Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jayhawks’ first football drills to offer peek at progress

Kansas University running backs and quarterbacks shuffle through a drill during a spring football practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Memorial Stadium. From left, in front, are running backs Taylor Cox, James Sims, Brandon Bourbon and quarterback Blake Jablonski.

Kansas University running backs and quarterbacks shuffle through a drill during a spring football practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Memorial Stadium. From left, in front, are running backs Taylor Cox, James Sims, Brandon Bourbon and quarterback Blake Jablonski.


Of all the areas that Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis and his staff upgraded this offseason, one of their proudest improvements may come as a bit of a surprise.

“Well, there’s been a lot more fights,” Weis said during the final days of spring drills. “And that’s always a good thing.”

Hear him out. It’s not that Weis likes the idea of Jayhawk-on-Jayhawk violence. But the second-year KU coach is all for a little nastiness as long as it stems from increased intensity and competition.

“There’s a gray area about trash talking and things like that,” Weis said. “Where’s the line between you want to encourage it or losing them? I think we’re a long way from getting that ornery, nasty mentality across the board, but if they keep on improving the way they’ve been improving, we’ll be much better off going into the season. ... And you want to know something? That’s been missing here.”

With more than 20 junior-college transfers expected to report to campus today for the first official day of the 2013 season — the first practice is scheduled for 2:50 p.m. Thursday — Weis expects to lean on a handful of newcomers to bring the Jayhawks a little bit of an edge.

“You need some of those guys, believe it or not,” he said. “I think that every good defense has some trash talkers on it. Every good defense I’ve ever seen.”

Asked to point out the best trash-talker he had ever coached, Weis offered up three names. The first was New York Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor and the last was New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. But the best? That was easy.

“I think Brian Cox was right at the top of the list,” Weis said of the former New York Jets and Miami Dolphins linebacker. “He was a guy I absolutely hated going against when he was with the Dolphins, but when he was on our team, he’s my man.

“I once saw him back down an entire Cleveland Browns team. They were notorious, when they came out for warm-ups, for running right through your team. And he stood right where they were at warm-ups and challenged the whole team, saying, if one guy goes through, it’s gonna be him and them. One guy. He wasn’t surrounded by another 10.”

Although this year’s Jayhawks don’t have a guy with quite that much, um, courage, they do appear to be a much more confident bunch and figure to enter camp looking to prove a lot.

Here’s a quick look at a few other areas of emphasis that both the coaching staff and KU fans everywhere will be keeping a close eye on as camp gets started:

1. Is everyone here? — Although most of the newcomers are accounted for and were in Lawrence throughout the summer, there are a few junior-college transfers who have yet to report to campus. They may not all make it by today, but Weis said throughout the offseason that he expected all of the newcomers to qualify academically and report in time for camp.

2. Crank up the competition — One of the biggest advantages the Jayhawks will have this August versus last is the presence of competition at just about every position. Instead of giving most of the reps to the front-line guys and hoping not to need the rest, this year’s fall camp figures to include some heated position battles, both for starting spots and backup roles. Some of the most intense competitions figure to take place along the defensive line, at safety and at wide receiver.

3. Go-time for Jake Heaps — We know who he is, where he comes from and what he hopes to accomplish. And now it’s time for KU’s top quarterback to begin his on-field career. By all accounts Heaps has been a great leader and the ultimate team guy throughout the offseason. Now the former BYU starter gets to show if he can be KU’s next great quarterback.

4. New-look kicking game — Trevor Pardula and Michael Mesh are names KU fans should get to know. The two juco transfers have a leg up in the race to handle KU’s kicking duties this fall and should be able to show why throughout August.

5. Any position changes? — We know juco transfer Cassius Sendish has moved from cornerback to safety, but are there any others who have made the switch with him — or should?

6. Injury updates — A few key players missed the spring and a couple of others were banged up this summer. We should learn today who’s back, who’s out and who’s not quite right as camp opens.

7. Updated depth chart — The last time Weis released a depth chart, spring practice had yet to begin and more than 20 newcomers had not even arrived on campus yet. Even still, that pre-spring version of KU’s two-deep depth chart included 12 first-year Jayhawks on the first or second teams and 15 new starters. Will those numbers be higher now that nearly all of KU’s 2013 recruiting class is in town, or did KU’s veterans step up this summer to reclaim their spots?


ahpersecoachingexperience 5 years, 10 months ago

Swagger has be missing because our previous coach took away swearing, cell phones, girls after 10, and made everyone sing kumbaya before every practice!

Charlie don't play!

Jim Erickson 5 years, 10 months ago

No cell phones or girls? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Chris Bailey 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm so glad Zinger fired his azz! What a terrible coach! Yeah Gill was a great player and may do great in a nonBCS conference. And I think they were singing kumbaya. Do people forget his terrible play calling? And the way he stood there and never said a word!!! Ahperse just hit the nail on the head!

Brad Farha 5 years, 10 months ago

That drove me insane about Gill. I get the idea of having a calm demeanor and not rattling your players......but that's not what he was doing. Sure he mostly stayed calm, but he also didn't seem to much of anything. No coaching, no adjustments, and at times missing what was happening on the field (i.e. not calling time out when Webb was injured and then giving up a turnover in the red zone). I initially thought we had to give Gill 3 years to put his plan into action (even though I was worried about what I was seeing), but that changed with the Texas game in 2011.

Brad Hall 5 years, 10 months ago

Wow, people are agreeing with Ahpers? I don't think I've ever seen that before.

Chris Bailey 5 years, 10 months ago

Wow! Couldn't agree more! That list is legit! And we should meet everything on it!

Ron Prichard 5 years, 10 months ago

Nice list. I think all of these things are not only possible, they should be likely.

Jim Erickson 5 years, 10 months ago

Cairo_Jawkawk's checklist for a meaningful season...

1. 4 wins... Minimum. Weis is paid too much (from 2 schools no less) for moral victories in year 2.

2. Heaps plays well. Would be nice to have a proven QB going into 2014.

3. James Sims makes a run at June's record. Growing out the flat top again would also be a plus.

4. Zenger convinces donors to upgrade Memorial Stadium to actual division one standards. As we are likely more than $50 million away from having a non-eye sore that runs off recruits, this is as likely as Cairo developing an infrastructure capable of taking me to work in a timely fashion..

5. Top 35 recruiting class.

6. Ben Heeney gets roughly 83,641 tackles. On that note, maybe scrap the other two LBs and send them to DL or DB. Solid strategy.

7. Some resemblance of a pass defense starting with someone getting some sacks!

8. A receiver (McCay?) that gives me at least a few moments that remind me of Dezmon or Kerry. Those guys were fun to watch.

9. Someone needs to continue to majestic tradition of eating imaginary cereal. A marginal talent that is soon to transfer would be preferable... Crucial.

10. Matt Tait takes time away from the pilates to do some more Q&A and also allows the question submission times to be extended so us lads abroad can submit more. Make this happen Bro Montana... I believe in you.

Chris Bailey 5 years, 10 months ago

Cario, I always see your questions on the Thursday chat with matt. And I thought we could submit for several days prior to the chat? Anyway, good stuff. Although, after #5 you lost me. We gotta upgrade the stadium and we gotta get a top 35 recruiting class! I'm shooting for a top 30!

Ron Prichard 5 years, 10 months ago

Item #9 is perfect! That totally cracked me up. I think we can rest easy on the stadium upgrade. With the construction of the new track facility it is already in the works. Us commoners just don't know the details yet. Also, I think from the way Zenger has approached things so far the upgrades should be practical but first class. I don't think they will be as flashy as they would have been if Lew was still around, but I do think they will be more functional and well thought out. In my mind, Zenger has done an A+ job so far and until he lets me down I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Given the start on next year's recruiting class, I would up that expectation to top 25. I would love to see that. I also agree with you on 4 wins as a minimum. I want a minimum of 4, kind of expect 5, and would be overjoyed with 6.

Jim Erickson 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm curious to see it... I think basical, function, and respectable renovations are still in the $50 million range. "Phase 1" would look something like removing the track, replacing the chain link fence, putting up limestone or something a little nicer on the eye, and updating concourses... This is already going to eat up 10s of millions. An improved area to tailgate, Gridiron Club, museum/shop, increased seating, and several other things could be done too but I imagine that would be a "phase 2".

Ron Prichard 5 years, 10 months ago

Cairo, did you get the survey last year? It makes me think there are more plans on the renovation table than just cosmetic and concourses. I think they are considering additional seating options such as field boxes (kind of like dugout suites at baseball stadiums), club seating, etc. There were all sorts of questions geared to what you would be willing to pay for "x" amenities, "x" style seating, etc. I'll just be happy with my normal seats (student side about 25 rows up at the 47 yard line) because they are pretty good. Still, I think they are exploring all sorts of significant renovations once the track comes out. KU put in a fantastic football training/locker room facility. Hopefully they do the same when the renovate the stadium.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 10 months ago

Ranking the 2014 classes listed in Rivals based on pts/recruit places KU at 33rd in the nation (vs. 61 for total points of a small 8 player class). If recruiting lands in the low 30's on signing day, I'd be happy = #5.

No. 3 - Darrian steals too many carries by the end of the season for Sims to be a serious threat to June's total. (Sorry about the initial shouting.)

Jim Erickson 5 years, 10 months ago

Miller taking carries!?!? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! (I don't like that you're right on this... But you probably are!)

Randy Bombardier 5 years, 10 months ago

How about:

  1. Fans stay to the end of the game
  2. Our kick-off team sends it through the end zone 9 of 10 times.
  3. We win the turnover margin at plus 15 at the end of the season with a lot more picks

Jim Erickson 5 years, 10 months ago

I think number 1 only happens with continued relevancy... You're completely right though.

A plus 15 turnover margin would probably put us in a bowl game! Would love to see it.

Jim Erickson 5 years, 10 months ago

CharlesLogan (crap President from 24 by the way) is much more considerate of message board wall space than myself... In time, some of you may forgive me.

Bville Hawk 5 years, 10 months ago

I think the Rock Chalk Park project approval freed up funds so that some sore of renovation of Memorial Stadium can go forward. I think they are finalizing plans right now and work will begin right after conclusion of this season.

Ron Prichard 5 years, 10 months ago

I think you are correct. I'm guessing that if the Rock Chalk Park project is on schedule later this fall we will get more information about the planned upgrades.

Ron Prichard 5 years, 10 months ago

I have to admit I am an optimist by heart. Every year it seems I get excited about the upcoming football and basketball seasons. That was even true when Gill was here. However, looking back I am not sure if I was actually optimistic or just wishful. I think I realized after year one that Gill was dragging the program down but didn't want to admit it and was "wishful" that he could turn it around in year two. It quickly became apparent that would not happen.

However, when Weis was hired and brought in Holsopple, Campo, et al, while keeping Mitchell and a few of the quality holdovers, that optimism sprang up again. This time I think it isn't so much "wishful" as it is observation that the program is headed in the right direction. Yes, we have a very long way to go, but there is now accountability across the board. There are standards for off the field behavior, there is an intense and controlled weight/conditioning program that didn't exist under Gill. There are better athletes coming in. It also appears there is better coaching, or at the very least, coaches that have the background and history to be very good coaches.

I may be drinking the koolade, but I can not wait for this season to start. If we have any semblance of an offensive line at all, I think our offense can not only be sufficient, I think it has the possibility of being very good. Most people are worried about our receivers, which is a perceived weakness. However, I think if you consider Pierson as a receiver and not a running back that weakness starts to look like a strength. I still remember the screen catch he had against ISU last year where he just stopped on a dime and then shot past everyone for a 50+ yard TD. Simply electric!

Our defense should be upgraded up front, which should help out our D backs. That, coupled with at least better athletes should lead to some improvements. If Campo is as good as we think, then he should be able to take that incremental improvement and add to it.

I hesitate to get too excited, and keep telling myself that I shouldn't expect more than 4 wins or so, but I really do think that this team has a chance to surprise a lot of people. If last year's team had just had a QB that could have completed an occasional pass, there were 3-4 more games we not only could have won, but 3-4 games we SHOULD have won. TTech, Rice, UNI, and Texas. If you also consider that we were a barely missed blocked punt away from possibly tying OSU in the 4th quarter, things start to look a lot different. Yes, there were games where we were dominated, but even if we had gone 4-8 last year, people would be expecting 5-7 wins this year. It's not that far fetched.

Someone bring me back down to reality because right now I feel like a bowl game is not out of the question. Man I love being a Jayhawk!

Oh, yeah...and only two months until basketball season.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 10 months ago

Take a close look at the photo appears the middle two guys are carrying blue Smurf Footballs and the other guys each have a different style ball.

I know it's just a nit pickin' detail but shouldn't all the ruuning backs practice with the same type of ball as the game ball?? Just asking.

texashawk10 5 years, 10 months ago

The one with a real football is QB Blake Jablonski. I would imagine the RB's are using balls that are heavier than normal to help with holding onto the ball. I can't say for sure, but that would be my guess.

KGphoto 5 years, 10 months ago

I think those crimson and blue footballs have a sleeve to make them a little slippery. My guess.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 10 months ago

That was my guess too. Looks like a slightly slippery nylon fabric.

kuilander 5 years, 10 months ago

its time for renderings!!!! i'm ready to write another check for my part ... give us renderings!!

Micky Baker 5 years, 10 months ago

I won't be able to see the drills, but I do think that this team will be capable of winning as many as 8 games this year. I'm not predicting 8 games, but it won't surprise me if they do win that many.

When we look down the schedule, the first three we should win, including rice with just a couple more plays and a made field goal, but I think the margin will be greater than 2Tds in KU's favor.

Baylor at home Texas Tech at home We can beat Iowa State in Ames I think we will be able to out speed Kansas State, as they are not particularly fast and they were exposed against Oregon. Also, they won't have Colin Klein. I do understand that they'll have all starters on the OL returning, but they won't be able to shut off one side like they did last year to us. We'll be faster than they are.

I also think we can pick off a win or two else where including West Virginia at home. Kansas will have 7 home games, and I think they can be in every single one of those games with a chance to win them and I think they should win no fewer than 5 of them.

The toughest games this year will be at TCU and at Texas. We will even have a shot at Oklahoma State, but this will depend on the tone set early in the season on the defensive side of the ball. If they are playing with swagger and with a chip... the other teams are going to regret putting KU on their home schedule as the homecoming game.

Bob Bailey 5 years, 10 months ago

You seem to overlook the 'basics' of Defense: Tackling and coverage.

The team aptly disclosed, last year and in the spring game: The Defensive coaches can't/won't/didn't teach either skill. No Defensive Scheme will work without the basic skills. The Jayhawks have plenty of talented football players. You are placing too much faith in 'talent'. We will know after the SD game.


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