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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Weis announces Jayhawks’ Week 1 lineup, position switches

Kansas defensive back Cassius Sendish gives a high leg kick as he and his teammates gets stretched practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas defensive back Cassius Sendish gives a high leg kick as he and his teammates gets stretched practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

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When the Kansas University football staff received a commitment from defensive back Cassius Sendish during the winter recruiting period, KU’s coaches felt like they landed a pretty good player.

As it turns out, what they got was a guy capable of playing multiple roles and influencing several positions. That much has been obvious throughout Sendish’s first eight months in Lawrence and became even clearer Tuesday, when KU coach Charlie Weis released the first depth chart of the 2013 season. On it, Sendish was listed at his third different starting position since March. The 6-foot, 195-pound junior from Arizona Western will open the season as the Jayhawks’ starting free safety after spending the summer at nickel back and spring at cornerback.

“What we did was we took a position of strength and we strengthened a position that we thought was a weakness,” Weis said.

Both Weis and Dave Campo, who oversees KU’s defense, said Tuesday that such a move would not have been possible if not for the emergence of junior Victor Simmons and red-shirt freshman Courtney Arnick at the nickel back position. Simmons, who has played both safety and linebacker at Kansas, slid into Sendish’s first-string nickel spot and Arnick landed as the backup.

“Really, it’s not an incrimination of anyone,” Weis said. “Those guys are playing good enough that it allowed us the flexibility to move Cassius back to safety. We felt good about the nickel position, but we were really concerned about the safety position because we didn’t feel like we had any depth that had any experience at Big 12-caliber football.”

Shifting from position to position is nothing new for Sendish, who has been on the move since he first started playing football at age 6. He started as an offensive lineman, moved to running back a year later and finally settled in as a cornerback his freshman year of high school.

Campo said Sendish reminded him of a smaller Darren Woodson, whom he coached as both a safety and nickel back for the Dallas Cowboys. The big difference is their size, as Woodson tipped the scales at 6-2, 218 pounds. In every other aspect, though, Campo said the comparison was solid.

“The one thing about Cassius, he demonstrated right from the very beginning that he was capable of playing two positions (and) understanding what we were trying to accomplish defensively,” Campo said. “He’s got corner ability, he’s got safety smarts and he’s physical. He can play a number of different positions and do it relatively easily because of his mental capacity.”

As for Simmons, who stands 6-1, 220, he more closely resembles Woodson in physical stature.

“Victor has had an excellent camp,” Campo said. “I think the lights turned on for him. He’s a physical guy with speed. I think he’s made really good strides. I don’t know that we would’ve made the move if we didn’t feel like Victor and Courtney had made an awful lot of improvement during camp.”

Sendish’s flexibility not only allows the KU coaching staff to plug holes but also brings a sense of calm to a thin position that will receive its first test at 6 p.m. Saturday against South Dakota at Memorial Stadium.

“If we’re not strong there, it results in touchdowns,” Campo said of the safety position. “If we’re not strong at nickel, it may keep us on the field a little longer, but it’s not as big a touchdown-producing position. I think it was important for us to get a feel that we were strong across the board with guys at the back end.”

Kicking game looks good

In 2012, KU’s kicking game gave fans and coaches headaches throughout the season. Although results on the field will reveal just how much of an upgrade Weis and company made at those crucial special teams spots this offseason, the general feeling is that KU’s kickers can get the job done.

“I’m really confident in Pardula as both a punter and a kickoff guy,” Weis said of juco transfer Trevor Pardula. “And the guy who was probably the most pleasant surprise of anyone was (place-kicker Matthew) Wyman. The kid’s only missed a couple kicks since he’s been here. He was running the fourth kicker, then he was the third kicker, then he was the second kicker, then he was the first kicker and he hasn’t looked back.”

Wyman held off Pardula, Hutchinson Community College transfer Michael Mesh and veteran Ron Doherty to win the place-kicking job this fall and has restored his coach’s faith in the field goal.

“All the kid did was clearly win the competition and it wasn’t really close,” Weis said. “The fact that the ball’s on the 30 and you kick a 47-yarder and you’re not saying, ‘We have no chance,’ (is nice).”

Slater all but gone

Weis was asked early during Tuesday’s news conference if there was any update on offensive lineman Pearce Slater, who reported to KU in early August but then went home to California because of a family medical emergency and has not returned.

If reading between the lines means anything, it does not appear as if the Jayhawks are expecting Slater back. KU no longer lists the 6-8, 340-pound tackle on its roster and Weis was in no mood to talk about him Tuesday.

“He’s not here,” Weis said. “I’ll talk about the guys that are here. That’s the end of my comment.”

Cox not red-shirting

Senior Taylor Cox was the most logical candidate in KU’s deep and talented running back corps to red-shirt the 2013 season, but now it’s quite clear that Cox won’t be taking the year off.

Despite offseason discussions between Weis and Cox about the 5-foot-11, 212-pound tailback’s options, Cox showed enough during fall camp to keep his place as a viable part of this year’s team.

“I let him have the input and said, ‘OK, we’ll go through training camp as long as you earn the right to be in this mix,’” said Weis, who added that Cox was concerned about being too old to attract attention from pro scouts if he stuck around an extra year. “And he’s just had a great camp. We’re worrying about this year right now. We’ll worry about next year next year. ... No one’s playing way better than Taylor.”

Balance the goal

Last season, in 871 plays, KU ran the ball 64 percent of the time, largely because production in the passing game fell well short of expectations.

At the Jayhawks prepare to kick off the 2013 season Saturday night with a clean slate, Weis said he believed the presence of junior quarterback Jake Heaps and a variety of weapons around him would make things different this time around.

“I’m looking forward to being able to be more balanced,” he said. “I’m looking forward to, when you come in on Monday, not saying, ‘OK, what are the 80 ways we’re gonna run the ball this week.’ When you’re open to more things that you can do, it makes it a little bit easier.”

Injury update

The Jayhawks appear to be ready to enter Saturday’s season opener with all but one guy on the roster at their disposal.

“The only guy who’s clearly not going is (Marcus) Jenkins-Moore,” Weis said of the injured linebacker from Pierce College. “In fact, that’s our injury list. There wouldn’t be anyone listed any lower than probable. So (we’re) pretty healthy as of right now.”

Comments

kufan5 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Okay..Am I the only one not singing the Cassius song? He's never played a down of D1 football and all of the sudden he's heaven sent. Kool-aid pouring way too fast and the kid has never played this position.

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Kusportsshould Notrequirethis 7 months, 2 weeks ago

So...If I understand this new TV deal correctly; If one lives in Lawrence and has Directv, then one can't watch games televised on JayhawkTV?

ESPN3 blacks out the KC and state of Kansas, Metro Sports is on Time Warner...

Oh well.. guess I'll just head to the Hill with a radio and listen to Bob.

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claycountyjayhawk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Why is it that i live in the middle of kansas and i get every big 12 team playing on tv saturday but no KU. didn't have this problem last year.are the basketball games going to be gone to??

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kujayhox 7 months, 2 weeks ago

is there any word on what has happened to Nasir Moore? someone pointed out on the message board that he is no longer listed on the roster

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Jayhawker111 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Hard to believe that after a 1 - 11 season that KU fans think that South Dakota will be a cake walk.

North Dakota State just beat K-State. Anybody can beat anybody!

Just because you have not heard of these northern schools does not mean they cannot play the game.

South Dakota will show up under 2nd year coach Glenn and will give KU everything it wants.

Glenn has won national championships at two different levels

Those talking about a blowout --- are clueless.

Game will be a naill biter.

1

Randy Bombardier 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe I am naive but I think we are going to so dominate in our first game that we will think it is because of a certain ability to stop the run. Actually, I dont know that we will be that good at stopping the run. Its just that SDSU only won one game last year when they were successful at the run game. So, it looks to be rather obvious that if we want to win this game we better stop the run. So, of course they will try and run play action on us.

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Randy Bombardier 7 months, 2 weeks ago

A couple of you guys have mentioned you're glad we have our strongest defender playing center field. I don't know. Maybe, if that gives him more freedom than anyone else to jump routes. That is what has been missing. Tight coverage, risk taking, some man coverage disguised as zone. If this is about him having more opportunity for a take-away, yeah. If it is about playing center field, yuck.

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Christopher Hauser 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I would put money on the first pass play of the season being a receiver screen to Peirson to get him in space right away. Also an easy first throw for Heaps. I am a little worried about McCay's so called lack of breakaway speed at the X position. Hopefully his game speed is faster than his clock speed. Not worried about McCay's strength though.

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shelleysue 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm hoping that EVERY fans stay in Memorial Stadium until the clock reads 0:00 (at the end of he 4th quarter - not the half). Regardless of the score. I'm also hoping for the most lopsided score in school history. I would really love to see coaches, players, and fans alike, make a huge statement this Saturday and silence the critics that I have grown so tired of hearing. Super excited. Rock Chalk!!!

5

eastcoasthawk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Great to hear that our seemingly best DB is playing safety. I really hope that our veteran guys are getting it and improving. We really need that kind of improvement during the off season plus in season. It would speak volumes for the coaching staff and to possible recruits. I'm also looking forward to seeing us improve our 3rd and long rate with a solid passing game. Looking forward to the adventure of the upcoming season. There will be plenty of ups and downs. We could see the improvement from 2011 to 2012. Hope to see more in 2013 and pull off some close wins. Second game in will be a true test of how far we have come. It will be more like a conference game against a solid opponent than a non-con. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

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jazzhawk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

OK, so I am a little embarrassed for asking this, so don't judge. Could someone provide a "key" for what the positions are on the depth chart? Mostly the defense but also wasn't sure what the X and Z were; assumed they were the receivers. Excited about this year and putting together my own cheat sheet. Thanks in advance!

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Jason Keller 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Is this game gonna be shown on Time Warner in Kansas City? I just searched for it in their listings for Saturday and didn't find it.

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jhox 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Now this is what I like hearing:

At the Jayhawks prepare to kick off the 2013 season Saturday night with a clean slate, Weis said he believed the presence of junior quarterback Jake Heaps and a variety of weapons around him would make things different this time around.

“I’m looking forward to being able to be more balanced,” he said. “I’m looking forward to, when you come in on Monday, not saying, ‘OK, what are the 80 ways we’re gonna run the ball this week.’ When you’re open to more things that you can do, it makes it a little bit easier.”

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Doug Cramer 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Matt T. - got a couple questions regarding some guys that seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

  • Bolton on the D-line...is he hurt ? Or is he not as good as advertised ?

  • D. Willis...seemed like he was in the mix late into the camp.

  • P. Kande...man this guys was a 4 star recruit out of Texas 5 years ago...red shirted and everything. Do you see any of these guys getting some playing time ?

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Jim Jackson 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Anyone else still concerned about the Dline? I am excited about the return of Stowers but Agostino has not been productive in his 3 years.

I am still hopeful Bolton heals up quicker and that we can get him on the field.

Rock Chalk, we are going bowling!

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Bryce Landon 7 months, 2 weeks ago

So which uniforms are we going to don for this week's game?

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clevelandjayhawker 7 months, 2 weeks ago

How can one watch this game online? Seems directv doesnt understand that this week's game is a big time event

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Keith Hummel 7 months, 2 weeks ago

What a difference between this year and last. Every area of weakness (QB, WR, DT, DE, DB, K, P) has arguably been improved and every area of strength (RB, OL, LB, TE) has arguably gotten stronger. Better QB play alone would have resulted in at least 1 or 2 winds last year. The ability to kick a field goal would have resulted in 1 or two more. And who knows what might have happened if we had better pass rushing and coverage skills. Add drastically improved depth at every position, better understanding of the Weis and Campo system, and the ever-present impact of Holsopple, and it's difficult to imagine we won't win at least a handful of games this year. We will know a lot after this Saturday, but we will know a lot more after the Rice game. If we win with ease Saturday, then make a statement against Rice, people will start to take notice and our players will start to truly believe. Winning breeds winning, and it all starts Saturday night.

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Jason Keller 7 months, 2 weeks ago

6-1 220 and can run at the Nickel??!! Wahoo!!!! That is what I call a hybrid defender. Gee whiz that is the type of guy that Stoops used to trounce us with back when he really had it going at OU. This defense is gonna be good. I have my doubts on offense but the defense top to bottom will be AT LEAST adequate in the Big 12, if not, above average.

Saturday seriously can't get here soon enough.

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Brett McCabe 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Why do I feel safer knowing that Cassius is the last line of defense for KU?

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Janet Scott 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Regarding Slater, I suggest we change the child's game of "Where's Waldo?" to "Where's Pearce?". Last I heard he was in Omaha looking for the Golden Gate Bridge, thinking he was in San Francisco.

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