Tuesday afternoon Charlie Weis held his weekly meeting with the media to discuss the state of the team, options and personnel topics going forward and this weekend's game against Oklahoma State.
Kansas Head Coach Charlie Weis
On Oklahoma State's coaching staff:
"Obviously, (Oklahoma State Head) Coach (Mike) Gundy has done an excellent job at Oklahoma State and he has two good coordinators, in (defensive coordinator) Bill Young, that a lot of you are familiar with from his time at KU, and (offensive coordinator) Tom Monken, who I know some from his time with the Jaguars. He spent a bunch of time there, and took over after Dana (Holgorson) moved on to West Virginia. They are 2-2; they had two tough losses on the road to Arizona in a high scoring game and their last game against Texas, which was a bit controversial at the end."
On Oklahoma State's defense:
"They're 46th in the country on defense. They've got two big guys on the inside, (Calvin) Barnett and (James) Castleman that do a lot of similar things to what we saw last week as far as controlling the inside. They'll have (Cooper) Bassett and (Ryan) Robinson on the outside manning the defensive end position. Coach Young has added a quite extensive package of odd (fronts) to his even mentality front-wise. And when they go to an odd package, they actually play with three defensive ends in there, and Bassett will move from the strong side into the nose. So, that's a big pressure package for them, and they'll use it on any down, but specifically on third down. At linebacker, the guy who gets the most accolades is (Shaun) Lewis. He is really their adjuster. He's their field linebacker. Then there's (Alex) Elkins; he handles the boundary linebacker. And then (Caleb) Lavey, he's a true Mike linebacker. When you look at Mike linebackers, that's what Lavey is. He looks like one, he acts like one, he plays like one. At the (defensive back) position, their corners are both good, (Justin) Gilbert and (Brodrick) Brown. Brown was All-Big 12 last year and Gilbert had five picks, so, I mean, they're both really good corners. The same could be said for their safeties. They're very aggressive, both (Daytawion) Lowe and (Shamiel) Gary are very aggressive safeties. They play a lot of cover-four. But unlike last week with K State, where the safeties were way deep, these safeties are way up and getting into the mix. When they do go to nickle, Lowe moves from safety to their nickle, and they'll bring in Craig to take over his place at safety. But they'll also take Lavey off the field, and they'll bring in Mitchell as a coverage linebacker when they do that."
On Oklahoma State's offense:
"Now, we go onto their offense. Well, they're first basically first in the Big 12 and first in the country on offense. (They average) 660 yards a game, 300 yards rushing, 360 yards passing. Actually, it's 359 yards passing, if you want to be precise. You know, but that's a lot of yards and they're averaging just 55.8 points a game. So, I mean, it's big, big numbers. And it's big rushing totals. It's big passing totals, and it's big point totals. You know, those are big numbers."
"Now, let's start with the offensive line. (Parker) Graham is their left tackle. He's another 6-foot-7, 315-pound guy. And opposite to him, (Daniel) Koenig's on the other side, he's 6-foot-6, 310-pounds. So, they start off with two big tackles. And then they've got two very physical guards. Their left guard, (Jonathan) Rush, and their right guard, (Lane) Taylor, are very similar. They're 6-foot-3, 300 (pounds) plus. It looks to me like the right guard is probably, you know a little bit heftier, but they're both big, physical, strong guys. And in the middle, (Evan) Epstein holds down the center. He isn't as thick as those guys, although they're all similar builds, about 6-foot-3, where Epstein looks a little bit smaller than those other guys, at least physically. We can talk about their passing game and their quarterbacks, and their receivers, but it all starts with Joseph Randall. Somebody told me that KU offered him (a scholarship) in fourth grade, well, they should have offered him in third grade. He's a really, really good running back. He's 6-foot-1, he's 200 (pounds). He leads the conference in rushing, 134 yards a game. He averages over seven yards a carry. He's a home run threat, too, and he's a home run threat when they dump the ball off to him, too. He's a very, very good player."
"Between that offensive line and Randall, that's a great place to start. We all know there are two quarterbacks. You've got a red shirt freshman in (J.W.) Walsh, and you've got the true freshman in (Wes) Lunt. We have to be ready for either one of them. They're a little bit different. Walsh is a little smaller, he's 6-foot-2, 205 (pounds), but he's got a good arm, and he's accurate, and he's a threat to run. The one thing I like about Walsh, when you start studying players, his dad's a prominent high school coach in the state of Texas, so he's probably a gym rat. He's probably been around the game for a long time. And usually guys like that who play quarterback, usually have a little bit of an edge over other people. But let's not slight Wes Lunt. He's much bigger, he's at least 6-foot-4, 210 (pounds), and he's got a cannon for an arm. So, it's a nice problem to have if you're Coach Gundy, to have two young guys that you like."
On Oklahoma State's special teams:
"That all being said, their best player on the team might be their kicker. After I've said all of those good things about their offense and defense, Quinn Sharp, might be the best player at his position in the country. He might be, I mean, he has 27 out of 32 touchbacks on kickoffs, averaging over 44 yards a punt, 7-of-9 on field goals, 28-of-28 on extra points. I mean, he's a very, very good kicker. He really takes you out of your punt return game and your kickoff return game a lot of times, because of how good a player he is. He's exceptional."
"They have good returners. Their kickoff returner, (Justin) Gilbert, is averaging over 30 yards a return. And then in punt return, they really use a whole different bunch of guys. (David) Glidden and (Charlie) Moore have gotten the most of them. I think they're trying to work (Caleb) Muncrief and (Ashton) Lampkin in a little bit more, but they've used a bunch of guys on punt returns. They don't punt it very often. They have a good punter, but he doesn't get a lot work. This is a very good football team with high aspirations, with a little edge. They're coming off of how their last game ended. It's going to be a tough opponent here at home."
On the pace of Oklahoma State's offense:
"Yeah, it's very, very fast, but there is one big difference. Most of the teams we've been playing have done a lot of changing of personnel groups. A lot more than Oklahoma State actually does. There is not a tight end on field very often for that, whether it be 11, 12, 21, it's not very often. So, normally, it's wide open with either three wide receivers and two backs, or four wide receivers and one back. So, because they're not changing personnel groups as much, your calls and what you're going to do then become more solidified. There's only the handful of calls you call from every personnel grouping so that you don't get too exposed. Some of the teams we've played, every play you're watching guys running on and off the field. And before you can even call a defense, you have to know who's out there. You could get caught if you're not paying attention to the personnel. And they don't, because they call plays at the line of scrimmage, they don't do that nearly as much as some of the other teams we've gone against."
Another very in depth breakdown by coach Weis as it relates to the opponent. Yesterday I was told that I was underestimating Oklahoma State after I basically said it would take a lot for us to beat them. I suppose maybe I did. This team is better defensively this year than they were last year...at least on paper through four games they are. Two of those games were against teams that can put up some offense, Arizona and Texas. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to hang my hat on defensive improvement just yet based on the four teams they have played but given the lay of the land in the league, Mike Gundy should be able to point to defensive improvement by the end of the year provided they don't let Baylor and WVU explode on them for four quarters.
On how OSU's Joseph Randle and KU's Tony Pierson differ:
"He (Randle) is bigger. Tony is a home run hitter, but Tony is about 170 pounds. When you are 30 pounds bigger, it makes a big difference. Look, I love Tony and I would not trade him for anybody, but it is easy to recognize a really good football player and this kid is a really good football player."
It was apparently never a real option but I really hate going up against in state kids who decided to go across the boarder and play in the conference against us on a yearly basis. Randle's situation was a little bit more peculiar than most given his families somewhat tumultuous history with Kansas, but it sure would have been nice to have him in a Jayhawk uniform.
On wide receiver Andrew Turzilli's development:
"You know how we talk about frontline players? Andrew has a chance to be a frontline receiver. He has a chance, because he runs good routes, he is smooth, he has good hands and I think that as he learns that the wide receivers are also a position where you have to establish more toughness. He is a young guy who is still learning how to do things like this, but he is one of those guys. (When) we talked about him this morning, I said, when you look at guys on our team that have a chance of being top-line guys, he is one of the guys who has a chance of being one. I would not call him one yet, but I think that he is one of the ones where you can see a lot of upside to him."
On if he realizes his potential:
"No. He barely knows that the next play is. I hate to use one of these stupid coaching phrases, but we always have one, ‘He doesn't know that he doesn't know.' I think at this stage all they (the players) are worrying about is coming in this morning, because it is a non-school day, so I have an extended day, which is the reason why we are doing this now, because I am not on the four hour day today. So this is going to be a long day: a lot more meetings, a lot more practice time, practice in the afternoon instead of night and then come in after practice and watch a practice tape and this is going to be a long day for the fellows. But I think at this stage right now, they are just worrying about day-to-day. I do not think they are worrying about anything down the road."
We've talked a lot about potential at receiver ever since Briscoe and Meier left but we've never really had anyone step up. Turzilli has two years left after this one, hopefully he can turn into someone who can be a difference maker. Physically he's getting there, he needs to develop a bit more in the way of confidence at this point, but the pieces might just be there.
On if he will offer a scholarship to a kicker this offseason:
"Maybe two. I am not going to come on the short end of that stick, I promise you."
Seems obvious but I guess I'll wait until it has actually happened.
On where his risk-taking mentality came from:
"The answers would be in two parts. I have always had that in me number one and number two; I do believe that when you go into a game, you as a coaching staff have to make a valued judgement of, what do you think you are going to have to do to give your team the best chance of winning? Every week we do the same thing. I had a conversation early this morning, you sit down there with your coaching staff and I said ‘okay, throw this kid on offense, throw this kid on defense, here is their kicker, now what can we do to put our players in the best position to have a chance of winning?' And if you say if you play them straight up it is not going to work out, you have to be willing to take some chances and then you have to be willing to do that. I am cognisant just like the rest of you guys who follow us all the time. I am cognisant that the second half has been our biggest issue. You do not think that I am not thinking about that too? I am thinking about well, ‘What can I do?' And trust me, it will be addressed here in the next 24 hours. Right now, I have to get to the start of the week first, but it will be addressed, because I would rather go down swinging than not take a swing. I am not taking a called third strike, I promise you."
I was definitely glad to see Weis play things a little less conservative last week. As a fan I'd definitely rather go down swinging, I guess the hard thing to do is to remember that sometimes that means you lose by more.
On what else he can do to turn things around here:
"It is quite extensive. Remember now, some of you have to understand, Sunday was not a penalty to the seniors; the seniors do what they do every week. Seniors follow the exact same routine. The people who really got penalized on Sunday were not the seniors, it was the juniors, sophomores and freshman that played a whole bunch (against Kansas State). They are the ones who really came up on the short end of the stick, because they had to practice on Sunday as if they did not play in the game on Saturday and that is not really what you want to do. If they are banging them for a lot of plays, you really do not want to do that. The injury report on Sunday mornings is always more extensive than it is any other time of the week. (For example) Ben Heeney played just about every play (against Kansas State), but he also practiced just about every play on Sunday. In most cases he would be one of those guys that would be in that other group, but not after you lose 56-16, it is not okay. You as a coach - starting with the head coach - but also as an offensive coordinator and looking at both sides of the ball and special teams have to figure out ‘what can you differently that helps give your team a better chance?' And if you do not, you are not doing your responsibility and that is what you are supposed to do. Trust me, I am a little screwy, because I do not sleep very well, but I am writing notes down at night and I am going to try to be more creative as the season goes on to just try to give us a better chance of winning."
Here's some more explanation on the seniors not practicing. I think it was taken a bit out of context or needed more explanation. The goal was not to abandon the seniors, but take those starters that are underclassman and normally taking a day and give those players and extra day with the coaches. I'll take that approach.
On if he saw what he wanted to out of backup quarterback Michael Cummings against Kansas State:
"I think there are several guys that I do not know enough about when they go on the field. And some of them I do not know enough about, because there are guys that are older playing ahead of them that, in practice play better by a wide margin. Some of the inexperienced guys play, because they did not have anyone in front of them. Let's use (offensive tackle) Pat Lewandowski as an example. I do not know how well things are progressing against competition other than ourselves, because he is playing behind (senior offensive tackle) Tanner Hawkinson. So maybe the thing I need to do is, somewhere in the first half when the game is in question, not when the game is out of question, plus or minus in our favor or against us, but maybe in the first half I have to put Pat Lewandowski in there for a series at left tackle, so I can see what I have. We want to use Michael (Cummings) and Dayne (Crist) and it is true at every position where there is an experienced guy and an inexperienced guy; maybe the same thing with (Damon) Martin at left guard or maybe the same thing with (Dylan) Admire at center. I am just using the offensive line as an example, but there are some other guys that we need to figure out how they'll play against other competition in a game."
"So that is the catch-22 you are in. You want to know, but never at the expense of risking something to happen in that game. The best time to do it is in the first half, not in the fourth quarter. But by the way, it was not like Michael (Cummings) was going against the scrubs now (in the Kansas State game). That was the first defense that was out there that we were moving the ball against and Taylor (Cox) is ramming it down their throat. It was not like they were saying; okay let's go let them drive down the field. I promise you that was not their mentality."
On if he would do that with other positions too, such as center:
"The gap's big there, too, but that doesn't mean that you won't see (Dylan) Admire get some reps this week, that's what I'm saying. You know, everyone wants to look at developing your team as giving up on your team. And they misconstrue the whole thing. You can't ever sacrifice your current team for the sake of development. At the same time, you have to do both things simultaneously. They work hand-in-hand and I think that you have to put due diligence into making sure you don't expose your team and put your team at risk."
A couple of quotes giving some more context and clarity to what we might see as the year goes on. Balancing development with trying to win and "not giving up" on team.
On his impressions of the Big 12 so far:
"Yeah, I'm really appreciative that (Athletics Director) Dr. (Sheahon) Zenger and everyone else voted West Virginia and TCU, before they lost their quarterback, into the league. That was really good. You know, to make a good league even better. So here's, in a nutshell, from being around a long time. You have a lot of dynamic offenses with a lot of firepower and defensive coordinators probably don't sleep very well, because every week it's a different set of circumstances, every week. The team we played last week, which is, you know, a top 10 team, is totally different in what they do philosophically than the team we play this week. And the team we play this week, I'm sure, by the time I start watching them bunch next week, there will be big differences there, too. So as bad as it is being the head coach, I think the worst job in the Big 12 is to be a defensive coordinator. I mean, you should just sign up for gray hair, you know, because it's a tough job.