Wednesday, September 18, 2013

KU shuffles O-line to overhaul toughness, not chemistry

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis smiles as he watches his offensive linemen move a sled during football practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis smiles as he watches his offensive linemen move a sled during football practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013.


With a couple of changes affecting KU’s offensive line this week, it’s logical to wonder if putting senior Riley Spencer into the starting lineup and opening up the competition between Pat Lewandowski and Dylan Admire at center will have an impact on the chemistry up front.

Senior left tackle Aslam Sterling, the only lineman who KU coach Charlie Weis said looked decent in last week’s loss at Rice, does not think the changes spell trouble.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be starting all over,” Sterling said. “Because, as a group, we’re all really close and are able to communicate with each other. We just have to be more physical and assignment-sound when we’re out there.”

Furthermore, the new faces up front don’t figure to change the way things flow for the rest of the offense.

“It won’t be a factor,” said running backs coach Reggie Mitchell. “Because all those guys who are getting plugged in, they’ve been in practice, they’ve been in the rotation. It won’t be that big of a deal for the running backs.”

Time to hit

Weis did not hide his disappointment about his team’s struggle to slug it out with Rice last week, and many of the changes he made this week were with done with the idea of getting more toughness onto the field.

“You only have two choices,” said Weis when asked about KU’s lack of physicality. “Guys get better or you tweak them and make a couple moves.”

The depth chart changes have been well documented, but Sterling said Weis made other moves to help breed a more physical football team.

“Last week, we practiced pads on Tuesday and no pads on Wednesday,” Sterling said. “And this week, we’re gonna be in pads two days, so it’s gonna be two physical days.”

Hand him the ball

So far this season, junior running back Tony Pierson has carried the ball just six times for 50 yards. With KU’s offense struggling and Pierson transitioning to more of a wide receiver role, the team has not forgotten about Pierson’s abilities as a ball carrier.

“I think the plan is to give as many touches as he can get and some of that is gonna come out of the backfield,” Mitchell said. “We ran the one sweep with him (vs. Rice) and that didn’t work, but we do plan on getting him more carries.”

Would KU like to keep the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Pierson out of the trenches and, therefore, out of harm’s way?

“Yeah, you would,” Mitchell said. “The best way to utilize his talents is to get him on the edge, but we do have some things designed with him running inside.”

Home-and-home vs. UH

KU announced on Wednesday a future home-and-home non-conference football series with Houston. The Jayhawks will play at Houston in 2019 and Houston will come to Lawrence in 2020. KU coach Charlie Weis said the series gives KU another chance to get into key territory.

“The state of Texas is an extremely important area for our program in terms of recruiting,” Weis said. “In addition, we have a large alumni base in the Houston area, so being able to play Houston is ideal for both the team and our fans.”


Randy Bombardier 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I have been wondering about the toughness, particularly if we are too concerned about injuries occurring in practice and therefore play patty-cake. Both the Oline and Dline benefit from practices where they bring it, play hard, physical and even a little nasty with hands to the helmet and that sort of thing. Preparation for battle must be as authentic and as nasty as you can make it. It makes the war endurable after the bs that tough soldiers such as Seals, Marines, and Rangers go through. That, or everyone else is using steroids.


Ethan Berger 6 months, 4 weeks ago

The debate about Heeney got me thinking. Jesse needs to do an article on just how good Heeney is. Make sure it isn't that article you did about James Sims and we all hated you but now you look somewhat right. The Ross kid from Rice is a beast. Not one A&M player could take him down one on one on a consistent basis. Heeney did it some many times. He flew from sideline to sideline and made his name known. It really takes the pressure off the D line when you got a linebacker who is going to make the play. Means they can pin their ears back more and go after the qb. It's unfortunate that Heeney won't get the hype he should this year. He very well may be the best linebacker in the Conference and the best linebacker nobody has heard of in the nation. O and to go on topic of the oline. Pass Protection was decent, run blocking was horrible.


jayhawkintx1973 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I wonder if Weis is paying attention to some of the in state high school seniors. The WR from Liberal, and I hate Liberal, but he's dominating this season so far as Liberal has scored 56 in its first two games, even though in its first they kicked an off sides kick every time they kicked off and recovered two of them. His name is Hammond and is the top WR in the state of Kansas so far and in the top 14 in the country. I remember this wide receiver that KU had from Garden City, Moore. He wasn't the most athletic(Hammond is far more athletic than Moore), but Moore played with pure heart and made plays.

This running back from Ulysses, Rudzik, is a sophomore but was timed at 4.6 in the forty as a freshman in high school. I do believe that he'll probably be around a 4.4 by the time he is a senior, and there will be a big game that should be televised in Kansas but won't be when Ulysses faces Scott City a week from this Friday. Scott City probably has a guy or two that KU should be looking at too to get some in state kids that, because they are in-state guys, they play with huge heart. K-State is after Rudzik, STEAL HIM. There were scouts all over the kid at K-State's high school football camp this year.

There is a kicker from Holcomb, Ks I believe that could be an asset as well and some of these guys could walk-on because instate tuition is not that much at Kansas and these kids might get a scholarship from an alumni in the towns in which they play high school football or from KU's endowment funds if they have the academic qualifications.


machinegun 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Charlie quote of the week: "We just need to do a better job throwing and catching, because we’ll always be able to run the ball. The thing is, we need to be able to throw to score."


HighQ 6 months, 4 weeks ago

"Games are won and lost

In the trenches," so they say.

Good week for a switch.


Marvin Blackburn 6 months, 4 weeks ago

It's obvious to me that this is 'grasping at straws', but what choice do we have at this point? I am a Jayhawk for life.I support KU through thick and thin and if HCCW wants the band to continue playing while the ship is sinking, i'll continue listening and go down with the ship.


Brandon Mahon 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I do not understand why we dont run a strong pistol. Split out two receivers (coleman/mccay/parmelee/matthews) have a tight end on the line (smiley,mundine,johnson,shelly-smith) then have Heaps in the pistol, Sims or Bourbon behind him, and have miller/pierson next to him. Run a few triple options, a few zone reads. A few options and reads or designed runs will make the defense honest. Then we can throw the ball to tight-ends or deep down field or crossing routes. Then we will have 2 of our best backs on the field at all times.

Idk its just and idea, and I have seen it work with teams that have good back, well that is us WE HAVE GREAT BACKS


OklahomaSooners 7 months ago

Feel 4 ya. Question-what is it about your O cordinater that he doesn't understand where the open space is when drawing up routes 4 his receivers? Watchin your game last Saturday I couldn't believe he doesn't have his receivers run a jabjab sukerpuch juke inside to complete easy short passes to keep the chains movin. Every successful O cordinater in the biz knows about these rudimentary plays to keep the defense guessing. Switzer ran these til the cows came home in the 1980S when defenses began cheatin on OU's triple option game and he also used these easy passes with Aikman as a Cowboy to. I just feel 4 u all and it's like your OC can't see the open space right there on the TV. This is the bread and buter of any suscesful team. Had your O cordinater has his eyes checked recently? Just tryin 2 help and also very cureos.


danno1313 7 months ago

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! Here is an idea, HIT SOMEBODY IN THE MOUTH ON SATURDAY! In other words, block!


NebraskaJayhawk 7 months ago

I'm against cloning, but if I weren't, I'd clone Ben Heeney and play him at every position on the field. Dude plays with heart. I'm not even sure he's that athletic to be honest. The dude is just an animal. Love his play.


Terry Lee 7 months ago

Is it me or is Grunhard a ghost this year. It would seem logical that an article on the O-line would mean at least a MENTION of the O-line coach, if not a quote. Am I missing something?


David A. Smith 7 months ago

I really like coach's quick and decisive way of handling problem area's. He's a competitor who wants to win now, and seems to shove all of his resources into that area with no hesitation. If we remember rightly, it took Mason and Mangino a while before they started to turn the ship around. We have one year and two games under our belts- with a lot of progress to show for that short stretch. It's the response to the hype, not the response to the product that is happening from the boo birds. I think the skeptics could be a little more settled if they looked objectively at the progress that has been made, and not at the chasm between what has been hyped vs what our current state is. We have come a long way in a short period of time.


nuleafjhawk 7 months ago

Well, we can blame the O-Line or the D-Line. We can blame quarterbacks, running backs, receivers who don't receive well. We can blame the fans for not staying. We can blame the AD.

That last one may be the most relevant of all.

As a head coach, Charlie Weiss is 37-39.

I'm not on the Fire Charlie bandwagon yet, but 37-39 kind of speaks for itself.


Jim Erickson 7 months ago

Overhauling both the receivers and the oline... Not a positive sign. Season is off to a disastrous start. We needed to start 3-0 with a Big 12 win or two to show real progress. I get that these things take time, but there also is a point where a "jump" should occur. Having that occur this year seems like a long shot at this point, though not out of the question.


kranny 7 months ago

It would help our offense if we'd catch the friggin' ball. That opens up the running game and the playbook. There were 3 first down drops that i counted. Thought the defense played for the most part awesome considering the amount of time they were on the field.


Rivethead 7 months ago

Randall Dent had a rouch game against Rice. And he seem to play a LOT of snaps. Which leads to the question: where the hell was Ngalu? Was he hurt? Cramping?

After the first game, I thought Ngalu was clearly our best linemen. Dude is a physical beast and plays mean. But we didn't see that at Rice.


Jonathan Allison 7 months ago

With the amount of players and recruits that KU has in the Houston area, we should be scheduling a game in Houston every three years or so.

Maybe UofH and Rice aren't as easy to book as some other non-con opponents, I don't know, but it would be nice if they were regulars on the schedule. Houston Baptist University is a first year FCS team. Probably the worst team in FCS right now, so a road game at HBU likely isn't an option, but scheduling a guarantee game in Lawrence wouldn't be much different from playing Directional Dakota every year except that it would at least get a mention in Houston press.

Otherwise it would be nice if we prove to be a winner in the coming years to try to get in on the Reliant Stadium series like Ok State played on opening week.


Jonathan Allison 7 months ago

We have GOT to get the ball in Tony Pierson's hands at least 10 or 12 times a game.

If we can't throw it to him then we need to run more sweeps, reverses, pitches, etc.

Spread the field a little bit to give Sims room to run inside, and to give Heaps more throws into one on one coverage.

The O-line will be fine. And switching up some guys from first to second team won't make much difference as far as who plays the most snaps. We see Bill Self use the starting role as a carrot for the bball players all the time. Keep them competing hard with a chance to start.


Brett McCabe 7 months ago

During the summer Weis made a comment that teams in the Big 12 respected us last year for our toughness and ability to run the ball. Let's hope that this group gets there PDQ.

On another note: 35 out of 44 players on the two-deep return next year, which bodes well for competition, knowledge, maturity and depth.


Dirk Medema 7 months ago

"the competition between Pat Lewandowski and Dylan Admire at center"?

Dylan isn't on the 2-deep; was replaced by Damon Martin, who also moved into #2 at RG. It would be nice to see him out of the dog house and contributing.

Hopefully, we can play some smash-mouth up front and catch the football this week.


jayhawkintx1973 7 months ago

I like the idea of shaking it up with the Offensive line, but I like the moves made in the depth chart in the Wide Receiver Area. Just because a guy doesn't start doesn't mean he isn't going to play, but what has to happen is that there is going to have to be wide receivers who play with effort. You don't have to be that fast to get open. You just have to run good routes and make sharp cuts. Sell that you're going deep and make the defensive back turn their hips, and then cut sharp and you create space. You don't have to take it to the house every time.

Make an effort to make a play on the ball. Pierson did that against Rice, though the ball touched the ground and he didn't maintain control. If he would have caught that and Kansas scored a TD on that drive, we had a chance at an onside kick and then to get into FG range. Every receiver needs to do that. Don't give up on the routes. There were several times where Heaps ran around for 7 to 10 seconds on Saturday, and the wide receivers weren't getting open, but I think it is because they weren't giving an effort.

The plays that should be called are those that allow Heaps to drop back and get rid of the ball quickly and the receivers have to run good, sharp routes. We gotta get that fixed.

In regards to this article, it is true, the OL needs to get physical and punish some guys in the trenches on both running and pass plays. I would like to see us come out early on Saturday and establish the pass early, even if they're just short nickel and dimers that get us down the field. That forces the other team to adjust if they're stacking the box and keeps them guessing.

I think these guys can do this, but they are going to have to execute better and not miss their assignments. Also, if we do run the Wildcat, use Cummings to run it because he has a rifle for an arm and if he makes the right read and keeps the ball, he can make a big play.

What is up with Heap's slow feet? Is it that he is just timid after not playing for 3 years? He was a lot quicker than that at BYU.


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