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.


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.”


Ron Prichard 1 year, 5 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!!


troutsee 1 year, 5 months ago

K State will not hire Mangino as a head coach


wildjayhawk 1 year, 5 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.


nuleafjhawk 1 year, 5 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.


IlBastardo 1 year, 5 months ago

OK kugrad93. I'm giving you the opportunity to publicly apologize on behalf of yourself and every other Lew Perkins disciple for years of throwing up the "Have you noticed that he's still unemployed?" nonsense as point one of your party line. Apologize to the fans for insulting their intelligence and wasting their time, and apologize to the man, who is the only reason we're talking about football right now, who has been through something that would leave you wishing your only problem in life was being barked at by an alpha male football coach. If you think I'm not really asking this and that I'll let it die, you're mistaken.


Jayhawker111 1 year, 5 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.


nuleafjhawk 1 year, 5 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?


Bill Kackley 1 year, 5 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.


HAWKS1 1 year, 5 months ago

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


jayhawkintx1973 1 year, 5 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.


PoincianaHawk 1 year, 5 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.


texashawk10 1 year, 5 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.


NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Sad sack. That's funny stuff right there.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 5 months ago

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


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