Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis made it clear at his weekly press conference the amount of respect he has for Texas — the Jayhawks’ (2-1) first Big 12 opponent of the 2014 season.
Weis had plenty of KU-related topics to discuss, though, too. The third-year coach touched on all three facets of the game while meeting with the media Tuesday afternoon.
• On upcoming 3 p.m. Saturday kickoff vs. Texas (1-2): “Obviously this is a big week for our program,” Weis said. KU has so many Texas natives, and it’s homecoming. “We’re gonna have to play really, really well to have a chance.”
• Weis knows former Longhorns coach Mack Brown well, but he won’t be reaching out for inside tips. “I had a couple of humorous texts with Mack this week on that subject,” the KU coach said. Weis wouldn’t make that call; he would gladly take Brown’s call. Weis wouldn’t want to put Brown on the spot.
• Junior RT Damon Martin has a couple of tests today regarding his health. Senior RG Mike Smithburg (appendectomy last week) will see the doctor tomorrow. Neither played on Saturday vs. CMU. KU could have neither/one/both this weekend. Weis doesn’t know yet. He would love to have at least one of them back.
• Redshirt-freshman O-lineman Joe Gibson has been sick and hasn’t practiced in a couple of weeks. So true freshman Jacob Bragg is listed at No. 2 at center this week. But if Weis had to have someone go in for starting center Keyon Haughton, he’d probably go with Bryan Peters. Peters is a “jack of all trades.”
• This week, there will be a much different look from the opposing defense when QB Montell Cozart drops back to survey the field. Those easy throws, there won’t be as many of them as there were last week. Weis feels as if KU has some good answers for that problem, though.
• Teaching pocket presence is something that can happen. A lot of things with a QB have to come naturally. Over time, Weis anticipates Cozart will become much better in the pocket. Cozart takes his first step backward when pressure comes, and that’s because he is trying to get outside and use his speed.
• KU has to work on Cozart’s execution with the option, too. They will be spending more time on that. “There are a lot of things that are new.” Weis thinks Cozart is perfectly capable.
• Senior nose guard Tedarian Johnson graded out as one of the best players against Central Michigan. Weis thought it was the best game Johnson has played at KU.
• There were fewer issues between Cozart and center Haughton this week on snap exchanges, but there are still things to correct. Obviously, there was a false start called on “everyone but the center” against CMU.
• Junior weak-side linebacker Jake Love has great instincts, which showed up when he got a clean look on a blitz vs. CMU, sniffed out the play and got to the screen pass for a loss. “If you smell a rat, it’s a rat,” Weis said the coaches like to say.
• KU won’t back off on the physical practice approach that the team used last week. It’s never going backward. It’s only going forward. KU doesn’t have a really deep roster, so there is a chance guys can get banged up when you hit hard in practices. But if they don’t go hard Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they won’t be ready on Saturdays.
• Junior receiver Tre’ Parmalee had probably the best preseason camp of anyone on the team and then banged up his elbow. Now he’s back and ready to go, so he is on the depth chart. Those freshmen receivers aren’t even in the same breath as junior receiver Parmalee right now.
• Texas, after scouting KU’s first two games, probably feels pretty good about rolling into Lawrence for the start of Big 12 play. … Weis expects a close game around halftime, and then the perspective might change.
• KU’s defense, other than the big plays in the Duke game, has looked good. Kansas can’t give up big plays, though. Or have situations where a team rallies like SEMO did in the fourth quarter. The Jayhawks, defensively, weren’t perfect vs. CMU, but they ended up only allowing 10 points. KU will have a problem if it gets in a game where the scoring is in the 40s.
• Texas has a lot of good, physical players, so facing CMU and its old style the week before could set up well for Kansas.
• With this being homecoming, KU will have some former players coming in and they will be on the sideline. A couple of NFL players have bye weeks. … Until the game’s over, it’s all business.
• Weis was pleased with the crowd vs. CMU. Would he like 15,000 more? Sure. But the crowd came despite threat of bad weather and supported a team that had struggled the week before. … There is a great forecast for Saturday and the game will be over by 6:30, so Weis is hoping for an even better showing.
• On KU’s kicking situation … Sophomore Matthew Wyman is capable of hitting more than 50 percent (4 of 8 this season). If Weis thought freshman kicker John Duvic was capable of outperforming Wyman, Weis would make the change. … There are only a handful of guys that pan out to be front-line kickers. … This past week, the kick Wyman missed (from 35 yards), he had no excuse, and that’s no big secret.
• Junior WR Rodriguez Coleman isn’t on the depth chart. So don’t expect to see him play. … Nigel King gives KU the best chance to win, and King is backing up both Tony Pierson and Justin McCay. King is a tough guy, just like McCay.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Weis talks Texas, a 'team in transition'
— Also, hear from KU coordinators Clint Bowen and John Reagan: Bowen and Reagan on the challenges of preparing for Texas
In the nearly three days that have passed since Kansas University’s football team suffered its first embarrassment of the season, in a 41-3 loss at Duke, coach Charlie Weis and his staff have had plenty of time to identify the numerous breakdowns that led to the drubbing.
Tuesday afternoon at his weekly press conference, Weis addressed the array of issues and provided some insight on how KU (1-1) can go about putting a better product on the field Saturday against Central Michigan (2-1) at Memorial Stadium.
• CMU has an “old school football” approach on offense, with multiple running backs and tight ends who will try to pound you.
• It is likely Central Michigan again (like Saturday at Syracuse) will be without running back Thomoas Rawls, who has been suspended.
• Psyche aside, KU is healthy and ready to go for its final non-conference game of the season. The Jayhawks have a few sick players, but nothing big.
• On sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart’s accuracy: There are two or three things they will work on. Weis doesn’t want to say what those solutions are… Cozart had a full plate during Sunday meeting with Weis, offensive coordinator John Reagan and QB coach Ron Powlus. “I think it was a bad day at the office,” Weis said of the 38-point loss at Duke. By the time he left Sunday, Cozart was feeling a lot better. He got to look at the issues and some simple answers.
• The first half of Sunday, the coaches “hammered” the players regarding the Duke performance. The second half of those talks was about moving on. Weis met with the captains — Ben Heeney, Cassius Sendish and Nick Harwell — and they all talked about what was on their minds.
• Senior buck Victor Simmons and senior WR Justin McCay had “really good” games. So did jr. DT T.J. Semke. And of course senior MLB Heeney. Coaches recognized the guys who did play well. … You can’t ignore the things that didn’t go well, though.
• Central Michigan had a bad day at the office against Syracuse (40-3 loss), as well. But they looked great against Purdue (38-17 win). So the Jayhawks have seen CMU video from that good day.
• On KU’s offensive line: The guards are the “Steady Eddie” on the team. Senior LT Pat Lewandowski will get a smaller cast on today, which should help him. Coaches have worked Larry Mayzck at both left and right tackle. They need him ready to play on either side.
• Weis expects Cozart to play very well this week. There is no short leash, so to speak. All Weis knows is whoever gives KU the best chance to win is going to be in there at QB, and right now Cozart is that guy.
• KU would obviously like to give Cozart more time on passing plays. When that doesn’t happen, the other skill players become less significant, too. Grading receivers and tight ends, Weis would give them an incomplete vs. Duke. They didn’t have many opportunities. Those breakdowns are on everyone.
• KU’s efficiency in the passing game has been poor, and that is magnified on third down. KU needs a more effective passing game on every down.
• Sophomore kicker Matthew Wyman welcomed the chance to try and kick a 56-yard field goal. He told Weis he would just have to take a little more time with it than normal and fire it low. The long attempt got blocked to end the first half.
• Weis has changed a lot of things on special teams. One of those adjustments is moving Harwell to the top of the punt-returners list.
• Duke had four “big runs.” Two of them, KU had a guy for every gap. Guys were in position to make a play and the Jayhawks didn’t touch him. On one play, a player was unblocked and just froze and didn’t get to the ball carrier. On another one, things were clogged in the middle and the run got bounced outside. None of those situations are acceptable. The one that got bounced out is the most excusable of the huge Duke run plays.
• When senior “buck” Michael Reynolds was rushing the passer he looked good. When he wasn’t, he didn’t look good. … There are not many guys Weis is going to say played well at Duke.
• Simmons played “all out” the entire game and didn’t make any mistakes while making a few plays. He is a guy who was in the right spots.
• Weis thought the running backs ran tough and looked good, too. … But if you can’t throw and score points, you’re not going to win.
• KU has only played two games. Weis isn’t ready to say the passing game this year is on the same low level as it has been the past few years.
• Cozart shut down Harwell in the passing game. Duke didn’t shut down Harwell.
• Tuesday will be a physical practice, and John Reagan and Clint Bowen will be right in the middle of it. Reagan will be “all over them” at practice. It will be the type of practice Weis really looks forward to. … Weis is glad there are lights on the field. Because the QB and junior center Keyon Haughton are going to work on some things once it ends.
• Some Jayhawks handle negative plays in the wrong way. They harp on the past instead of playing the next play. That has been a big point of emphasis the last two days: Let it go.
• Twice at Duke, senior WR Tony Pierson couldn’t have got any more open. Cozart rolled out and didn’t drop it off to Pierson, though. Those misses have to be addressed and fixed. Opportunities were there for both Pierson and Harwell.
• Everybody knows this is a critical game vs. Central Michigan, because it is the last non-conference game. It sets the table, either way for what comes in the following weeks. The Big 12 is a tough league. The Jayhawks need to go out and play really well against a physical team.
• These past few days have been tough. The head coach can’t worry about how that impacts him personally. Weis said he has to focus on helping everybody around him recover. … The coaches had to beat them down and build them up all on the same day following the Duke loss.
• On the opening snap at Duke, Cozart didn’t handle the ball because Haughton sent a “speed ball” his way. Those are the types of things that need to be fixed. Other times, timing was an issue. … Both Cozart and Haughton want to be good and fix the problems.
• A lot of guys played their first road game. But there wasn’t anything to be intimidated about. Duke was a nice, solid team playing in front of a small crowd by major college football standards. Still, for a few freshman playing their first road game, it was a little bit much for them. RB Corey Avery didn’t have that issue.
• Harwell is the leader of KU’s offense. He may have had big games against CMU in the past, but those are in the past.
— Listen to everything Weis had to say at the presser: Weis gets into KU's offensive woes
— Hear from KU coordinators Clint Bowen and John Reagan: Bowen and Reagan on fixing KU's flaws
Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis wasn’t feeling too sour Tuesday at his weekly press conference, despite the Jayhawks’ disappointing finish to their season opener against Southeast Missouri State.
The third-year coach, like his players no doubt, instead seemed excited about the opportunity KU (1-0) has to play at Duke (2-0), in Durham, North Carolina, this Saturday afternoon.
Here are some of the highlights from Weis’s Q&A with the media:
• Duke senior wide receiver Jamison Crowder might be as good a wideout as KU faces this season. And senior right guard Laken Tomlinson “looks like a man on tape.”
• Duke athletic director Kevin White hired Weis at Notre Dame. “He taught me a lot about college football and he taught me patience,” Weis said.
• The Blue Devils’ defense is similar to what KU sees in the Big 12 — 4-3 base and bend, but don’t break mentality.
• Duke safety and kickoff returner DeVon Edwards is a “pain in the butt,” as a return weapon. Same goes for Crowder on punt returns.
• Weis and the KU coaches will be in corner Dexter McDonald’s ear all week about the challenge ahead in defending Duke’s receivers. Edwards is very good, but so is the guy that usually lines up opposite of him, senior Issac Blakeney. “You have to respect both of them,” Weis said.
• KU has spent time looking at this matchup with Duke and the Jayhawks have seen how both they and their opponent play. The Jayhawks have visual evidence they can win. But they can’t just show up for a quarter like they did vs. SEMO. KU’s players should go down there to N.C. with the anticipation of winning the game.
• There was an obvious difference against SEMO in the first and second halves for KU. The theme since has been finishing. Finish doesn’t have to only mean finish the game, it can be finishing plays, too. “Really close isn’t good enough,” Weis said. KU will have to play significantly better this weekend.
• There were no signs of jitters in the opener for sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. He played with confidence and handled the operation well. There were times when he could’ve made bigger plays and he’ll have to take advantage of his athleticism going forward. .. Cozart can throw the ball downfield. Weis has seen it in practice. KU has to put him in position to do that in a game. … He threw 3 TDs and 0 interceptions in the opener. That is big.
• It looks like strength vs. strength this weekend for KU at Duke. You could talk about almost every position but the most obvious one is KU’s defensive backs against Duke’s wide receivers. “All those DBs are gonna get tested,” Weis said. Duke won’t shy away from Dexter McDonald just because he had 2 interceptions vs. SEMO.
• Weis and the staff showed KU players a bad-play tape and a good-play tape after the SEMO game. “You want to know why you didn’t win by 50?,” they were able to say while viewing the lowlights. Then coaches showed them the evidence of all the good things. … People don’t understand how big Sundays are psychologically for the players. … When they left the facility on Sunday Weis was content with how the players handled Week 1.
• On KU’s offensive line … Two running backs no one had ever heard of led Kansas to 200-plus yards, so that’s a positive. The O-line didn’t grade out quite as well with the passing plays.
• The defensive line was pretty disappointed they didn’t bring SEMO's QB to the ground more often. KU’s bucks were in position a bunch of times. KU will have to get pressure with four guys — that’s a point of emphasis. Kansas has to at least disrupt the passer. The D-line was sound in other facets. … Defense was pretty dominant until the fourth quarter.
• Junior backup quarterback Michael Cummings will be utilized more in the future. The intent was to use him more vs. SEMO but the game didn’t play out like that. KU didn’t get to look as much at its depth as the coaches had hoped.
• Getting out to a big lead was new to KU’s players. Good teams end up laying the wood to opponents when they jump out early. It was easy to teach off of that after the SEMO game because the evidence was on video.
• The fourth quarter didn’t do anything to the psyche of KU’s secondary. The coaches will have some fun with them the next few days, give them a hard time about how SEMO played in the fourth quarter.
• On coaching at a basketball school … Duke football coach David Cutcliffe has Coach K and Weis has Bill Self. “Does it get any better than that?” Weis hopes KU wins every game all season and he uses that program’s success as something to shoot for. Weis totally plays into the success of the basketball program as a way to build the football program. … Weis wants to make sure Kansas football is winning more than it is losing before he leaves.
• Cutcliffe wasn’t “lighting the world on fire” the first few years at Duke, but he recruited, stuck with the plan and in his sixth year they won 10 games.That’s what happens when you walk into a program that hasn’t won recently.
• Players don’t need to comment on their focus or lack thereof following games, nor do they need to comment on the crowd. Players need to comment on their play. Weis isn’t big on making excuses.
• The KU coaches don’t encourage Cozart to take off and run, but there will be more times coming soon when you will see him run instead of pass in those situations.
• Because Weis wasn’t involved in play-calling he got to see the whole game. He didn’t have to worry about straightening out specific offensive problems while other things were transpiring. That allowed him to get a better feel for everything that was going on.
• Junior college transfer Damani Mosby, a “buck,” isn’t necessarily a redshirt candidate.
• KU would like to go ahead and get that road win out of the way early in the year. That’s one less thing for the players to worry about. The season doesn’t end with a win or a loss, but beating Duke would be a big win for the Jayhawks.
— Hear the complete press conference: Weis: Jayhawks capable of winning at Duke
— Listen to the coordinators' perspective: Bowen and Reagan evaluate KU's season-opening performance
Kansas University coach Charlie Weis hadn’t talked football in person with the media for a couple of weeks. So Tuesday’s press conference, leading up to the Jayhawks’ season-opener Saturday against Southeast Missouri State, had plenty of nuggets.
• Weis didn’t speak at length about it, but the biggest news to come out of the presser had to be the departure of junior defensive back Kevin Short. Listed as the second-string right corner on KU’s first preseason depth chart in early August, Weis said personal issues led to Short’s departure. He went out of his way to make it clear academics weren’t the issue. What’s more, Weis said there is a possibility Short, from Florissant, Missouri, could be back in January. And KU has known about the issue for a while: “This isn’t something that just hit yesterday.”
• Junior receiver Nigel King, a non-recruited player, is on scholarship and falls under the category of blue-shirting. He has two years to play two years. KU had room for him on its roster and he will be counted on next year’s recruiting class. He graduated from Maryland and is in graduate school at KU.
• Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart has to be the most improved player from last season for KU to win more football games. Cozart now is confident, bordering on cocky. Weis said “that’s a good place to be,” and he didn’t see that last year from the QB as a true freshman.
• Defensively, there are so many players back. The secondary is rock solid. One player who could be a surprise is starting nickel Tevin Shaw, a sophomore. “We had to find a way to get him on the field,” Weis said.
• The battle for starting center “wasn’t close.” Weis said junior Keyon Haughton was clearly ahead of red-shirt freshman Joe Gibson, who has a lot of upside.
• After beginning preseason camp as a tight end, sophomore Jordan Shelley-Smith now sits at No. 2 on the depth chart at right tackle. “He’s eaten like a man possessed,” Weis said. “I’ve done that before.”
• Running backs De’Andre Mann and Corey Avery are co-No. 1s on the depth chart. A freshman, Avery is the better athlete. Mann, a junior, is the better football player. Mann’s body is ready to take Big 12 hits. “He’s just a rocked-up dude,” Weis said, adding he is confident in both players. “I’ll be surprised if they don’t play well.”
• Size isn’t relevant when it comes to pass-blocking as a running back. It’s about fundamentals, techniques, getting your hands on people and not getting beat around the edge. And that might be a moot point when No. 2 left tackle Larry Mayzck is in the game, he is so big.
• Freshman Joe Dineen, who recently moved to running back form safety, is ready to play. Dineen is technically No. 2 on the depth chart, because Mann and Avery are 1 and 1A. Dineen is clearly the next guy, and he’s ready.
• King will line up on the right side and the left side at receiver. He’s very close to bumping somebody who is ahead of him on the depth chart — he’s currently listed behind senior Tony Pierson.
• Senior tight end Jimmay Mundine only missed about a week and a half of preseason camp due to injury. KU’s coaches don’t have to overload him with reps too early because of that. … After Mundine on the TE depth chart, everybody brings something different. Red-shirt freshman Ben Johnson (No. 2) is more athletic. Senior Trent Smiley is stronger.
• Freshman Junior Visinia (6-foot-4, 360 pounds) opens the season as the No. 2 right guard. He’s a huge human being. Offensive line coach John Reagan is really high on him.
• KU has a lot of true freshmen on its Week 1 depth chart. Matthew Boateng (No. 2 right corner) has played great in camp. For a while, KU had him as a starting nickel. Everyone knew about linebacker Kyron Watson (No. 2 MLB) and Avery (No. 1 RB), but people might be surprised by Visinia and Boateng. Receivers Derrick Neal and Bobby Hartzog will both get on the field, too. “They don’t play like freshmen.” They will take care of some of KU’s return duties. Weis said any player on the depth chart will play in the opener.
• Starting right tackle Damon Martin got better throughout the spring, and preseason camp. Now he’s clearly the best RT on the O-line. Starting left guard Ngalu Fusimalohi, No. 1 right guard Mike Smithburg and Martin were the three best players on the unit “the whole way.”
• Last year, now No. 1 LT Pat Lewandowski didn’t have anywhere near the confidence he does now. He is the clear verbal leader of the O-line. KU didn’t get that at all from him last year. It’s not by chance that teammates put him on the leadership committee.
• Cozart has some experienced receivers to work with now, but his success starts with Reagan and quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus. … Harwell gets open and has the trust of his QB. KU hasn’t had that before either.
• On the defensive line … KU feels like it has seven or eight guys they can rotate in.
• Like any coach, Weis has some areas of concern, but there were so many issues in his two previous seasons. Now they’re worrying about fewer things. There are still restless nights, just less of them. Last year this time, Weis wondered if the passing game even had a chance. … The QB position has been the biggest nightmare over the past few years, regarding what to expect out of the position.
• If KU’s offense can score enough points, the Jayhawks will have a chance to win a whole lot of games, because the defense is salty.
• Cozart not only has the most athleticism of KU’s quarterbacks, he also has the most accuracy. The offense fits No. 2 QB Michael Cummings very well, too. The junior still has a cannon for an arm.
— Listen to everything Weis had to say at the press conference: Charlie Weis on Kevin Short's departure, KU's opener
— And hear from John Reagan and Clint Bowen, who also met with the media: Coordinators talk KU's development heading into opener
By the time Week 1 of the 2014 college football season wraps up Monday night, 85 games featuring FBS teams will be in the books.
Kansas University, of course, won’t be playing in any of those.
The Jayhawks are idle this week, which means we’ll have to wait another seven days to get a look at them, and find out just what they might be capable of on the field.
Charlie Weis and his staff have spent the past two weeks, since KU’s last open practice and Fan Appreciation Day, hunkered down, preparing for the Sept. 6 opener against Southeast Missouri State — and beyond. The Jayhawks have only emerged (to the media at least) to announce seniors Ben Heeney, Nick Harwell and Cassius Sendish as team captains and rally the downtrodden KU football fan base.
Because we won’t get to see this Kansas football team today, here are five things we would’ve liked to learn if the Jayhawks actually began their season Labor Day weekend.
1. Who has emerged as KU’s primary running back?
Since the news of season-ending injuries to both Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox, it became clear either juco newcomer De’Andre Mann or true freshman Corey Avery would have the role thrusted upon them.
But we don’t yet know which of the two is more explosive, a better pass-blocker, more instinctive and so on. Perhaps KU will choose to split carries evenly between Mann and Avery. Maybe they sprinkle in true freshman Joe Dineen, who recently converted from playing safety.
It seems KU has some options, despite the potentially devastating injuries.
2. Does Reagan have five guys he trusts on the offensive line?
The first depth chart of the preseason listed KU’s first-string O-line as: senior LT Pat Lewandowski, senior LG Ngalu Fusimalohi, junior C Keyon Haughton, senior RG Mike Smithburg and junior RT Damon Martin.
Their backups, as of Aug. 7, were junior LT Larry Mayzck, junior LG Bryan Peters, red-shirt freshman C Joe Gibson, sophomore RG Brain Beckmann and junior RT Devon Williams.
Since then, sophomore tight end Jordan Shelley-Smith also moved to tackle.
A lot can change in three weeks, especially with a unit that could be the biggest mystery on the team. Don't be surprised if the depth chart looks a little different when KU releases it. Weis made it known a couple weeks ago it might take the entire preseason practice schedule to determine a starting five. Smithburg said in an interview the O-linemen might not know who will start until game day.
Offensive coordinator and O-line coach John Reagan has a reputation for getting the most out of the big guys. It will be interesting to see which five he can rely on for the opener. And how much the go-to five changes in the weeks to come.
3. Can the defensive line catch up with the linebackers and defensive backs?
Between Captain Heeney at linebacker and a skilled secondary featuring senior corners Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd, senior free safety Cassius Sendish and junior strong safety Isaiah Johnson (the Big 12’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2013), KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen has plenty of experience behind the defensive line.
But what about those guys in the trenches? Will senior nose tackle Keon Stowers, junior tackle Andrew Bolton and junior end Ben Goodman cause enough havoc to disrupt offensive plays before they get started? How big of an impact will senior “buck” Michael Reynolds make as an edge rusher?
If the defensive line isn’t big enough to bust through opposing lines, it will have to be fast enough to go around them. KU’s linebackers and secondary will be far more effective with a consistent push at the point of attack.
4. Is Cozart becoming an accurate passer?
Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman in 2013, quarterback Montell Cozart completed 23 of his 63 passes, threw two interceptions and overthrew targets regularly. His next touchdown pass will be his first in a KU uniform.
Weis and Reagan like the sophomore starter’s mobility, because that will allow him to keep more plays alive for KU this fall. But for Kansas to actually turn out offensive production, Cozart needs to connect with senior receivers Nick Harwell, Tony Pierson and Justin McCay, as well as junior Nigel King and senior tight end Jimmay Mundine.
Plays are bound to break down. When they do, it will be up to Cozart to make something happen, and he can’t just rely on his quick feet. Busted plays need to turn into down-the-field gains for KU to put more points on the scoreboard.
5. What will Reagan’s playbook look like?
KU’s offense should look a lot different than it did when Weis was in charge.
Goodbye, pro-style and complex verbiage. Hello, spread and simplicity. Those are the words out of the mouths of KU’s offensive players since Reagan’s arrival.
The Jayhawks figure to have a dual-threat QB in Cozart. Will Reagan prefer to use the 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore as a pass-first weapon? Or will Cozart end up carrying the ball on designed runs just as much as a running back?
Who will most passing plays be designed to free up? Harwell? Pierson? Mundine? Are Mann and Avery able to contribute with receptions of their own?
How much passing will KU even attempt? Just because it’s a spread offense doesn’t mean it can’t rely on the running game. Would Reagan prefer to run the ball 60 percent of the time, with Cozart and Pierson supplementing the Mann and Avery’s workload.
So many questions. And another week of waiting before we start discovering some answers.
In a break between two-a-days Wednesday at the Kansas University football facilities, coach Charlie Weis spoke with the media to field questions and provide some updates on the Jayhawks' progress through six preseason practices.
Position battles, injuries, new uniforms and much more were addressed by the third-year KU coach.
• Weis had no update on freshman linebacker Josh Ehambe, who is waiting for NCAA clearance. Junior "buck" Damani Mosby is waiting to get his associate's degree — they are waiting for one of his professors to grade his assignments.
• Senior tight end Jimmay Mundine had a minor procedure done on a knee that was locking up some. "It went really well. He'll miss about another week and a half," Weis said.
• Junior "buck" Anthony Olobia injured a knee during kickoff coverage practice on Tuesday. Weis said it didn't look great, and he'll be out "indefinitely or longer." Olobia was scheduled to get an MRI on Wednesday afternoon.
• Looking at the defense, it's flying around at practice. The least experienced position is the D-line and they look good, too. Weis loves the team's speed. … But KU, like everyone else, is a couple injuries away from having some serious problems.
• On offense, KU is getting closer to settling down on the offensive line. Coaches will mix and match positions up through Saturday. … Trial and error will end this week, then on to the next phase of preseason practices.
• Kickers Matthew Wyman and John Duvic have been kicking the ball very consistently but they haven't kicked in front of a crowd yet.
• Weis would be surprised if freshmen Corey Avery (running back) or Kyron Watson (linebacker) didn't play this year, as early as the first game. They're both instinctual. Avery has been the most exciting guy on offense. Watson is learning behind senior Ben Heeney and a couple of other guys. He'll be pushing the veterans. He has leadership that is a little suppressed because he is a freshman…. Leaders and best players aren't always the same guys in the college game. Senior safety Cassius Sendish is the most natural leader on the team.
• Both senior JaCorey Shepherd and junior Kevin Short have got tons of reps at practices at right cornerback. And Short has got reps on the left side, too. Short is reaping with the first string as much as the second string. KU could use one of them at nickel, but they first want to make sure they have cover corners first.
• Avery makes people miss. Anyone can run plays. They're practicing with full pads now and that's still happening. "I'm not ready to put him in Canton," Weis said, but added he is very excited about the freshman running back from Dallas.
• The battle for center will settle down after this weekend. If you don't look at it now, you don't have time to evaluate. Plus, camp speed is much faster now than it was in the spring. Coaches will go through, position by position, looking at the offensive line after Sunday's practice. On the depth chart, junior Keyon Haughton is listed ahead of red-shirt freshman Joe Gibson.
• Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart gets better every day. If you start to have highs and lows, that's what you get concerned about. The 19-year-old QB has "that it factor." When Cozart is done at KU, he could look like a model player for the program.
• Junior receiver Nigel King, who transferred from Maryland, has pleased Weis with his physical play and ability to catch the ball, but he also takes diligent notes and asks a lot of questions. He has the signs of a polished guy. King is playing himself up the depth chart.
• Asked about how much Cozart's youth made the true freshman nervous in 2013, Weis suggested maybe KU should've worn brown pants the last couple of games. Cozart wasn't ready as an 18-year-old QB in the Big 12… You don't see him running out of bounds now like he did last season. Things are moving in the right direction.
• KU has potential front-line kickoff and punt returners. Weis would like to use the best guys as returners. With punt returners, there is usually a party in your face when you end up catching it… The guys on the depth chart are the ones who are going to do it — Shepherd, senior receiver Nick Harwell, Short and junior receiver Tre' Parmalee.
• Junior DeAndre Mann is challenging for the No. 1 spot at RB. Seniors Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox have their work cut out for them. It's a battle.
• On the new Crimson Chrome uniforms: The players love them and most of the fans will probably like them. But Weis is all business and really doesn't care. If it helps the players psychologically, they could wear them every game as far as he is concerned. … At the Corinth Square pep rally next week, the fans will get to pick which uniforms Kansas will wear for a game. Weis will have no say in the matter. … KU wore the gray ones in win over West Virginia. Weis would've been fine with them wearing those every week.
• Guys who showed up in the spring from the juice ranks… sophomore free safety Fish Smithson is close to being a starter. Junior left corner Ronnie Davis has much quicker feet than when he arrived, which makes him a better corner. KU could have them in and not miss a beat. … Sophomore strong safety Tevin Shaw might have improved more than anyone. He plays with a vicious style.
• Senior Tony Pierson's head feels great. And since he moved to the WR position he has become a receiver. At first he was a chicken running around with his head cut off. KU puts him in at RB a few times, but in reality he is a receiver.
• John Reagan is the voice of the offensive line. He'll coach and coordinator the offense from the sideline because of that... Tight ends coach Jeff Blasko and receivers coach Eric Kiesau have good eyes for watching from upstairs. They were talking the other day about which coach to have watching it play out from up top.
• Weis feels good about losing weight. He told both his family and the team he was going to do that. He wants to lose 100 pounds by the time he gets done. "I was a mess. I'm less of a mess now," the coach said. He doesn't want pats on the back. Weis told the players what he was going to do in the offseason and challenged them to make changes, too. A lot of players stepped up to address their biggest weaknesses.
• Junior defensive tackle Andrew Bolton is a big, physical guy, who is still learning a little bit and thinking more than he needs to at times. He'll be ready by the time the season opens in September.
• Inside the KU football facileties, the sky isn't falling. The team is getting ready to go and the only way the Jayhawks will change anyone's mind is on the field.
— Listen to the complete Q & A session: Charlie Weis on preseason position battles, playing freshmen and more
Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis wasn't the only member of the staff to address the media Thursday morning, marking the start of fall camp.
New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who assisted at KU from 2005 to 2009 and spent four seasons at Rice (three as O-coordinator) was joined by defensive coordinator Clint Bowen for a brief press conference, too.
Below are some of the topics the pair of coordinators discussed the day before the first practice of the 2014 season.
• Reagan is excited to see new WR Nigel King (just announced today as a transfer from Maryland) and find out what he can bring to KU's offense at camp. King hasn't been here for the spring and summer. But he isn't new to college football. He won't have the adjustment issues that others do.
• Adding speed to KU's roster has been important for Weis and is critical to KU's potential going forward. "It's kind of like money: you never think you have enough. You end up wanting more."
• Looking across the country, regardless of the system, it is important to have a QB who can keep plays alive with his feet. With where KU is at as an offense, it is probably even more important, and sophomore QB Montell Cozart fits that mold.
• As an offensive coach, you're trying to find the player in conflict on defense, and hopefully you'll have the matchups you need to be productive. You have a philosophy and that is what you do.
• Pace of play is different for every team. Some teams are trying to run as many plays as possible. That probably won't be the case for KU. Doing that might lead to fights between Reagan and D-coordinator Bowen.
• KU's receivers are better than Reagan thought when he first got to Lawrence, from Rice. He is excited about that. They will have to help the guy who is throwing the ball and they are capable of that, too.
• New summer time availability for players helps the coaches teach. … Reagan hopes it helped Cozart tremendously.
• Weis has allowed Reagan to do what he needs to do. The head coach, after giving up coordinating duties, simply sits back and asks philosophical questions. It has been exactly what Reagan hoped it would be.
• Reagan ran versions of the spread even back in 2005 and '06… Some of the adaptations that are made come week to week. Major ones come in the offseason.
• Looking at an offense, if you have a QB that is good enough to play, you better have a scheme to fit him. But nothing affects the value and explosiveness of an offense quite like the QB and the O-line.
• Reagan isn't Cozart's position coach, but he can tell the sophomore has key attributes — studies the game and is a very personable guy. They both have a good feel for each other. They'll learn more about Cozart's ability in game-week preparation this fall.
• There has to be spoken and unspoken communication on the O-line if it's all going to fit right. The '07 KU line had that. They made mistakes but they had something special about them. … KU has a guy in Ryan Cantrell (assistant direct of operations and former KU center) who can tell the current players how that worked.
• "I'm extra-concerned about a lot of positions right now," Reagan said, when asked about his concern at center. (KU opens camp with junior Keyon Haughton at the top of the depth chart and red-shirt freshman Joe Gibson listed second.) The center position is key, but there can be four other guys on the O-line who can help with communication.
• Last year, the Jayhawks gained a lot of experience at a lot of positions on defense. On the D-line, some of the new faces like junior Andrew Bolton and junior T.J. Semke are definitely in the mix. They hope to have a solid six guys to rotate in on the line.
• As a defensive coach, you always start with the opposing QB when formulating a game plan. The opposing QB's skill set dictates how the KU defense prepares.
• Spread offenses put defenses in binds. The good spread teams mix it up and don't just throw the ball. Offensive coaches in football today are doing a great job with that. It has taken schematics to a higher level. It is all about putting defenses in conflict in open space.
• Bowen doesn't think fast-paced offenses and not having the ability to substitute leads to injuries necessarily. It just takes time in your preparation — that's the primary concern.
• Junior cornerback Kevin Short has "a very high" upside. He has a lot to learn. But he is a long, rangy DB (6-foot-2, 190 pounds). He can run and has good instincts. They are very excited about what Short could develop into.
• There are some guys in the secondary with the talent to play in the NFL. They all physically have that body type and have the ability to step up.
• After switching things up last year defensively, the staff just works together for what's best for the players and the programs.
• First-string senior "buck" Michael Reynolds is a proven pass-rusher. There are candidates for a second guy. Reynolds could have a special season. Senior "buck" Victor Simmons has come a long way at a new position for him. WIthin the scheme, KU's coaches will plug in guys who can rush — the Jayhawks especially need two coming off the edge to change third down.
— Hear the full press conference audio: Bowen and Reagan discuss KU football team's potential
With the first day of Kansas University football practice a day away, head coach Charlie Weis opened up fall camp Thursday morning by speaking with the media.
Entering his third season at KU, Weis hit on the program's progress, key players, a late addition to the roster and much more.
Here are some of the highlights:
• The new NCAA rules that allow two hours of football work a week during the summer were invaluable. The only guys that are behind for KU are the ones who are walking in the past couple of days. The Jayhawks spent six hours a week this summer on strength and conditioning. The other two of the allotted hours went toward football meetings. The KU coach's vacations got cut short so players could get prepared mentally. That also helped the new guys play catch-up.
• The only guys not physically here yet who are on the KU roster are 6-foot-3 junior "buck" Damani Mosby and 6-3 freshman linebacker Josh Ehambe. Mosby is finishing up final juice requirements and Ehambe is waiting for NCAA clearance after attending Prime Prep Academy.
• Junior linebacker Schyler Miles had a knee scoped a couple weeks ago with a two to three week recovery window; he is not gone for the year. He could be ready tomorrow.
• Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart won the starting job in the spring and then the summertime was his to step up and be a leader. He won't take over for senior receiver Nick Harwell in that role, but he put himself in a position where he can handle and manage the team. … Cozart has become more accurate. Key for him will be not being nervous. Inaccuracy didn't show up in practices, when he wasn't getting hit.
• Coaches and this year's seniors had a conversation about senior leadership at the end of spring football. KU has a lot of older guys who have played. They're in a bit of a different position now.
• Now that senior receiver Tony Pierson isn't a running back, he should be in good shape to stay healthy. But they will also be cautious with him because of his history of concussions. There will be just enough contact to have him ready for the season-opener.
• In the spring, Rodriguez Coleman was ahead of Justin McCay at wide receiver. But that has changed since.
• Junior receiver Nigel King is the new member of the KU football team. The 6-3 former Maryland player graduated last Friday and asked for a release from his scholarship. His high school coach had a relationship with KU receivers coach Eric Kiesau. The Jayhawks have six receivers now that coaches feel like can all play. This all happened fast with King. As of Thursday morning, Weis had only seen him on video. King adds experience and production — has made plays and scored touchdowns. "It'd be nice to have some receivers scoring some touchdowns," Weis said.
• As far as Cozart's backup, junior Michael Cummings probably starts camp ahead of sophomore T.J. Millweard. Both of them will battle it out, and red-shirt freshman Jordan Darling is in that mix. But the close race is between Cummings and Milweard. They have plenty of time to settle that.
• Senior CB JaCorey Shepherd and junior CB Kevin Short are close in competition. It isn't fair to list Short ahead of Shepherd when Short has never played a down for KU.
• Now that Weis is just the head coach and not the O-coordinator, he will spend some time in offensive and defensive rooms, but he will spend a lot more time with special teams. He wants to create a level of importance for the special teams. On game days he will be more involved with special teams, too. … Some of the terminology remains the same from Weis' offense. … He lets the coordinators determine the depth chart.
• In Weis' opinion, the quarterback is more important than the scheme. You also have to look at all of your personnel before you get to the QB. Part of the reason Kansas hasn't had productive QBs is because the players around them weren't strong, either. Cozart has athleticism and that makes it tougher to defend, with an extra runner. In offensive coordinator John Reagan's scheme, Cozart is another guy the defense has to account for.
• KU will be "very big" on the offensive line. Weis looked in the hallway and saw juniors Larry Mayzck and Devon Williams both pushing about 370 and there was no room to walk down the hallway. In past years, opponents looked a lot bigger than Kansas.
• With the offensive change, the main concern is getting the system in and developing during fall camp. On defense, there is far more self-scouting and there are just tweaks to what they were doing in 2013.
• "Im pretty happy with our running back situation now," Weis said. Seniors Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox have been waiting for their turn and junior DeAndre Mann didn't come here to play behind them. That's without even mentioning freshman Corey Avery.
• Avery is a natural running back. He might evolve to be like Tony Pierson, but he has "giddy-up." Avery arrives fourth on the depth chart without including Pierson. He has a ways to go to get in that mix.
• In the Big 12, it didn't take long to figure out if you don't have athleticism on defense you don't have much of a chance. And that includes defensive linemen. You need a middle linebacker like Ben Heeney who can run sideline to sideline. This is the best Weis has felt about the talent at KU by a wide margin. But they've done very little to back it up.
• Pierson gives KU the chance to get into different formations and force defenses to decide if they want to defend him as a RB or WR.
• Junior defensive lineman T.J. Semke is someone who very few people know about here. In the summer he works in the bail bonds business. He is tough and he works so hard that he makes his teammates better. All he did was push, and he has the respect of both coaches and players. … Semke was the strongest defensive lineman tracked this summer by the strength staff.
• Freshman safety Joe Dineen from Free State High, in Lawrence, has to decide if he wants to be a defensive back or a linebacker. Weis liked him as a QB in high school as well. Dineen would be an emergency QB if it ever got to that point. He makes plays all over the field… Cassius Sendish is clearly the leader of the secondary. You could see Dineen turning into that guy, having that glow. Weis loves the fact that he's local and gets to play in his hometown.
• After Weis arrived and gutted the program, they knew there would be a high risk-reward situation. Now they have upperclassmen with experience on the roster. They have athletes who can play. That's why the Jayhawks have expectations to be a lot better than most people think.
• What KU is doing on offense gives it a better chance to win. Bringing in Reagan and Kiesau have helped invaluably. … Reagan likes to run first. There might be a misconception that he likes to throw more because it is a spread formation. They have a chance now because they have a QB who can run it, too. Weis likes that run-first mentality. There are other schools that KU plays that you know they'll throw it 70 times. If KU is throwing it 70 times, it means the Jayhawks are getting blown out.
• Cummings has a powerful arm and they wouldn't be afraid to play him. Cozart has just proven to be better "at everything."
• On KU's kickers: sophomore Matthew Wyman has a "pro leg." His whole summer was spent on being more dependable and accurate. With freshman John Duvic coming in, Wyman will have to work for the job because the new kicker is accurate. It's clearly between those two for field goal kicks.
• On the three non-conference games: Weis loves opening at home, and he thinks playing at Duke is a great opportunity. People might say the Jayhawks have no chance, but no one in the locker room will be thinking that way.
• Sophomore offensive lineman Brian Beckmann played both guard and tackle in the spring. He'll know both positions. He is clearly big enough to be in the two-deep.
• Based off of senior O-lineman Pat Lewandowski's mannerisms and what he picked up in the summertime, he hasn't expected for someone to come in and replace him. Someone will have to work hard to move past him.
• Backup CB Ronnie Davis, a junior, doesn't look like the same guy after a summer of strength training. Probably added 20 pounds. … Strength coach Scott Holsopple molds the players in the offseason and can spot in the high school ranks which players are capable of putting on that kind of weight.
• Weis would like to red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Jacob Bragg. But Bragg looked so good in the summer, it seemed like he might be capable of playing this fall.
• By the end of his first year at KU, Weis could tell Heeney was a frontline player. He has grown as a person, too. Heeney has turned himself into a leader. There are a bunch of guys on defense who want to be like Heeney. A couple of years ago that might've been a bad thing. … Heeney reminds Weis of former pro LB Zach Thomas because people said he was too small, not big enough. "He might be as good as any defensive player in the league. Period," Weis said of Heeney.
• Weis has been "very encouraged" with freshman LB Kyron Watson. Heeney has taken him under his wing. Watson would like to be Heeney when Heeney is gone.
• The field at Memorial Stadium really looks good now after the summer project of removing the track. They could practice there every day, once it starts getting dark early. There is so much more space with the expanded turf.
• RB Cox has had some injury issues in the past. So he is on a big stretching program to minimize those things. He is so muscular that he gets really tight.
— Listen to the complete audio: Charlie Weis talks new addition, depth chart, offensive changes and more
The countdown to Kansas University's spring football game is down to four days now.
Coach Charlie Weis addressed the annual showcase and other topics Tuesday morning with the media.
Here are some of the highlights from the Q & A session, in bullet-point form:
• The format for the spring game will be four 15-minute quarters, with a running clock, except for last two minutes of each half. KU has enough players to split the roster into two different teams and not just do offense vs. defense. Unless a rash of injuries breaks out, they will be able to do two different teams.
• Weis has a rule for the spring game that should make for an exciting second half, instead of players just going through the motions. He won't unveil the rule until Saturday, but it is all planned out.
• At a couple of positions, there are two players considered first-string options: left tackle and nickelback. Senior lineman Pat Lewandowski and senior defensive back JaCorey Shepherd will be on the Blue team in the first half, while senior lineman Zach Fondal and sophomore defensive back Greg Allen will play on the White team. At halftime, those players will swap teams, so they will have played with both the first and second units.
• If during the game, due to injury, they have to trade some players, Weis will "set the terms" of the trade.
• Spectators won't see a red jersey on the quarterbacks on Saturday. Only one player will have a red (no contact) jersey on, and that will be senior receiver Tony Pierson. The quarterbacks will be "live" on each play. Weis has never done that before. When the QB keeps the ball, you never know how many yards they would have gained on a run when they are wearing red and the defense can't tackle them. The QBs have been hit, sacked plenty of times this spring. The goal is for them not to get hit. … Pierson has been hit, too. The coaches went over the pros and cons, but they determined Pierson has had such a good offseason the last thing they want is for him to get injured on the last day of spring football.
• Weis told offensive coordinator John Reagan not to hold back any plays he wants to run during the spring game. This isn't like planning for a game, when you're preparing for an opposing team with certain plays. The whole playbook is available.
• Kansas has more talent and more speed right now than it has had in the past two seasons under Weis. Wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau told Weis Tuesday morning that KU's starting three wide receivers — Pierson, senior Nick Harwell and junior Rodriguez Coleman — all would have been on the two-deep last season at Washington (Kiesau's previous employer). That shows KU has made some serious improvements at that position alone.
• Pierson was nursing some tightness in his hamstring at practice Saturday, which was open to the media. He wasn't going as hard as he has been able to. … Pierson is working at both kickoff and punt returning. Returning punts isn't easy. "You have to be a little bit of a psycho" to take that job and do it well.
• Harwell is working at both return spots, too, as is junior defensive back Kevin Short. "We have some interesting candidates." You don't want to lose a valuable player in the return game, but if that guy can help change the game, they want to have him out there.
• Weis will make "common sense" contributions when talking offense with Reagan. It's been interesting this spring for Weis to see so much more of the team now that he's not running the offense. It's been good. It gives Weis the opportunity to challenge the staff and make everybody better.
• When Weis arrived and got rid of so many players from previous coach Turner Gill's team, he was taking a bad team and making it worse. He did it for the right reason, but he didn't factor in how limited a roster KU would be left with. Now the roster is pretty full. The infrastructure has been rebuilt and now KU has a predominantly junior and senior team. Usually those are the teams that win. … When they got rid of so many guys, they had to fill holes with junior college players. They couldn't count on freshmen to fill the gap.
• Looking at the WR spot, KU will lose four players after this season. Realistically, they will have to go half and half recruiting to replace those holes — half high school and half junior college. The same goes for KU's O-line and defensive backs, too
• KU's offensive line has had continuity this spring. The guy who is the strongest is junior Damon Martin, so he's at right tackle with senior Mike Smithburg next to him. The coaches were ready to adapt when they had a bunch of talented guards. Some shuffling got the most talent on the field.
• There are tiers at the QB position, as far as the depth chart is concerned. If they had to play an actual game in two weeks, it would be between senior Jake Heaps and sophomore Montell Cozart. And it wouldn't be a bad thing if they both played because they do different things. The coaches are ready to gear themselves toward who will be the main guy. The longer KU goes without naming a starter at QB, the tougher it will be for the competition to prepare.
• Kansas doesn't want to take senior linebacker Ben Heeney off the field, but he will have to rest at some point. Junior LB Schyler Miles is close to junior Jake Love as far as the depth chart goes, and who will replace Heeney at times.
• At the spring game, Weis would like the fans to have some fun. Come halftime the game will get very interesting. He would like to be in the second half with the players having a little pressure on them to win. Weis also wants the offensive operation to show efficiency. … Several players will get an opportunity to play a lot more snaps than they have at practices this spring. It gives them an opportunity: Let's see what you've got. Of course, they want to come out injury-free, too.
• The biggest accomplishments this spring, defense and offense: With junior defensive lineman Andrew Bolton's play on the end, senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers can play inside. … The defense is now in its second year, and that gave the players an opportunity to turn it loose. Most of the guys are retuning guys. ... On offense, most of it was getting the system installed. The players need to be used to running a no-huddle offense.
• Cozart has completed a high percentage of his passes this spring. The one thing he brings that is unique is his feet. He has a chance to be a really good player.
• Sophomore QB T.J. Millweard, who transferred from UCLA, is the newest member of that QB group and he is coming off his best practice to date. Whether he makes his way up the depth chart this year or next, Weis knows he will keep working to get there. His mental aptitude is there and he has to catch up physically.
• Next week, in the days following spring game, players will hear from the coaching staff about where they stand.
• Kansas has a number of older guys who are experienced. Because of that, they won't pick captains until right before the season begins. It's tough to be a leader when you're not playing, so the guys who end up captains will be front-line players.
• Harwell is a natural leader. Weis is glad they have him. He's a hard worker, the wide receivers follow him and he jumps on everybody. "Thank you, Miami of Ohio."
• Weis does believe that if you have two quarterbacks you don't have one, but that's not the case if you use them in different ways. KU would feature one set of plays with Heaps and another set when Cozart is on the field.
• Weis said to the team last December: It's time. Kansas football has been down for five seasons. The No. 1 thing is these veterans have to get KU back to winning. That's the first major hurdle for the program to get over. Then you shoot for the moon. Players can't worry about the expectation on the street or in the media. They have to set their own bar and can't settle for anything but attaining their goals.
— Listen to the press conference in its entirety by clicking here: Charlie Weis talks spring game, KU football depth
Spring break is over at Kansas University, and the football team got back to spring practice Sunday night.
Coach Charlie Weis spoke about the team's progress up to this point Tuesday at Anderson Family Football Complex, before the team's afternoon practice.
Listen to audio from the Q & A by clicking here: Weis updates progress of spring football
Here are some of the highlights, in bullet-point form:
• Coming back from spring break, Weis was pleased with the tempo at Sunday night's practice. Usually guys get into a routine and thats how you thrive. They had a week off and guys traveled all over the place, but everyone was here. They met and practiced until 10 at night. As far as the practice itself, it wasn't the sharpest at all times. And the offense had its best practice yet. Putting in a new offense against a more experienced defense, the defense had been ahead of the offense this spring. That changed at Sunday's practice. Clint Bowen is calling this "not positive Tuesday" after the defense got burned too many times.
• There has been clear separation amongst multiple quarterbacks this spring. Both the players and coaches see where that is but they're not going to come out and say that at this point. Today, for a good portion of practice, Heaps won't get any reps. That will force everyone's hands. The other players won't have that security blanket of the most experienced QB in the system being there. … The separation is solely based off performance. They've taken things like experience and thrown them out the window. A lot of it comes at the line of scrimmage. Quarterback and everyone else are looking for a signal from the sideline.
• Weis spent a lot of time on two days during spring break watching the scrimmage from before break in detail. On Sunday he talked with the coaches and told them what he saw on video, and asked where he was right and where he was wrong. On video, there is a lot with which to be pleased. But Weis didn't want the defense to feel good about itself because it was ahead of the offense. On Sunday the offense ran some plays to exploit some defensive vulnerabilities.
• Senior Jake Heaps is one of the leading candidates at QB. Because he is the most experienced, you would expect him to run the offense better than everyone else. Taking him out of the equation at Tuesday's puts more pressure on the other quarterbacks. The coaches want to see how each candidate responds. It's just as if someone got injured. Weis wanted to do that to create more pressure in the QB competition. When you're trying to see five players, it's hard to get everyone enough reps.
• Weis is letting the offensive staff put in the offense. Weis knows the system and the plays, but there are things in the system that need to be executed. They want to make sure they're not only installing plays but also executing before they get ahead of themselves.
• Senior Brandon Bourbon has transitioned back into a running back-only position. That has helped them tremendously at the position. … When personnel groupings are called out at practice, guys know now who is in what group, even if there isn't a physical depth chart for everyone to see.
• Senior receiver Tony Pierson has seen a little bit of contact at practices. Weis "isn't stupid enough" to let Pierson go through practices without getting hit. He got hit and came off the field and told Weis that was the best thing that has happened to him.
• At wide receiver, they could talk about senior transfer Nick Harwell. But the guy who has had a good spring — the best camp of anyone on offense, in fact — is junior Rodriguez Coleman. They're throwing the ball to him a lot. The defense focuses in on Pierson and Harwell. Coleman gets a lot of one-on-one because of that. If you don't have anyone who is getting open on the single receiver side, that's a problem. Coleman is getting open.
• Junior Kevin Short is playing at corner in practices. Both senior Dexter McDonald and senior JeCorey Shepherd are pretty good players at corner. Now they can put all three of those guys out on the field at once.
• Sophomore defensive back Greg Allen might be the most pleasant surprise on defense.
• Freshman tight end Ben Johnson has been getting a lot of reps. He's ready, willing and able, even though he hasn't played yet. He did a nice job on the show team while red-shirting last season, but now he's with the big boys. He really seems to get better at every practice, and that's because he is gaining confidence.
• With installing a new offense, they don't want to go too fast. If they have a bunch of plays, and they're not good at any of them, there is no growth. Now when they start to run certain plays, they can expect production. When they're on the field, they're on the clock. They've only got four hours on a practice day to work with the players. On the off days, coaches figure out how much installation they need, and how much repetition they need.
• On the offensive line right now, there are about eight players they think they could go into a game and win with right now. They would like that number to be 10. Going into the season you want a backup at each position. At most of the positions right now, there is a clear No. 1 and a clear No. 2. Not all positions, but most.
• Sophomore QB TJ Millweard is very sharp, mentally. He went through a year of not playing as a transfer. He has knocked off a lot of that rust. Mentally, he could go run the KU offense right now. Physically, he will have to prove he can do so.
• On defense, you can tell there are a lot of seniors. On offense, there are a lot of guys who weren't playing last season for KU. With the production they have had in the passing game the past two seasons, that might be a good thing. KU might be thin at a few positions on offense, but their front-line players are good enough to win with.
• Weis expects guys to come back in the spring strong and ready to play because of strength coach Scott Holsopple. He knows the line between caring for them and pushing them. He's the true "love-hate" coach. Holsopple has a lot more access to the players than anyone on the football staff. He has been critical to the team's development.
• On the defensive line, junior college DE Kapil Fletcher, walking through the door, should be more ready than high school players. There is a "fearsome foursome" of freshmen coming in. Weis just said this morning, "Let's not rule anybody out." They don't know until they get here whether they are ready for prime time. Weis tells every player coming in there is no reason to assume they will have to red-shirt. They have a chance to work themselves in on the two-deep.
• Senior WR Justin McCay is right behind Coleman right now. McCay had his best practice on Sunday. He plays a different style than Coleman, and he needs to use that to his advantage.
• Heaps hasn't changed one bit. That's one of the biggest things you could say about this guy. He's got great leadership on top of everything else. He's excited with the newness of the spring and the offense. With the lack of production last season, there is reason for him to be excited about a new system.
• Senior LB Ben Heeney has been great at practices, working his butt off. He is clearly one of, if not the leader, of the defense.
• They just met as a staff yesterday about recruiting. Weis went through about 30 guys who the staff wanted to offer. … Weis doesn't offer now until they get a transcript in. Weis wants to know the odds of a player graduating are very high. There are reasons guys don't get offered other than what kind of skills they possess.