Friday, August 17, 2012


Shuffled starters see second chance with Weis


When a coaching change takes place, it’s common for football players who had earned starting jobs to worry that their status could be in jeopardy. Those who feel buried lower on the depth chart see the change as a second chance.

In many cases with this Kansas University football team, players who were in good stead with Mark Mangino and fell out of favor with Tuner Gill are back in good standing under Charlie Weis.

Mangino was so high on safety Lubbock Smith’s tackling ability Smith started games as a true freshman late in the season. Gill’s vision of a safety put a premium on speed and the tougher Smith lost his job to the faster Keeston Terry. Smith has returned to the top of the depth chart under Weis. Terry transferred to Pittsburg State.

Under Mangino, linebacker Huldon Tharp earned freshman All-American honors per Phil Steele. He started the first seven Big 12 games. Sidelined by injury in 2010, Tharp didn’t start a game for Gill in 2011 and was special-teams captain. Tharp not only has regained his position in the starting lineup, he consistently has gained praise from the coaching staff throughout Camp Charlie.

Other than Steven Johnson, MVP of the defense, KU didn’t get much production from the linebacker spot in 2011, which made many wonder why Ben Heeney was viewed strictly as a special teams player as a freshman. Moved from outside linebacker to the inside, Heeney has worked with the first team on the days Notre Dame transfer Anthony McDonald has been sidelined by injury during camp.

For last season’s starting middle linebacker, Darius Willis, the coaching change has resulted in a tumble off the depth chart. Willis started all 12 games in 2011. As a true freshman for Gill at Buffalo, he started two games before suffering a season-ending injury in the fourth game. After Jeff Quinn, Gill’s replacement at Buffalo, demoted Willis to second team, Willis decided to transfer to Kansas for a reunion with Gill.

Even in the case of Tanner Hawkinson, the team’s most highly regarded NFL prospect, a difference of opinion existed. He started all 12 games he played for Mangino, all 24 for Gill and was a starter from Day 1 with Weis. But there was a difference of opinion on where to play him. Again, Mangino and Weis come down on the same side, opposite Gill. Hawkinson played right tackle in his junior season, the second under Gill, whose offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said he thought Hawkinson had developed bad technique habits on the left side. What were those habits?

“I don’t really know what the technique errors were, but they told me I was better fitted for the right side,” Hawkinson said.

The errors must have vanished. Weis, as did Mangino, wants Hawkinson, now 300 solid pounds, protecting the quarterback’s blind side.


741hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

I'll side with the Mangino / Weis evaluations!

By the way, look for two Mangino / Weis traits for KU football. The players will never quit, and they won't make foolish mistakes.

Mike Barnhart 9 years, 9 months ago

Amen brother! Saw lots of mistakes the last year and a half. The wheels were coming off.

741hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

The wheels came off when Lew held a players-only meeting without Mangino prior to the CU game . . . THAT is the reason the last season went downhill (and fast). Lew cut all authority out from under Mangino. Any reasonably effective CEO would have waited until the end of the season. And look what we got. I prefer to look ahead.

Chris1955 9 years, 9 months ago

I would comment on the prior regime; however, I'm sure they would be removed. Talk about utter stupidity!

Robert Brock 9 years, 9 months ago

Pretty good article by Keegan. I wish that he would write some more about these differences of opinion/evaluation from Gill to Weis.

hawk316 9 years, 9 months ago

Interesting article. I was always a bit puzzled why, after he returned from his injury, Tharp disappeared under Gill. As for Heeney, at least Gill and staff had enough sense to recruit him.

qringer 9 years, 9 months ago

No Turner Gill fan here, but wasn't Hawkinson's switch about putting the best blocker on the line protecting the blind side of last years lefty QB?

Andy Hess 9 years, 9 months ago

Jordan Webb is a right handed QB, so no, that's not the case.

Kendal Carswell 9 years, 9 months ago

As brilliant as Gill was, it's possible that he thought Webb was left handed or perhaps he tried to get him to make the switch to lefty since he was a genius with positioning players to take advantage of their strengths!!!

Michael Luby 9 years, 9 months ago

Will this team make some noise in the Big 12 this year? Will they break the top 25 and maybe get into a higher bowl game?

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 9 months ago

IF (very big if), we win our first non-conference games convincingly, pull off the upset over TCU. We may see a top 25, if we start off 4-0 we will be in the Top 25 (if 2 of the 3 non-conference games are blow-outs).

I'm not saying we will remain there.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 9 months ago

Probably my favorite Keegan Article Ever!!

I always love player evaluations and what coaches come up with in these evaluations, but this really was helpful.

I know doghouses are easy to get in, and hard to get out of, but it always is interesting.

I'm definitely not a TG fan, but this clearly showed things where CW and MM agreed. I'm sure there are others that would have been favoring TG. For instance, I think TG was the one that moved Toben to defense and I haven't seen CW re-evaluate that stand, in fact he has reaffirmed it with making him a captain.

Keegan, give us another one like this one!!

ohjayhawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Actually, I think I remember an article not too long ago saying where Coach Weis is thinking of playing Toben both ways at times (primarily in goal line situations on offense, I believe it was?). So, in fact Coach Weis has re-evaluated Gill's stance on that, even though he will stay primarily on defense.

rockchalk_dpu 9 years, 9 months ago

Coach Weis didn't make Toben a captain, the whole team voted for the captains.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 9 months ago

With all of the people that are here for a second chance I don't think four or five wins are going to satisfy. I don't think Crist in particular came here to win four games in his only season as a Jayhawk. Drink the kool-aid folks. It's spiked.

Bud Stagg 9 years, 9 months ago

I'm with you, I think these players and coaches came here to win. Thank you Lew for wasting 2 years of my life.

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

A lot of these players cite the facilities Lew brought in, as reasons to come to KU.

Cmill1221 9 years, 9 months ago

You should thank Mangino and 3 bowl appearances for that.... NOT LEW!!

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

Lew was smart enough to strike while the iron was hot. Upgrading facilities has always been a priority for him. You should brush up on his Wiki page. He advanced the UConn athletic dept. by leaps and bounds, and he brought more money to KU than you know.

The fact that he swapped a couple thousand dollars in equipment for tickets, while wrong, pales in comparison to the piles of millions of dollars he compiled for KU.

kureader 9 years, 9 months ago

This is an article that wasn't written in 5 minutes. Great effort, Keegan!!!

Bursting 9 years, 9 months ago

Nice shout out to the Kansas kids Hawkinson and Ben Heeney from McPherson and Hutchinson! Heeney is going to be a beast!

741hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Even at this level, it shows how important the coach (manager / leader / CEO) is to a team (organization).

Stan Unruh 9 years, 9 months ago

Gill's bio on the Liberty football web site makes no mention of all the losses the past two seasons. Carl Torbush is healthy again and is his linebackers coach.

Theonlythingthatexceedsyourbad 9 years, 9 months ago

Wonderful article. Great job Keegan.

What was gill doing? Unbelievable. Who he played, where, the disorganization. So glad a real coach is back.

Also very happy for Webb at CO, I predict he'll play much much better with a real head coach. He just ran into a bad deal here with Weis getting 5 star guys.

Ryan Shelton 9 years, 9 months ago

Maybe Gill put Tanner on the right side to help Jordan roll out? I don't know. Reaching on this one.

Bville Hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

I agree with the others that most likely Gill just thought Webb was a lefty. Really, who among us hasn't made the same mistake from time to time?

Geekinout 9 years, 9 months ago

Turner Gill worst coach EVER!!! Not much to say besides that.

Joe Ross 9 years, 9 months ago

Jaybate argued we should have kept him and given him more time. AFTER he was fired. AFTER Weis was hired. He is good with words but has no insight into athletics. For those of you who lay down your hard-earned for the __ he peddles, well you are just as ignorant as he is. I understand this makes me sound small, but I dont give a damn. He comes here rolling out trash by the truckloads, and most of it wrong, based on superstition, or built on the solid foundation of his extensive experience in coaching of which there is none. Who would have kept Turner Gill around and lamented his firing? Jaybate, that's who! Idiot.

Ryan Shelton 9 years, 9 months ago

Wow, that was a bit harsh. I don't even see that Jaybate commented on this thread. Everybody is going to have their opinions and we can agree to disagree, but to call someone an idiot based on a difference of opinions, especially someone like Jaybate who entertains many surfers here, is... well, I'll let you peg yourself above.

For the record, I supported Coach Gill. I also supported Coach Mangino for that matter. I thought there were many times Gill made the wrong call or was disorganized, but I was willing give him a chance. As soon as he was fired and Weis was hired, I wished Coach Gill well and threw my full support behind the new skipper. I wonder if you will call me an idiot because I am loyal to our school and its leaders, even if those leaders are people you abhor? Perhaps you were just blowing off steam?

Rock Chalk.

Bville Hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

C'mon, jross. Don't sugar-coat it, tell us how you really feel.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 9 months ago

Why all the malice? If I remember correctly one of his concerns was that the firing of Gill before even finishing two seasons was going to make it extremely difficult to find good candidates. After Weiss was hired I do not recall his position. I don't mind saying that I was highly skeptical myself but I have been won over in many ways. One question I have for someone who knows. We hear about players being the first one in and the last one out, studying film, etc. What I want to know is which of the coaches is the hungry first guy in, last guy out. Snyder puts in unbelievable hours. That is what it takes. If our coaches are only putting in 45 hours a week it will show. The difference will be when they are putting in 75 hours a week. I understand the diminishing margin of return, but margins are end up being the difference. A margin of one is a win.

Bville Hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Charlie sleeps on a cot in his office frequently. I would guess he is working hours comparable to Snyder.

kureader 9 years, 9 months ago

jross ... I always read your stuff. You're usually not this emotional, though. Don't waste your time on Jaybate. Jaybate is a fairly knowledgable basketball guy and an attention starved recluse who loves to hear himself talk. His football comments don't deserve recognition. I had to quit reading his basketball posts, because I don't have enough time to weed out the jibberish and read the relevant stuff.

As a former player, I'm glad Gill (and Perkins) is gone. I know a few people who have worked with Weis in the past. They were skeptical at first. But, Weis is making a believer out of me. He is working his butt off. He has hired great assistants. And, he has brought a number of outstanding new players to Lawrence. I'm really excited about this season, as are a many others. Go Hawks!

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

Good article, although I think it's a bit incomplete. There are a couple of other players that could be included. Not all of TG's moves were bad.

-He moved McDougald to safety. Anyone complaining about that? -He made Pick a WR. So far, per Weis, he's the #1 player in camp. -Opurum could be all-conference as a pass rusher. I don't think Weis is very serious about moving him back, even part time. He's just covering all possibilities, and obviously Toben is a capable running back too.

Those are three of the biggest assets on our team. At least we can acknowledge that TG was responsible for some good.

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

Why can't we post bullet points anymore?

Bville Hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

"At least we can acknowledge that TG was responsible for some good."

Do we have to?

DillMan 9 years, 9 months ago

This news about Darius Willis tumbling from the depth chart gives me hope that I'll never have to see him break through the line of scrimmage with the quarterback squarely in his sights only to watch him completely whiff the tackle. How many times did that happen last year? It was painful to watch.

kubiggestfan 9 years, 9 months ago

DillMan, quit hating on Willis.....You all need to remember that these are still kids, not professional athletes......I understand the will to win is in the KU Blood, but to call out kids individually is something that I have always found offensive. Give the kids a break, after all they don't intentionally go out to lose....It is the coaches that get paid the big bucks to get the best out of their kids.... Don't think for one minute that Willis does not give his all......smh

Kendal Carswell 9 years, 9 months ago

Even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in awhile. If Gill is the one that actually made the decision on those 3 players to move their position, it would probably be the the only 3 good decisions he made over his 2 years that anyone can cite. My guess is a Pick requested the move to receiver because he knew he wasn't going to get a chance at quarterback. This still shows how sorry Gill was that only 3 good decisions can be credited to him over 2 years. Most people make more good decisions than that every hour of everyday.

Brad Watson 9 years, 9 months ago

Mangino and Weis know talent....and by the way..the KU Atheltic Dept ought to feel ashamed for dissing Mangino in the Hall of Fame at the Phog...where is he...where is his pic...he is a hall of famer..the most successful coach in KU history....come on ..get over the issues and give the man his due....if I remember ..there were a lot of sellouts and high attendence even for the cupcakes....and to then diss him so bad...i'm at a loss

Commenting has been disabled for this item.