Breakdown: An example of KU's offensive line getting out-physicaled by Rice

For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Kansas coach Charlie Weis has made a few mentions this week about how he was disappointed in his offensive line play.

With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at a failed running play from the Jayhawks' 23-14 loss to Rice on Saturday. At this point, KU was leading, 14-13, with possession in the fourth quarter.

This is a basic "Power" run play. Those offensive linemen on the "play" side — the direction where the ball is going to be run — are down blocking, meaning they are blocking the defenders to the inside of them (with the left tackle going upfield to take out a backside linebacker). Meanwhile, the right guard pulls around to kick out a linebacker in the hole.

I've made a GIF showing each KU player's blocking assignment.


This play falls apart on multiple levels, the most glaring of which coming in the battle between Rice's defensive tackle Christian Covington and KU's left guard Randall Dent (No. 64).

Right after the snap, Dent is driven backwards by Klare, in essence getting "his (stuff) pushed in," Coach says.

This disrupts the entire play. KU right guard Mike Smithburg tries to pull around to block, but he bangs directly into Dent instead.

Smithburg runs into Dent's back.

Smithburg runs into Dent's back. by Jesse Newell

Smithburg's blocking assignment on this play is Rice linebacker James Radcliffe (No. 10), and with a free path, Radcliffe is able to get to the backfield to trip up KU running back James Sims.

"That’s a good indication of a defensive tackle not getting in on the stats and making a tackle or tackle-for-loss, but the defensive tackle is the one who makes this play," Coach says. "He’s getting a pat on the butt in the film room after this one."

Sometimes a team can help out its left guard on this play, as the left tackle can combine with him to form a double-team on the defensive tackle. After that block is secure, then the left tackle can move forward to take out the backside linebacker.

"I guess KU just thought that the left guard could handle this block one on one with the defensive tackle," Coach says, "and really, it didn’t end up working."

Dent isn't the only one who struggles, though.

Notice the left tackle Aslam Sterling (No. 77) almost completely whiffs on his block of Michael Kutzler (No. 42), who is listed at 110 pounds lighter than Sterling. Because of that, Kutzler is able to get to Sims and help finish off the tackle on the one-yard gain. Look closely at the end, and you can even see Sterling slap his hands together in frustration.

Coach also says KU tight end Trent Smiley (No. 85) isn't perfect here against Rice defensive end Tanner Leland (No. 13) either, as he allows quite a bit of penetration and at least needs to work for a stalemate to keep Leland out of the backfield.

Bottom line: Coach says this a good example of KU getting "out-physicaled" up front.

And while many fans have questioned why Weis didn't run the ball more against Rice, Coach says no play call is going to work if it isn't run correctly.

"You can call the hook-and-ladder, you can call the double-reverse pass, you can call this simple power play, you can call a simple inside zone running play," Coach says. "No matter what you call, you have to execute it."



iamakufan 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Maybe off topic but I'm looking for a place to post this.... Just finished reading something about Bill Snyder and thought how much this excerpt resembles our situation.... and how it says hang on and give Charlie Weis some time to work his magic... This is from a Wikipedia article on Bill Snyder. Actually, I remember the SI article.

'Prior to Snyder's first season in 1989, Sports Illustrated published an article about Kansas State football entitled "Futility U," which labeled the school "America's most hapless team."[2] Snyder won only one game in his first season, beating the recently renamed North Texas, but it was a significant win because it was K-State's first win in three seasons. The game was especially thrilling, with a touchdown pass coming on the last play of the game.'


pigballin 7 months ago

All comments will be collected from Weiss and he will no doubt reevaluate the team and put in Obama change and thus the fans will see an energized bunch ready to kick a$$. Thank your very much for your expertise. Rock Chalk.


Adam McEwen 7 months ago

The biggest problem I see with this team is that they have a long term memory, and they need to lose it fast. Yes, they've been terrible. In the past they've been beat down, lost and lost due to a lack of talent. That is not the case anymore, they have the talent to win games, I think they just are too much in their own heads, waiting for something bad to happen. You don't get a D1 scholarship if you can't catch the ball, but you'll sure as hell drop it if you're worried about failing. They need to forget the past, get amnesia, and they WILL win. The coaching staff needs to embrace this too, Holsopple posting a picture reminding them of the last time they won a road game sends the wrong message mentally. In football, there can be only one moment, NOW.


pigballin 7 months ago

The file says it all..KU sucks for players on the line...i guess..Big on the line does not always say that line will be good..There has to be some athletic ability. Number 11 did a horrendous job of seeking out someone to block.. He should not see the field,,That was almost like he was trying to avoid contact. About offensive lines..When Elway played, that offensive line was good,,but was the lightest line in the NFL. There has to be mentioned that the line is not always going to execute like it is drawn up.. A very good running back can break,cut,shift to get yardage..Sims is overrated..


pizzashuttle 7 months ago

Jesse, you might want to add Smithburg's number, 65 I think, just to be consistent and help identify him since he wasn't able to get to his block. Smithburg looks pretty heavy so I'm not sure if it's realistic for him to be able to pull and block # 10 even if Dent doesn't get pushed backwards into him. I'd rather have another back in the backfield to block # 10.

I agree our OL got out-physicaled but I'm with Rivethead on the game plan. I don't think Weis game planned to our offensive strengths which are Sims, Pierson, Bourbon and Miller. Also the plays where Heaps was supposed to run the ball when Heaps is slow - once again not playing to Heap's strengths. Same with the play where McCay was running deep, trying to outrun the d-back as Keegan pointed out in a previous article. Speed is not McCay's strength. A play where McCay is supposed to outrun the d-back does not play to his strengths as a possession receiver. It's not just that the O-line is getting dominated, it's also that Coach Weis is not calling plays that utilize the strengths of the various players.

Add in the occasional head scratching plays like the backwards pass to Embree and you have a recipe for a loss.


Janet Scott 7 months ago

Laughable. KU looks like a poor junior high team. Wimps. And all the blow-hard hype regarding KU's "big" time strength program. What do they lift? Helium-filled balloons?


texashawk10 7 months ago

Apparently KU has agreed to a home and home series with the University of Houston for the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the 2019 game played in Houston at the Cougars new stadium and in Lawrence in 2020.


victorl 7 months ago

Jesse, FWIW the Rice player blowing up Randall Dent is actually #56 Christian Covington not Dylan Klare. After watching #56 play the whole game, I think he has a good chance of playing on Sundays. That at least makes me feel a little better. :)


KGphoto 7 months ago

I still like Grunny as the OL coach. I just think the OL underestimated the Rice DL. That’s still on Grunny but I think he’ll get it fixed.

I want to blame Ianello for the receiving troubles, but it’s also the TE’s. Blasko and Ianello are killing it on the recruiting trail but is that recruiting effort taking away from figuring out how to get these guys dialed in?


Robert Brown 7 months ago

I've lived in Houston for 30 years and I can't remember ever hearing about Rice being more physical than one of its football opponents. Smarter, yes, but more physical?


Brett McCabe 7 months ago

If we are going to invent new words, can't we do better than out-physicaled? Here's a few for consideration:

That guy just got Physicized! (Apologies to Letterman)

The O-Line was Physlammed by the Rice defense. (Pronouced: fist-slammed)

The Rice d-line was physodelic.

We keep getting physamofo'd by the Rice defense.

Rice was too PhysicOwl for us!


Reuben_J_Cogburn 7 months ago

No more of this crap.

If we don't go out there and dominate La. Tech from start to finish on Saturday, it will be a huge disappointment.

The time for excuses is over. You've accepted them. I've accepted them. The players have accepted them.

It's been 4 years since we've had a statement win. It's time, right now. We need some momentum, or we'll be in for a long season.

As much as the Rice game haunts me, it's time to forget the past. I know the ability is there. It's time to let it out.


Shaun Hardie 7 months ago

Matt stated that the biggest leap in a teams' performance is from week 1 to week 2. My expectations weren't high of this team going into the season but I thought at least we'd have the offense figured out a bit more than this. We scored 14 on Rice! We should have ran it down their throats like we did in the 3rd quarter again South Dakota. Their D-line wasn't that great and we should have wore them down with the run. I think this article is trying to highlight the O-line inferiority and Jesse does a good job pointing out their issues. But aside from more game experience and us whining on the forums, nothings going to change. This is KU football and I'm tired of losing when we could be winning these tossup games.


JayDocMD 7 months ago

Weis has announced some changes that will hopefully spark our offense. At WR, Coleman and Parmalee will be starting over McCay and Ford, with Smiley replacing Mundine as starter at TE. Also, Spencer is replacing Fondal at RT as a starter.


James McGuire 7 months ago

Jesse, thanks for the break down. Aside from being out-physicaled at the line, I also recall a few plays where Heaps had a lot of time to scramble for a throw, only to keep the ball and get sacked. On some of these occasions, I noticed the WRs had stopped their runs and seemed to be watching. Was that a figment of my imagination or or the receivers just stopping after finishing their routes?


Joe Joseph 7 months ago

I'm not a fan of the all-white uniforms.


Charles Logan 7 months ago

Kansas has the tools to win. WE HAVE the players ON THE BENCH!!!! I don't know about everyone else, but that's what's frustrating me. I know this is Charlie Weis' team, and he is gonna run it his way, but his way isn't working. Do we need a stand around stay in the pocket passer? ...... Weis may want that, but I don't. I want to see an explosive high octain offense! Oregon does it, Boise State, heck Baylor, and K-state gash us with it! I have been saying it since the spring, and I will say it again.

KU needs to put Montell Cozart, Darrian Miller, James sims, and Tony Pierson on the field AT THE SAME TIME! Just them all being on the field at once will slow the defense down. They will have no idea who to key on. Cozart can stay in the pocket, but is 3times the threat to run as heaps is. Cozart is quick. Heaps isn't.

Cozart went to Bishop Miege High school along with Tre' Parmalee, and Justin McCay. Who knows, there could be a chemistry there. Just put them on the field and try it. Cozart would be nice in the option with this backfield. I know some of you will say say Cozart is just a freshman...... I say SO WHAT! Look what Sims, Pierson, and Miller did as TRUE fresmen! Weis said that he is gonna put the best players on the field. What my eyes see is that these are our best players. And this is a weapon that Weis is refusing to use. I am not against using heaps, but i am against letting our talent go to waste on the sideline.

I know weis doesn't want to be an option running coach, but that's what the college game is. This is not the boring NFL. And even the NFL is adaptting to this. I know Heaps is Weis' guy, and Millweard is probably gonna be coaches next guy because he is the same type player as Heaps, and Crist, but we need to let these guys RUN! If this lineup is succesful with the run, we can pass WHENEVER WE FEEL LIKE IT! We just won't have to if we don't want to. If Cozart doesn't pan out in the option, we know that Cummings can run it!


HighQ 7 months ago

Defensive tackle--Blows up two of our linemen.--Henley's record's safe.


Ralster Jayhawk 7 months ago

Also, this is no indictment of the O-line, as the usual gloom&doomer's (who lack faith in GoldenDomers) will say our O-line is awful/sucks/yada/yada...when in reality, they are a new, inexperienced unit, that simply need to experience fails + successes at Div1 speed to get "amazingly" better. Why would I say "amazingly"? Because you have Weis + Grunhard who know exactly what it takes to succeed at the highest level of football. Grunhard will pay dividends bigtime, but its too soon to judge, imho.


TexiCaliHawk 7 months ago

I totally agree with ATL as I watched several plays and simply marveled at how 'manhandled' our OL looked -- and all we have heard in the off-season was how "Holsoppled" everyone was. Plus, with the leadership of Coach Grunhard, I expected a lot more out of this unit -- at least against teams like Rice (pretty good, but not GREAT).

That said, I also saw our WR's and RB's do a very poor job of downfield blocking -- the difference between breaking what ended up being a 5-7 yard gain into a much bigger run. Similar to Rebounding in Basketball, Blocking in Football is a combination of proper technique/angles AND good 'ol fashioned 'Want To' -- you've got to 'Want To' hit someone in front of you (preferably the defender you are 'supposed' to hit; however, at list hit someone).

I don't know how many times I saw a lineman quit on a play (i.e., make their first move/block and kinda stand around watching the play end). Other times, I saw some of our big 'ol 'Hosses' running right at Rice LB's/DB's and then unexplicably run right PAST them . . . really?!

One more thing -- I've watched a lot of Football so far this year and what I find curious is how our DL 'allows themselves' to be/stay blocked; whereas I see how physical other teams' DL players and blitzing LB's are in 'fighting off' their blocks to get to the ball carrier. Why is that?!

I believe we have the right Strength Coach and OL Coach to 'build' a better quality of Line Play (on both sides of the ball); it all comes down to Executing Fundamentals and 'Want To!'

Let's see if we can build on the tape of the Rice game and make adjustments to improve against LaTech in order to get ready for the upcoming Big 12 schedule as it only gets tougher from here . . .


Dickless Head 7 months ago

The bottom line is, this football team isn't any good. It may be improved from the last couple of seasons, but we had nowhere to go but up.

Fans are frustrated that we can't beat a team like Rice. FBS, yes. But not from a BCS conference and any BCS-level team should be able to handle a team like Rice. That's the thinking of 95% of the fanbase, anyway.

I put all the blame on the staff at They spent all summer pumping sunshine up our back sides about how incredibly good we look, how tough we looked, how greatly-coached we looked....all positives. I don't think I read one negative thing all summer about KU football from the staff that runs this site.

Diehard football fans, and even casual fans, were excited. We had great hope this would be a season where we would win 5-6 games, possibly make a lower-tier bowl game, and have a very Mangino-2003-like season.

But here's the truth.

This team is not very tough. This team only has 2 or 3 guys who are talented enough to start for another FBS school. Our defense is average, and our offense is God-awful. I don't blame the coach or the play calling or the type of offense we run. Regardless of all of the above, you must have guys who can catch, block, run, and throw. We have very little of that.

Above all else, most of our team confesses a love of a God other than the God of the bible...MY God. My God is a powerful, loving God, who will not be ignored. Those who ignore him shall be punished. This team needs to watch "Facing the Giants" and adopt a similar attitude.


Keith Hummel 7 months ago

This is what I saw all game. Our offensive line was outclassed and manhandled by Rice's defensive line, despite our size advantage. And this is why all the ranting about how Charlie should "just run the damn ball" is so pointless. He couldn't run the damn ball because we were doing a lousy job of run blocking. Poor execution and lack of physicality, not just by the OL but by the TE's and WR's as well, killed our offense. Weis tried to compensate with passes and trick plays but those were poorly executed as well. So in the end it looked like Weis didn't know what he was doing when in reality I think he simply ran out of stuff he could try. Nothing was working, and it all started with poor OL play.


Dirk Medema 7 months ago

Noticing that 11 (Parmalee) is running around looking for someone to block and not hitting anyone. Could the play have popped outside if he had blocked the CB?


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