Completed bye-week chat with KU football beat writer Matt Tait

September 28, 2012

Matt Tait

Even though the Jayhawks were off this week, KU football beat writer Matt Tait stuck around for his normal Friday morning chat to answer questions. Here's the transcript from the bye-week chat.

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.


Good morning, folks. It's KU's bye week, but we're still up and running with all of your KU football coverage. In case you've missed it, beat writer Matt Tait has been posting blogs all week that look back at the first four weeks of the 2012 season. So check those out if you haven't seen 'em and let's jump into the chat right away.


Since both Cummings and Baty are both supposed to be fairly athletic and mobile, why not let one of them run the wildcat? This way KU would actually be a threat to pass out of the wildcat and could see them perform in a real game situation without necessarily making the giant leap to bench Crist. Is it an injury concern? are that not good enough as runner? to much extra to learn and practice?

Matt Tait

Good question. I'm guessing this will be a popular topic today.

Once again, the answer comes down to experience. Christian Matthews has played in plenty of games — both as a WR and a Wildcat QB — and Cummings and Baty have not.

I'm sure they could do it, but Matthews is the more experienced and trusted option plus those guys are more true quarterbacks. Besides, it's not as if Matthews can't throw.


Doesn't it seem odd that KU's DBs try to tackle at the shoulder level? It seems like most NFL DBs tackle at the ankles. Do you know which way KU's DBs are coached? It drives me nuts watching our DBs go for shoulder tackles and then just bounce the other team picks up 10 to 20 additional yards.

Keep up the great work Matt.

Matt Tait

It's funny you mention this because I just talked to Tyler Patmon about it last week. Specifically, I was asking him how JaCorey Shepherd looked as a tackler and Patmon said they've really been emphasizing tackling low with him. So it's not a matter of these guys not knowing what to do, sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it's just not always that easy.

I think Greg Brown, Patmon and Bradley McDougald all have done a pretty good job with open-field tackling this year. They're three of the top four tacklers on the team right now, so the stats would suggest that, too.


What is the status with Kale Pick's knee? He seemed to be hobbling quite a bit last week, in limited minutes.

Matt Tait

We have not been given an update on Pick's status since the NIU game, but since he was out there, I think he's in good shape. He looked good on the one pass he caught over the middle where he was wide open and went for 30+ and he obviously was good enough to get open on that 4th and 17.

I have thought about that throw more and more in the days since and I'm wondering if Pick not being full speed was part of the incompletion. Maybe Crist was throwing to the 100 percent Kale Pick and figured he'd get further down the field. I know that sounds like an excuse, but it could be true.

My guess is that Pick will be somewhere between 80-90 percent for the rest of the season. But since he's such a gamer, you'll never hear him say he's anything other than 100 percent.


It has been mentioned that when we run the Jayhawk, Dayne Crist is virtually useless out there. It's like playing with 10 offensive players. Why don't they substitute for him. The offense controls the pace of the game.

Matt Tait

I get it, but I don't think that's actually hurting KU. By having Crist out there, other teams have to account for him. He may not be a threat to run 50 yards on every play but opposing defenses simply can't leave him alone either.

Him taking a cornerback or safety out wide with him takes one away from the offense and one away from the defense, making it a 10-on-10 situation and giving the KU offense more room to work.

That's why you see Crist line up as wide as he can.

A lot of these things, though, are done to set up plays down the road, so don't be surprised if you see Matthews throw it backwards to Crist, who then could throw it down the field to a receiver. It might not happen often, but, again, the fact that it's possible is something the defenses have to take into account.


Which is worse in your opinion? Having this team be in position to win and give it away or have this team not come close to winning?

Matt Tait

It has to be the latter... There's nothing worse than knowing you're out of it early on in the third quarter.

These guys have not been in that position once this year, and that's gotta be seen as a sign of progress.

Obviously, the longer you can stay in it, the better chance you have of winning. But, more than that, the longer you can stay in it, the more your confidence increases.

They're small steps, but this team is taking them. If they can continue to play like that against the Big 12, that'll be a huge lift.


Is the coaching staff doing anything at all to solve the kicking problem? We continue to have our punter try and kick for us and he is failing miserably. Can Crist kick? He's got to be good at something right?

Matt Tait

At this point, Doherty continues to be the team's best kicking option. But you can bet that the other kickers on the squad are being given every opportunity to prove they deserve the job, too.

At this point, it's simply a matter of working to make sure the guys they have keep getting better. I know that's not the best answer for fans to hear, but it's reality.


If we lose out the rest of the season and only win 1 game, what would you tell recruits to sell KU? If our record is that low on wins how does a coach convince the recruit that they(the coaches) can be trusted? Does Coach just whip out all of his superbowl rings? Is that good enough in the college game without National Championships under his head coaching belt(different talent pool)?

Matt Tait

The Super Bowl rings and NFL experience of Weis and Campo will always help, but until the Jayhawks reach the point where they're going to bowl games regularly, the thing they'll be able to sell the most is immediate playing time.

Regardless of their record this season, the list of things KU can sell to recruits continues to be impressive:

• incredible facilities
• immediate playing time
• coaches with NFL experience
• Big 12 football

To name just a few.

Of course, at some point, guys are gonna want to play for a winner. So it's important that KU starts winning games. But I don't always think the win-loss record is that high on the priority list for potential recruits. A lot of them are confident enough to believe they can come in and make a difference.


I'm sure you're getting this question a lot, but what will it take for Crist to have a seat? He seems like a great kid, I appreciate his leadership skills and how he carries himself, but as a QB he's done nothing to warrant repeated starts. In short, he's taking more off the table than he's bringing to it. Are the backups really that bad? I was excited for Cummings and Baty seems legit, but I get the feeling this is a loyalty issue and not an ability one.

Matt Tait

It is a popular topic, and I think the answer is: It's going to take a lot.

Crist hasn't been good so far. No one's disputing that. But he also hasn't been downright awful. He's made good calls, run the offense well and brought confidence to the huddle. He's just missing throws.

Obviously, he needs to start making the big ones, especially when they matter the most, but his command of the playbook and experience — along with his physical tools — continue to make him the best option for this team right now.

Loyalty may be some of it, and it should be. Crist did not have to come to Kansas but he did out of loyalty to his old coach. I don't think Weis will stand by and do nothing if Crist continues to struggle, but the guess here is that Weis is simply betting on Crist improving and is willing to give him a chance to show that.


We saw much of our offensive success in DeKalb come out of "The Jayhawk" formation. Can we expect more of this in Manhattan?

Matt Tait

Yeah, there's no question about it.

That said, we all know that Bill Snyder is incredibly effective when he has time to prepare and he'll be ready for the Jayhawk formation.

Therefore, Weis will almost certainly be planning on Snyder expecting it and game-planning against it and may try to shake things up even more.

A big game of chess, you know.


Hey Matt, was curious about the status of Taylor Cox. It looked like he got hurt early in the NIU game and never made it back in, will he be ready to play next week?

Matt Tait

We'll know more on Monday or Tuesday about Cox's status, but I'm guessing there's a 75% chance he'll be ready to play.

A lot of it depends on how he responded to the rest and treatment he received this week, but it sounded like the coaches thought he had a good shot to play.

It looked to me like they were looking at Cox's right hamstring. If that's the case, it's usually rest that takes care of it.


If someone is to take a few snaps at QB other than Crist, will it be Baty or Cummings?

Matt Tait

Obviously, the depth chart says it would be Cummings so he's certainly the favorite. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if Baty got a shot --- IF it got to this point.

Although both are inexperienced, I know both are working hard every day to make sure they're ready in case they're called upon.

There's something a little Todd Reesing-esque about Turner Baty that has me intrigued. Seems to me like he's a gamer, a guy who could go out there and find a way to make plays even if he doesn't have the offense down 100 percent. Who knows?

In a perfect world, I know they'd love to keep the red-shirt on Baty. It all depends on how Crist performs in the next several weeks.


Love your coverage of the football team. I love your optimism as well. But the pessimistic side of me thinks that if Turner Gill were leading this team and we had the exact same result on the field, all we would be talking about is how bad the coach is. We would be harping on terrible play calls (unnecessary rick play against Rice that leads to interception), players still out of position (see 99 yd run vs. SD State, see Dayne Crist and Cox running into each other on a handoff), bad coaching and lack of conditioning that has led to the 4th quarter collapses.

Tell me why all we are hearing now is that they are getting better and still so much better than last year. I wonder if we are just being nice to the new guy.


Matt Tait

Another great question and I definitely think it's fair of you to ask this.

I do, however, think that things are drastically different under Weis than they were under Gill and that's not just on the field but also in the locker room, in the class room, in the weight room, all of that. It all has to count for something.

The results might be the same, but we've seen far fewer blown assignments, confused looks and big plays given up by this year's team. What's more, it's been the defense that has kept the Jayhawks in a lot of these games and that's been largely due to the improvement in strength and conditioning.

KU's been competitive to the end and should've won 3 of the 4 games. In the past, I think a couple of those games would've been blowouts.


Hey Matt, I was wondering if it was possible to get coverage on football recruiting like for the basketball team, i.e. who's coming in for a visit, who the coaches are visiting and who has cut us from their list, Thanks.

Matt Tait

Absolutely. I already do a fair amount of that during the offseason, so keep your eyes open then — in December and January, when things really start to heat up.

There's so much to cover and track during the season that it's tough to find time and space to track all of that as well as the goings on of the team in action.

I'll look into it, though. Thanks for the suggestion.


How does Jake Heaps look?

Matt Tait

All indications are that he has looked great running KU's scout team. I haven't seen a whole lot of that, but I certainly believe it.

Nothing's changed for Heaps, who will benefit tremendously from this year to learn the offense and this year of working with and learning from Crist.


Do you think the offense would be better off with an offensive coordinator as opposed to the head coach running it? I think we've all questioned some of the play calling in the first few weeks.

Matt Tait

In general, I think I'd agree with that. But when it's Charlie Weis who is your offensive coordinator and head coach, I think you're in good shape.

There have been a lot of questions about why Weis throws so much when the run looks to be so effective. But it's just like anything. I don't think he's doing it to prove something or because he feels like taking a gamble. You have to run to be able to throw and you have to throw to be able to run.

That's all that's happening here. Have there been some suspect moments where he's thrown instead of run or vice versa? Of course. But it's that way with just about every team.

There's still a lot of work to be done with this team and the Jayhawks remain in the infant stages of the rebuilding process, but I'm a firm believer that the team and the offense are in good hands with Charlie Weis.


We've got time for a couple more. Thanks for all of your great questions.


Which big 12 game do you think we have the best chance of a W in?

Matt Tait

If I'm ranking them, I'd put Iowa State at home at the top of the list simply because it's a home game. But...... I'm not so sure that's going to be a walk in the park and I picked the Cyclones to win that one in the preseason because Paul Rhoads' teams play great late.

Anyway, if I'm ranking the final eight games in order of most likely to win to least likely, it would look like this:

1. vs. Iowa State
2. vs. Oklahoma State
3. at Texas Tech
4. at Baylor
5. vs. Texas
6. at Kansas State
7. at West Virginia
8. at Oklahoma


Here is my ONE, just one bold prediction. I think our D line will do ok again Optimus Klein when he runs, but we will get completely burned when he throws his short passes.

Matt Tait

You could be on to something. I'm expecting KU will be very prepared for Klein the rusher, it's just a matter of whether or not the Jayhawks can match-up with KSU's athletes and make plays on offense.

Looking forward to it.


Hi Matt! Thanks for not taking the week off!

Can you tell me what Dayne Crist's completion percentages are for 1st down vs. 3rd down? Somehow I get the feeling its a lot lower for 3rd down. And does it provide any explanation for his lower completion %age here vs. at ND?

Matt Tait

I'd have to look into that a little more, but I can tell you that the Jayhawks have been awful on third down this year — just 14 for 56 for 25% — and that most of those third-down plays have been throws.

I asked Weis about this earlier this week and he said their third-down struggles were not just because of one player. The line needs to dig in, the receivers need to make plays and catches and, yes, Crist needs to make better throws and decisions.


The defense has been up and down, for sure. Should we be expecting improvement from the linebackers as McDonald continues to get reps? He had 11 tackles last week, matching his best season at ND.

Matt Tait

McDonald has looked great and he certainly has upgraded that unit. As long as he stays healthy — and things are looking great right now — the linebackers should continue to perform better each week.

That said, I think Ben Heeney's had a great start to the season, especially as a first-time starter, and Tunde Bakare has made a ton of plays, too.

Look for big growth from Schyler Miles during the second half of the season and continued contributions from Huldon Tharp.

If there's one thing I've noticed about KU's linebackers, it's that they need to improve their overall speed. That's coming through recruiting and will take time.


We had a lot of off-season excitement and anticipation in Lawrence. Do you get the sense that fan interest is fading away? Is this coaching staff close to losing the fans? Does coach Weis need to do something drastic to save this season?

Matt Tait

I've certainly seen all of the criticisms of Weis and Crist, but I think that's coming from the vocal minority.

I've received plenty of emails, Tweets and comments from fans telling me that they're staying positive and they've seen the progress and appreciate the steps the team has taken.

If the losing continues, it's going to get tougher and tougher for people to see it that way, but, overall, I think the fan base has been very understanding about what this first year of the Weis era is all about.

Naturally, a win here or there would help a lot and I think that's all it will take. Nothing drastic.


Good stuff today, guys. Hope you enjoyed the chat. We'll be back at it with Matt next week as the Jayhawks prepare to take on No. 7 Kansas State in Manhattan. Until then, have a great weekend!


Ron Prichard 8 years, 6 months ago

"There's something a little Todd Reesing-esque about Turner Baty that has me intrigued."

My word, Matt!! What have you done? Those calling for Crist to be benched have just been given large-caliber, high velocity ammunition.

Matt Tait 8 years, 6 months ago

Just callin' it like I see it. Not saying Baty's the next Reesing or even that he should be given the chance... Crist is the guy and should be the guy for a while. But if he doesn't improve and the passing game continues to struggle, they gotta give the others a look eventually. I think Crist gets another 4 or 5 weeks, minimum, though.

KGphoto 8 years, 6 months ago

Yes but you DID say Baty could maybe make plays even though he didn't know the offense as well. I think that's what has people so frustrated about Weis' decision to stick with Crist. The "He knows the offense" argument is not holding water anymore. Our "He can't make plays" argument is winning. Matthews running the "Jayhawk", or whatever the heck that is... he's making plays, and it has nothing to do with Weis' NFL system.

Maybe if we hadn't experienced Reesing and his amazing playmaking, it would be a little easier to digest sticking with a guy who "knows the offense".

Micky Baker 8 years, 6 months ago

KG, Do you think that a QB controversy is what we want to relive after the yearly ones we experienced under Terry Allen? You see, there was only one QB that we should have started for his tenure at KU and that was Mark Williams. He came in his Senior Year and led KU to a 3 way tie for second place in the Big 8 in a year that Kansas beat Oklahoma, and number 2 Colorado on the road in back to back weeks.

Reesing came in at the half of a football game and won, but after 2007, he made a lot of mistakes that cost us games like the INT to South Florida, when all he needed to do on that play is throw the ball away and then punt it. KU would have won that game at South Florida.

Then, down the stretch in 2009, Reesing came up short at the end of ballgames and Kansas lost 7 in a row to end the season, almost all of those games Kansas had the lead in the second half and squandered it.

He was very good for one year, and then some internal things started happening, Mangino was ran out of town, and we got the last two seasons.

The most consistent QBs that we had didn't start out good, but ended up good. One of the biggest problems we have with our receivers is the lack of size. Turzilli should be at the top of the depth chart, and Omigie needs more opportunities, but we expected to have McKay until the NCAA pretty much screwed him over by not giving him a waiver.

Matthews made some plays, but none of them were passing. The Jayhawk formation will be used mostly when Sims is in there, because he can also take the snap and make good decisions with the ball. I don't want to see the Jayhawk all that much because if we go one dimensional, no chance in hell of winning unless we can get 400 yards on the ground in every game and pass for 150.

The rest of this season, we can't have as limited a package as what has been shown thus far.

KGphoto 8 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, but none of that makes a bit of sense to me. Let's paraphrase.

Replacing the QB based on performance will take us back to the Terry Allen era. Wasn't there a QB controversy happening right before Reesing won the job for keeps, and led us to our greatest season ever?

There were more consistent QBs than Reesing, (The all-time leading passer in every category, who led us to back-to-back bowl wins, one of which was the Orange.) but they just needed time to develop. Hmm. I'll take Reesing.

Matthews made plays but he can't throw the ball. Isn't he a QB? Surely he can throw the ball. Weis just needs to make the call. They may not all be overthrown bombs, or under-thrown crossing patterns, but I'll bet he can complete more than 50% of them, and refrain from tossing up key interceptions while he's at it.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 6 months ago

Matt, I just wanted to say thanks for responding to our comments from time to time. It's the interaction with the LJW staff and other posters that makes commenting so much fun. Keep up the good work!

jakejayhawk 8 years, 6 months ago

Despite the losing, and believe me, it hurts, I am encouraged at what I see. There is improvement as Matt stated. What I like best are these two aspects: we are doing the right things to improve and we are doing the things to improve in the right way. This is going to work given the time and some hard work in recruiting.

Steve Reigle 8 years, 6 months ago

Some of us are not able to get to the games, physically, and can't really tell the size of the crowd. Is there somewhere I can find the attendance numbers? Also, what is capacity for a football game at Memorial Stadium?

Also, I, too, am encouraged by the progress. I'd sure liked to have seen another W or two but not getting blown out actually is progress. It's up from here. Thanks.

Matt Tait 8 years, 6 months ago

Week 1: 46,601 vs. South Dakota State
Week 2: 44,683 vs. Rice
Week 3: 44,683 vs. TCU

Capacity: 50,071

Steve Reigle 8 years, 6 months ago

Thanks. Are these numbers online somewhere that I can check them after each game? Just wondering if the current record will affect future attendance. Thanks.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 6 months ago

Amazing that out of 40,000+ fans, the EXACT number attended both the Rice and TCU games. Is that a typo, Matt? If not, that is seriously amazing or someone at the KU ticket office decided to just phone it in after week 3.

Matt Tait 8 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, that's a mistake. It didn't "copy" properly before I pasted it so it still had the Rice number. Sorry. Here are the real numbers -- not that far off.

Week 1 vs. SDSU: 46,601 Week 2 vs. Rice: 44.683 Week 3 vs. TCU: 43,867

Capacity: 50,071

Micky Baker 8 years, 6 months ago

I do think that Heaps will also be ahead of the game come next season because he's learning about the the opponents and he's a tough QB to defend on the scouting team. This is a project.

The last two seasons, only the individual talent was developed but there wasn't improvement in fundamentals. This year, the fundamentals are much better and I don't think Crist should be benched.

If this was his second consecutive year playing for us, then those calling for him to be benched would have more credibility, but he's throwing mostly to guys that weren't in this same system a year ago, and we have a couple of guys that have good hands and are strong and are fast, but they don't have the size. 6 inches taller for Patterson and Beshears, but mostly Patterson, and we'd probably have those two other wins. Crist has to be perfect in order to complete some of the passes to the shorter guys.

It also isn't Crist that is limiting the package. It's the other guys that have had less than a season with this playbook that are limiting it. This is one of the reasons I don't think it's fair to put all this pressure on Crist. If he was a fifth year senior and had played with some of these guys for a full season, do you truly believe the results would be the same? I don't.

The fans are frustrated, but I'll say this, last year I was frustrated. This year I'm disappointed in two of the losses, and a couple of balls not dropped against TCU, and we could have won that game too, but if it was Gill, we would have lost by 40 or more. I'm pretty sure of that.

clevelandjayhawker 8 years, 6 months ago

Matt, not sure if my question didn't get chosen or if it didnt go through....but could we get an update on recruiting? Thank you

Marcia Parsons 8 years, 6 months ago

There was a question on recruiting updates fairly high on the page. Maybe they were basically the same?

Steve Reigle 8 years, 6 months ago

I'm not so sure Arkansas isn't heading for being even worse than us this year.

colohawk2814 8 years, 6 months ago

As I recall attending KU games in the late 60s, Vernon Venoy (a 6'8" DE) performed kick off duties for the 68-69 Orange Bowl team. So I am wondering, are there any players on the team one might not expect be able to perform these duties?

Bville Hawk 8 years, 6 months ago

Vanoy was a starting DE as I recall. I don't remember that he kicked off but maybe so.

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