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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

QB Jake Heaps: Kansas football just clicked

Kansas redshirt quarterback Jake Heaps looks to hand off to running back Tony Pierson during the first half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas redshirt quarterback Jake Heaps looks to hand off to running back Tony Pierson during the first half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.

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At the midway point of spring football practices, Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps noticed he and his teammates had flipped a switch and started treating each day a little differently.

Heaps recently recalled the moment he saw the team go from its regular practice pace to a breakneck speed that has made the second half of the spring session much more intense than the first.

“One of the practices we had a short-yardage period, offense against defense, who’s gonna get the first down,” Heaps began. “The trash talk started, guys were competing, and everybody was having fun. That’s how it should be. You have to take practice seriously, but it might as well be fun, too.”

That short-yardage session lasted just a few minutes, and, pushed for the results of the drill, Heaps turned a brighter shade of red and said it went back and forth. It was clear that he did not care which side won the drill, only that the competition sparked something in his teammates.

“After that, guys got a taste of it and it was like, ‘Wow, that was fun. That was cool,’” Heaps recalled. “As a leader, you use those opportunities and go, ‘Yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to be every day.’ Ever since that, we’ve carried that attitude all the way through.”

Pierson catching on

Throughout the spring, junior tailback Tony Pierson has been given plenty of time to get used to his new role. KU coach Charlie Weis said that, rather than have Pierson play half the snaps and spell starting tailback James Sims, Pierson will be on the field for most of KU’s offensive plays this fall.

The 5-foot-10, 171-pound speed back has shown what he can do in the running game, and this spring he and Heaps have worked hard on developing Pierson’s skills as a receiver.

How much does Pierson expect to be used in the passing game?

“During the spring, it’s been like 80 percent pass, 20 percent running,” Pierson said.

The always-confident Pierson knows what he can do as a receiver, but it’s best to let his teammates tell how much of a difference his new role can make for this year’s offense.

“He just opens things up so much more,” Heaps said. “He’s scary-dynamic. He’s fast. He catches the ball well.”

Heaps did not stop there.

“He’s done it multiple times this spring,” he continued. “All it takes is for him to catch the ball, make one guy miss, and he’s gone. To put him in the position where he’s only gotta make one or two guys miss versus all 11 guys miss, it’s exciting. And that’s basically what we’re trying to do with Tony, put him in the best position we can to have him make some game-breaking plays.”

Sims, who used to share carries with Pierson, also likes the idea of the East St. Louis, Ill., native getting more field time this fall.

“Tony’s one of the best in the country, if not the best, as far as making big plays,” Sims said.

Train like a Jayhawk

The Jayhawks once again plan to host the popular “Train Like a Jayhawk” kid’s clinic from 10-11 a.m. Saturday, a couple of hours before kickoff of the annual spring game.

The clinic is open to children in grades 1-6 and will feature instruction and drill stations taught by the current Jayhawks. All activity will take place on the KU football practice fields adjacent to the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium. Each participant will receive a free T-shirt.

Following the clinic, the Hy-Vee Hawkzone will be open from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with the spring game kicking off at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Alumni weekend

Weis and the KU football program will host a barbecue Friday for any former KU football players who can make it. It’s the second such alumni cookout under Weis.

For information or to RSVP, contact Tracey Dillon at tmdillon@ku.edu or (785) 864-3142.

Comments

Phil Leister 1 year, 4 months ago

“Tony’s one of the best in the country, if not the best, as far as making big plays." I honestly don't think that's much of an exaggeration. Sims and Pierson in the backfield is one of the best combinations in the country. They'll be exciting to watch, especially if Heaps can open things up a bit in the passing game.

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jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm not sure what took Weiss so long to come to the revelation that he should use Pierson more catching balls and getting him one on one opportunities. Gill had that figured out from day one. That's the only thing Gill did right at KU, Weiss has him beat in every other respect.

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Brandon Pope 1 year, 4 months ago

I think he probably knew what he wanted to do but we couldn't throw the football last year. What is the point of putting him out in space to get banged up if we aren't going to toss the ball his way? Now that we have a (hopefully) legitimate passer in at QB we can open the offense up the way Weis intended it to be. Knowing the kind of offensive guru Weis is, it must have been infuriating to have to call run after run and leave your best play maker on the sideline most of the year.

3

jc1306 1 year, 4 months ago

Agree, the only way to get it in his hands last year was to hand it off.

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Savion Havon 1 year, 4 months ago

Weiss chose to make those calls offensive guru not really running the option to the short side of the field is less than guru ish they were in games last year where play calling did them in. Same Florida team Weiss said couldn't get it going minus two known game breakers put up monster numbers last year. Hopefully the wr coach has been eating his wheaties cause wr's have to catch the ball regardless of who's throwing it

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jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

Good point. But maybe 5 yard passes could have been more completeable for those guys.

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texashawk10 1 year, 4 months ago

Did you actually watch the games last season? Crist and Cummings couldn't even complete screen passes most of the time.

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AznSnSaTioN 1 year, 4 months ago

There was a game that Pierson made like 7 straight catches in the first half, and in the second half they couldn't complete one pass to anyone. I can't wait to see Pierson play a bigger part in this offense and hopefully we got a qb to make passes to him. Another thing is I hope his body can hold up all season.

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Jeff Suther 1 year, 4 months ago

Charlie must have saw my comments last season asking why the hell Pierson wasn't at receiver when he wasn't at running back. With how bad are receivers are ( hopefully they are better this year) we need to have multiple sets with sims bourbon and Pierson on the field at the same time.

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Brandon Pope 1 year, 4 months ago

I love that idea of having Sims and Cox/Bourbon in the backfield with Pierson in the slot and one or two WRs split out wide. Talk about a dynamic set of playmakers on the field. Could be fun to watch assuming heaps can sling the ball like a proper QB.

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jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

They would have made a heck of a wishbone option crew, that's for sure.

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KGphoto 1 year, 4 months ago

I feel like that was the Okie St. game.

The reason you can’t continue running same play is that the other team adjusts and stops it. (Or Tony gets injured.) Obvious, I know, but I think Weis was hoping that screen success would set up other plays. Those plays just didn’t work out, mainly because we didn’t have the QB play we needed.

This year, with Heaps, (crossing fingers) Weis should be able to run consecutive screens to Pierson, draw the defense in, and then hit Christian Matthews over the top for a long score. Or something along those lines.

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JayHok 1 year, 4 months ago

Actually that was the KSU game. Pierson and Crist played like men the first half as did the whole team. Pierson's injury changed everything. Not having Pierson as a threat second half was huge for KSU taking us to the woodshed second half. The only threat we had on the field was a running back. The small amount of success we had in the passing game first half closed up ALSO once KSU defense didn't have to worry about Pierson. One threat on the field just about the entire season for KU. Somehow during the KSU game's first half, Weis had three legitimate threats on the field at one time and they were motivated. I couldn't have been prouder of KU's team after the first half.

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jayhawk_4_life2 1 year, 4 months ago

It was KSU game and it was a zone option bubble with Pierson and Sims running with Crist throwing it. Honestly if (now this part I forget who it was) but if crist hits two deeper slants to I want to say Turz!!! and Mundine catches the post at the 5 instead of it getting Picked off and (again I think it was) Beshears dropping the vert.. the offense would have looked pretty impressive... Now that is a LOT of IFs I know.

When Pierson got healthy, I believe the confidence in the QB (either) was waning. So I think CW thought about ways to get the ball to the RBs the most efficient and effective ways possible... Hopefully with new blood outside and new way to utilize TP this offense will be consistently explosive!!!

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Joe Joseph 1 year, 4 months ago

I have a good feeling about this season.

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Jonathan Allison 1 year, 4 months ago

couldn't be any worse than last year.... Could it?

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colreader 1 year, 4 months ago

Any way to watch or listen to the Spring Game?

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KGphoto 1 year, 4 months ago

“As a leader, you use those opportunities and go, ‘Yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to be every day.’ Ever since that, we’ve carried that attitude all the way through.” -Jake Heaps

Crist was such a great looking prospect, with the size and arm, and he said all the right things to the media. He devoted himself to KU, and for that I’m a fan of his.

The one thing I never saw from him was a quote like that one from Heaps. He said all the right things about getting better everyday, yadda yadda, but I never saw him take the team by the reins and drive it. He may have had that quality at one time in his life. A time before his injuries perhaps. Those injuries may very well have killed his confidence, and to lead you must first believe in yourself.

I love seeing this from Heaps. He believes in himself and it is catching on.

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JayHok 1 year, 4 months ago

What we're really talking about here is having four or five playmakers on the field at one time. Similar to how OSU looked a couple years ago. How Oregon looks every year. For KU, it's just a philosophical concept at this point, we can't claim to be the Ducks yet, but I'm sure most of us like thinking of Heaps, Sims, Pierson, Bourbon, Cox, along with one or two top notch receivers on the field at the same time. The last time KU had multiple threats on the field at the same time was during the Reeesing years. Among multiple issues, a major problem with using only one threat is the eleven defenders know who the ball is going to or at least who to key off of. That's why we rarely scored a touchdown last year. If KU has a great line next year we could have a lot of fun as fans with these multiple threats on the field at the same time.

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Al Martin 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree with you completely, but your comment about defenders knowing who the ball was going to reminded of one of my favorite games ever, when Tony Sands ran for 396 yards against Missouri. The story goes that our offensive line came to the line of scrimmage each play and said "Guess who's getting the ball?"

Just thinking about that makes me happy.

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CrystalJones 1 year, 4 months ago

This time I think the "hype" is justified. If the terrific influx of jucos we have coming in pans out (and I think that they will), then "going bowling" could be the bare minimum of our success in 2013.

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machinegun 1 year, 4 months ago

Last year, we scored a little over 200 points which was dead last in the Big 12. Texas at #7 scored 460 points. The only way for us to compete in the Big 12 is to pass the ball. We need at least 25-30 passing TD's this year.

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CrystalJones 1 year, 4 months ago

Maybe even throw one -- at least one -- to a wide receiver. That would be a step forward.

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Randy Bombardier 1 year, 4 months ago

I have a feeling about Heaps, that he is really going to light things up. With Pierson in the slot and Sims in the backfield we could have a ton of fire power.

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