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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Smithburg runs into Dent's back.

Smithburg runs into Dent's back. by Jesse Newell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dirk Medema 8 years, 9 months ago

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

kellerman411 8 years, 9 months ago

dagger, no. This is a concept of isolation. The idea is that if the running back can get through the first level, he has a chance to be one on one with a corner who he can truck.

Robert Brock 8 years, 9 months ago

I would have Parmalee sitting on the bench for failure to reach out and touch someone. Let others play who want to be football players.

Rivethead 8 years, 9 months ago

I completely disagree. Did you notice that even though we got out-physicaled, we still had a 1 yard gain on the play? You do understand that a 1 yard gain (and the clock moving) is better than a dropped pass....or a backwards pass that loses 12 yards).

No, despite horrible line play, there is no reason to believe Sim couldn't have added to to 117 yards of rushing. Or Miller couldn't have earned more yards on his 3 carries. Or Pierson on his 1 (Tony only touched the ball 5 times the entire game!......that's a crime if you ask me.....and that's all on Charlie Weis).

Nope. I'm not accepting that we couldn't run the ball for one moment. We simply had a gameplan that didn't feature the run. Instead we said: hey they run a 4-2-5 which is good at stopping the pass and they have the best CB in the CUSA.....I know! Let's pass the ball.

We played to their strenths (and our weaknesses). There's no denying that.

kssmiles 8 years, 9 months ago

If you go look at the play by play from the box score, on first down they passed 5 times vs 0 run in the first Q, 7-2 pass to run in the first half. Had 48 yards rushing if you throw out Heaps sacks and scrambles in the first half on 10 carries. You can definitely make a case that we didn't run the ball enough in the first half.

Rivethead 8 years, 9 months ago

My theory: had we pounded the ball with ALL of our talented backs, but the fourth quarter the Rice D would have been worn down. In addition, by running the ball we would have kept our D on the sidelines more and our lack of depth at the DL position wouldn't have reared it's ugly head in the 4Q when Ross started running over our tired, overworked DL.

Again, we played to Rice's strengths and our weaknesses.

kssmiles 8 years, 9 months ago

If you go look at the play by play from the box score. On first down we passed 5 times to 0 vs run in the first quarter and 7-2 pass vs run in the first half. We rushed the ball for 48 yds on 10 carries, if you throw out Heaps sacks & scrambles. You can certainly make a case that we didn't run the ball enough on first down and question our game plan.

Rivethead 8 years, 9 months ago

You completely missed kssmiles point. We called 7 pass plays on first down vs 2 run plays in the first half. That's gameplan. Not execution. Our plan was to attack their passing D (the strength of their D) rather than use our 5 high quality RBs to pound the sh*t out of them.

Yes, the lack of execution in the passing game caused them to stack the box (which by the way, pretty much every team did against us last season and we still had one of the best running attacks in the country - so that really shouldn't matter).

Rivethead 8 years, 9 months ago

Ok ralster,

If I don't get it, explain it to me. How does passing against a 4-2-5 defense designed primarily to stop a passing attack make sense? How does passing against a defense that includes the best CB in the CUSA make sense?

I could see featuring a passing attack against a 4-3-4 who featured the best MLB in the CUSA.

What you're doing is focusing on the lack of execution as the excuse (provided by a football coach who excels at saying all the right things) rather than the poor gameplan (which our coach's ego will never let him admit) as the reason for the loss.

Rivethead 8 years, 9 months ago

No worries. And no argument here. I don't think were that far apart in our opinions on the reasons for the Rice disaster. We just differ on the primary reason.

But really it doesn't matter. At the end of the day we loss to Rice worse than we did last season. This team is sliding backwards, not progressing. As I said on another blog, this program is a train wreck.

I hate it. I wish I could look away, but I just can't.

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 9 months ago

I'm struggling to agree with you, too! I can't disagree really with anything you've said on a micro level, but an old coach once said he didn't like to throw the ball because there were 3 things that could happen and 2 of them were bad. Poor offensive line play won't just kill the running game, it kills the passing game, too, and when you add to that our receivers (save for Pierson) can't catch a cold, you're asking for more trouble when you force passes IMO. I'm also smart enough to know that Charlie Weiss knows a lot more about football than I ever will, so as long as the players are playing hard and things seem to be getting fixed (at things that CAN be fixed), I've got plenty of patience.

TexiCaliHawk 8 years, 9 months ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

kellerman411 8 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, they're gonna get it going. Then all the gloomers will be on here saying I told you so.

Al Martin 8 years, 9 months ago

I'd like to jump on board with you, but getting out-physicaled doesn't feel like something you fix week to week. Maybe that's technique, but some of it is just plain old strength, wouldn't you say?

Al Martin 8 years, 9 months ago

Well, ralster, if I believe your analysis (technique+footwork), then I'm much less depressed than if it's my initial fear (strength+conditioning). So I'll go with yours :-).

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 9 months ago

One thing to add. There's a saying that goes "you can't teach stupid". That's a harsh comment I know, but what's the chance these guys are just plain dumb and not able to adjust to game time situations?

Effort is another intangible altogether and I think there still is a lack of it on this team.

Adam McEwen 8 years, 9 months ago

Don't knock these kids, and they are kids, on effort. They work their asses off to play KU football, yes at times maybe they have letdowns on the field, maybe the get out psyched, etc. But the life of a college athlete at this level certainly does not lack effort.

HighQ 8 years, 9 months ago

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

Joe Joseph 8 years, 9 months ago

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

James McGuire 8 years, 9 months ago

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

James McGuire 8 years, 9 months ago

I missed the one where Heaps was gesturing, but noticed it a few times. It's interesting you mention Reesing, because I don't recall noticing that as much during his time. Do you think that just comes from the WR and QB being on the same page, or is it more than that?

Frustrating, yes. But the team is getting better overall, and it appears Weis is making adjustments. We will see whether those are the right adjustments, but I am still excited to see how the team progresses throughout the season.

JayDocMD 8 years, 9 months ago

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

texashawk10 8 years, 9 months ago

Coleman is just as bad as McCay and Frod at running routes. He's definitely got great speed, but his great speed means nothing because he can't get off of a jam. Parmalee, Pierson, and Bourbon is the best trio or receivers KU can trot out. Parmalee might not be much of a blocker, but he's the best route runner KU has and is the only receiver that's regularly gotten open.

Shaun Hardie 8 years, 9 months ago

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

Reuben_J_Cogburn 8 years, 9 months ago

No more of this crap.

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

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

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

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

BayPark 8 years, 9 months ago

Physlamma-jamma! After all, we were in Houston,

Robert Brown 8 years, 9 months ago

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

Al Martin 8 years, 9 months ago

That was pretty much the thought that kept running through my head as I sat in the stadium watching it happen.

KGphoto 8 years, 9 months ago

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

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

victorl 8 years, 9 months ago

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

Rivethead 8 years, 9 months ago

Yup. And remember what happened when Covington went down with that injury? Any other coach in America would have called a running play right at the guy's replacement. Coach Weis called a backward pass that lost us 12 yards.


texashawk10 8 years, 9 months ago

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

texashawk10 8 years, 9 months ago

Probably 5 years and 10 months from now.

pizzashuttle 8 years, 9 months ago

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

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

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

VaJay 8 years, 9 months ago

Agreed about not playing to Heaps' strengths in having him run with the ball, but where was McCay the whole game? He caught zero passes - probably never got open, and that's why he's back to number two this week.

pizzashuttle 8 years, 9 months ago

In my opinion McCay needs to run routes where he can make sharp cuts or hook routes, changing direction to lose the d-back that's covering him. McCay running a fly route doesn't make sense, he doesn't have that kind of speed. Use Coleman for fly routes since he's rumored to be the fastest WR.

Adam McEwen 8 years, 9 months ago

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

Steve Reigle 8 years, 9 months ago

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

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

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