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Monday, September 30, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Kansas wideout situation mystifying

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A remarkably unproductive group of wide receivers continues as a major factor in the Kansas University football team having a flat offense for the second year in a row.

Charlie Weis’ decision to move running backs Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon to hybrid receiver/running back positions has masked just how invisible the players on the roster listed as wide receivers have been three weeks into the season.

Pierson leads Kansas in receptions (15) and receiving yards (209), Bourbon ranks second with 10 catches and tight end Jimmay Mundine second in receiving yards (76).

Nine scholarship players on the roster are listed as wide receivers, including six recruited by Weis. Junior Mark Thomas and freshman Ishmael Hyman are red-shirting, which leaves seven. Three games into the season, care to take a stab at how many catches the leading receiver among the seven has? Senior Josh Ford and sophomore Tre’ Parmalee are tied with three. Juniors Rodriguez Coleman and Justin McCay and senior Christian Matthews have two catches apiece. Juniors Ricki Herod and Andrew Turzilli haven’t caught a pass this season.

It’s strange that a school that has done such a terrific job of recruiting and developing running backs in recent seasons can’t do the same with wide receivers. Even if they misevaluate in recruiting or simply get rejected, there should be signs of progress from the instruction they receive, but where are those signs?

The chemistry we heard so much about between Jake Heaps and McCay on the scout team a year ago was on display in the spring game, but is nowhere to be found now. McCay had eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. He threw a number of punishing blocks. He has 12 receiving yards three games into the season. Could it be McCay performs better when running routes he learns on the spot than he is at learning where he fits into an offensive system? Or did the holding penalty tagged on him in the season-opener against South Dakota make him too gun-shy to play the physical style that helps him get open and makes him a valuable extra blocker on the field?

The coaching staff hopes that Coleman’s speed can turn him into a valuable target for Heaps. Still, the receiver with the most untapped potential remains McCay. The spring game certainly didn’t look like a fluke. But the reality that Oklahoma had no problem clearing him to go to another Big 12 school indicates the Sooners’ coaching staff didn’t think he could help Kansas.

Help is on the way in the form of Miami of Ohio transfer Nick Harwell, who put up big numbers three seasons in a row before his off-the-field behavior resulted in a suspension from school. Harwell can’t help Heaps now, so the coaching staff is going to have to find a way to make McCay more effective.

Comments

Doug Cramer 1 year, 2 months ago

Any word on Pearce Slater...is he coming back ?

:) just kidding

John Fitzgerald 1 year, 2 months ago

Who does these opinion pieces? Such horrible writing ...

hawk316 1 year, 2 months ago

jm_85, perhaps we have different expectations. I don't expect every article to be a Joe Posnanski or Jim Murray literary masterpiece. Personally, I thought it was a fairly interesting and relevant piece by Keegan.

actorman 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree; I thought he did a good job of laying out the problem and explaining why he thought it was a mystifying situation. I thought it was one of his better articles.

BringBackMark 1 year, 2 months ago

Time to get ralster all fired up again, so here goes. We're heading into the meaty part of Weis's second season. We're on our second 5 star transfer quarterback. We're loaded at running back and just brought in a bunch of juco players that were to provide immediate help. Anyone considered that maybe this offensive scheme just doesn't cut it at the college level? I think the receivers are too busy thinking to instinctively play the game. If that's not it then we just need a better receivers coach, period.

Everyone says the most improvement a team will see is between game one and two. In our case it had better be between game 3 and 4 or we're in for another long season.

NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

There's three thngs that allow a football team to run the ball and pass the ball effectively. A good quarterback, a good stable of running backs, and a big front of nasty offensive linemen. Care to guess what we don't have? Not too hard to figure out if you've watched any of the first three games. Although I don't agree with some of the playcalling, there is a serious problem up front.

JayHawkFanToo 1 year, 2 months ago

Give it a rest dude. I liked Coach Mangino a lot but he is not coming back; deal with it.

akgjenkintown 1 year, 2 months ago

"The spring game certainly didn’t look like a fluke." He was playing against KU's defense! If you watched the first three games of the season you would noticed that the KU's wide receivers are rarely getting separation. Clearly they are not as fast as advertised. Charlie, watch a Denver Bronco's game and see how Welker and Decker are used. Maybe some quick crossing routes could help get the wide receivers open and involved.

NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm not sure they were really advertised to be burners. What they were advertised to be were good route runners. I have posted this before, but I think the problem with our receivers is that they aren't selling their routes well enough.

Dale Stringer 1 year, 2 months ago

You also named two of the receivers with the best hands in the game. None of ours are their level with catching the ball. From what I've seen, Heaps is spreading around the ball fairly evenly. Pierson and Bourbon have more catches mostly because they hang on to the ball. And because Bourbon is so good at catching, out running game is suffering, since most of the time he is in the slot instead of in the backfield being a fullback. If he was in the backfield more, that would give us that one more block that some of the runs needed.

leonard 1 year, 2 months ago

"Anyone considered that maybe this offensive scheme just doesn't cut it at the college level?"

Yep, I have...and I think it's the major factor in not getting anyone open.

We had the same problem last year and it's continuing into this season. The receivers have been getting the bulk of the blame but the real culprit may very well be Charlie's offensive schemes.

I'm pleased with the improvement and talent upgrades exhibited this year. It's time for Charlie to show similar improvement. Right now Charlie's offensive genius halo is a little askew.

jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

It all starts with the O line. Wide receiver routes take a little more time to develop, and Heaps isn't given that time.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Routes don't have to take a lot of time to develop. 3 step drop routes like slants, short curls, quick outs, pretty much any thing associated with dink and dunk passing can be run with the QB doing 3 step drops.

Part of why the Air Raid offense is so successful is because because the ball is out of their hands in a hurry before even a good pass rush can put any real pressure on them. Another component of the Air Raid that could help KU out when they run plays out of the shotgun is the formation is the width of the splits of the OLines. Obviously the wide splits wouldn't work in the pistol or under center, but in shotgun formations, the wide splits also help to give the QB more time and it helps to open up some running lanes.

I think Weis is too stubborn to do most of that (I can see him running some more 3 step drop plays), but there are several Air Raid principles that could really help the KU offense and mask some the weaknesses.

Brian Leiker 1 year, 2 months ago

+1 It really is a simple fix, but pride is standing in the way.

Micky Baker 1 year, 2 months ago

All of those plays you mentioned, quick outs, slants, etc. are in the playbook. Weis seems to be calling plays to go vertical. Sure, if it's 2nd and short we can try that from time to time. But yes, Charlie Weis play calling is suspect right now. The offensive linemen need to trust their skills and just get physical and nasty.

JayDocMD 1 year, 2 months ago

Are people's icons not showing up part of the government shutdown?

JayDocMD 1 year, 2 months ago

So I went ahead and took this as an opportunity to upload a new avatar - looks like they all got erased?

JayDocMD 1 year, 2 months ago

The one thing that we can all agree on: More Cowbell

Jeremy Morris 1 year, 2 months ago

While there are multiple reasons for the WR lack of production, I'm probably most concerned about what seems like poor position coaching. For example, seeing how the WR (don't) react in situations where plays break down and such is really quite disturbing. I know Ianello is a great recruiter but I really wish we still had Beaty around to coach up the WRs.

741hawk 1 year, 2 months ago

The last time KU receivers got separation was under Coach Beaty.

John Randall 1 year, 2 months ago

You noticed that, too?

As a wrestling coach, I learned to have each kid stick with only a few basic moves until he was good at those, then add a few that worked because the first few had to be defended.

Not every wrestler used the same few basic moves, because they did better when their skills fit a different style from the coach's favorite.

I wasn't the world's greatest coach, but I did keep getting better.

leonard 1 year, 2 months ago

From the Orlando Sentinel - 2011:

"How can a Charlie Weis offense be this pitifully pedestrian? How can the Gators have only one first down in the second half and minus-19 yards rushing?...

Weis has four Super Bowl rings, but his offense this season isn’t even good enough to deserve a spot in the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl...

Still, if the Gators don’t have the talent to run their offense isn’t it up to Weis to adapt to the talent he does have? Weis is supposed to be a genius. And if you’re a genius, isn’t it your job to take inferior talent and make it better than it really is?..."

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-10-30/sports/os-bianchi-florida-georgia-1030-20111029_1_steve-addazio-muschamp-florida-gators

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Florida is a bad example to use. Their offense didn't improve much, if at all, last year and was still oretty bad this year even before Driskill got hurt.

leonard 1 year, 2 months ago

Ok...here's one person's report on Charlie's offense at Notre Dame:

"Weis hit the ground running in his first season at Notre Dame...as Quinn orchestrated the offense to multiple record-breaking performances...

The 2006 version of Weis' offense seemed to regress. It struggled against more talented defenses, not being able to protect the passer or gain separation against more physical and athletic secondaries. With virtually the same offensive personnel this was puzzling...

Enter the 2007 season when the Fighting Irish offense simply imploded...This display of offensive ineptitude led many to question the "offensive genius" handle so oft attached to Weis' name...Or, perhaps more appropriately, does Weis' offense and playcalling strategies translate from the NFL to the college level?..."

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/22569-charlie-weis-offensive-genius-or-overrated-playcaller

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

That ND article pretty much says the exact same thing I believe about Weis. Excellent game planner, but sub par play caller.

mikehawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I think leonard makes a good case that raises questions for consideration. Keegs article is honest and deserves credit for not just doing the usual hype stuff. It is hard to understand why other mediocre teams routinely get the ball to wide receivers, but we can't. Very puzzling. Perplexing. etc. We could get our bell rung this week if the offense can't answer scores with scores.

Savion Havon 1 year, 2 months ago

Florida lost the starting qb a few games in tat year HCCW was there. That being said that offense also had ame breakers Chris Rainey and Demps. Minus those wo the following year floridas offense was top 5 in the nation When you are a fluid coach you adjust on fly If your stuck in one mode your team will suffer

JayDocMD 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm actually going to have to give Keegan some praise for this editorial. It's not perfectly written and I've been one of his harshest critics, but I respect that someone at the LJW has finally started to ask some questions of this team and coaching staff.

I'm still on team Weis - I think he can turn this around. That said, I've not seen one challenging question asked of Weis recently by the LJW staff. I appreciate Tait's hard work, and for the most part, his positivity. But when the team underperforms, we don't need a KU PR man - its the job of journalists to ask the tough/uncomfortable questions (hopefully in a respectful, non-confrontational way.)

Now back to work for me (I get shorter breaks with Obamacare.)

Rivethead 1 year, 2 months ago

If only we had a WR on our roster with a proven record of having at least one 100 yard receiving game in his college career. That kind of experience would be useful.

Wait. We do?

WTF aren't we playing Turzilli?

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm assuming Turzilli isn't playing because he still can't run routes or catch with any consistency.

NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I'd like to see Turzilli get some action as well.

rolo2383 1 year, 2 months ago

Turzilli had the ability to get open. At least he had that going for him. I'd love to see him get another chance just to see if his hands have softened up a little.

vd 1 year, 2 months ago

He wasn't recruited by Weis, therefore he sux.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Good to know Ben Heeney sucks as well then.

Dale Stringer 1 year, 2 months ago

Well since I don't get to watch the practices, I must assume that he hasn't traded his alligator arms in for wide receiver arms yet.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

At this point just put stick 'um on their gloves.

Doug Roberts 1 year, 2 months ago

Hey Charlie, Pro-style wins pro games, college-style wins college games.

I still think Josh Ford is the best receiver so far. We need to quit the "Tony Pierson in space" experiment for now because all defenses are planning for it, and target more actual wide receivers.

Brian Skelly 1 year, 2 months ago

A lot of coaches 'coach' the players to play the way they want them to play. Which is great for the 'coach'. But as HC of a college team, your also ostensibly the GM as well. And this where the wheat and the chaff gets separated.

For all of Charlies 'genius' if we dont have a line that can block for long enough to get the wide outs down the field -- and hopefully get separation (a big if as we've seen) -- there's little point in call plays that do so. At least with any regularity. Funny how this doesnt work as well unless Tom Brady is your QB.

I think its nice that we have backs that can catch the ball in the open field, and I think its great that part seems to be working. But if nothing else is working its hard to envision much else productive happening.

Last year, it took about half a year for Charlie to realize that great Dayne stunk. But once he did, we essentially ran a service academy offense because really thats all we could do. So we know coach can change it up. I think we'll see more variables thrown out there.

The question is to have the players for that.

Jay Hawkinson 1 year, 2 months ago

I always thought that a big part of Weis' problem at Notre Dame was that he had a staff full of assistants who recruited well but weren't necessarily very good at developing players. Thankfully he didn't bring most of those people to KU, but I can't help but notice that the two he did retain (Powlus and Ianello) happen to coach the two positions that have struggled the most (QB and WR).

AZJHWK 1 year, 2 months ago

I have noticed that the receivers run their routes and if it doesn't get them open they basically stop. If Heaps is forced to roll out they should be running parallel or coming back, they don't' seem to know what to do when the play breaks down, which is often the case.

jay_cheese 1 year, 2 months ago

It wasn't long ago that we had a very dangerous offense. Anybody remember who was responsible for that? You can have 50 stars behind your name, you still need to be coached to be effective and you never publically throw your entire roster under the bus to make some reporter smile. Classless and shameful behavior (and I'm not talking about Turner or Mark).

KGphoto 1 year, 2 months ago

Yeah, cuz Mark is a real classy guy.

jay_cheese 1 year, 2 months ago

Keep on that Chuckwagon train ralster....you seem to be one of those big tough anonymous internet commentor's but you're missing the results...excuse me, 'pile of crap' results. IF the program was slipping under Mark, then why didn't Turner get more than 2 yrs? Betcha a million bucks Charlie gets more than 2 years and has WORSE results than Turner....

jay_cheese 1 year, 2 months ago

I didn't gloss over anything. Further more, your statement wasn't a point but an opinion. I read it and I feel it has 0 merit in known fact so I chose to not address it. Hey Rocket scientist yourself internet tough guy. Us alumni....as in you mean me? You're not the only person that may have graduated Kansas. Turner's results were horrible...but Charlie's results are no better and off to a worse to start in comparison. You call that "better" prediction based crap logic? I know leadership that gets results and it ain't CW. I just want a coach that makes KU football a winner. We had one and we (or the AD) got greedy. We've paid the price since and we'll continue to pay the price as we "win press conferences and lose games". I prefer the opposite. To each their own....gonna be a long season again for KU football and their internet tough guys....

rolo2383 1 year, 2 months ago

There was some discussion over on Phog about Ianello. They said he's a great recruiter but a terrible position coach and that the players he coaches never improve. It looks like that might be accurate.

Displayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

What's up with Colin Spencer??? Is he red-shirting? Heard a lot about him before the season started and now nothing. He's got speed ...... Can he catch???

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Redshirting because he needed to add some bulk to survive Big 12 football.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

If I was Zenger doing my end of year evaluations on the football team, I see two big issues going forward. The first is Rob Ianello. I haven't seen any of the WR's make noticeable progress since he's been here. The WR's still don't know how to get off a jam, they don't know how to run good routes, the issue of drops was there last year too and hasn't gone away, and lastly they don't know how to improvise when the QB gets flushed from the pocket.

Second issue is Charlie Weis himself. I don't think he needs to be fired at this point because there are a lot of good things happening right now that are laying the foundation for success. That said, Charlie needs to give up play calling duties for the offense to have a real chance to take a step forward. Whether that means hiring an OC to take those responsibilities or just handing the play calling responsibilities to Reggie Mitchell, it doesn't matter much. Charlie Weis is a brilliant game planner and had KU in games last year they had no business being in, but pride and ego got in the way and he would do stuff, like a trick play in the worst moment possible, that would kill KU's momentum late.

Unless those things happen, at this point I don't see KU taking that next step and they will just continue to be stuck in neutral. These are easily fixable issues, but will Weis be able to get over his pride and ego and make these changes?

Two other coaches that could be on the hot seat, but I think the jury is still out on are Powlus and Grunhard. I don't think we'll be able to make a fair assessment of the job Powlus is doing here until after Heaps is gone and Powlus is the biggest influence on whoever the QB ends up being after Heaps. I would also say the jury is still out on Grunny until some of the young linemen brought in the past couple of classes develop and we see how they perform.

FCCoHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Well said. I certainly see positives with the program, but the receiver position is not good. I would agree about the OC also. We need one, plain and simple. One question is does Zenger have the toughness to go and bring these things up with Weis? Also, how much pull does Zenger have? I think how we play in the upcoming week will really be telling for the rest of the year. Hopefully see some improvement coming off a W. Go 'Hawks!

KGphoto 1 year, 2 months ago

Yeah he’s languishing as the Co-Offensive Coordinator at Ohio State. I don’t think a phone call is gonna do it.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

I hope you're being sarcastic right now Az.

jay_cheese 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't think we have the $$$$ to do anything to Weis. He's literally golden sitting here the next 3 yrs until his contract is done. Oh well, at least the press conferences will be "good".

Paul Christiansen 1 year, 2 months ago

It's really hard not to like Charlie Weis. Our Defense seems to be improved and special teams and the kicking game are up huge.

But, I don't see our Offensive line pushing anyone around and that's not good.

JayHawkFanToo 1 year, 2 months ago

I said it before and I will say it again, get Kerry Meir to coach the wide receivers. He is not playing now and he is one of the best WR ever at KU. Maybe he does not have the athletic ability needed for the NFL but he sure knows how to play the position.

Displayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Now there's a good idear! I always thought of Kerry Meier as a more athletic Steve Largent. The man ran impeccable routes, and caught everything thrown his way! Just don't understand why our receivers still try to catch the ball with their body instead of their hands. I learned that in junior high ball.

John Randall 1 year, 2 months ago

"Idear" is what happens at Harvard on the rare occasions when a fresh thought appears on the horizon.

namohcan_99 1 year, 2 months ago

The article makes the point that our WR's suck and sadly they don't appear to be getting much better.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

The issue with selling the routes is that all of these receivers were probably the best WR's in their district or at least one of the very best and were just so much better than the DB's trying to cover them, it wasn't a necessary skill to learn. Now that they're going against DB's that are mostly better than them and now that they don't know how to sell a route, the DB's are able to stay in their hip pocket and keep them from getting open.

John Randall 1 year, 2 months ago

Agreed, it's a painful awakening to come up against a player as good (or better) than yourself. That was the original thought behind colleges having coaches ...

Sparko 1 year, 2 months ago

Part of the problem is that Heaps is a pocket passer with dubious elusiveness. He will do okay in the NFL, but you have to be creative in college where teams sell-out blitz every other play.

Ashwin Rao 1 year, 2 months ago

I love the Big12 standings as of today. We are 6th, and ahead of Oklahoma State, K-state & TCU. I may need to print it out and blow it up into a poster size before it changes! (Refer: http://sports-ak.espn.go.com/college-football/standings)

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