranked up to full gear.
• Weis says it’s tough to gauge how KU is doing in player development because of the high number of junior-college guys the Jayhawks brought in this year. As KU transitions to being a primarily high-school-recruiting team supplemented by juco guys, it becomes a totally different environment. Weis says an example of development has been JaCorey Shepherd. There were times when he was terrible last year, and that’s because he was a wide receiver playing corner. Now, he’s a corner playing corner, and he’s playing well. Player development doesn’t happen as much with juco players, because they’re not at your school long.
• Weis said his offensive line didn’t necessarily grade out better against TCU after the position switches. Weis said the best thing to come out of Saturday’s game was that new center Gavin Howard solidified the interior of the line. Weis isn’t saying Howard played wonderfully, but you didn’t notice that position as much as in previous weeks.
• You have to play to the strength of your team, and right now, KU’s defense is its strength. Weis says the goal is to try to give your defense a long field with which to operate. With the exception of one play, Weis thought KU’s defense played pretty solid.
• The staff hasn’t come close to making a decision on a red shirt for quarterback Montell Cozart. Once you get past the halfway mark of a season, that’s when the conversation begins. To Weis, if a kid can be involved half the season, that might also make them more prepared for the next season. Weis said he wouldn’t put Cozart on the depth chart if he wasn’t a legitimate candidate to play this week.
• Weis is really high on Cozart. His arm strength is good enough. Sometimes people think he’s just an athletic quarterback, so teams will only run with him. He can throw it good enough, Weis says.
• Weis says he thinks too many times, coaches’ egos get in the way of what’s best for the program. You just have to sit every week and say, ‘What can we do better?’ This week, KU needed to make some changes with how it did business offensively.
• If the day-to-day guys on the depth chart (like linebacker Ben Heeney and receiver Tony Pierson) were going to be out an extended period of time, Weis wouldn’t have put them on the depth chart. If Weis knew they were going to play this week, he wouldn’t have them in parentheses. Pierson has passed his concussion test, but he still has headaches. He could potentially play this week, but Weis wouldn’t bet on that. Running back Taylor Cox and linebacker Samson Faifili aren’t on the depth chart, because they’re a long way from playing if they play at all the rest of this season.
• Weis said he will do absolutely anything to give KU a better chance of winning besides cheating. He's interested to see how the new change with KU's offensive coaching staff goes.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
After asking for requests on Twitter, it appears most Kansas football fans want to know what exactly is going on with the Jayhawks' struggling offense.
With that in mind, I decided to switch it up this week. Instead of Coach singling in on a single play, I had him take a look at every offensive play for KU from the first quarter of the Jayhawks' 27-17 loss to TCU on Saturday.
I asked him to take notes, then share with me any general observations he had based on the film.
The following are his takeaways (said in his words) from watching KU's offense in the first quarter:
• "One thing I noticed, TCU was stacking the box pretty good. They had a lot of guys within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. That means they think your passing game isn’t good enough to beat them. They’re going to force you to try to pass to beat them, but they don’t think you can. They’re not going to let you just line up and run it.
• "I thought KU had some nice play designs with motion to give some different looks. Even though they might run some similar-style plays, they were motioning to get into different looks and to try to help out with spacing.
"On the play above, you see how they motion the back out of the backfield? It widens a couple of these defenders down here. I think TCU basically starts out in a seven-man box. It gets the outside linebacker out of the box right here to the right of KU. It makes it a six-man box instead of a seven-man box, which is a little easier to run against.
"On this play, they motion the receiver all the way across the field. It makes the linebackers shift over. They could have run that motion to set up a play for later in the game. It looks like after they hand off to the fullback, they’re looking to see if they’ve got the pitch to Sims going out there to the left. Now they’ve motioned their other receiver over there for an extra blocker if they do come back to run that play later.
"On this one, they’re just motioning from a two-by-two (receiver) set to a three-by-one set, trying to probably get a different matchup, maybe get a slot receiver lined up on a safety or a linebacker. In this case, I think they end up getting him on a corner. Not necessarily the look they wanted, but they were trying to motion to get a matchup they wanted. I’m sure if (the QB) wouldn’t have been pressured, he would have had a little better chance to go to maybe one of these other receivers that was getting a better matchup.
• "I thought the quarterback was sloppy with the ball. He hit the running back on his hip that one time when he was running a play-action fake and put the ball on the ground.
• I also thought he was inaccurate with his throws. He threw it to the running back in the flats one time and didn’t give the running back an opportunity to run after the catch. He also threw one behind his receiver over the middle that could have resulted in a first down if he was more accurate.
• "I thought he forced the ball in there a couple times into coverage. TCU is obviously very good on defense, so they had a lot of tight coverage. Sometimes, you have to throw it to a guy who might be covered, and you expect your guy to go and make a play, but I thought he forced the ball a little bit too much.
• "One of the biggest things — and I put three or four checkmarks by it — (the Jayhawks) were getting beat up front. Period. If you’re not going to be able to block the down linemen, it’s going to be hard for you to win a football game. It all starts up front on both sides of the ball, and they were getting physically manhandled up front.
"On this play, you see No. 96 (red circle)? He just takes the offensive guard [Mike Smithburg] and shoves him back into the backfield there. The two D-tackles are just wearing out the guards right there, blowing them up all the way into the backfield. The tailback’s got no chance right there. He could be the best tailback in the world, and it’s going to be hard for you to get yards.
"I will say this: (Running back James Sims), he’s doing all he can. He’s running hard and going downhill and trying to find yards. I’ve got to commend him for his effort.
"On this play, there’s a party at the ball-carrier in the backfield. (Sims) does a good job for getting two or three yards here, carrying a defender for two or three yards. But there are three or four guys that are unblocked right there. I don’t think it's (bad O-line) communication at all. I think it’s guys missing their blocks. When it comes down to it, it’s a one-on-one game. It’s ‘I’ve got to go beat the guy across from me.’
"(TCU has) a four-man rush right here. They’re not blitzing anybody. KU’s got six guys in to protect, including the running back. So it’s six-on-four right here. If I was the (coach) … it’s just a little disappointing that we’ve got six guys into protect, they’re rushing four, and it’s a party in the backfield, essentially. The D-ends both get upfield. You’d like to think your quarterback could step up in the pocket, but then again, both D-tackles are getting great push back into the backfield as well. So the quarterback doesn’t have anywhere to step up and get rid of the football.
• "I also saw that TCU was blitzing a couple times, and KU didn’t check out of the play. A lot of times, if you see that blitz or you go on a double-cadence [bluffing the snap call, then backing off the snap to get a chance to change the play if needed], sometimes you can get out of the play and get into a play that might be better versus that blitz. Also, that’s tough sometimes if a team disguises their blitz, but the blitz jumped off the screen at me like that just watching the video one time, you think they’d be able to read it and figure out a better play to run.
"On this play, TCU brings those two linebackers right there up the middle; just a pretty standard ‘Bullets blitz' is what that’s called. They’re both blitzing the ‘B’ gap [space between guards and tackles on each side]. If you see those two guys coming, you know you’re probably going to have man-to-man out on the edge. You might think about checking out of this run play and getting in a pass play. They stick with it, and the one 'backer goes unblocked and makes a big play in the backfield.
"We’ve got certain checks that we give our guys: ‘If you see it, get out of it.’ Sometimes we’ll go on double-cadence to make sure we’re seeing exactly what they’re doing. That’s how we do it, but I know other guys do it a little bit differently. Sometimes with these blitzes, you’d want to get out of a play.
• "I also notice they ran a couple read-option plays with no real run threat. There’s a read-option, they weren’t blocking the defensive end, but the quarterback isn’t really a run threat. He just was basically giving the football to the tailback without one guy blocked on the edge and expecting him not to bend back in and make the play."
So what were Coach's overall thoughts after watching the film?
"You’ve got to give the other team credit, too. I know TCU has a good defense," Coach said. "They’ve got great players on their team. That’s obvious.
"But there’s things on this tape where a guy is getting physically whipped one-on-one. I’ve got to man up. I’ve got to step up to the plate and do my job. It’s 11 guys across the board doing their job. That’s why football’s the greatest game on earth: It takes all 11 guys for success to happen.
"It just looks like they’ve got a lot of improving to do, and if not improving, they’ve got to do a better job in recruiting as well to go find better players to match up with some of these better teams."
Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 27-17 loss to TCU.
Here are a few takeaways:
Buddy Bell could have been talking about KU's offense
After his team's 10th straight loss back in 2006, Kansas City Royals manager Buddy Bell famously uttered a quote that has come to define much of the last 25-plus years of Royals baseball: "I never say it can't get worse."
And that's about the point we're at with this KU offense.
In last week's blog, I marveled at the fact that KU's yards per possession against Texas Tech's defense were only half the NCAA average.
Turned out, it could be worse. This week, KU was at roughly one-third of the NCAA average for yards per possession, squeaking out just 11.6 yards each time it touched the ball.
Yes, KU's best playmaker Tony Pierson was out, but take a look at the Jayhawks' stats from the first five games. KU's offensive numbers are plummeting ... and in a hurry.
The ugly numbers against TCU didn't stop with what was posted above. KU gained just 4.0 yards per first down, but take out a 50-yard pass to receiver Andrew Turzilli, and KU's 24 first-down plays mustered 50 yards (2.1 yards). And remember, first down is the best play for the offense, as defenses have to respect the run and pass.
Quarterback Jake Heaps was inaccurate most of the day, completing just half of his passes and averaging a measly 3.9 yards per pass attempt.
There's also this: None of KU's 17 possessions lasted more than six plays. Seriously. KU's longest offensive possessions went six plays: one went for 10 yards and another for 12.
In his book, Bill Connelly discusses the term "six-and-outs," meaning those possessions that are six plays and shorter and end in a punt. Teams that had zero or one six-and-out in 2012 games won 76 percent of the time (77-25) and had an average winning margin of +14.7 points.
On the other end, there were only 48 instances a year ago where a team had nine or more six-and-outs. Those teams went 11-37 (23-percent win percentage) and had an average margin of -20.1 points.
KU had 10 (10!) six-and-outs against TCU on Saturday.
No matter what KU coach Charlie Weis tries to say about playing conservative or playing field position, know this: An offense that played as badly as KU's did Saturday has virtually no chance of winning, even if its defense and special teams do excel.
KU was good — and lucky — with turnovers
Connelly generally has found turnovers to be one part skill, two parts luck, and KU definitely had a bit of both in the TCU game.
KU's defense and special teams combined to force five turnovers, though you wouldn't necessarily have expected that based on the statistics.
After recovering just one of seven total fumbles a week ago against Texas Tech, KU's luck swung the other way against TCU, as the Jayhawks recovered four of five fumbles.
KU, which led the nation in passes defensed per game coming into this weekend, tied a season-low with just four passes defensed against TCU. That didn't stop the Jayhawks from getting two interceptions, which again appears to be a bit fortunate (21 percent of all passes defensed nationally end up as interceptions).
KU's offensive line shuffle didn't help the run game
Moving Gavin Howard to center, Pat Lewandowski to left tackle and Aslam Sterling to right tackle didn't provide any run-game improvement against TCU.
Though KU had 30 running plays, none of them went for more than 12 yards (to compare, TCU had five 12-plus-yard runs in 38 attempts). Eight of KU's 30 runs (27 percent) went for no gain or a loss and 19 of 30 (63.3 percent) went for three yards or fewer.
Maybe this switch will pay off down the road for KU, bit the reshuffling of the offense line certainly didn't provide any quick fixes against TCU.
KU continues to impress with its pass defense
This is easily the most positive development for KU this season. The Jayhawks have one of the top pass defenses in the Big 12, and though it didn't have its best game Saturday, it also didn't take a step back from its previously high level of play, either.
TCU managed just 6.2 yards per pass attempt (though that sounds OK, it's actually not great as far as passing numbers go), and that's even with a 75-yard reception from TCU's David Porter where KU's Dexter McDonald and Cassius Sendish converged but missed the tackle for what would have been a short gain.
All plays count obviously, but if you did take out that reception, TCU would have been under 100 passing yards in a game it had the ball 18 times. That's a pretty impressive showing by KU's pass defense, no matter the opponent or location.
KU's pass defense also created the two aforementioned interceptions (including a pick-six from JaCorey Shepherd) and was the main reason TCU averaged just 21.1 yards per possession.
With that kind of defensive effort, KU would have had a great chance of winning Saturday if it had an NCAA-average (or even slightly worse) offense.
KU even on field position ... but not because of the kicking game
The field position for the two teams was nearly even, as KU's average starting position was its own 31, while TCU's was its own 33.
Normally, special teams have a lot to do with this, but Saturday was an exception. KU punter Trevor Pardula did fine (10 punts, 38.7 net), but those numbers were nearly identical to TCU's (seven punts, 38.4-yard net). TCU held a slight advantage in kickoffs, meaning most of KU's positive field position was created by the defense.
KU's special teams did recover a muffed punt that helped the Jayhawks with field position, but other than that, KU's defense was the unit flipping the field with four other turnovers.
It's amazing when you look back at KU's scoring drives. One touchdown drive was a pick-six, the other TD drive was 27 yards and the field-goal drive was six yards. KU also received the ball another time on the TCU 34 before going back 11 yards and punting.
If instead of trying to run offense, Weis decided to put his field-goal team on the field right where the defense gave him the ball, KU would have had seven points from the pick-six, plus potential field-goal attempts from 42 yards, 51 yards and 51 yards.
So if KU decided to not play offense against TCU on Saturday, it most likely would have had 10 points instead of 17 and could even have gotten to 13 with a 2-for-3 day from kicker Matthew Wyman.
Like last week, the final score was misleading. Those who glanced quickly at the score might have thought KU's 17 points was an improvement for the offense when that certainly wasn't the case.
Zone-read still effective against KU's defense
In the Big 12, you'd rather have a good pass defense than a good run defense, but the Jayhawks still have improvement to be made when trying to defend a mobile quarterback.
TCU had plenty of success on the ground against KU's D, averaging 5.9 yards per carry once you take out the sack numbers. The Horned Frogs also busted five "explosive" runs of 12 yards or more; Texas Tech had just three 12-plus-yard runs on 42 attempts a week ago with a less-mobile QB.
The Jayhawks will be seeing more of this type of running game in future weeks, and while KU shut the zone-read down better in the second half against TCU, it's the one part of the game keeping KU's defense from becoming elite.