Sunday, April 29, 2012

It’s a wrap: Game caps dramatic spring

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis calls a play during the first half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis calls a play during the first half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.


Saturday’s 45-0 romp by the first-string Blue team in Kansas University’s annual spring game marked the final activity of one of the most intense and trying springs at KU in recent memory.

From the time the team returned to Lawrence from winter break in mid-January until the time the scoreboard clock showed 00:00 on Saturday, the Jayhawks were put through a grueling few months of back-breaking workouts, mind-molding mental challenges and the early stages of a seismic shift designed to eliminate the team’s ability to accept losing.

First-year coach Charlie Weis promised on the day he was introduced as KU’s next coach that the spring “was not going to be very pleasant” for his new team, and in many ways it wasn’t. But Saturday, with the sun shining and more than 15,000 fans filling Memorial Stadium’s seats, it all seemed worth it.

“I would like to call it just hard work and discipline,” said sophomore running back Tony Pierson, the game’s offensive MVP. “I wouldn’t call it miserable, though. I made it out.”

Beyond the fact that Weis engineered a way to get so many people to show up for a scrimmage — likely many of whom just six months ago had all but given up on the program — there were plenty of highlights Saturday. Reverses went for touchdowns, flea-flickers were both called and executed, and players, young and old, who have been dubbed “play-makers” for the past couple of years, actually made plays again.

“I think we’ve taken a bunch of steps,” Weis said after the game. “But I think we have a bunch of steps to go. Too many times, coaches give you some kind of phrase to sugar-coat it. But for us to be competitive on a weekly basis, we have a lot of work to do.”

For at least the next couple of months, a lot of that work will be spent on recruiting the Class of 2013 so Weis’ future spring games at Kansas will include defensive linemen who play for one team, not both. The players still will work out on their own and will continue to get to know strength coach Scott Holsopple in ways they probably wish they wouldn’t.

“There are several different ways that you can run an organization,” Weis said. “I just think that they are starting to figure me out more. I’m easier to read now. They are not used to people coming in and just saying it to (them). They are used to coaches playing mind games, where you have to try to figure out what the coach is thinking. That’s not what I do.”

People have taken notice.

“I think he’s just been incredibly consistent in his message,” quarterback Dayne Crist said. “He’s always honest, always telling the truth, whether that’s what you want to hear or not. It’s just common sense. It’s using good judgment. Everyone has a conscience, and, doing the right thing, he’s huge on that.”

Weis’ plan stretches to all corners of their responsibilities as student-athletes, and, whenever possible, he makes sure to point that out.

So while many left Saturday’s game talking about Pierson’s 141 yards, Crist’s arm or the fact that the Jayhawks — with their names on their jerseys again — looked like a football team again, Weis’ focus shifted to finishing strong so he could have all of his weapons this fall.

“Right now, I’m more concerned with them finishing the semester and taking their exams,” he said.

Still, football never is far from his thoughts, and, even though he knows there’s still work to do, Weis seems to be looking forward to August.

“Offensively, we’re ahead of our defense,” he said at the risk of stating the obvious. “But I truly believe that we’re going to be much improved on defense.

“Not only philosophically do I believe in what they’re doing, but I do believe that with some of the guys coming in, interjected with the people here, we’ll be much improved.”


Cole Hogan 8 years, 1 month ago

Rock on HCCW!! one question...will sims ever be the number 1 back if HCCW is here and pierson is healthy?

Dirk Medema 8 years, 1 month ago

And Jackson is here. And Bourbon is here. And Cox is here.

Pierson is likely to always be the fastest, and therefore the biggest HR threat, but there is obviously lots of competition at RB. With CW talking about resting the D with a ball control O, it sounds like there will be plenty of touches to share as well.

Was it Tait or Newell that hypothesized that Sims won't return to the top of the pile after his 3 game civilian tour? He's potentially 5th string by September.

Gary Wirsig 8 years, 1 month ago

I believe it may have been one of Keegan's columns.

Matt Tait 8 years, 1 month ago

That was a blog I wrote, and the emergence of Marquis Jackson only seems to support the claim. Tough break for James, but it was good to see him running hard on Saturday. He'll be ready if it does get back to him.

jhox 8 years, 1 month ago

This guy may have a big say in who gets the bulk of the carries next season:

clevelandjayhawker 8 years, 1 month ago

I hope the baseball team can go to omaha sometime, this dead time from the spring game/march madness till football/late night seems too long.

Excited for KU football again, may take a few years but I like the direction.

Jim Jackson 8 years, 1 month ago

Tait, any news as to why Mckay didn't get in the action much? He has superior physical attributes so I am just curous as to why he didn't see much action. Thanks!

Matt Tait 8 years, 1 month ago

Weis simply said it's because he was behind guys on the depth chart. He also said he didn't pay any attention to the substitutions so he didn't really know how much McCay did or did not play.

I wouldn't read too much into it. If the kid is cleared, he'll have all of preseason camp to prove himself and he'll do so with a clear mind. From the looks of things though, jumping ahead of Beshears, Pick or Patterson is gonna be tough for anyone to do.

Jim Jackson 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree Matt but I would love to see some size and speed in there. Pick has solid size but DP and Beshears do not, albeit Beshears is very strong.

squawkhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

I was somewhat disappointed and not that impressed with Crist. I guess my expectations were much higher with him playing against the 2nd string of the worst defense in the conference last year. 11 of 19 for 150 some yards...meh.

squawkhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

I was somewhat disappointed and not that impressed with Crist. I guess my expectations were much higher with him playing against the 2nd string of the worst defense in the conference last year. 11 of 19 for 150 some yards...meh.

Jonathan Briles 8 years, 1 month ago

Did you actually go to the game? His throws were almost all perfect. He had a bad throw to Pierson as Pierson was falling down, but other than that I can't think of a bad throw. It was not a full game it was a running clock and add the fact that Heaps got some throws from him and thats why he only had 150 yards. Also Weis is not going to open up the offensive playbook very far in the spring game so we did not get to see him full strength. My final point on why he looked great, but his numbers were not phenomenal was dropped passes. I saw Crist throw multiple passes that hit the receiver right in the hands in between the numbers. One in particular was to Patterson near the endzone on the first drive that would have been a touchdown. I thought Crist was awesome. His throws were crisp and right on the money. He just had some unfortunate breaks with dropped passes.

april28 8 years, 1 month ago

I think that I saw three legitimate drops, one 50/50 and - as you wrote - one bad pass.

Given where KU is and was, it's difficult to imagine that we could have a better quarterback heading into the season.

Plus, Heaps looks special. The next three years are going to be really fun.

KansasRedLegger 8 years, 1 month ago

Yeah this guy is an obvious troll. "Squawkhawk" = transparent.

Seth Nesmith 8 years, 1 month ago

All squawk and no hawk! Crist is legit.

squawkhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, I'm guessing he'll help us win one more game this year. 3 - 9 will be a marked improvement for Weis and crew.

Bville Hawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Better organized, better discipline, better conditioning. Substantial progress has been made over what we have seen the last 2 seasons. The talent level has been upgraded with more (hopefully) arriving this summer. CW is taking us in the right direction, our job is to be patient and supportive if the wins don't come immediately.

Thanks, Matt, for the Monday football article!

Sayers44 8 years, 1 month ago

At the Spring Game, Crist and Heaps were set up to look good.

There was no pass rush, the white team did not ever blitz, there was never any rusher within 5 yards of these Qbs' when they threw.

Both Crist and Heaps were like rocking chair Qbs' --never having to worry about being hit and having all day to pick out receivers.

The game was lethargic. I never heard any pads popping, it seemed as players were just going through the motions.

Crist will be an improvement over last year. I suggest waiting on judgement of Heaps, as anyone can throw when there is no pass rush.

Jonathan Briles 8 years, 1 month ago

I heard a few pads pop. Especially when McDougald knocked the sense out of Trent Smiley. Smiley had the ball and McDouglad made sure he did not keep it. It was a vicious hit.

kureader 8 years, 1 month ago

You think Charlie Weis's spring game strategy was to set up his QB's to "look good"? For what purpose?

It's about getting the most out of the last practice of the spring, and seeing what new players can do under game-like conditions without getting people hurt. Every team will protect its quarterbacks like this.

I wouldn't really say it was lethargic, either. It was more of an organized practice, no different than any spring game. If you and I were actually on the field taking hits and getting tackled (vs sitting in the stands eating popcorn), I'd wager we wouldn't dismiss the effort of the players and suggest they were just "going through the motions".

The idea that "Crist will be an improvement over last year" is the understatement of the day. His accuracy and arm are excellent. As for Heaps, he has gun. He has the best arm of any KU quarterback I've seen since David Jaynes. His size puts him at a disadvantage as a drop back passer, but Reesing proved that a short quarterback can get the job done in the Big 12.

The improvement in our team after just 15 organized practices, was impressive. We couldn't ask for more from the players or coaches right now. It's a work in progress, but they're really improving. RCJH.

april28 8 years, 1 month ago

Truly, some of the expectations on this board are ridiculous. Suddenly, after spring practices we're supposed to be Alabama?

It was a good scrimmage. Great progress.

Ryan Shelton 8 years, 1 month ago

I've never been to a spring game. For those of you in the know, is 15,000 good? Was the crowd excited and into it? Sounds like singing the alma mater went well.

kureader 8 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, attendance varies, but I'd guess it was 3X normal. LJW reporters would know better.

Nebraska will have 40,000, and they'll pay 10 bucks each to get in. But, judging from a couple spring game videos on TV this weekend (I noticed K-State and Texas A&M), KU had a respectable turnout compared to most other schools.

You've got to give credit to Weis. He worked hard to get good attendance. Part of the KU band and all the KU cheerleaders were there. There was free food and beer. It was a really nice day. I'll certainly go back next year. I expect next year's attendance to be even better.

Bville Hawk 8 years, 1 month ago

There was free beer?????? Has the date been set for next years game?

ja3hawk 8 years, 1 month ago

So whats the word on McCay? I thought they were going to appeal to the proper committee at the NCAA and they had a deadline of like last Monday (or is it today?)

John Miller 8 years, 1 month ago

What about the Wide Receivers as a whole? I saw very little separation from the second team DB's and a lot of dropped balls.

kureader 8 years, 1 month ago

Agreed, me too. They'll get better, and you've got to assume recruiting great receivers is a top priority. It wouldn' surprise me to have another couple guys on the roster by the time our season begins.

The former Notre Dame tight end should be a great addition for us.

number1jayhawker 8 years, 1 month ago

Josh Ford, a wr JUCO from AZ, will see the field a lot. 6'4" 4.4 speed

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Yes. Ragone is going to be a beast for us I think if he stays healthy. Though I thought that #41 Jimmay Mundine looked pretty decent on Saturday. These guys that are coming in might be surprised that there is more talent on this team than they expected. Some of these guys probably worked their butts off in the offseason knowing full well Weis was bringing in some outside talent to challenge positions.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 1 month ago

All, please remember, the spring football game is like a progress allows the coaching staff to evaluate each player's development compared to their perceived strengths and weaknesses.

It's really just the first true indicator of how far away KU is from being competitive.

A} The reality is that there are a number of games on our schedule that if we stay within 17 to 21 points that will mean improvement.

B] There a re a few games if we stay close with a chance to win, it will mean real progress.

C] And there are several games we have a decent shot at winning.

So, maybe we shock someone from "A" edge out a couple from "B" and win a few from "C"...thus maybe 4-8 or 5-7 or if we get every break in the book, even 6-6

PS. If Kansas goes 6-6, Charlie Weis should be COY.

texashawk10 8 years, 1 month ago

Based off of last seasons team, this team could reach a bowl game and not be a huge shock. The defense was very good at creating turnovers the second half of last season and if they do that again for the entire season, they should keep the scores low enough for the offense to have a chance to win some games this year.

ejlumus 8 years, 1 month ago

Saw losts of improvement, S&C, on off field sharp, one penalty .... major improvement in knowing the plays. Stabnd by my prediction:

Win 3 non-cons

Win 3 TT, BU, ISU

Win 1 KSU, UT, TCU

Northern Illinois will determine good or bad season.

DC best drop back QB since Jaynes. Consider TR a scrambler.

CW coach of the year in B12.

Book mark it ...... end of story

Jeff Coffman 8 years, 1 month ago

QBs will decide our future. 1) Does Baylor have a QB that can help them win this year? Remember if the game was 3 Qtrs we win...However, RGIII was a great college QB. 2) Weeden replaceable by the freshman Lunt? 3) Crist is he who we hoped for, is the backup from SFCC good enough if something happens to Crist? 4) Can NIU replace Harnish (Mr. Irrelevant)? 5) I don't know if the TCU or the WVU have new QBs

Hope that our QB is better than expected and that KU can take care of the new QBs.

baldwinjhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Agreed... 6-6 gets Charlie coach of the year! He's lost a lot of weight. Anyone know how much he's dropped? Looks like at least 50. Maybe Holsopple is working on him also. Rock Chalk

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