Charlie Weis gave those who cringe their way through his press conferences a break this time at the annual Big 12 media days, a year after his steamy remarks put him at the bottom of a pile of criticism.
Weis did, however, make two statements off-podium in Dallas that merit scrutiny.
Weis statement No. 1: “I think the depth on our team is as good as it’s been (during his Kansas tenure). I don’t know if there’s a position on our team that the depth isn’t as good (as it’s been during his time).”
Can’t argue that point at wide receiver, in the secondary or at linebacker. It’s debatable elsewhere.
Quarterback always seems to be the best place to start. Jake Heaps subtracted himself from the mix by transferring to Miami and has been replaced on the depth chart by third-string UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Michael Cummings, third-string a year ago, moves up to No. 2. For KU to make significant improvement, Cozart will need to have the best season of any quarterback in the post-Todd Reesing era. If Cozart does so, KU will be better at QB, but not necessarily deeper.
Running back? Weis understandably is excited by the talent here, thanks to Taylor Cox, Brandon Bourbon and junior-college recruit De’Andre Mann, but the depth can’t match that of Weis’ first KU team: James Sims, Tony Pierson, Cox and Bourbon.
Recruit Traevohn Wrench is not participating in summer conditioning, so counting on him might not be very realistic.
At offensive line, Weis inherited woeful depth, but did have three fifth-year returning starters in Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marongelli for one season. Beyond reserves Gavin Howard and Damon Martin, there weren’t any Big 12-ready blockers, so it’s possible the depth is as good or better this year, when the O-line again qualifies as a question mark.
The defensive line has a more athletic look to it this year with Ben Goodman moving to the inside to join Keon Stowers and newcomer Andrew Bolton, but better depth? Keba Agostinho, Kevin Young and Jordan Tavai weren’t big playmakers, but were experienced enough to strengthen the rotation. Not nearly as much experienced depth is on hand this season.
Weis statement No. 2: “I think we’re better (than last year) at every single position (than last year).”
This one is tougher to dispute, although there is a reason Sims started and led the team in rushing four seasons in a row. He was the team’s best all-around back.
Offensive line? As long as late junior-college recruit Larry Mazyck, a massive man, upgrades the left tackle position significantly, the line should have more stability than a year ago.
Nick Harwell, KU’s best wide receiver since Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier moved on, upgrades wide receiver, and Rodriguez Coleman appears headed for improvement. If Pierson can remain healthy, he too could become a big-play threat.
The secondary is loaded and the key players return at linebacker.
Toss in the upgrade at offensive coordinator, with modern-day college tactician John Reagan replacing Weis, and nine returning starters on defense and it’s easy to project improvement from the Jayhawks. That’s a good thing, considering the eight losses in nine Big 12 games came by an average 27.625 points. Rounding up, that’s a four-touchdown advantage per game, one touchdown per quarter.