Big 12 media days coverage: Will Toben Opurum play both ways in 2012? Also, Charlie Weis admits interest in potential Penn State transfers
7:05 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
About to hop on a plane to get back to Kansas, so we're going to sign off for our live coverage from Big 12 media days.
Be sure to check back to the site Wednesday for additional stories and notes from today's event.
4:59 p.m.: By Matt Tait
Just following up a little on that whole Toben Opurum could play running back again this season thing that Jesse mentioned earlier.
Although Opurum said he had not been approached by Weis about the idea yet, Weis was not as convincing. Remember, Weis recruited Opurum to Notre Dame as a fullback and he reiterated Tuesday that Opurum could play some as a goal-line and short-yardage back.
When asked if he had talked to Opurum about the idea, Weis said: "That's not important to you."
Maybe he has, maybe he hasn't, but the fact remains that Opurum would be both interested and likely productive should such a scenario materialize.
Weis also mentioned that offensive lineman Duane Zlatnik, who is known as one of the strongest dudes on the team, could play some as an interior defensive lineman in goal-line and short-yardage situations.
The times they are a changin', folks. But, again, this is all about Weis getting the best players on the field in the best positions.
One other note of interest: Weis again credited his one season with the Kansas City Chiefs as one of the big reasons he took the KU job. He knew the area, he liked the environment and he liked the opportunity.
Here's another one, before we wrap up and head to the airport: Weis talking about Allen Fieldhouse and KU hoops.
"Well, first of all, I love college hoops, so let's start there. And I get great seats, too. I get great seats. But you think — let's think about: Recruiting is the lifeline of every program, right? All right. So it's a Saturday afternoon in January. And you're going out on the Fieldhouse with about 20 recruits you're bringing in. The place is rocking and rolling. The decibel level is well over 100. You've got one of the best basketball teams in the country with arguably the best coach on an annual basis playing, and the fans are going bananas. And what you're saying to these players coming in, saying: That's what we want — that's what we want Memorial Stadium to become like. You've got to come here and give them a reason to be that way. I mean, they're already seeing evidence of what the people are willing to do. But you have to help become part of it. It's a wonderful recruiting tool. So most people would look at it as second‑class citizens. I play right into that. I mean, you couldn't have a better recruiting tool than our basketball team."
4:21 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
I asked KU coach Charlie Weis what made him optimistic about the upcoming season. Here's his answer, which includes discussion of his players buying in and the potential to prove naysayers wrong.
4:02 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
A few notes from talking with KU defensive end Toben Opurum during one-on-one interviews:
• Opurum reiterated that Josh Williams had been a vocal leader in defensive drills, but he also said that fans shouldn't forget about Kevin Young and John Williams. Both players contributed to KU's defense last year before getting sidelined or hampered by injuries, and Opurum said both had performed well in the summer.
• Opurum said that, for him, the K-State game didn't take on any extra significance with Missouri out of the Big 12. He said he'd approach the game the same way.
• Opurum said he'd watched a lot of tape from last year, and he came away with it frustrated that on many plays, one breakdown on KU's defense would result in a big play for the other team. He said there were times when three blown assignments resulted in KU being down 21 points.
• Opurum also said while watching tape that he was most discouraged when he saw instances of players not giving full effort. That's a mental thing, he said, and shouldn't happen.
• Opurum said he hasn't been approached about playing both offense and defense this season, but he said he'd be interested if Weis offered that. Opurum said he'd be lying if he said he didn't still think about being an offensive player. In summer drills, he's even run some routes against KU linebacker Darius Willis.
3:41 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
Here's Charlie Weis talking about his favorite Dayne Crist story. This goes back to Weis' days at Notre Dame when he had just recruited quarterback Jimmy Clausen to play for him.
You can tell from the way that Weis tells the story that he's a big fan of Crist's.
3:27 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
A couple more AP photos from here at Big 12 media days ...
3:10 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
I asked Toben Opurum the same question as I asked Weis earlier: Which KU player might surprise fans with his play this year?
Here's Opurum's response, as he says one of the KU's defensive newcomers has become one of the team's best leaders.
2:38 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
While he was doing TV interviews, KU defensive end Toben Opurum was asked about the most interesting thing that happened to him during the offseason.
The senior talked about KU's new conditioning routine under strength coordinator Scott Holsopple, which includes work with boxing gloves.
2:02 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
I asked KU quarterback Dayne Crist to share his favorite Charlie Weis memory.
The senior gave an interesting response, talking about how Weis was one of the only coaches to challenge him. Crist also tells a funny story about how Weis offered him a scholarship.
1:37 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
I asked Weis if there were any KU players that should be getting more attention.
Here's his answer.
1:29 p.m.: By Matt Tait
The Jayhawks are finished with the morning session of interviews and are now in the middle of a little lunch break before heading to the one-on-one interviews with reporters between 2 and 3.
For a program coming off of two of its worst seasons in school history, there certainly was a lot of interest in the Jayhawks this morning.
Obviously, most people wanted to talk to Charlie Weis. Why did he take the job? What kind of job can he do? What are his expectations. All of those are things we've heard, but it was a good opportunity for KU to represent itself on the national stage and Weis and company did not disappoint.
Throughout the morning Weis was the Weis we have come to expect. Cool, calm, sarcastic and honest.
For the most part, I think it went over well and many of the members of the media came away with a good impression of both Weis and KU.
There seems to be a belief that the Jayhawks will be more competitive this season, and a lot of the credit for that goes to Weis and the respect he has gained throughout his career.
In fact, I talked with all nine other Big 12 coaches about Weis and, while many said they did not know him prior to him taking the job at KU, each said that they had a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done and who he is. Four Super Bowl rings will do that.
As for the players, for starters, they looked sharp. Dressed in suits — some older than others — Jayhawks Dayne Crist, Toben Opurum and Tanner Hawkinson were loose and really had a lot of fun with the day.
Many of the questions they were asked were about Weis. What it takes to play for him, what kind of person he is, were they scared when he took over? Before each answer, nearly every time, the players kind of laughed before they spoke.
It's clear that there is a real connection between Weis and this team already. And it can't be said enough how impressive that is. The guy was hired in December and he already has developed a kinship and a familiarity with all of his players.
Jesse's working on some video from the players so we'll have that up as soon as possible. From 2-3 we'll be doing more video and interviews, but be sure to check back after that for the latest from Dallas.
All in all, the Jayhawks showed very well today and gave the rest of the Big 12 media a reason to be interested in what's happening in Lawrence. That wasn't really the case during the past two seasons.
Stay tuned ...
12:45 p.m.: By Jesse Newell
Quick update: Just was able to get video interviews with Weis, Crist and Opurum.
We'll have some good things coming, including who Weis thinks could surprise in 2012, Crist's favorite memory of Weis and Opurum talking about KU's new workout routine.
It'll take a little while to get these posted, but we'll get them up as quickly as possible.
11:49 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Weis said when he took the KU job, he decided not to talk to former KU coach Mark Mangino, even though he knew him from earlier. Because Mangino had coached some of the players, Weis wanted to make sure to do things the way he wanted to do them and give players a fresh start.
And with that, Weis' time at the podium is complete.
Also am hearing that "Charlie Weis" is trending on Twitter.
11:47 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Weis says he was offered more jobs for more money than the KU job offered. He says that shows his interest in the program.
11:46 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Weis said, when looking back at his experience at Notre Dame, he sometimes looks back and says, "How stupid could you be?" He says he learned a lot from that experience.
He said early on at Notre Dame, he didn't talk to a lot of alumni groups. That disgruntled some people. When he took the job at KU, one of the first things he did was go on a tour to meet alums. He believes that has paid dividends.
11:42 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Weis says he loves college hoops, and he says that he gets great seats. Recruiting is the lifeline of every program, he says. When Weis recruits, he takes guys to KU basketball games with one of the best teams and coaches in the country. Weis says he tells recruits that they can see the support they can get at KU, but they need to come to help build that same sort of thing for the KU football team. Weis says the football team couldn't have a better recruiting tool that KU basketball.
11:37 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Weis jokingly calls linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone "my blockheads." He said both came to KU to enhance their potential value in the NFL. Both players at their old schools were behind the best players on their respective teams.
11:35 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Weis says one of the reasons he took the KU job was his familiarity with the Kansas City area. He says he enjoyed his time with the Chiefs when he was an offensive coordinator but had family issues that forced him to move.
11:33 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
From Matt's tweet ...
"Weis: One of guys I have most respect for is Coach Snyder and I know some of the people at Kansas will be mad at me for that"
11:32 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
• Weis starts with an opening statement about Penn State: "No one wins. Everyone loses."
• Weis says he has taken a look at Penn State's roster to see if any of the players could help KU. He still said you had to respect PSU coach Bill O'Brien and the program and go through the proper channels.
11:27 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Weis is in the room. He gives a half-hug to Big Jay on the way to the stage.
Keep it here for updates.
11:25 a.m.: By Matt Tait
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was the third coach to step to the podium today and it was quite clear that last season's BCS success did nothing to change who Gundy is or what he believes. The main thing he's stressing now is for the Cowboys to maintain their success and take it to new heights.
"Our organization and our football program has come a long way. And hopefully we've got it set right now so that it will continue this way for a number of years."
Coach Weis is up next.
11:23 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
A few photos of the KU players here ...
11:10 a.m.: By Jesse Newell
Here's a video previewing where Matt and I talk about what we expect from KU at Big 12 media days today.
10:52 a.m.: By Matt Tait
UT coach Mack Brown, who always seems to charm the pants off of everyone in the room at these things, was much more business-like during his session with the media today.
1. Brown said quarterbacks like Colt McCoy and Vince Young made the Longhorns "soft" in terms of the running game. "Becuase those guys were so good and so accurate, we were throwing it on third and four," he said. Instead of seeing that continue, Brown said he would like to see a little more toughness from the running game, especially in the red zone. "You can't just throw it all the time and be successful," Brown said.
2. Midway through the session, Brown turned to the various cheerleaders standing at the front of the room and asked, 'How we doing girls? Ya OK?' They smiled, of course, and nodded their heads yes. There's the Mack Brown I remember from these things. He actually asked all of them to come in to stand up front for his session.
3. Brown really likes the talent, progress and improvement shown by cornerback Carrington Byndom, who has had a solid summer and is poised to be a leader for the Longhorns' defense.
"I think he will end up being one of the better defensive backs in the country this year," Brown said.
4. Brown said there's a great need for UT's wide receivers - especially the young guys - to step up early to help the inexperienced QBs settle in a little quicker. Still no decision on a starting QB. David Ash and Case McCoy will spend most of August battling it out and Brown said he believed the competition could go down to the last day. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is up next.
10:20 a.m.: By Matt Tait
As was the case Monday, Day 2 of the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas opened with a newcomer, as West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was the first coach to address the media today.
KU coach Charlie Weis, who arrived Monday evening currently is doing radio interviews and will move on from there to 50 minutes with national television crews.
Weis will address the print media at 11:30 and also will be available for 30 minutes during the player and coach breakout sessions from 2 to 3. KU captains Dayne Crist, Tanner Hawkinson and Toben Opurum also will be available to print reporters during that time.
For now, here's a look at some of the highlights from Holgorsen's comments.
1. Moments after saying how excited he and his school were to be in the Big 12 Conference, Holgorsen went on to discuss what a good marriage WVU and the Big 12 have created.
"What we're getting into is the same thing we've got at home," he said. "And that didn't necessarily exist in the conference we were in last year." One note of interest: Holgorsen has coached in the Big 12 as an assistant for nine of the last 12 seasons.
2. With the Mountaineers picked to finish second in the league this season, Holgorsen knows there are a few expectations for his team to compete in the Big 12 right away. He's not worried.
"Our team is used to winning," he said. "And that's the case with the other nine schools in the Big 12."
3. Travel does not seem to be a concern for Holgorsen or West Virginia. He said most of the travel these days is done via airplane anyway and also said that the concept of bringing 15,000 home fans to road games is a thing of the past because that many tickets just aren't made available to road teams any more.
"It's gonna be an airplane ride," he said. "You're gonna jump on a plane and fly a couple of hours no matter where you go, and, from there, it's normal preparation and really no big deal."
4. Holgorsen said Geno Smith really picked up confidence late in the 2011 season and he's expecting that to carry over into 2012. He also thinks Smith's performance down the stretch helped propel him to his selection as the preseason offensive player of the year in the Big 12. As for the offense itself, Holgorsen knows what he's getting into in terms of trying to keep up in the Big 12. And he has a few plans for that.
"We'll probably put something new out there," he said with a laugh. "I'm not gonna tell you what it is."
Original post: By Jesse Newell
Welcome back to Big 12 football media days at the Westin here in Dallas. This is Day 2 of the festivities and also the day that Kansas coach Charlie Weis, quarterback Dayne Crist, offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson and defensive end Toben Opurum meet with reporters.
Here's the schedule for the podium today:
10 a.m. — West Virginia
10:30 a.m. — Texas
11 a.m. — Oklahoma State
11:30 a.m. — Kansas
Noon — Baylor
Coaches and players also will be available for one-on-one sessions during the afternoon from 2-3 p.m.
Obviously, be sure to check back here for your KU coverage, which will include photos, videos and updates from here in Dallas.