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Monday Rewind: Rice

Kansas running back Tony Pierson darts up the sideline for a touchdown past the Rice cheerleaders during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Kansas running back Tony Pierson darts up the sideline for a touchdown past the Rice cheerleaders during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. by Nick Krug

By now, those who follow Kansas University football know that dropped passes have plagued the KU offense during the first two weeks of the 2013 season.

But instead of using the Monday Rewind to look back at which players dropped the most passes and who is struggling the most in that department (You can find that here), I figured it might be a good idea to check out the opposite side of things and see if some kind of fix can't be pulled from that.

What the F, right?

No. Stick with me. I'm not talking about that F, I'm talking about KU's F position, which currently is manned by Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon, two players who have been Jake Heaps' most reliable targets through the first two games of the season.

A week ago, when KU football coach Charlie Weis was asked on his weekly radio show which player had the best hands, his answer revealed something that might be worth trying for the struggling Kansas offense.

“I'd say Pierson has the best hands,” Weis said. “And Bourbon's next. The guys playing the same position might be the two guys with the best hands.”

So why not put them out there at the same time a little more often?

Because I don't have a playbook nor a helmet and shoulder pads, I don't fully understand Weis' offense and all of the intricacies that go along with it. But I do understand the idea of first-string and second-string players, and maybe it's time to promote Bourbon to first-string along with Pierson.

Both have looked sure-handed catching the ball this season. Both have the ability to line up anywhere on the field. And both have the speed and toughness to run good routes and get open. From where I sit, that means both should play as much as possible.

Unlike many of you, I don't quite see this as a sky-is-falling situation. Not yet, anyway. It's still early, I think this team is made up of several tough-minded individuals and maybe doing something this drastic with the offense is not what needs to happen right now.

KU's strength remains its running game and finding ways to get James Sims, Darrian Miller, Taylor Cox and especially Pierson some more quality carries seems like a good place to start — at least until Heaps and the passing game get fully comfortable and the offensive line becomes more solid.

But if drops continue to be a problem and KU's pass catchers fail to step up, letting Pierson and Bourbon carry more of the load might be the answer — offensively, at least.

The defense is a different story altogether. Not only is that unit playing better and improving by leaps and bounds each week, but the KU defense darn near won the Jayhawks last weekend's game. How long has it been since you could say that?

Comments

douglas6280 1 year, 2 months ago

Weis is too smart for his own good I guess. The strength of this team on offense is its running backs. This is a running team and he needs to play to that strength and then use play action more to set up the passing game. This is the second year in a row that, if we would have featured the run, we would have beaten Rice. I think the "vision" of what he wants the offense to look like isn't in line with the talent on the field.

Al Martin 1 year, 2 months ago

Sky is falling? Of course not. It's tough for the sky to fall on a team coming off a 1-11 season.

It is very disappointing that the one offensive trait upon which we thought we could rely was so effectively stopped. Defensive lines aren't going to get softer as we enter the conference schedule.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

Calling for the Coach and AD to be fired 2 games into the 2nd season is what Matt was referring to, and that is a tough (pretensiously ignorant?) crowd.

kansas22 1 year, 2 months ago

Giving Pierson one carry throughout an entire game is an absolute embarrassment. The mismatch in speed Tony had against Rice was comical. This team shouldn't be passing the ball more than 20 times in a game unless it is absolutely forced to. We have an inconsistent QB that is throwing to receivers that have proven they're inconsistent at best at catching balls. Our play calling is so ho-hum it becomes nauseating. Giving Pierson the ball more is a good start, the guy is the most dangerous weapon we have with the ball in his hands. The other RB's need the ball more as well. I'd like to see us line up with 3 RB's in the backfield giving us more options for run play calling. Heaps isn't the answer passing the ball. Try to run it down team's throats. Call more outside run plays to get the running backs to the edge. Draw up a couple misdirection or trick plays. Just open up the playbook more! I can't sit through many more games that are as offensively predictable as last Saturday's or I'll become a full-blown alcoholic to numb the pain from watching KU football.

Jeremy Hays 1 year, 2 months ago

So your answer is run the wishbone to become more creative? Run Misdirection? A Trick Play? we run zone reads with bubbles -- oh wait we did that for 2 yards.. Yes I'm with you that Pierson needs the ball more but when teams KEY on him our other WR/TEs need to make plays... I think if you watch the game they didn't do that.

Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

I found it shocking Pierson wasn't a factor in the game plan. He'd been hyped up all preseason and yet a non factor when he's the perfect antidote to taking the pressure off of the run game. By utilizing Pierson we can open up our other receiver options.

Screens, reverses and play actions help keep the defense guessing.

kureader 1 year, 2 months ago

I really like Coach Weis. But it is hard to understand how we can give the fastest and most elusive player on the field only 5 touches in an entire game. Pierson gained about 20 yards/touch last week and 10 yards/touch the week before. The rest of our offense was just over 2 yards/touch. There just isn't any reason that Pierson can't touch the ball 12 to 15 times a game. In 1972, Johnny Rogers from Nebraska won the Heisman. However, he only rushed for 350 yards the entire season. Like Pierson, he wasn't a running back, but he was great in the open field. Nebraska's Coach Osborne designed an offense that gave Rogers touches on every series. Maybe Pierson isn't a Heisman candidate, but the coaching and play calling issue is just the same. Last week, I doubt that Pierson even broke a sweat. This week, it probably won't matter, because we're playing a team that should make us look good. But after that, and until the rest of our offensive skill players begin to show up, Weis needs to take advantage of what he's got. I'll be anxious to count Pierson's touches from here on.

namohcan_99 1 year, 2 months ago

Isn't it funny that we are not figuring this all out until right now?

Jim Jackson 1 year, 2 months ago

Matt, I agree that the drops were a problem as was the anemic pass and run blocking.

But I know you concur with the sentiment that the play calling was inefficient at best.

Not a single play action or fake the ENTIRE game (or was there 1 I missed??) when they were stacking the box and consistently tackling us for loss in the backfield??

Weis is a smart dude but I have no clue what he was doing on Saturday.

Hopefully we see more Charles Brooks at TE because Mundine was awful.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 2 months ago

...um....

Well...

That was depressing.

Something I did not think would be anemic this year: rushing.

But if we can't run the ball on Rice....oh boy....gonna be a long year.

Think about how the Rice game last year took the wind out of our sails. We have to do something right now, or this thing will launch into a tail spin.

...problem is, where do you start?

MartyrMangino 1 year, 2 months ago

I posted this in the "Dropsies" article, but I thought it could stand being repeated here:

Call me crazy, but I believe there are some positive things to take away from the Rice game.

Our defense looks to be progressing ahead of schedule, even without many of the heralded recruits and our special teams play appears to be much improved from last year.

Unfortunately, I don't think that we are going to be able to run the ball very effectively until we prove that we can pass the ball. It isn't as simple as some are suggesting that we should just abandon passing and try to run right over teams. We don't have a credible passing game and there are a lot of players on our O-Line without much experience.

We all would like to be beyond the simple installation of a credible passing game, but that is not easy to do when you have a brand new O-Line, a new quarterback who hasn't played in a couple years, and middling talent at the receiver position. Our passing offense last year was almost historically bad; it is going to take some time to stop that runaway train.

I am feeling positive about this team because if the defense can keep improving, we should have something to build on. Back in the Mangino era, the defense came first and once the offense had talent to match the defense we took a big step forward. I have my own doubts about running a pro-style offense at KU, but I don't feel like we have had the caliber of player Weis envisions running it. We may never get that caliber of player.

Remember 06-07. There were so many games we should have won because we just couldn't put it all together yet. We will get there, but we need something to build on. Hopefully our defense and special teams will provide that stability.

P.S. Ben Heeney is a terrific player

Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

Well said. We are making progress and we all hoped and some believed the wins column would make a dramatic change this year. The sky isn't falling, but like any fan I hope to see progress throughout the season.

I'm not jumping off the ship and will watch every game like I always do. Some may induce my inability to maintain sobriety, but ill stay positive that this staff will fix areas and show diversity as the season continues. I know I've expressed my frustration, but its not anymore than I'm passionate about my school. When we are down ill be upset, but when we are up ill be excited, but either way I'm in it for the long haul.

Jack Jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Agree ~ Thought we could/should have won the Rice game, but also see the positives that we can continue to build on. 1 season (with few new players and a complete new system) + 2 games is hardly a 'record' on which to make any serious analysis. This will truly be a 'work in progress' season.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 2 months ago

Matt, excellent point on Bourbon. I would not be shocked to see him on the field with Tony this week.

Mike Pressgrove 1 year, 2 months ago

Football season ticket holder for 20+ years and starting to wonder if we will ever get this thing turned around. We can't beat a school with 3500 students? Proud of the way our defense played, but our offense is worse than last year, if that's possible. Based on our quarterback play it seems Charlie's talent evaluation skills may be poor. I will still be at every game and stay to the end, but this year may be my last.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Jake Heaps holding onto the ball too long is a direct result of KU's receivers not being able to get open. TV does not do justice to just poor the route running is of KU's receivers and just how inept they are at improvising to get open for Heaps.

Matt Tait 1 year, 2 months ago

That's the way it looks from up top. No separation, no hard cuts, nobody open.

Michael Maris 1 year, 2 months ago

I thought the idea was to have the best athletes / talent on the field at all times. How about making Bourbon into a Hybrid TE (since Mundine isn't able to catch anything)? Just an idea.

Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

We can move Bourbon to H and its basically a double tight right or left formation, depending on where you need the line strength to be, but he can be off the line and still be a receiver. Can even motion him in the slot or in the backfield to be a Fulback.

Bud Stagg 1 year, 2 months ago

We have receivers who can't get open. In the rare cases that they do, Heaps, (unlike Crist) can actually see and hit them, however then they can't catch it.

My concern is the play calling. We get a good rhythm going on the ground and then we will run the Jayhawk formation or call a stupid pass play. This is like jerking on the emergency brake. The play mix should favor...Run the ball until THEY stop us. Not run the ball until WE stop us.

No reason we should have lost that game. The defense got tired because the offense did not run clock.

ahpersecoachingexperience 1 year, 2 months ago

Can we offer the Rice cheerleader (on the right) a schoalarship to play o-line?!?

Doug Cramer 1 year, 2 months ago

LMAO !!!! Best comment ever by ahperiloveturnergilexperience.

David Leathers 1 year, 2 months ago

She looks like one of those girls whose favorite song is "Lollipop" by Lil' Wayne.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

If you look closely at the two cheerleaders that are right behind Pierson, you'll see a third that is the token blimp for Rice's squad (I didn't know major colleges actually had female cheerleaders that large) and her look thicker than some of KU's linemen. I say recruit her to play the DLine to get a better pass rush.

VaJay 1 year, 2 months ago

I wish (actually hope) it's that easy... Right now I'd swap them in a heartbeat & just let Bourbon learn on the fly. Multiple drops across multiple games demand change.

Jason Keller 1 year, 2 months ago

Are those the Rice cheerleaders in the background or is that the Rice scout team defense?

Jason Keller 1 year, 2 months ago

Tait has a point with the defense. Looking purely at those 11 dudes, you could almost use the G word to describe them. KU's defense is Goo..... Well, let's wait until after the Texas Tech game shall we? Fact is, they have looked pretty sharp so far. A couple of blown assignments but heck that is easy to fix. It's when your corners simply can't keep stride with their man you need to start worrying.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

11 x 2 = 22 dudes.

The D is 2 deep and part of its success.

Jason Sinclair 1 year, 2 months ago

Tait, I agree that the D was very impressive Saturday night, but how can you say "Not only is that unit playing better and improving by leaps and bounds each week..." after only the second game?

McDonald might be one of the best corners in the conference.

Bradley Sitz 1 year, 2 months ago

The corners are more than 8 yards away from the receivers before the snap. When we get into the Big 12, the spread teams are going to kill us with short routes. And, the pass rush is totally inadequate. So, this defense that everyone is giving such high praise has simply not been tested, yet. And, against the likes of OSU and OU, it is going to be ugly. Actually, the Big 12 is really down this year. I was hoping that KU would get to 6-6. But, we simply are not going to score enough points. At least special teams and the kicking games have been improved.

Andy Tweedy 1 year, 2 months ago

Can't agree with you there. I watched Rice play A&M and while defense is not A&Ms strength, they are still a top flight SEC team, and Rice moved the ball very well on them. The defense played a nice game Saturday!

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Only time the corners were backed off was when they were playing zone.

Jacob Zutterman 1 year, 2 months ago

Shot in the dark, but maybe Bourbon to tight end in passing situations?

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