Seventeen games into Charlie Weis’ tenure as head coach of the Kansas University football program, quarterbacks have found wide receivers for touchdowns just three times, all this season.
Jake Heaps connected with Justin McCay once and converted running back Tony Pierson once. Reserve QB Michael Cummings hit Andrew Turzilli in the end zone once.
It’s not the offensive system, insists wide-receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello, who worked for Weis in a similar role from 2005-2009.
“We’ve had great success with receivers in this offense, a lot of production and a lot of guys who have played on Sundays, a Belitnikoff (Award) winner,” Ianello said.
True enough. Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight, Golden Tate (2009 Belitnikoff winner) and Michael Floyd all had huge seasons under Weis and Ianello.
But different plays work for different athletes. Jamari Traylor is a good fit for catching a lob and dunking it. Naadir Tharpe is better suited to be on the other end of the play.
The guess here is Notre Dame’s quarterbacks had more time to throw than Heaps, and the Fighting Irish receivers had far more talent than KU’s crew.
Some of the plays might be too ambitious for the talent-challenged KU offense.
Part of Weis’ tweaking of the offensive-coaching-staff duties includes him spending more time instructing quarterbacks and receivers in the film room and on the field.
Weis spent one season coaching wide receivers under Bill Parcells with the New England Patriots and three with the New York Jets.
That’s all KU’s receivers needed to hear to perk up their ears.
After asking a couple of receivers what changes they have noticed, both revealed a new approach I loved hearing.
“We definitely polished up certain routes instead of working on everything in our route tree,” McCay said. “It’s definitely working. We’re getting more time with the quarterbacks. The way you get good at something is you work on it day in and day out.”
The way you look lost is by working on so many different things no one thing becomes a reflex. Josh Ford noticed a similar change.
“We worked on one route for a few minutes until we got it down to exactly how he wants it run, instead of working on six routes in two minutes,” Ford said. “It worked at one-on-ones when we could put it to a true test.”
As long as a healthy number of the routes being stressed are of the quick-hit variety and don’t require the line to protect for too long, this new approach could result in significant, quick improvement.
The real test, of course, comes Saturday against an Oklahoma defense that tends to blow up the best-laid plans. The Sooners have the 12th-ranked pass defense in the nation.
Texas upset the Sooners by staying with a potent ground game. Typically, that would mean the next opponent would try a similar approach, but there is little typical about the unpredictable Weis.