Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis has changed his team’s schedule this week. He’s trying to get his team out of a routine. Routines can be good, but they also sometimes can be bad, too. Today, KU won’t practice any special teams. It will spend all its time on offense and defense. The reason for that is many guys aren’t on special teams, so once they get their juices flowing in practice, they have to stand around and wait to get going again. Weis says his team has to do a better job of translating things from the classroom to the practice field, then from the practice field to the game field. Changing the practice routine is an example of a tweak that Weis thinks about on Saturday nights. When you lose and you accept it and you stand pat, that’s never a good thing.
• Weis knows who’s starting at QB for KU. He says he’s not going to say who it is because there’s no reason to tell WVU more information than he needs to. As a coach, Weis says he can’t go into practice not knowing who’s going to start at QB. Now, WVU has to prepare for two different QBs and two different offensive styles.
• The only receiver KU doesn’t have this week is Tre’ Parmalee, and he will be out for another week or two. A lot of the receivers were turning a corner before they got injured. Weis says he’ll be interested to see how that position plays out.
• All of KU’s offensive linemen pretty much played the whole game against Oklahoma State. Weis said Riley Spencer was more physical at the point of attack than anyone else that KU has had at right tackle.
• Weis says KU is in a must-win situation like WVU. Since KU was eliminated from bowl contention, these last three games are KU’s playoffs. Its bowl game is against Kansas State the last week. That’s how KU is approaching this week.
• Weis says the big difference between KU and Oklahoma State was chunks in the passing game. KU’s rush defense stifled OSU pretty well. KU rushed for 200 yards, and OSU hadn’t been getting near that.
• JaCorey Shepherd is very gifted with the ball in his hands. That’s why he originally was an offensive player, though he had some problems as a receiver catching it earlier in his career. Catching a kickoff usually isn’t a tough thing to do, because no defender is around you when you catch it. Shepherd is good at kickoff return because he’s fast, physical, can read the openings and run with power. Weis is going to use him again at kickoff return this week. He’s proven to be KU’s best kickoff returner. Weis would rather not use him there, as KU is thin at corner, but you have to put your best player there.
• It’s been good for KU to ease quarterback Montell Cozart into games. In the beginning, he was pretty nervous. Each week, he’s gotten more comfortable. One tough thing is calling the plays. It’s not as easy as people think it is. An example of a play call is, “Zero out slot alert fip jep 36 sub Z swing on the second sound.” There’s a lot of talking in there. Then, the quarterback has to process that information.
• When Cozart sees something he doesn’t like on defense, he keeps the ball and runs. Sometimes in college football, a play looks like garbage, and a QB still takes off for 30 yards down the sideline. There were times in the OSU game when QB coach Ron Powlus wanted to say something to Cozart after he improvised, and Weis told him to not say anything. Weis calls those ‘Attaboy’ plays. Weis says the worst thing you could do is freeze on the field. Weis says there are times when he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Cozart gave Weis a heart-attack when he reversed field on one run against OSU, then he turned it into a nice gain.
• KU went through a brutal stretch with a lot of ranked teams recently. Weis doesn’t look at the schedule as being softer through the next three weeks. The good news for WVU is it scored 40 against a good defense (Texas). The bad news is it allowed 47. Weis respects everybody. He has to be more concerned with what his guys do, though.
• Weis hasn’t seen his team quit this year. A win against WVU would change the atmosphere in KU’s football facility.
• Weis thinks there was some good and some bad with Tony Pierson in his return against Oklahoma State. He looked a little tentative, but he didn’t look tentative when he ran the sweeps and reverses. Weis thinks he will be less tentative this week. Weis thinks that after you have a concussion, you probably have that thought in the back of your mind that another hit could give you a second concussion.
• Jake Heaps wants to be the starting quarterback and wants to be in there every snap. But he’s such a team guy that he’s handled the situation well.
• Running back Darrian Miller has some personal issues he has to deal with that are more important than football. When they get resolved, he’ll be back. He is not in trouble with school or with the football team.
• KU had a couple of screens that should have been home runs against Oklahoma State, but its receivers missed a couple of crack blocks. A couple plays that went a couple yards could have went for 50 yards. Weis went to the screen pass a lot against OSU because it’s a short completion that has little risk.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis says the balance Oklahoma State has on offense is what you’re looking for. Weis isn’t like OSU, which favors a lot of four-wide sets all the time instead of using multiple formations, but Weis admires the run-pass mix that the Cowboys have.
• When Weis gets ready to make a change in the depth chart, he first makes sure his conviction is right by re-watching the tape. Weis says it’s tough to see things from the sideline at the game. KU has been talking about cohesiveness on the offensive line the last few weeks, but that goes out the window if you’re not playing well.
• New left tackle Riley Spencer is a big guy that plays physically. He’s had knee issues. Weis joked that Spencer walks around like him a lot of times. In last week’s game, Weis saw a bigger and more physical presence when Spencer was in the game. Pat Lewandowski, who started at left tackle last week, is a little bit smaller at 280-290 pounds. If you aren’t out-executing the opponent at that weight, there are times you are going to get beat.
• A lot of KU's receivers are getting back into the mix and getting healthier. Tony Pierson has had his red, non-contact jersey taken off in practice. Pierson didn’t practice all last week. With Weis, if you don’t practice, you don’t play. Weis is hoping Pierson's a full go this week. Rodriguez Coleman — as ugly as his injury looked on TV — just ended up with a bruised knee after the Texas game. He’s in a rush to get himself back because he’s been playing better recently. Tre’ Parmalee is out for a few weeks, but that’s not as long as Weis was anticipating. Parmalee has a lower-body injury.
• When Weis started working with the receivers a few weeks ago, he thought their attention to detail was lacking. Any time the head coach comes to receiver drills, there’s a sense of urgency. Weis says he can be ruthless. Little mistakes can be magnified. Weis also thinks the receivers have been listening better to receivers coach Rob Ianello since Weis has been coming over more. When you teach a receiver how to run a route, you have to teach it different ways based on the players’ weight and weight balance. Weis believes there has been more attention to detail. For Coleman, when you’re tall like him, it’s important to keep your weight down when you’re coming out of a break. That helps a player’s separation if he can do that. Over the past few weeks, Coleman's done a much better job of staying low.
• Former KU cornerback Tyler Patmon is playing a whole bunch for Oklahoma State at right corner. Weis said he’s sure that Patmon will be looking forward to playing KU, and KU will be looking forward to seeing him, too.
• This week, Weis is going to split his practice time between the receivers and offensive line. Today, KU is going to work on combination blocks. The first step for an offensive lineman is by far the most critical, and on tape, Weis keeps seeing KU not having good first steps. So Weis will work with the guys on that.
• Stamina has not been the issue for KU in second halves. With the exception of Baylor, there has been a big play in the third quarter of every game that has turned the tide. This isn’t a question of whether the guys are playing hard or if they have had enough juice. It hasn’t been halftime adjustments either. It’s been big plays. KU hasn’t done a good job of overcoming those bad things that have happened in the third quarter.
• Ever since the Texas Tech game, when Weis tried to open things up and it backfired, KU has made an effort to be more conservative offensively and try to play lower-scoring games.
• Weis says he might be delusional, but he’s been very impressed by the lack of evidence that his team has gotten down during its losing strak. Weis breaks the season up into different sections. Today starts the last third of the season. Weis told his team Saturday after the game that it will be remembered by what happens in its last four games. It won’t be remembered by what happened in its first eight games. 2-10 wouldn’t be good. 3-9 would be a little bit better. 4-8 would be showing signs. 5-7, things are getting better. 6-6, Weis joked that people start building a statue. Joking aside, that’s the perspective KU is taking. The 2-6 is not what KU is going to be remember by. KU is going to be remembered by what happens down the stretch. That’s their legacy. That’s clearly the way the team is looking at it.
• Weis is going to be miserable no matter what happens this season. He wants to win every game. He’s not very happy in any capacity, but it’s not because the players aren’t playing hard.
• Freshman quarterback Montell Cozart didn’t play as much against Texas. When he carries the ball, he looks pretty special. In the Texas game, there were opportunities where he might have had a big play if he had kept the ball instead of pitching. Weis wants to see progression with him the last few weeks.
• Sometimes, you can learn things when watching from the sideline. Weis told Jake Heaps he’s played two of his best games the last two games. Weis says it might be because he’s taking in more of the game during his time on the sideline.
• Last week, after being uncomfortable with the consistency at kicker, Weis practiced two different groups at field goal. After Matthew Wyman missed the short field goal, Weis said he’d had enough. Ron Doherty knew it might be coming. This wasn’t a surprise for him. Weis would prefer he not hit the upright on the second field-goal attempt, but he’s happy for Doherty. He’s well-liked by his teammates. Weis hinted Doherty might have had a leg injury he was dealing with a year ago.
• If Weis had to kick a long field goal against Texas, he would have put Wyman back in. He’s shown the best accuracy on the 50-ish yard kicks.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis says making the change with his offensive staff a few weeks ago wasn't difficult. The trick was the timing of it. It's unusual to make a change like that two or three games into a season. Making a change is always difficult. Texas coach Mack Brown was looking for something he wasn't getting earlier this year. He wanted to let his athletes be athletes on defense. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (who was hired a few weeks ago) had been around the program as a consultant, and he was familiar with what Brown wanted to do defensively.
• KU's players should feel like they have a chance of winning this year after last year's close loss to Texas at home. KU came off a butt-kicking last week. Texas has momentum. But just as Brown is showing the UT players game tape to say, 'Don't overlook these guys,' KU's coaches are showing their own guys the same tape to say, 'Those are the same guys you had on the ropes.'
• Quarterback Montell Cozart has a lot of room for improvement. He got about half of the reps in practice, then he got about half the reps in the game. Weis wanted to make sure both QBs got an opportunity and weren't looking over their shoulders if they screwed up or had one three-and-out. Every time Cozart gets out there, he's going to gain valuable experience. He's going to get better and better, and he'll be out there a bunch this week.
• This QB situation would be a lot more uncomfortable if Jake Heaps wasn't handling as well as he is. Heaps is probably the most unselfish person KU has. He wants whatever will help the team win.
• Heaps was congratulating Cozart in the Baylor game on his own, and Cozart did the same for Heaps when he threw a TD pass. You could see they fed off each other, and Weis said that's a good thing to see.
• A lot of times when you're a freshman QB, you might be hesitant to take a leadership role. Heaps told Cozart last night to be more authoritative in the huddle. Don't just read the plays; call the plays. When you're in there, it's your team. Heaps has been great. It means a lot for Cozart to have the support from the guy who's been the starter at QB and who was a runaway captain.
• Ideally, you wouldn’t play both quarterbacks half the time. If Heaps goes in and throws four touchdowns in a row, he’ll stay in there. If one of the QBs gets a hot hand, Weis won’t take them out.
• Both Heaps and Cozart are just as effective as the other on about half the playbook. On about 25 percent of the playbook, Heaps is best. On the other 25 percent, Cozart is best. So when they the quarterbacks are in, they’re working with 75 percent of the playbook that is best for them.
• Weis is going to leave Cozart’s ideal body size up to strength coordinator Scott Holsopple. Weis wants Cozart to put on as much weight as possible without losing his speed. When Tom Brady came to the Patriots when Weis was there, he came in at 188 pounds, which wasn't very big. Cozart is big enough to take hits. Weis would like him at 200 pounds instead of 180 pounds (if that’s what he is), but Weis is going to leave that part up to Holsopple.
• Weis says sometimes you have to not only look at how things are going with your program at the current time, but how they finish. Weis has said all along that KU will be playing its best football at the end of the year. KU has five games to prove that. Baylor just stomped KU, but BU has been stomping a lot of teams. That’s not an excuse; that’s reality. Weis says if his team finishes this year 2-10, it’s going to be hard for Weis argue his team has made progress.
• Weis liked the way his receivers ran routes last week. He thinks they all played harder and with more definition. That’s not a knock on receivers coach Rob Ianello. Weis thinks part of it is that the main boss (him) was hanging around the receivers more often in practices. The receivers looked improved last week.
• Weis is coaching a lot more after he made the offensive staff shuffle a few weeks ago. He’s also allowed to focus more during the game. Weis says you miss a lot of the game when you call the game, because a majority of your interest is trying to prepare for the next series.
• The coaches haven’t been happy with the physicality they've gotten out of the tackle position. With Riley Spencer and Randall Dent now backing up the tackle positions, the coaches know they have guys on deck that have some experience and girth if KU needs them.
• Weis is concerned about Tony Pierson. There’s nothing medical that’s keeping him from playing. Maybe, Weis says, he is overly concerned. When a kid is out there for three plays and doesn’t get hit and is dizzy, that’s a concern. How hypocritical would you be if you sent a guy out there that is woozy without getting hit, if you’re a coach that says he cares about his players? If you go out there dizzy like that, you play afraid, and you can’t play like that. Pierson will not see the field until he feels like he is healthy and like he won’t get hurt.
• Linebacker Ben Heeney wanted to play last week. Until Friday, he was trying to get ready to go. The BU game was going to be a game that was played in space. Texas, meanwhile, will try to pound you. The Texas game will suit Heeney better. Giving him the extra rest will suit him well for a gameplan that is going to need him.
• Weis has been pleased with how things have gone on the defensive side of the ball after making changes on the staff to have Dave Campo overseeing the defense with Clint Bowen coordinating it. Weis has been happy with the special teams as well. The area where he’s been most disappointed has been on offense. Weis reflected on what he did with the defense in the offseason, and he said he realized he should be doing more of the same with the offense.
• From this point forward, KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus is running the passing game, tight ends coach Jeff Blasko is in charge of the run game and protections and Weis is going to oversee the offense. He’s going to get much more involved with coaching the skill positions, which he felt have been lacking. He’s been a position coach at all the offensive skill positions at the NFL level. Some of the areas KU is deficient at, Weis feels he can help with improvement. He’s not pushing assistants to the side; he’s just getting more involved with all the skill positions while letting Powlus and Blasko deal with the nuts and bolts of the offense.
• Sunday’s gameplan day was a refreshing day for Weis. There was a much greater exchange of offensive ideas than there has been since Weis arrived at KU. Weis says that might be because when the head coach is the offensive coordinator, sometimes guys can be stifled in making suggestions.
• Powlus has been in the coach’s box during games, and he’ll stay in the box. With this new distribution of labor, Weis will be more involved coaching the quarterback position at the end of series. Weis might miss a couple of KU's defensive plays talking to the quarterbacks. That’s the way he’s done business in the past, and that’s the way it’s going to be done now.
• This is a drastic change on offense, and it will be like this for the rest of the year.
• Powlus will still run quarterback meetings. When you have a veteran coach, a lot of times ideas are held in because the head coach or offensive coordinator already has a bunch of ideas on his own. Weis now lets his assistants put all their ideas up. He doesn’t say anything. Then, Weis went through play by play and asked the assistant coaches to explain why they thought a play would work and also had them show it on tape. Instead of Weis laying down the base for what KU is going to do, now the assistants’ ideas get to be the base for what KU does, and Weis can expand from that. This gives the assistants a lot more input.
• Weis believes the offense runs through the quarterback, and no one knows more about what the quarterback can and can’t do better than Powlus.
• Weis felt like he had to back off a little bit, or else the team was never going to get any better. It’s not easy for Weis to do it that way, but he sat back and said, ‘I was willing to switch like this on defense. Why am I not willing to do it myself?’ That’s not an easy thing to do. Weis is doing it because he thinks Kansas football needs it. He doesn’t care about his ego. He just wants to get better and win.
• Weis says the ideas were good. Some of them were shut down. It’s been a couple of long nights, because KU is not doing well enough on offense. You can sit there and blame the players all you want, but the bottom line is, the coaches’ job is to figure out how you make it better. This will give KU a better venue moving forward.
• Every week, Weis thinks about a lot of things after the game. He thinks about how he can make things better. A lot of the things KU said it wanted to do going into the game, it did. The Jayhawks didn’t have many mental errors after having a lot the week before. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough.
• Weis says there aren’t any potential pitfalls with this new setup. It’s more of an open exchange. Weis thinks it will be a better utilization of the coaches’ resources. Weis said he is going to position meetings now. There are different levels of hard coaching, and Weis’ is cranked up to full gear.
• Weis says it’s tough to gauge how KU is doing in player development because of the high number of junior-college guys the Jayhawks brought in this year. As KU transitions to being a primarily high-school-recruiting team supplemented by juco guys, it becomes a totally different environment. Weis says an example of development has been JaCorey Shepherd. There were times when he was terrible last year, and that’s because he was a wide receiver playing corner. Now, he’s a corner playing corner, and he’s playing well. Player development doesn’t happen as much with juco players, because they’re not at your school long.
• Weis said his offensive line didn’t necessarily grade out better against TCU after the position switches. Weis said the best thing to come out of Saturday’s game was that new center Gavin Howard solidified the interior of the line. Weis isn’t saying Howard played wonderfully, but you didn’t notice that position as much as in previous weeks.
• You have to play to the strength of your team, and right now, KU’s defense is its strength. Weis says the goal is to try to give your defense a long field with which to operate. With the exception of one play, Weis thought KU’s defense played pretty solid.
• The staff hasn’t come close to making a decision on a red shirt for quarterback Montell Cozart. Once you get past the halfway mark of a season, that’s when the conversation begins. To Weis, if a kid can be involved half the season, that might also make them more prepared for the next season. Weis said he wouldn’t put Cozart on the depth chart if he wasn’t a legitimate candidate to play this week.
• Weis is really high on Cozart. His arm strength is good enough. Sometimes people think he’s just an athletic quarterback, so teams will only run with him. He can throw it good enough, Weis says.
• Weis says he thinks too many times, coaches’ egos get in the way of what’s best for the program. You just have to sit every week and say, ‘What can we do better?’ This week, KU needed to make some changes with how it did business offensively.
• If the day-to-day guys on the depth chart (like linebacker Ben Heeney and receiver Tony Pierson) were going to be out an extended period of time, Weis wouldn’t have put them on the depth chart. If Weis knew they were going to play this week, he wouldn’t have them in parentheses. Pierson has passed his concussion test, but he still has headaches. He could potentially play this week, but Weis wouldn’t bet on that. Running back Taylor Cox and linebacker Samson Faifili aren’t on the depth chart, because they’re a long way from playing if they play at all the rest of this season.
• Weis said he will do absolutely anything to give KU a better chance of winning besides cheating. He's interested to see how the new change with KU's offensive coaching staff goes.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
After asking for requests on Twitter, it appears most Kansas football fans want to know what exactly is going on with the Jayhawks' struggling offense.
With that in mind, I decided to switch it up this week. Instead of Coach singling in on a single play, I had him take a look at every offensive play for KU from the first quarter of the Jayhawks' 27-17 loss to TCU on Saturday.
I asked him to take notes, then share with me any general observations he had based on the film.
The following are his takeaways (said in his words) from watching KU's offense in the first quarter:
• "One thing I noticed, TCU was stacking the box pretty good. They had a lot of guys within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. That means they think your passing game isn’t good enough to beat them. They’re going to force you to try to pass to beat them, but they don’t think you can. They’re not going to let you just line up and run it.
• "I thought KU had some nice play designs with motion to give some different looks. Even though they might run some similar-style plays, they were motioning to get into different looks and to try to help out with spacing.
"On the play above, you see how they motion the back out of the backfield? It widens a couple of these defenders down here. I think TCU basically starts out in a seven-man box. It gets the outside linebacker out of the box right here to the right of KU. It makes it a six-man box instead of a seven-man box, which is a little easier to run against.
"On this play, they motion the receiver all the way across the field. It makes the linebackers shift over. They could have run that motion to set up a play for later in the game. It looks like after they hand off to the fullback, they’re looking to see if they’ve got the pitch to Sims going out there to the left. Now they’ve motioned their other receiver over there for an extra blocker if they do come back to run that play later.
"On this one, they’re just motioning from a two-by-two (receiver) set to a three-by-one set, trying to probably get a different matchup, maybe get a slot receiver lined up on a safety or a linebacker. In this case, I think they end up getting him on a corner. Not necessarily the look they wanted, but they were trying to motion to get a matchup they wanted. I’m sure if (the QB) wouldn’t have been pressured, he would have had a little better chance to go to maybe one of these other receivers that was getting a better matchup.
• "I thought the quarterback was sloppy with the ball. He hit the running back on his hip that one time when he was running a play-action fake and put the ball on the ground.
• I also thought he was inaccurate with his throws. He threw it to the running back in the flats one time and didn’t give the running back an opportunity to run after the catch. He also threw one behind his receiver over the middle that could have resulted in a first down if he was more accurate.
• "I thought he forced the ball in there a couple times into coverage. TCU is obviously very good on defense, so they had a lot of tight coverage. Sometimes, you have to throw it to a guy who might be covered, and you expect your guy to go and make a play, but I thought he forced the ball a little bit too much.
• "One of the biggest things — and I put three or four checkmarks by it — (the Jayhawks) were getting beat up front. Period. If you’re not going to be able to block the down linemen, it’s going to be hard for you to win a football game. It all starts up front on both sides of the ball, and they were getting physically manhandled up front.
"On this play, you see No. 96 (red circle)? He just takes the offensive guard [Mike Smithburg] and shoves him back into the backfield there. The two D-tackles are just wearing out the guards right there, blowing them up all the way into the backfield. The tailback’s got no chance right there. He could be the best tailback in the world, and it’s going to be hard for you to get yards.
"I will say this: (Running back James Sims), he’s doing all he can. He’s running hard and going downhill and trying to find yards. I’ve got to commend him for his effort.
"On this play, there’s a party at the ball-carrier in the backfield. (Sims) does a good job for getting two or three yards here, carrying a defender for two or three yards. But there are three or four guys that are unblocked right there. I don’t think it's (bad O-line) communication at all. I think it’s guys missing their blocks. When it comes down to it, it’s a one-on-one game. It’s ‘I’ve got to go beat the guy across from me.’
"(TCU has) a four-man rush right here. They’re not blitzing anybody. KU’s got six guys in to protect, including the running back. So it’s six-on-four right here. If I was the (coach) … it’s just a little disappointing that we’ve got six guys into protect, they’re rushing four, and it’s a party in the backfield, essentially. The D-ends both get upfield. You’d like to think your quarterback could step up in the pocket, but then again, both D-tackles are getting great push back into the backfield as well. So the quarterback doesn’t have anywhere to step up and get rid of the football.
• "I also saw that TCU was blitzing a couple times, and KU didn’t check out of the play. A lot of times, if you see that blitz or you go on a double-cadence [bluffing the snap call, then backing off the snap to get a chance to change the play if needed], sometimes you can get out of the play and get into a play that might be better versus that blitz. Also, that’s tough sometimes if a team disguises their blitz, but the blitz jumped off the screen at me like that just watching the video one time, you think they’d be able to read it and figure out a better play to run.
"On this play, TCU brings those two linebackers right there up the middle; just a pretty standard ‘Bullets blitz' is what that’s called. They’re both blitzing the ‘B’ gap [space between guards and tackles on each side]. If you see those two guys coming, you know you’re probably going to have man-to-man out on the edge. You might think about checking out of this run play and getting in a pass play. They stick with it, and the one 'backer goes unblocked and makes a big play in the backfield.
"We’ve got certain checks that we give our guys: ‘If you see it, get out of it.’ Sometimes we’ll go on double-cadence to make sure we’re seeing exactly what they’re doing. That’s how we do it, but I know other guys do it a little bit differently. Sometimes with these blitzes, you’d want to get out of a play.
• "I also notice they ran a couple read-option plays with no real run threat. There’s a read-option, they weren’t blocking the defensive end, but the quarterback isn’t really a run threat. He just was basically giving the football to the tailback without one guy blocked on the edge and expecting him not to bend back in and make the play."
So what were Coach's overall thoughts after watching the film?
"You’ve got to give the other team credit, too. I know TCU has a good defense," Coach said. "They’ve got great players on their team. That’s obvious.
"But there’s things on this tape where a guy is getting physically whipped one-on-one. I’ve got to man up. I’ve got to step up to the plate and do my job. It’s 11 guys across the board doing their job. That’s why football’s the greatest game on earth: It takes all 11 guys for success to happen.
"It just looks like they’ve got a lot of improving to do, and if not improving, they’ve got to do a better job in recruiting as well to go find better players to match up with some of these better teams."
The updated depth chart (lots of changes on the offensive line) and full press conference audio have been posted.
• Weis says the last thing he wants to do is throw players or coaches under bus. As the head coach, he has to sit down and look at what the team can do to make things better. You have two options: Schematically, you can do less things more, or you can move people around to try to see if you can fix problems with personnel. KU went through the whole spring with Pat Lewandowski at left tackle and Aslam Sterling at right tackle, and they’ve been moved back there. Moving Lewandowski to center didn’t turn out well, despite that’s what KU’s goal was. Now that Lewandowski has moved out to left tackle — Weis feels he is the team’s best left tackle — that shifts Sterling back to right tackle. The guys playing the best on KU’s offensive line this year have been the guards Mike Smithburg and Ngalu Fusimalohi. They’ve been far from perfect, but they’ve been the two most constant guys KU has had. As the coaches were moving guys around, they felt Gavin Howard gave KU the best opportunity at center to do something new.
• Weis says it’s not going to be too much of a change for Lewandowski and Sterling at their new positions, as they played at their respective positions in spring ball. The real question will be if Howard can hold up at center. Weis says the center position has held KU hostage so far this season. The center position is an area where KU has to get better.
• Receiver Andrew Turzilli was a little bit of a disappointment in the spring, because he’s one of KU’s two fastest receivers with some size and athleticism. He just wasn’t playing well and wasn’t showing up. Coaches didn’t notice he was out there in practice. When guys move down the depth chart, they either pack it in or try to fight back. Turzilli is one of the guys who is taking steps to make his way back into the mix.
• So far, Weis says KU’s play in the run game has been a big disappointment. Weis doesn’t want to single out the offensive line, because a lot of elements go into it. The run game should be the foundation of what KU is.
• KU running back James Sims wasn’t only picked a captain because he’s one of the team’s best players. He’s bought in that KU has to do what it needs to do to be successful, like when KU went five wide to start the Texas Tech game. Weis said KU is still 2-2. It hasn’t been a pretty 2-2, but the team still is 2-2. KU has eight more games. Sims still has plenty of opportunities to be more involved in the offense this season.
• Weis says he’s never had to make this many depth-chart changes in his career. There are only so many alternatives. KU is running out of alternatives. KU has to start settling down into what it’s going to be offensively. KU is going up against a really good defense this week in TCU. The team on deck (Oklahoma) is more of the same. It’s going to get worse on offense if KU doesn’t improve.
• When the quarterback is a run threat, it forces the defense to do things differently. The problem is that in those formations with Michael Cummings in, you become one-dimensional. The bind you get in is teams load up the front to stop the run.
• The hardest part about center is snapping the ball and then getting hit in the mouth after you snap it. KU has intelligent guys at center. Intelligence is not the issue. The issue is getting hit immediately after the snap. Some of KU’s snaps looked like Weis was snapping, and he joked he was never any good at doing that in his playing days. Weis thinks the centers sometimes worry too much about the blocking assignment instead of the most important part, which is snapping.
• Weis’ biggest problem with the defense against Texas Tech was third-down conversions. When a team runs 100 plays, though, part of the responsibility is on the offense, because that many plays makes a defense tired.
• After a loss, you always start with a positive with your players in the next week’s film session. The players already have gotten beaten down. They’re already disappointed. Weis said he hasn’t read any media articles since Saturday. In film study, he stopped the tape after the first quarter and asked his team who should win the game based on that tape. Then he showed the rest of the game and asked if that was the same team. Weis said he’ll stand up in front of media and take the blame for his team’s play, but he holds his players accountable behind closed doors too. For example, having 12 penalties is a lack of discipline and comes back on the coach. He’ll take blame for that. But he also went to his offensive linemen and asked how five line-of-scrimmage penalties can happen at home with no crowd noise when they know the snap count. The message to his players and the media are not the same.
• Not having Tony Pierson hurts KU, because he’s gotten better each week and is starting to play well. Brandon Bourbon is playing well too. He’ll have an added role now. More of the burden will fall on Bourbon than has happened before. Pierson will be back at some point. The MRI came back negative. Pierson has a headache and a sore neck, so he’s walking around like an old man, but other than that, there’s nothing wrong with him, which is a good thing.
• One of the most important things with concussions is how you deal with them once you have them. The team has cognitive tests for concussions, then the team looks at the player. The team will err on the side of caution. Weis says better safe than sorry.
• TCU plays its safety so close to the line of scrimmage that you have opportunities to go over the top. Everyone tries to go over the top. It comes down to execution. When you call for the home runs, you have to hit them. TCU gives you some opportunities, but you have to be patient.
• KU had a bunch of mental errors on the offensive line in the last game. There should be fewer of those this game. The problem for KU this game is that TCU’s defensive line is really good.
• Weis thinks KU’s defense has been playing pretty physical and at a pretty high level. In this game against TCU, if you’re not physical on both sides of the ball, though, you’re going to have a tough time.
• Linebacker Samson Faifili looks like he’s a ways from playing. Every time he gets going, he re-aggravates his injury. He’s much like running back Taylor Cox and might be treated that way. He has a possibility for a medical redshirt even though he’s played three games, so KU might pursue that. If he can’t go the rest of this year, that’s a possibility.
• The KU coaching staff’s goal was to hold back and red-shirt one-third of the incoming transfers and play two-thirds of them. The coaches weren’t sure how the numbers would play out. Out of defensive linemen Ty McKinney, Tedarian Johnson, Marquel Combs and Andrew Bolton, the coaches were hoping to play two guys and save two. People were enamored with the names of the guys, while the staff was more enamored with the program. McKinney and Johnson being at KU a semester earlier has them way ahead. The staff thinks Combs and Bolton have huge upsides.
• KU was hoping to sit one guy out of the secondary, and because of the NCAA circumstances, now that will be Kevin Short. Before Short was ruled out for the year by the NCAA, the staff thought Brandon Hollomon might sit out this year. Now, he’s playing and playing significant time. Thirteen of the juco guys are a significant part of KU’s plans this year. Receiver Mark Thomas and linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore (injured knee) and receiver Nick Harwell (NCAA eligibility) are the other guys that will play a big part in the future.
• Running back Taylor Cox had a death in the family last week and flew back to Seattle on Thursday for a funeral. He got back in just before the game Saturday. He has a nagging hamstring and groin. It’s been recurring for some time. If it doesn’t get better, KU will look to medical red-shirt him. If it gets better to the point that KU can play him, Weis says the team will do it. But right now, he would qualify for a medical red shirt, and that’s the direction the team is heading now.
• The coaches weren’t pleased with the offensive line play in the last game. Right tackle Riley Spencer was a projected starter who has been slowed by knee ailments. He’s gotten better and better. Spencer is a strong man. Weis says he will bring more physicality. Zach Fondal is more athletic, but Weis wasn’t happy with the controlling of the line of scrimmage against Rice across the board.
• Weis says tight end Jimmay Mundine has been moved to second team on the depth chart based on all aspects of his game. You have to go by what you see. Weis sees the same things as the reporters see, only he sees them a lot worse. Right now, Weis says the team has to give Trent Smiley the opportunity to see if it can get any better there. Smiley is more physical than Mundine. Weis wasn’t pleased with the physicality of his team last week.
• The changes on the depth chart at receiver has some to do with drops and some to do with receivers not getting separation. The two guys at the top of the depth chart at receiver (Rodriguez Coleman, Tre’ Parmalee) are the two that get open the best in practice. They catch it pretty well, too. Coleman is probably getting force-fed being the No. 1 receiver before he’s ready, but KU needs to get better. KU can’t win games scoring 14 points.
• Parmalee runs great routes and catches the football. He’ll never be a burner, but KU needs a guy that can run routes and get open.
• Brandon Bourbon and Tony Pierson will have expanded roles this week. Weis said he hasn’t been sleeping well since Saturday night because of the offense. Rice rolled defense to Pierson the entire night. Even on his touchdown catch, Pierson had two guys on him. It’s hard to force feed him the ball to him in those scenarios, because the opponent isn’t respecting that other players can get open.
• Weis was pleased with his defense Saturday. The only thing that made him a little upset was some players were a little late getting to the alleys to stop the run. The Rice running back had too many yards. But if you hold a team to 16 points, you should count on winning.
• Weis says JaCorey Shepherd is becoming more comfortable with additional time at cornerback. Weis says the team should have high expectations for Dexter McDonald. He’s a big-time player.
• Combs is on board with red-shirting. The team doesn’t do these things without involving the player. On the offensive and defensive lines, the guys that are on campus a semester earlier play better. You have to stagger the juco players so they don’t graduate at the same time. KU is taking a-third of them this year and pushing them another year with a red shirt. Combs will play on scout team this year.
• Last year, Weis couldn’t identify dropped passes as a problem, because a lot of the passes weren’t close enough to be caught. Now, the ball is getting to the right spot most of the time. KU needs to be able to throw to score and win games. KU needs to do a better job of executing. That’s everyone, including the coaches.
• The Rice game was different than any other loss, because KU’s guys went there expecting to win. They weren’t hoping for something to happen; they were expecting to win.
• Linebacker Ben Heeney is playing faster than everyone else. He might not run faster, but he’s playing faster. That’s what Weis is used to seeing in the NFL. That’s how guys play in the NFL. When they come, they’re coming with a vengeance. He’s a pleasure to watch.
• Christian Matthews is in the top five of the receivers. He’s involved in some other packages. He’s much more comfortable in the slot than he is outside, but most of the time, Pierson is the guy in the slot. Matthews is still in the mix, though.
• KU’s secondary played great against Rice. Linebacker Samson Faifili has been a huge plus. Defensive lineman Ty McKinney has a chance to be a disruptive front-line guy.
• Weis is a big fan of KU’s fans. He’s never been in a venue that feels like Allen Fieldhouse, and he’s been to a lot of arenas. Once you start winning more football games, that’s when you can more judge KU's football fans. Already, Weis likes the support, and that's with the team losing. Weis has an “incomplete” on his resume, because he wants to see what the fanbase is like once KU starts winning more. The fans, though, have been nothing but supportive from his perspective.
• Weis says Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is in a no-win situation. When a former star at the school like Tommie Frazier hammers you in comments, you’ve got two choices: say nothing or say something. Usually, it’s better saying nothing.
• Smiley is a short-to-intermediate pass-catching threat. Mundine is more athletic and can get downfield better. But you still have to go by production.
Let's take a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 23-14 loss to Rice.
For those who didn't check out last week's blog, this box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.
Here are a few takeaways from the box score:
KU's pass defense, once again, was stellar
If you're looking for positives, this has to be the biggest one. After a dominating pass defense performance in Game 1 against South Dakota (2.8 pass yards allowed/attempt), the Jayhawks backed it up with an effort that was nearly as impressive against respected Rice QB Taylor McHargue (4.1 pass yards allowed/attempt).
Not only that, KU's secondary is making plays on the ball. KU's 11 passes defensed (pass breakups plus interceptions) is a huge number that hints the Jayhawks should me more competitive defensively this year in the pass-happy Big 12. Through two games, KU's 7.5 passes broken up per game leads the conference, while Dexter McDonald is tied for fourth nationally with five pass breakups of his own.
KU's pass offense, once again, was pretty bad
Remember, in our "new" box score, sacks are counted against the passing totals, as technically, they are passing plays. Through this prism, KU's passing numbers go from bad to cover-your-eyes awful.
The Jayhawks mustered just 4.2 net passing yards per attempt after posting an identical 4.2 net yards per attempt against South Dakota the week before. Notice that if you look at yards per completion, KU's passing numbers jump up to 9.8 yards per catch. So what does that tell us? In short, KU isn't completing enough passes. For the second straight week, quarterback Jake Heaps failed to complete more than 50 percent of his throws, and once again, costly drops kept KU from having a more efficient passing game.
Trevor Pardula had another great game
Again, if optimism is your thing, KU punter/kickoff guy Trevor Pardula is another reason to believe KU can be competitive in Big 12 games. After seven punts, the junior still maintained a healthy 40.4-yard net punt average, and that was a big reason KU stayed close in the field-position game (KU's average start was its own 27; Rice's was its own 30). Pardula also blasted three more touchbacks, and through nine kickoffs this season, his six touchbacks are already more than KU had in all of 2012 (five in 47 kickoffs).
KU's offensive numbers were even worse considering the opportunities
In 2012, during games between two FBS teams, the average squad had 13 possessions per game. The Jayhawks had it 15 times against the Owls and still never managed to find a rhythm. To be fair, one of those possessions was a kneeldown at the end of the first half, but the numbers are ugly regardless. KU managed just 18 yards per possession, which is barely half of what an NCAA team averaged a year ago (31.1 yards per possession). Remember, that was against a Rice defense that allowed 52 points in 14 possessions to Texas A&M two weeks before.
It was a weird game for KU's running game
The last few years, KU has had success in the running game by getting modest gains to keep the chains moving. Against Rice, the Jayhawks were the total opposite of that, featuring a boom-or-bust tendency while playing without backup RB Taylor Cox.
KU had three rushes of 12 yards are more, and all were by James Sims, who has been more of a grinding back during his career. On the opposite side of the spectrum, though, KU had seven rushes that went for no gain or a loss, indicating the Jayhawks' offensive linemen were getting overpowered too often.
That made for some weird stats. KU's 4.2-yard-per-carry average might be more acceptable if the Jayhawks were better able to avoid losing plays. Instead, KU averaged just 2.6 yards on first down because of all the run stuffs, and that put the team in tough situations on third downs, where the Jayhawks' average gain to go was 7.9 yards — much too high for a team that is still trying to find itself in the passing game.
The pick-six was a killer
The box score above shows this game wasn't dominated by Rice. The Owls had slightly better numbers across the board, but statistically this game was close enough for KU to win if it had a positive turnover margin.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, Heaps' pick-six in the first quarter put the team in a huge hole. Bill Connelly has done the math to compile an NCAA football chart for equivalent points — the number of points a team is likely to score on a drive from a certain yard line.
When Heaps threw the pass, KU was on the Rice 46 — a yard line worth 1.62 equivalent points to KU. The interception return for TD then gave the Owls seven points, and the ensuing kickoff was a touchback, putting KU on the 25 — worth 0.01 equivalent point.
Do the math, and that was a 8.61-point swing because of a single play — definitely enough to swing the balance of a game that the Owls won by ... nine points.
The updated depth chart (only second-team changes) and full press conference audio have been posted.
• Most weeks, KU’s opponents are running schemes where the quarterback is involved as a runner. Weis says KU is going to have to do a better job of tackling the quarterback than it did a week ago against South Dakota, or Rice’s QB Taylor McHargue will gash the Jayhawks. You have to be ready to defend him. You can’t just treat him as a passer.
• Weis feels a lot better about his team after it got a game under its belt. He says going on the road can be good for a team, because there are fewer distractions. It’s a lot more of a business trip on the road than people would think.
• Connor Embree has had good punt returns the entire spring. This is the first chance he’s had to do it in a game. Weis says he stepped up to the plate and delivered. Embree catches the ball really well on punt returns and makes good decisions. Weis says one of Embree’s best plays was the return when he only gained a couple yards. The ball was bouncing, and he decided to catch it to keep it from rolling. That probably saved KU 20 yards.
• From what Weis understands, Rice typically doesn’t have good home crowds. Weis says that’s probably a good thing for his team’s first road game. To go on the road and not have it be 80,000 people going bonkers is probably a good way to ease into a road schedule.
• KU’s offensive line had good run-blocking against South Dakota. The pass protection is yet to be determined, because KU didn’t throw it as much. Any time you rush for close to 300 yards, though, obviously the offensive line had something to do with it. Weis believes what KU lost in experience on the offensive line this year, it gained in physicality. He especially believes that’s the case with KU’s two guards Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg.
• Weis says he’ll use last year’s Rice game as a teaching tool. He says Rice deserved to win the game last year, and KU deserved to lose it. KU didn’t close out the game. Give credit to Rice. KU played not to lose instead of playing to win.
• Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan has a lot of familiarity with KU defensive backs coach Clint Bowen from their time together on KU’s staff a few years ago, so there shouldn’t be many surprises with Rice’s offense for Bowen on Saturday.
• Weis says the situation this week for the coaches has been utopia after a win, because it’s allowed them to be harder on the players to make them better. It’s been a bad week for some of KU’s players, because you can really get on them hard because they’re feeling good about themselves after a win. Weis says it’s great as a coach when you can give constructive criticism after a victory, because players are more open-minded and listen to you better.
• The entire night against South Dakota, the only real throw that quarterback Jake Heaps would have liked to have back was the deep throw to Rodriguez Coleman that he overthrew by a few yards. Weis liked that Coleman laid out for the ball. Weis says Coleman’s on the cusp of taking a meteoric rise up the depth chart. When he gets it, it’ll be tough for others to get him off the field. He’s playing from behind a little bit, because he got in late and was banged up a bit in fall camp. He’s healthy now. He has plenty of time to catch up.
• Weis has no update on cornerback Kevin Short’s status (he missed Saturday’s game because of personal reasons). Short has some personal things he’s working through that were a bit of a surprise to KU’s coaching staff. When Weis knows something, he says he’ll be sure to tell everyone.
• Running back Taylor Cox is going in practice today after suffering a leg injury at the end of the South Dakota game. Weis will have to see visual evidence to see what he looks like out there. No one else on the roster would be in the “questionable” range if an injury report was released.
• Weis says it is too early to determine for sure if some guys are red-shirting. You have to see how things go at each position. Especially with freshmen, Weis tries to not make a decision with them until it gets closer to halfway through the season. If Weis is going to use a true freshman, he’s going to use him. He doesn’t want to burn a red-shirt year to get a guy a couple scrub snaps at the end of a game.
• Weis says KU’s passing game against South Dakota was nothing like any game last year. No games last year looked anything like that. KU had four or five dropped balls and three throwaways out of 20, and KU completed 10. KU had two or three balls that were clear incompletions out of 20 throws. If KU gets that percentage this week, Weis will take it. Throwaways are part of what you do. They’re a good thing. Weis writes them down as a smart play.
• For the program, winning last week got the losing streak out of the way. Winning this week could get the road losing streak out of the way. Winning against Texas Tech could get the conference losing streak out of the way. Saturday is a chance for another KU to get another stepping stone.
• Weis says receiver Justin McCay was excited for his first game. It’s been a while since he played. The same could be said for Heaps. Weis expects both to be better this week.
• KU’s pass defense didn’t really get threatened against South Dakota. KU did give up the one long gain on third and 19. There will be more time for evaluation of the unit in future weeks.
• Weis liked having all his defensive coaches on the field. They were able to work through some kinks against South Dakota, too. People want to make a big deal about how KU is coordinating the defense. The only position that ties all the units together is the linebacking corps, and that’s why Bowen puts the defense together.
• KU has a whole package for the Wildcat (or Jayhawk) formation. You have to put it in there so other teams have to work on it. There were a lot of things that KU did in that game on purpose. As the season plays out, it won’t be the last time you see Christian Matthews out there in that formation.
• Defensive lineman Ty McKinney is playing really well, and defensive lineman Marquel Combs isn’t getting many reps. So KU bounced McKinney out to end so Combs could potentially get more time at nose tackle behind Keon Stowers, who is playing at a high level. McKinney also will have a chance to get first-team minutes at end, because he’s not beating out Stowers. So KU could get two positive residuals out of that.
• KU has been practicing getting the ball snapped in 15 seconds or less. Weis doesn’t stand there with a stopwatch, but that’s probably close to what it was. Weis figured if he was going to have his defense practice against a high-tempo pace, he might as well do it on offense as well.
• Victor Simmons has finally found a home at nickel back. He’s bounced between safety and linebacker at KU. Now, he’s settled into a position that he seems to be comfortable at. If you’re a good athlete and know what you’re doing out there, usually you start to make plays. That’s what’s happening with him.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
Following Kansas' 31-14 victory over South Dakota, I heard many Jayhawk fans suggest that coach Charlie Weis should ditch the Wildcat (or Jayhawk) formation altogether.
I wanted to ask our expert "Coach" to see what he thought. Below are three of KU's unsuccessful Wildcat plays from Saturday's game.
After watching the clips, Coach says KU has different issues on each of the three plays.
On the first play, KU actually has a numbers advantage if you look before the snap. KU has five blockers on the left side of the line to take care of five South Dakota defenders: two linemen, two linebackers and a safety.
Coach says KU is trying to execute a "pin-and-pull" technique here. The two tight ends (Trent Smiley and Jimmay Mundine) have the objective of "pinning" the South Dakota players in front of them back to the inside. KU's left tackle (Aslam Sterling) and left guard (Ngalu Fusimalohi) then "pull" around the outside to block, along with Tony Pierson out of the backfield.
So where is the breakdown? As the red arrows show above, USD's linebacker and defensive tackle stunt on the play, in essence looping around each other to confuse the offense.
With this extra movement, Mundine — the inside tight end (yellow line) — misses his pin block completely.
Instead of three on three, it's now USD with a four-to-three numbers advantage toward the bottom of the screen.
Though the linebacker that got by Mundine doesn't make the tackle, he does force the left guard Fusimalohi to block him (blue circle above). That leaves a second USD linebacker unblocked and unimpeded, and he's able to pull down Matthews.
Coach says the Mundine missed block is the key to the play. If he's able to seal his man — or if he and Smiley communicate better on the fly and switch their assignments to block the two stunting USD players — then Matthews likely scores a touchdown. Instead, he's dragged down at the 5.
The second play actually is a different play from the Wildcat formation, with Coach diagnosing it as a double-option. Here, Matthews can either run it himself or pitch to Tony Pierson behind him.
Once again, KU appears to have a numbers advantage. With good KU blocking, South Dakota is left with one linebacker to defend both Matthews and Pierson.
Coach says Matthews job here is to attack the linebacker's outside shoulder to make him commit. If the defender shades toward the outside, Matthews should cut inside and run past him. If the defender commits to Matthews, he should pitch it to Pierson, who then would have lots of running room.
There's one problem, though: As you can see from the picture above, Pierson is in no position to accept a pitch. Coach labels this as "bad pitch relationship," saying Pierson should be further back and toward the sideline to make himself an option for Matthews.
He never makes it there. With no other options, Matthews is forced to turn upfield right into the linebacker, who makes the open-field tackle.
Coach says Pierson's positioning isn't necessarily his fault. Remember where he was to start the play?
Pierson is aligned on Matthews' right when the play is going left, meaning he will really have to hustle to get in proper position on the other side of Matthews.
Coach says KU can do a few things to help him. Many times, teams will motion that back presnap to the left side, which gives him a bit of a head start. KU also could run this play out of the Pistol formation, which would put Pierson directly behind Matthews instead of to his right.
Coach also says a lot of times on these types of plays, the quarterback will catch the snap then take a step back, which allows the back to get an extra step to the outside.
Though these might be tweaks for a future game, they don't happen here, and the result is no gain.
Coach says there's little KU can do to prevent the third play from being a failure.
The Coyotes have seen enough of Matthews to realize he's not much of a threat to pass, so they send a corner blitz. Though receiver Josh Ford at the bottom is supposed to block the corner, he can only watch as his man runs right by.
This is a read-option play, so Matthews is reading the outside defensive end, whom KU leaves unblocked on purpose. That end immediately crashes towards running back James Sims, and Matthews makes the correct read to keep the ball.
It doesn't make a difference, though, as the cornerback has a running head start and immediately is there to wrap up Matthews for no gain.
Notice at the bottom of the screen that because of its blitz, South Dakota has rolled a safety to cover KU's No. 1 receiver Josh Ford with minimal help deep. If Ford were to run a vertical or out route, he'd basically be going one-on-one against a safety — a huge mismatch in football terms.
Basically, South Dakota is daring Matthews to throw it, and Weis' next step could be calling for Matthews to heave a pass. Doing that not only would take advantage of the mismatch, but it also might prevent run blitzes like this in the future.
Though KU didn't have much success with its Wildcat plays Saturday, Coach says it's not time to ditch the formation. Having this package on tape — if nothing else — makes KU more unpredictable and a tougher scout for opposing defensive coordinators.
"It’s easy to give up on things real quick," Coach said, "but I would say the problems they had are very minimal problems, and they’re easily fixed."