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Monday, March 4, 2013

Charlie Weis foretells drastic overhaul for second spring

KU football coach Charlie Weis speaks to reporter about the depth chart during a spring football practice news conference Monday, March, 4, 2013, at KU. KU will begin spring drills today and will practice five times before taking a week off for spring break. The annual spring game, is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff on April 13 at Memorial Stadium..

KU football coach Charlie Weis speaks to reporter about the depth chart during a spring football practice news conference Monday, March, 4, 2013, at KU. KU will begin spring drills today and will practice five times before taking a week off for spring break. The annual spring game, is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff on April 13 at Memorial Stadium..

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KU football coach Charlie Weis speaks to reporter about the depth chart during a spring football practice news conference Monday, March, 4, 2013, at KU. KU will begin spring drills today and will practice five times before taking a week off for spring break. The annual spring game, is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff on April 13 at Memorial Stadium..

Change, across the board, seems to be the theme for the Kansas University football team as it enters spring practice, which begins today at Memorial Stadium, where the snow is piled high on the track and hope and optimism even higher.

From minor tweaks on the coaching staff and roster to major changes to the depth chart and the offensive and defensive schemes, Year Two of the Charlie Weis era is taking off from much farther down the runway than Weis’ first season in town.

“Last year, I was just trying to figure out what we had,” Weis said. “And in a couple of cases, we were putting square pegs in round holes. Now, a year in, you start adapting what you do to who you have, and it gives you a much better chance to get round pegs in round holes.”

For Weis, that meant spending the past three months not only upgrading the roster through relentless recruiting, but also reviewing every detail of the program. He watched all 12 games of the 2012 season multiple times, sometimes looking at his own team and other times looking at how opponents attacked it. He challenged returning players to be a part of the solution and not the problem. He was open and honest about strengths and weaknesses in all areas of the team. And, perhaps most importantly, he opened his door to input from just about everybody associated with the program.

“A lot of it is just him in his office, working, chipping away at things,” said junior quarterback Jake Heaps, who opens the spring atop the depth chart. “But he’ll come and ask you, ‘What do you think of this, what do you think of that?’ And he wants you to be honest. That’s been exciting.”

The initial depth chart of Weis’ second season at Kansas features 20 new names on the first team — seven on offense, eight on defense and five on special teams. About half are familiar faces moving into new spots. The other half is newcomers. The most notable changes regarding what KU will try to do on the field this fall show up at running back and defensive line. Rather than lining up in a straight 4-3 set, the defensive line will operate with a Buck position — juco transfer and former Florida Gator Chris Martin is listed No. 1 — that can play on the left or the right side. The rest of the defensive line then can adapt on the fly.

“I didn’t feel we had enough pass-rushing ability and flexibility with our outside positions,” Weis said. “So the Buck is the beginning of our answers to that problem.”

Addressing the running backs, KU’s clear-cut strength in 2012, is even simpler. Rather than basing the offense out of a one-back set, the Jayhawks now will start with two, which will allow senior James Sims and junior Tony Pierson to be on the field at the same time more often.

“I just felt, after analyzing our team, that it doesn’t do a lot of good to have one of your best players standing on the sideline for a good portion of your plays,” Weis said.

He didn’t stop there.

“I spent a lot of time studying (West Virginia standout) Tavon Austin and how they utilized him,” he continued. “And I think Tony has a lot of similar traits and qualities.”

Although there still is a long way to go before the beginning of the 2013 season, the KU coaches and players believe the mentality that surfaced the day after their last loss of the 2012 season will go a long way toward getting the program back on track.

“We’re more of a unit,” Sims said. “Last year, there were some individuals that were just worried about themselves, and now it’s just all about the team.”

Added junior tight end Jimmay Mundine: “For the first time, I feel like the team is holding ourselves more accountable, and we really want to get better rather than waiting for the coaches to get on us to do it.”

Tharp finished

Weis announced Monday that linebacker Huldon Tharp had elected to step away from football and was no longer on the team. Tharp, a former freshman All-American who started nine games in 2012, said in a release that the physical toll football had taken was too much.

“My body just can’t hold up any more,” he said. “I love KU and have enjoyed my time being a part of the football program. Thanks to Coach Weis’ encouragement, I am going to graduate this summer and head out into the real world.”

In other injury news: Tight end Trent Smiley (shoulder) will go through spring drills without contact; offensive lineman Riley Spencer (knee) and linebacker Prinz Kande (knee) are both ready for spring drills; and linebacker Schyler Miles, who played hurt last season and had offseason knee surgery, will miss the first couple of weeks of drills and likely the spring game on April 13.

Shared special teams

Last season, assistant coach Clint Bowen served as KU’s special-teams coordinator, however, with Bowen moving to coach the linebackers this fall, Weis said the team would move forward with no official special-teams coach.

“Every coach on the staff has an assignment in special teams, with the exception of (quarterbacks coach) Ron Powlus,” Weis said. “I was very unhappy with our special-teams play last year, and I’m holding the whole staff accountable for it this year.”

Dave Campo, who received a title change in the offseason — from defensive coordinator to assistant head coach for defense — will function in the same role while Weis, who spent much of his time on offense last season, will look to be more involved with overseeing the entire team.

Kicking game update

Junior-college transfer Trevor Pardula was listed as the first-team punter and place kicker on KU’s pre-spring depth chart released Monday, but Weis said the roles were still up for grabs.

With Eric Kahn and returner Ron Doherty listed behind Pardula at place kicker and Doherty behind him at punter, the Jayhawks appear to have multiple options, which include junior-college transfer Michael Mesh, who is not yet on campus, and a player they picked up during walk-on tryouts who made 14 of 15 field goals including a 3-for-3 mark from beyond 50 yards.

“Trust me, we’re not going through what we went through last year,” Weis said. “We have a couple of really big legs, and I think there’ll be plenty of competition at that position. And I think we’ll get some touchbacks on kickoffs, and I think we’ll be better in the punting game.”

Heeney speaks

During the offseason, junior linebacker Ben Heeney was cited for an incident at a downtown Lawrence night club. Although the legal process is still playing out, Weis said at the time that Heeney would be punished internally, and Heeney on Monday said he was working toward putting the incident in the past.

“The leadership role, I’m still working toward it,” Heeney said. “I’m not perfect, but I learn from my mistakes, and I don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Comments

Dirk Medema 1 year, 5 months ago

Coaching (ST) by committee doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

It is good to hear that Tony Pierson could be used similar to Tavon Austin.

It's not likely to be a finished product this year, but we should definitely be taking steps in the right direction.

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hawk316 1 year, 5 months ago

dagger, that was my reaction as well regarding special teams being coached by committee. It does not seem like a recipe for success. I hope we're both wrong because this team really needs strong special teams play next season.

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 5 months ago

Well having one person in charge of it last year didn't work out at all, so it couldn't be worse than last year.

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texashawk10 1 year, 5 months ago

Do you think an offense or defense could function very well with just position coaches and not a coordinator to scout, watch video, and game plan? That's the issue without a special teams coordinator and no Clint Bowen didn't focus primarily on special teams. It was his secondary responsibility to being a secondary coach last year. FG kicking and punting may be better because of healthy players and more talent, but the special teams units in general are probably going to be worse next year without that one guy to answer to and do all the stuff a coordinator would do.

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April13 1 year, 5 months ago

I like many of the things that I read here: flexibility by Weis to adjust schemes to fit players, focus on fixing the kicking game, overall team involvement, etc., etc.

I drank my morning Kool Aid and it tastes good. I think that Zenger hired exactly the right guy.

For those of you who haven't seen it it, go to KU Athletics and there is a video featuring Weis and the football program. Good stuff.

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hawk316 1 year, 5 months ago

April, I didn't drink the Kool Aid, but I absolutely agree with you. Charlie Weis was not just a good hire, he was a great hire. I love the direction of this football program!

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longhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

So is Combs just not on campus yet? Is that why he's not on the depth chart?

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Matt Tait 1 year, 5 months ago

Correct. The guys who aren't here yet aren't on the depth chart yet. Because of that, it's hard to read too much into this first edition but it does show you where a few guys stand.

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Displayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Thank you Mr Tharp for everything you've given to KU, and to the fottball program specifically. Best of luck in the future!

1

vd 1 year, 5 months ago

Ditto for Tharpe. Thank you. It's amazing that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. Very violent game.

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GortHawker 1 year, 5 months ago

Hey Charlie, I'd like to see the red stripe go back on our helmuts, how bout it?

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TenaciousD 1 year, 5 months ago

“Last year, I was just trying to figure out what we had,” Weis said. “And in a couple of cases, we were putting square pegs in round holes. Now, a year in, you start adapting what you do to who you have, and it gives you a much better chance to get round pegs in round holes.”

Are you freaking kidding me? Wow. You burned a whole year trying to figure out what you had? Definitely not a statement you would hear coming from a real coach at the D-I level.

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TenaciousD 1 year, 5 months ago

OK. Fair enough. Weiss better get some wins this year and have his players playing better than their ranking or expectation coming out of high school or Juco, or he needs to start being held accountable. I realize it is a re-building job, but he needs to at least show that he can coach up some players.

Going back to Notre Dame, I have never seen any sign of Weiss being an over-achiever, which is what we need for this football program. All he ever did was ride the coat-tails of two hall of fame head coaches. As a head coach himself, he has only failed. We'll see soon enough.

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Jack Jones 1 year, 5 months ago

ATTA' BOY TEN-D > GO BACK INTO THE CAVE > WINTER IS NOT QUITE OVER.

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diegohawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Derp is such a fitting name for Gil. Always makes me laugh when I read it.

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Doug Cramer 1 year, 5 months ago

Tenacious - I think he was just talking about spring practices. Last year in spring practice he was trying to figure out what he had.

Look - I'm still not over Perkin's antics 4 years ago...but it's time to move on and support Weis.

Weis put a major focus on beefing up the D-Line...and for that...I give him a lot of credit !

Rock Chalk !

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 months ago

Sorry to say, Charlie, but I'm pretty sure most of us knew what you had, or didn't have, two games into the season.

I'm not a coach or an expert, but I would say it shouldn't have taken a whole season to figure out where the glaring holes were.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 months ago

In other words, I'm with you, Tenacious.

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bad_dog 1 year, 5 months ago

Reuben, look at the comment from the proper perspective. The paragraph immediately preceding the one being discussed stated: "From minor tweaks on the coaching staff and roster to major changes to the depth chart and the offensive and defensive schemes, Year Two of the Charlie Weis era is taking off from much farther down the runway than Weis’ first season in town."

Having just re-read that paragraph, hopefully it's little easier to understand the subsequent paragraph is contrasting what was known at the take off of Year One to that of Year Two. Just the take off. Not that it took the entire year to judge the talent. That's how I read it anyway...

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Jeremy Morris 1 year, 5 months ago

“We’re more of a unit,” Sims said. “Last year, there were some individuals that were just worried about themselves, and now it’s just all about the team.”

I wonder who James is referencing here.

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 5 months ago

3 for 3 from 50+ yards...I'm not sure we'll attempt many from that distance, but I know of one instance last year, we didn't even have the option. I think options are the best.

Let's hope that we have someone that can kick it out of the end zone on kick-offs as well.

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KGphoto 1 year, 5 months ago

I’m a little confused on the special teams thing. He admits that he was very disappointed with Bowen’s and Blasko’s special teams last year, so he slides Bowen to LB/ST coach, leaves Blasko at TE/ST coach, then assigns the rest of the staff to basically watch over them.

This seems like an unprecedented move. Has anybody seen this before. Did it work?

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 months ago

I agree. I don't get how you improve special teams play by dividing the coaching duties. Seems like a misuse of resources; like it will spread responsibilities thin.

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Jeremy Morris 1 year, 5 months ago

I take it more like this:

2012: Special Teams Coaches: Bowen (& Blasko)

2013 (for example)

KR: Blasko

KO: Bowen

FG: Grunhard

Punt: Wyatt

Punt Return: Mitchell

IOW, giving each coach only one aspect of special teams makes it easier to concentrate on that specific unit than one coach having to do all the ST units and his position responsibilities as well.

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 5 months ago

I like your explanation...thank you.

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KGphoto 1 year, 5 months ago

I could buy that, I guess. I hope it works.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 months ago

I think there is an overlooked aspect here. We're now dividing responsibilities for special teams among all the coaches, which seems silly to me.

But I think the clear problem here is Clint Bowen. I've never been sold on him as a coach, and I think history has proven him relatively unsuccessful.

So his special teams are laughably terrible this past season, and our solution is to allocate his responsibilities among the rest of the coaches?

Why not get rid of the obvious problem?

Just a thought.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 months ago

I mean...I respect the guy for his devotion to the university and the program, but he's just not that good of a coach.

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kay_you 1 year, 5 months ago

I think the jury is still out.

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Robert Brown 1 year, 5 months ago

It amazes me that some can confidently say that KU hired the right guy as our football coach. Based on what? Certainly not on last year's performance and definitely not based on anything he has done as a college coach. It takes time to get results. I understand that and I know that Zenger's success is ultimately tied to Weis's success so he will get ample time to be successful.

To me changing approaches during Spring practice indicates he does not have a reliable system.

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kay_you 1 year, 5 months ago

Give any decent coach 60 minutes and he'll find a way to exploit the opposing teams weaknesses and last year we had lots of weaknesses to exploit. I’m hopeful this season there will be less but IMO 4 or 5 wins is a bit optimistic unless the competition has really fallen off.

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Bob Bailey 1 year, 5 months ago

Offense sells tickets; Defense wins games!

Good to see TenD and Rueben on here, we need to get behind Defense. So far, no one seems able to teach tackling: Belt Buckle Rule, Adjust the Route, Wrapup Runner. That is a preliminary Base. Then comes Coverage; And Third and it must be third, is the Defensive Scheme. Somebody has to understand and teach the whole thing.

Basically, Weis is good at Offense. One commenter said he was doing OK at ND, till he got an incompetent DC. If you look at his final ND scores, it seems obvious Offense was OK, but Defense wiped out the entire staff. If you compare those scores to those in our last 1 - 11, Weis lost his games in Defense. Upgrading the personnel, which he has done, will NOT solve the problem! It may improve the W/L record, mostly with second rank teams. We are faced with at least 4 or more quality teams. You beat them, we have to teach quality Defense. So far, it does not appear where it is coming from.

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Randy Bombardier 1 year, 5 months ago

If HCCW will just forget he is coaching at the collegiate level and act and think he is playing at the professional level maybe we won't get loosy-goosey about such things as whether we have a special teams coach. That bothers me. I hope we can get six wins this year. IMO if we don't win our non-conference games this staff won't reach our expectations this year, next year, or ever. Weiss is much more talented than TG but both share one quality that I don't know can ever work at KU and that is a kind of laid back quality. Both Mason and Mangino were a bit more intense and that may be what we have to have. Hope year two is better. Certainly expect Heaps to perform better than Crist but we will see.

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kay_you 1 year, 5 months ago

Charlie walked into the perfect storm. A combination of tough competition coupled with a depleted roster on the heels of two dreadful seasons. I don’t know if he is the answer to our prayers but I doubt any other coach would have done much better.

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texashawk10 1 year, 5 months ago

For all of you talking about attention to detail, why do you not take the time to learn to spell Charlie's last name? Weis only has one "s" in it, not two. I know I'm the best speller, but please at least learn how to spell the coaches name right.

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texashawk10 1 year, 5 months ago

That should say not the best speller.

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