Originally published October 29, 2012 at 12:00a.m., updated October 29, 2012 at 10:25a.m.


Opinion: Bring back wishbone


Original thinkers, such as first-year Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis, don’t accept “nobody else does it” as the equivalent of “it can’t be done.”

For example, no Big 12 football team goes two consecutive quarters without throwing a pass. It simply isn’t done, except that Weis did it Saturday and almost came away with KU’s first victory against Texas since 1938.

In keeping with that thinking, I have an absolutely outrageous suggestion for Weis to implement this week in preparation for a trip to Waco to face a Baylor team favored by two touchdowns and a field goal, a Bears offense ranked third in the nation with an average of 569.4 yards and a national-worst defense with a 553.7-yard average.

My outrageous idea would shorten the game by keeping the clock moving and make an already confused Bears defense trip all over itself.

Open your mind. Don’t just let your head explode with fury over the absurdity of the concept and listen to why it’s worth considering.

Bring back the ’bone, Charlie. That’s right: In one week, install the wishbone, drill your players on it and unleash a speedy running game on a Baylor defense that won’t know what just hit it.

This, of course, makes me an idiot. Moron. Fool. Double-chinned dunce. Fat fraud. Loser. Imbecile. Ignoramus.

OK, now that I’ve taken care of all your retorts for you, please continue to read the best idea to come along since the fast-forward button on the remote, which comes in so handy for skipping past all but the Kim Cattrall scenes in “Sex and the City.”

During Dave Campo’s first run as a college coach, the wishbone was all the rage. Have him quickly instruct the scout-team defense on how to defend it. Weis, a speed-reader when it comes to offensive X’s and O’s, could brush up on the particulars in no time, and then it’s just a matter of drilling the players on how to make the proper reads.

Running the wishbone properly requires skilled reading of the defense and perfect timing on decision-making from the quarterback. It takes tons and tons of reps to perfect it. Perfect is not the standard for this KU offense.

Put Christian Matthews at quarterback, Brandon Bourbon at fullback, Tony Pierson at left halfback, James Sims at right halfback, Mike Ragone at tight end and Jimmay Mundine on the other side of the field as a wide receiver.

In the wishbone, nobody on the offense knows the play is until the ball is snapped. The defense calls the plays, based on whether it guns for the fullback, the first read, the quarterback run, the second read, or the pitch man (halfback), the third read.

At least the offense would have a week head-start on the nation’s worst defense, just the sort of edge Weis seeks each week in the role of Big 12 underdog


Dirk Medema 9 years, 6 months ago

My guess is that CW has all sorts of wrinkles in store, though starting from the base offense so as not to start the learning curve from scratch. Sort of like the "#12 at RB" formation.

It will be interesting to see it our D can slow down their O. I'm optimistic.

David Leathers 9 years, 6 months ago

"...almost came away with KU’s first victory against Texas since 1938."

Wow!!! Seriously has been that long?

Brad Farha 9 years, 6 months ago

Yep -- it's truly been that long, but in all fairness we only played Texas (I think) 3 times before the Big 12. I like to tease my Texas friends by saying that we originally owned them. We took the first 2 games in the series, and now they have the next 9 or 10 ; )

79ictjhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

Reminds me of Nolan Cromwell. Don't know if it would work for all offensive plays, but as something different to throw at an unsuspecting defense - it just might work.

Steve Corder 9 years, 6 months ago

Fun to think about. But is there a "Nolan" in the stable?

RJ King 9 years, 6 months ago

Coming from 8-man - both offense and defense - HS football, Nolan had played DB as a freshmen during the first year (?) that freshmen were allowed to play varsity. His junior year, KU had no quality thrower so they converted him (and his hurdling skills) into a wishbone QB. Third game of the season (?) vs. Oregon State (?) he broke Gayle Sayers single game rushing record. Amazing, however he'd been practicing this role for a bit.

nostradavid 9 years, 6 months ago

We just needed one break on that last drive to stop Texas. The team seems to be making some major improvements. I'm with you - bring back the wishbone. All it needs are awesome athletes.

I will bet Nolan Cromwell and Laverne Smith are still in great shape, but their eligibility ran out long ago. They were very exciting. The 'Hawks broke the longest winning streak in NCAA history, beating Okiehoma 23-3 in Norman on Nov.8, 1975. Nolan was also a great All-American track star. He's now Senior Assistant - Offense for the Cleveland Browns if you want to see a recent picture. The Browns have a good bio for him on their website. Congratulations for beating the Chargers. Laverne was still at Boeing the last I knew (before Boeing sold out the Wichita division).

I all else fails - I read in the Star that Mark Mangino was thinking about returning to coaching. The Williams Fund could have an awesome fund-raiser by having Mark and Charlie sumo wrestle for the job. I'd pay to see that.

Kit Duncan 9 years, 6 months ago

I liked your post right up until you suggested bringing Mangino back. While I didn't agree with Mangino's firing, I like where CW is headed with this team. If he can recruit some speed especially on defense, this is going to be a fun team to watch the next few years. Let sleeping Manginos lie.


nostradavid 9 years, 6 months ago

IF all else fails ... the image of Mark and Charlie sumo wrestling was worth it for the comedy quotient.

Jayhacker 9 years, 6 months ago

Our win over OU in '75 broke a 28-game Sooner winning streak, but that was far from the longest one in NCAA history. That one, 47 games, was broken by Notre Dame in '57.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 6 months ago

Ironically Notre Dame was the last team that had beat them and were also the team that spoiled the streak. Pittsburg tied them, so you could look at it as a 48 game unbeaten streak, but 47 consective wins. What was really impressive is that it was over 5 season (3 of which were undefeated seasons).

After this last weekend, I'm not sure OU wants to play ND too much more (although one of the victories in that 47 game streak was against ND).

nostradavid 9 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the correction. I guess it was the longest winning streak the Jayhawks ever sacked. The Sooners were ranked #1 at the time, and KU silenced the home crowd.

Brad Avery 9 years, 6 months ago

I have been advocating that KU use the wishbone for the last three years, ever since it became readily apparent that they could neither catch or throw the ball particularly well. Welcome aboard the bus. KU's most effective offense of all time was when Nolan Cromwell ran the bone, and he could not throw a pass 10 yard pass accurately. Imagine what could be accomplished with a good option quarterback who could throw the ball ok and be a running threat?

Ben Berglund 9 years, 6 months ago

As the article clearly states multiple times, we're playing Baylor, Who Keegan points out (no fact checking here by me), has the nation's worst defense.

texashawk10 9 years, 6 months ago

Baylor is giving up more yards per game than KU did last year and only 3 points less than KU's defense did last year. So far this year, KU has knocked 130 yards off of what they gave up last year and 15 points off of what they gave up last year.

jhox 9 years, 6 months ago

As I watched the game Saturday I was thinking the same thing...the wishbone might be a good option (pardon the pun) for the rest of the season. It's so rare to see a team run it these days, it could be used to our advantage. A week is not a long time to prepare for an offense that you never see. Georgia Tech used it effectively in recent years, and their opponents even knew i was coming. Sometimes it pays to be contrarian.

doctorWho 9 years, 6 months ago

A week is also not a long time to prepare an offense you never run. A helluva lot can go wrong running the option out of a wishbone.

If they have been practicing it - and I doubt they have - it would probably be worth trying; otherwise, well, it's probably better than letting Crist back behind center.

Carl Anderson 9 years, 6 months ago

Don't forget all those games we watched OU run the 'bone, and Nebraska's triple option. They racked up yards, scores, and wins... and fumbles. And they practiced it all the time. Throwing our guys into something they aren't even old enough to have seen on TV, let alone practiced, could be a turnover disaster.

I do wish CW would mix in a little more passing, just to keep the defense honest. I think our running game is going to be just fine against anything but a goal-line defense. As long as we can keep 'em from loading the box all day, we'll be fine.

jhox 9 years, 6 months ago

I think if we did it we'd probably have to do it with Matthews taking the snaps, but it doesn't seem that far removed to me from what he's been doing when he's ran the Jayhawk formation.

pepper_bar 9 years, 6 months ago

LOL Keegan watched "Sex and the City."

Phil Leister 9 years, 6 months ago

Keegan writing up suggestions for Charlie Weis, ha. Maybe Weis will hire you as a consultant, Keegs. You'd probably be as competent at that as you are a writer.

Razzing aside, this is a serious question for journalism buffs out there. Keegan is an editorialist, right? He's paid to write opinion pieces? Is that a full time job? Seems to me that writing 20 sentences (which is this article) a day hardly counts as a full time job. If if does, I'm definitely in the wrong profession.

Brad Farha 9 years, 6 months ago

Still heart broken about the loss, but the game on Saturday was awesome. By no means a full stadium (only 40K+), but it looked like much better attendance than the prior game or two. Fans stuck around the whole game, and the crowd got loud.

Don't get me wrong. Still a lot of room for improvement, but it's going the right direction. I've lived in the KC area 8.5 years now, this is my 8th year with season tickets, and I can guarantee I'll keep renewing year after year.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU!!!!

KGphoto 9 years, 6 months ago

Not to get something started here, and it almost never bothers me, but I wanted more from this opinion column. I felt like we were just on the cusp of something. It's a great topic. What happens next? Who would be our leading rusher out of this formation? Would we be running it mostly to the left over Hawk and Z? Would it increase our red zone efficiency? Set us up for a couple of big pass plays a game?...

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 6 months ago

Keegan trying to figure out how to put KU football further behind than what TG did in two years.

There is a reason why teams don't run the wishbone anymore, I believe the wishbone ended in wide use in the 80s.

Keep in mind many of the rules have been changed and now favor the passing game.

Robert Brock 9 years, 6 months ago

To run the 'bone you have to have a great blocking center, a powerful fullback, a lead-pipe great blocking tight end, super-fast running backs who excel in blocking, and a running quarterback who reads and reacts amazingly quick. KU is a bit short on those.

kureader 9 years, 6 months ago

and an entire Spring Practice to work on it.

In 1974, KU converted from the David Jaynes' passing offense to the Houston Veer (similar to the wishbone) ... it's a huge switch. And, you're right ... it does require a different type of personnel.

Still, an interesting thought from Keegan ... I have confidence that Weis will continue to change his offense as the season progresses ... I like him as a coach.

Jeremy Hays 9 years, 6 months ago


Albeit that I love to watch running football and hate the spread out and pretty boy passing that is now every level of football, I think you are missing the boat. If you watched the game many of the plays were out of the U (or inverted bone) formation. This is the same thing as the Wishbone with the added element of zone reads. The only thing I wish they would have done on saturday was run the zone read with sims with Bourbon or someone else lead blocking and then pull and run speed option on the back side with Pierson.

JakeBarnes 9 years, 6 months ago

Weiss did an excellent job of coaching last weekend without anyone's advice. Let him alone. He did install misdirection plays which given the strong running of his backs produced outstanding results. I think the combination of Weiss and Coach Campo is a sure winner and we will all see this in time.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 6 months ago

I'd give you a thumbs up, but you didn't spell Weis correctly.

johnnyhrdwd 9 years, 6 months ago

It's just a formation, zone read option out of the shotgun is more effective.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 6 months ago

I was absolutely pleased with the rushing attack. No way I couldn't be.

But four pass attempts is not going to win you any Big XII games. We could have the best rushing attack in the country and still be 0-5 in this conference.I love what I see on the ground....don't get me wrong. But our inability to pass, or even attempt to pass, makes our offense incredibly predictable.

We have to find a way to keep the defense reasonably honest. To whatever degree that entails.

bad_dog 9 years, 6 months ago

Reuben, I agree with most of your post. But let's not forget we were one dropped interception from doing exactly what you claimed can't be done.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 6 months ago

Good point, bad dog.

Get by that one freakin' lineman and we're having a different conversation on here. I would probably even be promoting the "4 pass" system.

I hate that lineman

741hawk 9 years, 6 months ago

Charlie has shown that he is flexible and creative. In spite of a heavy investment in Crist, he didn't play him a single down Saturday. Charlie had a good plan and stuck with it as long as it was working.

The bloggers were calling for a pass or at least a play action. I was thinking, "No sooner does Charlie call for a pass than the critics would say that he should have stuck with what was working!"

I suspect Charle will come up with an interesting wrinkle this week, too.

Watch for continued improvement. Enjoy the ride. Take pride that you supported the program from the beginning.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 6 months ago

Hey, I agree. Charlie Weis put us in position to win the game, so I cannot doubt his offensive plan.

But forgive a little armchair coaching. I think we had them setup for the play-action pass, and I don't believe any fan was out of line for thinking the same thing.

kugrad93 9 years, 6 months ago

I've said it before. I'll say it again. Why can't Keegan write one column without an outdated, irrelevant pop culture reference? Sex and City went off the air eight years ago.

Bville Hawk 9 years, 6 months ago

I've said it before. I'll say it again. Why can't people refrain from writing irrelevant, nonsensical, off-topic column critiques that waste the rest of our times? I would venture a guess that TK has forgotten more about writing than most of these armchair column critics will ever know.

texashawk10 9 years, 6 months ago

Not that I don't disagree with the premise Keegan is getting at with using the wishbone, but I don't think that would be very productive at this point in the season. I think a better option would be to further develop that inverted wishbone option play from Saturday when Cummings handed off to Matthews and Matthews ran the option with Pierson as the pitchman. That's a play that could be developed into a "quintuple" option play. Put Sims or Cox in where Sizemore was and then you can have develop that play into having 4 run options and a pass option. Cummings could hand off to Matthews and then Matthews runs the option with Pierson like he did Saturday for two of the five options. Cummings could keep the ball and run the option with Sims or Cox for options 3 and 4. By lining a receiver up to the side that of the field that Cummings and Sims/Cox run to, that gives Cummings a pass option based on how the corner defends the play. That seems like something that would give opposing defensive coaches nightmares if Weis ever ran something like that.

Ryan Shelton 9 years, 6 months ago

Weis would not even have to brush up on the 'bone because every coach in America has either run it or at least studied it. It's like taking Algebra I before Trig.

It's a good idea considering our horses in our stable, but there is only one bad thing. With a double tight set that brings all the defenders in. I'm afraid packing it in tight would only help Baylor's sad defense.

machinegun 9 years, 6 months ago

We cannot become a run only team. We rushed the ball 50+ times with 3-9 passing on Saturday and we only scored 3 points in the 2nd half. That is not good enough to win in the Big 12. At this point, we will take anything that we can get, however, the future prospects of our team depend on developing a passing attack that is one of the best in the conference. Maybe next year or the year after.

Terry N Tom Denner 9 years, 6 months ago

What a nail bitter that game turned out to be. Very proud of the Hawks on both sides of the ball. Baylor will have their hands full. The 17 point spread is a bunch of BS !!! Baylor like KU are on the bottom with no conference wins. This weekend will be KU's turn to get the monkey off their backs with a win. KU 27 -- Baylor 17 !! GO JAY HAWKS !!!

ArgyleJayhawks 9 years, 6 months ago

Keegan needs to stop stealing articles from The Onion

mikehawk 9 years, 6 months ago

Yo Keegs. Lots of teams are using hybrid, souped up, funked up single wing offenses, now called the "wildcat" (no reference to the #2 team in the country) out of the gun. Teams run various versions of the bone with different looks, ie. inverted bone, pistol, etc. You can run various plays out of the wishbone playbook with looks that don't look like the classic wishbone and avoid facing everyone jammed up "8 in the box." You have to give it different looks to keep defenses honest and you always have to have the threat of the pass at all times for the same reason. There is a reason hardly anyone runs the wishbone in its classic form because the defenses eventually learned how to defense it. You can use wildcat and bone approaches and concepts to running the football. I think we saw some of that Saturday. Study what K-State and Notre Dame did to pass happy, shot gun happy OU. They ran the football, blocked well, made first downs, and controlled the clock. They also both played super defense with minimal penalties and turnovers. Sound old school? It is. Run the football and play great defense. It can be throwback, old school football without going with the pure wishbone.

Carl Anderson 9 years, 6 months ago

Don't you remember when OU ran the bone & was no 1 in the country: overall rank, rushing yards per game, AND fumbles per game? Institute it in 1 week? Pure insanity.

Geekinout 9 years, 6 months ago

Agh... Pretty sure we ran out of a variation of the wishbone/flex for most of the game against Texas. Last year I said that they should be using it the traditional way. It'd eat up a lot of clock and keep games close. Why do you think teams with inferior talent run this offense so much? Air Force, Army, Navy, G-Tech, Ohio, etc...

Calijhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

I'll tell you what, Keegan. I will tolerate the Wishbone for one week if you will promise NOT to bring back Bud Moore...ever.

Joe Ross 9 years, 6 months ago

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