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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

KU football seeks improvement from sad-sack special teams

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis, left, watches after a fake field-goal attempt fell well short of a first down during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis, left, watches after a fake field-goal attempt fell well short of a first down during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

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Special teams have been a sore spot for Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis this season.

Forget about the missed field goals, short kickoffs and trouble finding a reliable kicker. It’s obvious what those plights have done to this team, as Weis often has gone for it on fourth down when other teams would simply have tacked on three points.

The special-teams struggles KU faces go beyond kicking, though. KU also has struggled with its return game and in coverage, and shortcomings in both areas were evident again during Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma in which the Sooners returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns. That effort, or lack thereof, proved to be the breaking point for Weis and special-teams coordinator Clint Bowen.

“I told Clint, after throwing up this past weekend, that all hands are on deck, put whoever you want out there,” Weis said earlier this week. “So he knows he’s got free rein to put whoever out there. He doesn’t have to ask for my permission … whoever he wants out there and he thinks give ’em the best chance because I saw enough of that.”

Throughout the season, Weis employed a rule that offensive or defensive starters could serve on just two special-teams units. Asked if that rule was still in place, Weis hammered home his desire to see improvement on special teams.

“All hands on deck,” he said again, emphasizing each word.

According to several KU players, Weis and his coaching staff have not simply elected to change up the personnel this week in preparation for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff against Texas at Memorial Stadium. They’ve also put in extra time during practice.

“We worked on punt (team) a lot today,” sophomore Ben Heeney said Tuesday night. “More than we had in the past. Obviously, it’s a problem if they’re scoring touchdowns and getting big returns. And I think you’re gonna see more starters out there on special teams this week. It’s a huge part of the game, and games can be won and lost on special teams.”

Special teams were an area in which Heeney stood out in 2011. He played on every special-teams unit and often was praised for his relentless effort and ability to make plays. Because of that, the first-year starter from Hutchinson has taken it upon himself to stress to teammates the importance of the game’s third facet.

“I’ve (talked) with a couple guys,” Heeney said. “But I feel like I should probably mention it more, just to tell them that this is where you can make a name for yourself.”

Sophomore tight end Jimmay Mundine was on two units last week — field goal and kickoff return — and he said he noticed several upperclassmen and starters adding special-teams duties to their list of priorities this week.

“There were some older guys who, since things weren’t going well, said, ‘Put me out there, I’ll do more, I’ll give more,’” Mundine recalled. “Hopefully that’ll just motivate everyone to do their jobs.”

Mundine likened the role of a special-teams player to that of an offensive lineman.

“They do so much,” Mundine said. “But they don’t get much credit. Coach Weis tells us all the time that there are guys in the NFL whose only job is to play special teams. That’s all they do, and they make a lot of money doing it.”

Sophomore running back Brandon Bourbon was another guy who served on two special-teams units last week. With nagging injuries slowing his progress in the backfield and James Sims, Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox playing so well in front of him, Bourbon said he looked at special teams as his ticket to more playing time.

“Special teams is just effort and heart and a few fundamental things that the coaches will teach you,” Bourbon said. “But it’s mainly effort. I want to get a bigger role. I would do ’em all if they asked me to.”

Weis agreed with Bourbon in saying special teams often came down to guys making plays. But he held his coaching staff accountable for at least part of KU’s poor performance.

“Let’s not just blame it on the players,” Weis said. “Because the easiest thing to do is just take the players and throw them under the bus and say, ‘Yeah, it’s all their fault; we put them right in the right spot and they just didn’t make a play.’ Now, to be honest with you, there are times that you just have to go make the play. And there are things schematically that you can try to do to put people in a better position to make a play, so it’s a combination of the two.”

Comments

Tony Bandle 1 year, 12 months ago

At least they got to use the word "sack"...a word we don't here much from our defense!!

Tony Bandle 1 year, 12 months ago

Damn, are the rest of you actually working out there or just not interested in football anymore. :)

KU_Cobra 1 year, 12 months ago

Sorry, the article "slipped" past us like an OU kick returner.

kureader 1 year, 12 months ago

We're interested ... we just aren't as "quick on the trigger" as you are.

The entire special teams performance is poor ... hard to understand, really. Bowen is a good football coach. I did notice, when replaying the punt return for a touchdown last weekend, that Bowen put three linemen in the backfield during the punt to protect the punter ... during the return, they had no chance in the open field to even lay a hand on the OU punt returner. Ordinarily, you'd put three running backs or linebackers in the backfield, so you have half a chance to make a tackle on the return. I'd bet the special teams lineup will change alot tihs week.

Ron Prichard 1 year, 12 months ago

I saw that, too, and was totally baffled at that. You have to have someone that can make a stop if needed. Yes, you have to block and protect the punter, but that's only half of the responsibilities.

actorman 1 year, 12 months ago

I would have given you a "like" on that one, Oakville, except for your misspelling of "hear."

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 12 months ago

withholding "likes" for typographical errors? that's cold.

NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

Sad sack. That's funny stuff right there.

texashawk10 1 year, 12 months ago

A lot of the problems I've seen with the kickoff and punt coverage is that KU's players aren't getting off of blocks and aren't staying in their lanes. It's easy for other teams to get big returns when the people covering it aren't following their assignments. As for the return game, it's hard to have good returns when returners are running east and west instead of north and south. Get the ball and get up field and gain maximum yardage.

PoincianaHawk 1 year, 12 months ago

This has been the most obvious shortcoming of the team all season long, and I unloaded on all three writers after game 3 to pound this point home. So now, late in the season, it starts to get attention.
Special team play determines field position, pure and simple.

One only needs to visit Yahoo sports and check the game stats for each game to see where each team started their drive to underscore the value of special team play. When your kicker cannot put it into the endzone on kickoffs, and the coverage sucks, the other team starts with terrific field position. KU starts from the 25, or worse.
Punting is lame and inconsistent. Someone said Crist is good punter; give him the job if that is true. Then hire Nolan Cromwell as Special Teams coach - his record in the NFL in that role is spectacular. He's on the Cleveland Browns staff right now, and would probably welcome a change of scenery.

danmoore 1 year, 12 months ago

Nolan has pretty much followed Mike Holmgren a good part of his coaching career and now that Holmgren has retired, maybe he'll be looking for a new job.

I like Clint. I was sorry to see him go and glad to see him return. I hope there is a place for him on this staff but would love to see the Ransom Rambler return to Larryville.

texashawk10 1 year, 12 months ago

It certainly wouldn't do any harm to see if Cromwell had any interest in returning to Lawrence. The worst he could do is say no thanks. And since Bowen is also the secondary coach, Weis wouldn't have to get rid of Bowen if something like that were to happen. I think part of KU's struggles on special teams is that they don't have a dedicated special teams coach. I think a smart move for Weis in the offseason would be to hire a coach to focus exclusively special teams and let Clint Bowen focus exclusively on the secondary.

kureader 1 year, 12 months ago

I doubt that Noland would have aspirations to coach KU's special teams ... he'd be a good college head coach somewhere ... or, in a few more years, he may not want to work at all. He's 57.

danmoore 1 year, 12 months ago

I’m not so sure about that. Except for two years as the OC at A&M all his coaching experience has been either as a special teams or receivers coach. If he has aspirations of becoming a head coach he’s taking a very slow path.

Micky Baker 1 year, 12 months ago

Weis should reach out to Mangino for Offensive Coordinator, and then it would be Mangino or Campo who would be leading candidates to take over after Weis leaves. All of the people that didn't like Mangino are gone.

Just a thought.

Doug Roberts 1 year, 12 months ago

I would LOVE to see Mangino as O Coordinator, but something tells me he and Weis just wouldn't get along. Plus, the fat jokes would be unbearable.

okiedave 1 year, 12 months ago

Unfortunately, once an employee leaves under circumstances that are less than favorable, the chances of a rehire are slim to none.

actorman 1 year, 12 months ago

That's not true, jayhawk. There are plenty of fans around like me who can't stand Mangino, and there is no chance that he will ever come back to KU in any capacity -- thank God.

wildjayhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

You may think twice, when you see Mangino across the field when Ku plays Kansas ST. in a few years, my friend.

Jeff Smith 1 year, 12 months ago

haha no joke. When he is owning us year after year. Lets hate the guy who turned our entire football program around. I guess if it wasn't for him we wouldn't have tasted success, so nobody would be complaining about Gill or Weis.

HAWKS1 1 year, 12 months ago

Ultimately, the position coach has to be held accountable! Bowen is not getting the job done on special teams.

kualum95 1 year, 12 months ago

Yes, Bowen was the one when asked by Weis before the spring game, who is your kicker? and he said Doherty , which then led Weis not renewing Mueller's scholly. He needs to go!

Bill Kackley 1 year, 12 months ago

Well actorman there are plenty of us around that feel the dumbest thing KU ever did was let Mangino go. Let him go because a couple of P-----s couldn't handle being on a football team that was dedicated and the coach was a little abusive. Hell, I play football, and what went on that got Mangino fired was nothing. Just a couple of new style babies that thought everything should be handed to them on a silver platter.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

Slightly off subject here, but here's one for the stat's junkies -

Has anyone ever been beat 63-21 and then been a 21 point favorite the very next Saturday?

Ron Prichard 1 year, 12 months ago

You missed a week in there, but your point is well made.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

Whoops! How embarassing. Well thanks for not calling me names like some of our fellow posters!

Ron Prichard 1 year, 12 months ago

Sadly, we were the beatdown in the week after the beatdown of which you speak. I guess our beatdown trumps the UT beatdown.

Jayhawker111 1 year, 12 months ago

Mangino was a loose cannon and did not represent KU in a professional manner. Why would anybody want this clown back at KU --He was an embarrassment.

Lincoln High controversy

After going 1-9 in his first season as the head coach of Lincoln High in Ellwood City, PA, a group of parents went to the school board and demanded his firing because of his "language, and harsh approach to people". The board elected not to fire Mangino, but he left the school after only one year and did not complete the year as a teacher.

High school referee incident

On September 21, 2002, Coach Mangino yelled at the officiating crew assigned to the Lawrence High School–Olathe East football game in which Mangino's son, Tommy, was playing. Mangino apparently became angry after referees failed to call what he believed was a late hit on Tommy, the LHS quarterback.

LHS officials took undisclosed action against Mangino after the game for violating a Kansas High School rule barring abuse of game officials by coaches, players and fans.

2004 Kansas–Texas game

In 2004, Mangino paid a $5,000 fine for suggesting that officials acted with favoritism in a questionable offensive pass interference call that affected the outcome of a game against Texas. Mangino implied that money and a BCS berth for the Big 12 Conference influenced the officials to make a call in favor of Texas. He and athletic director Lew Perkins issued public apologies the day after the incident.

NCAA penalties and probation

In 2005, the Jayhawks self-reported five NCAA major violations including academic fraud had been committed by members of the Jayhawk football program under Mark Mangino. In 2006, these major violations, along with four others from other sports contributed to the NCAA charging the Kansas University Athletics with "lack of institutional control". A graduate assistant was found to have supplied answers to correspondence courses being taken by potential athletes. As a result, the football team was limited for two years in its recruitment of junior college transfers, and lost two scholarships for each of the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Jayhawker111 1 year, 12 months ago

Were you still fired up in 2009 when Mangino lost his last 7 games and finished last in the Big 12 North.

When Mangino was fired the program was in disarray.

Mangino was a 50% coach, had no class and created his own demise.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

I don't care about Mangino one way or the other - but it wasn't "mythic" - it really happened.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

Lol. Don't take things personally my friend.

You have never seen me correct anyone regarding spelling, punctuation or grammar - that would be the pot calling the kettle black. But in just about everyone's mind, mythical means that it did not happen.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

yeah - too bad you won't be equally cool when you're my age.

Oh wait - you ain't that cool now.

Ron Prichard 1 year, 12 months ago

I think the actual "myth" is that if someone doesn't like Mangino they are seen as a "Gill apologist." Honestly, I don't want Mangino back but I also think Gill was the worst hire in recent memory for all of Division 1 college football. Mangino had his strengths and was good for KU when he was here. But anyone that can't admit or acknowledge that he had flaws and made some very major mis-steps with this program are willfilly ignoring history. I don't think Mangino was the long term solution for KU. I also don't think Gill was in any way good for this program.

I do think this team and this coach deserve our support. Weis needs at the very least three years to get this program turned around. Honestly, I hope he stays all five years of his contract because what I have seen so far from this team is light years ahead of where it was last year. It still has a ways to go, but we need to give it time.

Finally, Mangino is not coming back to KU. Ever. Why people keep asking for that is beyond me. If Weis doesn't work out, then there is someone else out there who might be the answer. I don't know that might be, but I can say with 100% certainty it will not be Mangino.

MartyrMangino 1 year, 12 months ago

Jayhawker111 - Are you aware that you are using a very limited scope to view Coach Mangino's career at KU? One couldn't go outdoors in Kansas, observe the weather for 3 months and extrapolate that for 8 years of Kansas weather. You have to take a longer view and notice the trends in different measures of success.

• KU won more games with Coach Mangino than we were winning before he arrived • KU went to more bowl games than before Coach Mangino arrived • KU was recruiting better than before Coach Mangino arrived • KU's attendence at games was better with Mangino than before he arrived • KU was setting more records during his career here than they were before • KU was developing its facilities better than before Coach Mangino was hired • Coach Mangino was named national coach of the year by unbiased entities

All of these things took a lot of work to accomplish, and you can't be taken seriously if you are only going to pick 7 games to judge Coach Mangino's 8 years at Kansas.

From the December 5, 2009 LJWORLD “Mangino could be the most generous giver of anybody in the athletic department, and you would never know because that’s how some people choose to fund their groups,” and charities respect that, Gregoire said.

I don't know Coach Mangino personally, but if you look, you will find many good deeds he has done throughout his life and very, very few marks on his character in comparison. He didn't commit a crime at KU, and most people realize that uncompromising people can come across sharply at times. We would be kidding ourselves to assume that top level football coaches around the country don't do similar things every day. Not a crime. Tough, but not a crime.

wildjayhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

Mangino, embarrassed KU while KU was in the orange bowl? Where was your head then up your ***hole?

Mike Hart 1 year, 12 months ago

Any idea what this nimrod Ilbastardo is talking about?

vd 1 year, 12 months ago

Do you have a video of the 5, 30 yd. chip shots he missed?

hucking_fawks_rock 1 year, 12 months ago

I don't, but coaching and practice can fix that. The kid has a boot... Better than what we have now.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

I'm 54 years old and honestly, not much phases me any more, but I am stunned that more than three years later we are still talking about Mangino.

Good or bad - when people are still talking after three years, you've made some sort of impact.

wildjayhawk 1 year, 12 months ago

You will see more of Mangino in the coming years and KU fans will not like what they see when they look across the field. Some of these so called KU fans would complain even if they were hung with a new rope.

troutsee 1 year, 12 months ago

K State will not hire Mangino as a head coach

Ron Prichard 1 year, 12 months ago

For the love of all that's holy, LET MANGINO GO!!!!! He's not coming back, people. He's gone. He was here, his legacy is mixed but probably more good than bad, and now he is gone. Please, oh, please get over it and move on already!!

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