Tuesday afternoon Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis held a media session prior to the start of spring workouts with the team. The spring season marks the first opportunity for Weis and the new staff to really dig in with this team and evaluate what they have. We'll have more later this morning on the initial spring depth chart, but for now let's take a look and breakdown what it is that Weis had to say.
Kansas Head Football Coach Charlie Weis
"First of all, this has been a great month for Kansas Athletics. I think before we get started with football, I would be remiss if I didn't look back and reflect on what has happened here in the last month. The obvious would be the men's hoops team going to the Final Four - and how exciting is that. Not only kudos to Coach Self, his staff and the team, but also good luck; anything can happen down there in New Orleans. I hope that it turns out just wonderfully for our team, our university and our fans, that would be a great thing.
Secondly, let's look back at our women's team; not too long ago Carolyn Davis blows out her knee, and by the way, I just talked to her 10 minutes ago. She had surgery this morning and she is doing great. She is all drugged up, so she won't remember talking to me, but I talked to her. When she got hurt, the basketball team looks like it is going to go in the tank and things aren't going well. Then they make the tournament and the next thing you know, they are making noise, they are doing damage, they are making it to the Sweet 16. Here is halftime and they have a lead (versus Tennessee) with a chance to go to the Elite Eight. So I want to give congratulations to them, too.
Last but not least, if you look at the last month, you cannot look past the women's track team. In the indoor season, they are second in the country and have two national champions. If you look at the big picture before we even get started with football, I think it is important to realize that football is just one part of the big picture here at Kansas.
Always a good start to any career at Kansas when you can point out the successes throughout the department. Weis is very good with people and good in front of the media. This is just a small example of that.
We just finished our winter program, and as promised when I first got here - I am not right very often - but I can tell you that the promise I made about the offseason not being very good for the players, it was not very good for the players. It was a pretty grueling program that Coach Holsopple and his staff ran. It was very easy to get the players to buy in because they didn't have an alternative, it was either buy in or quit. I think we are pretty happy with how that has turned out.
I am generally pleased with where we are in the offseason program; our roster is filling in nicely. Obviously we can use our reinforcements that will be coming here this summer. I am looking forward to them getting here. The best part of them not being here is the fact that it is a great opportunity for a limited number of guys to get more reps and to state their claim as to where they are on the depth chart. The depth charts right now are very fluid. On the offensive depth chart that we have you will notice an `F' position where you will see multiple guys listed. For example, you will see `F(21),' that is a personnel group where you will have two backs and one tight end in the game. Therefore, the `F' position will be a running back type of position. There is an `F(11)' position where there is only one back and one tight end, where the `F' position is now manned by a wide receiver. In this offensive system, personnel-wise, there will always be an `F' on the field, whether that be a back, a tight end or a receiver - it could even be two halfbacks out there. There is always somebody playing that position, and it gives you some additional ways to try and screw up the defense. You will also see that `Y(10)' is listed, which means there is one back and no tight ends on the field, therefore, they guy who is playing that position will be a wide receiver.
As far as the defense goes, you will see that we listed that as a 4-3 defense, and we will be playing some odd ends in the 4-3. The 34 is just a personnel group, it is not a defense; that is one of the biggest misnomers when they talk about defense. It is all about how they align at the line of scrimmage, it is not what the personnel is on the field. When you watch the Pittsburgh Steelers and you hear that they play a 34 defense, they never play a 34, it is not a true odd defense. There will be times in our defensive scheme where we line up in an odd scheme. Where we have a nose tackle, two guys on either side of him and two bubble linebackers - that will show up as part of our defensive philosophy. The majority of the time it translates into a 4-3 defense where you see a strong defensive end, a nose tackle, a defensive tackle and a rush end. You will also notice a number of guys who have tweaked their positions. For example, (Sophomore Michael) Reynolds who was a defensive lineman is now a sam linebacker. In this league, you need to get guys who can play in space, you need to get fast guys who can play in space. One thing about that kid, even though he is listed as second team behind Tunde Bakare, is that he is very fast. I don't know if he can play dead, but I know that he can run. That is what I know at this point because I haven't seen him practice yet. I am very pleased with the weight development of a lot of our players, and that depth chart is based on what we have seen in the offseason realizing that we have not had a practice yet.
There will be four players who are limited in the spring; (running back Brandon) Bourbon, (John) Williams and (Kevin) Young on the defensive line and (Brian) Maura who was a backup wide receiver who has been moved to safety. Maura is the only guy who has switched sides of the ball. None of those players are out for the spring, they are just limited in the spring - I am just limiting their contact. Bourbon, Williams and Young are way ahead of where we thought that they would be and they are chomping at the bit to get out of the red jersey.
The last thing I want to say is that my goal for the spring is that I need to break the team down, and then build a team back up. That is what the offseason has been and that is what the spring will be all over again. One thing you need to do is you need to have the team playing with confidence before you have the team start to play in the games. Now is not the time where I am worrying about their confidence, now is the time where I am worrying about them doing things the right way. I am worrying about them practicing the way I want them to practice and I am worrying about being fundamentally sound. I think the most important thing that we need to do on defense is to create a fundamentally sound defense. In this league, with as much of the game being played in space as there is, if you cannot play assignment football and get lined up right and be fundamentally sound, then you have no chance. You can just cash it in because you will have no chance. You will have people run free all over the place. I think the most important thing is getting them lined up correctly and letting them play so you can evaluate to see whether or not they are good enough. Right now, Coach Campo and his staff have gotten settled in to what they are wanting to do and seeing what the players can do. Right now, we are wanting them to get to the football so they have a chance to make plays and to see whether they can or can't.
Offensively, it is a little bit different; we have a quarterback (Dayne Crist) who knows this system very, very well and that is an unusual situation when you are coming in new to a program. We are going to put in as much as the offensive players can handle. We are going to put in a whole bunch of things, and we will judge it by how well we can mentally handle things during the spring. I have an instillation schedule right up until April 28, but we do have huge holes where we can adjust things based on how well we handle everything. The more we can handle, the more we can do. One thing that helps is having a quarterback that knows the system and he can help push things along."
Man is it fun to read and listen to a guy who knows what he is talking about. Yes we'll have to see it n the field, yes we all got excited about Turner Gill, but I think with Gill it was more the rah rah, recruiting excitement and with Weis you're talking football.
On what he knows about the team as opposed to when he first arrived:
"I think that their confidence was very low when I first got here. When you go 2-10 (in the previous season), that is almost a rhetorical statement. When your confidence is low, a lot of times, your caring level goes down exponentially. Those two things have risen exponentially. Their confidence has risen, and they certainly care. Anytime you have a hard- working team that cares, you have a chance."
On the role that football plays in an overall athletic department:
"A practical answer is that if we win more games, more people go to the stadium, if more people go to the stadium, you raise more money and it helps the whole program. That is as practical as I can say. I want 50,000 people in the stadium every week; if by the middle of the season, we have only won one game (and attendance is dropping), how am I helping the rest of the program? The best thing you can do is win and be competitive; at the end of the day, everyone is rooting for every sport, but football is a moneymaking sport. It is important to put a competitive product out there so that people want to come and watch you play."
On what he wants to get out of the Spring Game:
"First of all, I always like big crowds. I would love it if every seat in the place was taken. I mean, I tried to do a couple of different things to encourage that and I came real close. But I think that we should hope for a beautiful day and let's hope that the reports from the reporters out of the spring are more of the positive nature which will get people intrigued enough to come watch us play. At the end of the day though, what are the two things that people really want to see? Can the defense stop anybody and what's going on with (Dayne) Crist? We could wrap it up right now if you want to, that's what everyone wants to know. If this quarterback is really good, then every player around him is going to be that much better. Really at the end of the spring, we have to have some answers on that and I'd like to think that our defense is going to be much improved and I think that Crist will take care of himself."
The confidence in Dayne Crist and on the offensive side of the ball is a reoccurring theme with Weis. I hope that confidence is warranted and then I hope he can find a way to take care of the defense as he mentions.
On who is going to back up Dayne Crist at quarterback:
"Right now, I'm using (Jake) Heaps in the spring as if he's getting ready to play because when we get to the summertime I can't do that anymore. Heaps is leaps and bounds ahead of the other quarterbacks in the program; it's not close. So with that being said, how am I going to get him ready to play here in the program knowing that he can't play in the games next year? When you're getting your teams ready to play in the summertime, how many reps can you really get him?
So I'm treating him as if he's getting ready to play this year and Michael (Cummings) and Blake (Jablonski) and those guys will get some time but the number one thing I'm worrying about right now is getting the front line guys ready to go. I think I'll have the quarterback position taken care of between Michael and Blake and Turner (Baty) who's coming in yet and I also already have our reserve plan on our team starting at X (Kale Pick) so it isn't like I haven't covered that one too. We have a lot of options right now, but this has got to be the time that Jake gets his time because he doesn't have time once we get to the summer."
Another pretty clear indicator that it's Crist or bust this year. Heaps isn't even eligible and he's the backup this spring in order to get him the most reps possible and prep him for 2013. The Dayne Crist era is officially under way.
On the update on Justin McCay:
"I can't say there's a good chance because with the NCAA you never know what the good chances are, but from what I understand through our compliance department - that's done a wonderful job keeping on top of this - is that the caseworker in charge of Justin, told us yesterday that his case is going to be presented before the caseworker leaves the office on Thursday. I'm assuming that what the caseworker said is taking place, there's a chance we could hear something this week. Once they have all of the information - which they have - now it's presented and they say yes or no. It's not like they have a month-long trial; they hear the information and they make a decision so I'm hoping to hear something this week and I'm hoping for this month to continue being good."
Something we'll be watching this spring. Sounds optimistic that he will be available.
On Aslam Sterling:
"I think that it's really, really important to get big muchachos that can play upfront. We were really kind of lucky with him; you're not supposed to find guys like that that are on the street after signing day. He had some offers and his coach encouraged him not to sign the offers because he thought that he was much better than where he was and that when teams have a chance to come back and look at him, there would be some interest. It just so happened that we got involved right when about a half dozen other big time schools all got involved at the same time and because we were the first to strike, that's the reason it ended up turning out that way. I'm very happy to have him."
On Tevin Shaw:
"Here's another guy where he just got caught in one of those number crunches with another university. I grew up two miles from his house, I'm friends with his high school coach and when I found that he was on the street, we called him up and got him out here. This kid was one of the best kids in New Jersey on offense and defense. He was one of the best safeties in the state and one of the best running backs in the state; in the state championship game he rushed for over 300 yards. You're not supposed to find guys like that at the end so we were very fortunate for him to be available."
A couple late additions to the recruiting class.
On what makes Gavin Howard first string:
"Well you have to put somebody as the fifth guy right? He's the fifth. He's the guy who has some experience versus some of those freshmen from last year. I think that's kind of open game; that's not a finite thing but based on what we've seen so far, he would hold a slight edge over the other guys. We'll put him in at both right guard and right tackle because he has the girth to play right tackle as well as play right guard so he's going to get a look at both positions."
This was the one area I've heard some early concern. That concern being the second guard. Marrongelli is currently shifting to center so that means we've got to find a second guard to go opposite Zlatnik. There isn't a clear front runner and we weren't able to get a junior college player in early. It will be interesting to see if this is an area where another potential fifth year transfer could come into play.
On how much of a difference a solid quarterback can make:
"Is that a rhetorical question? First of all, it isn't just having a good quarterback; having a new quarterback in a new system that knows the system knows your ways and knows you, and the other guys have a sounding board to go to when they have something to say - it's not just him as a player. He makes all of the other offensive players better and every one of them will tell you the same thing. I'll tell you when you know a kid is special is the day he walks in and the players look at him as a leader and he hasn't even done anything yet. That's when you know you have something special."
On how he balances working the guys he has on campus with the ones not here:
"Well that's true at some positions, but other positions it's really not an issue at all. There are some positions where we expect some help; I could state the obvious that we're expecting help on the defensive line, but we can all see that we need help there. (John) Williams and (Kevin) Young will be limited, but if you look at the group right now, you know you have reinforcements coming and the whole perspective of the defensive line is going to change in the summer. I think that when the other players come in, they're battling to get to two before they can get to one and they're going to have some work to do. I'm counting that these guys going through the spring are going to be fighting to make it tough and the guys coming in the summer will have to beat them out. We're not going to walk in the door and start replacing people for the sake of replacing; you're going to have to earn it."
On the biggest challenge for the staff to get the confidence level back up:
"The first thing we had to do come February was learn who they were; I didn't know who they were. You have to know who they are because everyone is different; everyone thinks that as a football coach, you have to talk to everyone one way. That's only true when you're talking to the whole team; the only time you talk to them all the same is when they are in one group setting. Every single person is different and what makes you tick may not be the same thing that makes another guy tick. I think that from the head coach and all of the position coaches, that's an important thing because now you have to figure out how you can make that guy overachieve. You have to help press those buttons to get the players to play past what they thought they were capable of and that's what this spring has really been about. I think the most grueling thing I did this spring was have interviews with every player and it was a time consuming task, but now when a player walks up to me, I know where he's from, I know his family situation and if he's in a serious relationship. There are certain things you need to know and insight you need to have or else you can't make proper value judgment."
This is actually pretty similar to what Gill talked about on his arrival. Gill just talked about it more on a personal level, Weis wants to know you so that he can find out what drives you and how he can push you to be a better player.
On how the players have responded in the classroom since he's been here:
"Well I can tell you with a smile on my face, that coming into the Friday before spring break, we had not missed five classes for the entire team. Every time somebody missed, it was horrible. I'm known to use peer pressure as well so to have all your teammates there and be totally embarrassed for blowing off class, it's a very good teaching tool. That's before they have to come in at 6 a.m., on Saturday with (Scott) Holsopple on-on-one and you really don't want to do that.
Everyone knows when you go to college there are two major things that have to happen; you have to go to class and you have to use academic support. If you do those two things you should be able to thrive in college, so if you don't do those two things then there is a chance something bad could happen. So I use a deterrent for them not going to class and a deterrent for them not going to academic support and that will show huge benefits come middle of May."
On if he's encouraged that the team has turned it around discipline-wise in the classroom that they would also turn it around discipline-wise on the field:
"I would be discouraged at myself if that didn't happen. I would be very disappointed if that didn't happen; I think that the people in academics in this university - and I've already gotten feedback from a few people - have seen a change in the mentality, but it's far from perfect. We don't have a bunch of tin soldiers that do everything perfect; I still have to get on them for this class or that class and them starting to dose off and things like that. I get all of those reports and they're all addressed, but you have to think that if they can do this, why can't they do that? I'm looking at it just like you; I'm looking at a direct correlation that if we can get that fixed, we can get other things fixed and I'm counting on that being the case."
On if he has any physical tests the players have to pass in order to play:
"It's actually the number of gassers that Scott (Holsopple) runs them on; you're better to run long strides for a time than sprints for a time because long strides for a time are a true test of conditioning. I think the most important thing was we really wrapped it up the Friday before spring break, and then the Monday after spring break we just wanted to make sure that they had a good break and that they got a run in so they don't come out and pull a bunch of hamstrings. That's all run through the strength and conditioning program. I don't come out here and start having them running 40's and all of that other stuff, we get out here and start playing football."
"Well first of all, Hawkinson has played the left side and the right side and you should put your best tackle and put him on the left side if you have a right-handed quarterback. If you have a left-handed quarterback, you put him on the right side and right now he's clearly our best tackle. In our scheme, you really spend more time helping one guard than another guard in all of your protections and the guard who gets more help in our scheme is the right guard; therefore, what you want to do is put who you perceive to be your best guard on the left side. It also gives you a power side over the line of scrimmage and all they have to decide is if they are going to overload one side with all of these seniors or are we going to balance it up on the other side. That's really the mentality we used to put that together and Zlatnik likes to be over there with Tanner, by the way. He gets into a comfort zone and he gets lost if he's not over there with Tanner, so he's feeling a lot better."
On his perception of Lawrence:
"I would love to not be the football coach on Saturday afternoon around 7 p.m., and be hanging out down on Mass Street to tell you the truth but unfortunately I am, so therefore I won't be there. Just watching that celebration on video after that basketball game, that was pretty fun to watch and I hope there's more fun yet to come. I've settled in nicely and I have a church I go to regularly.
I walk in the grocery store and I get the stare down, but the people have been wonderful. I haven't had one person that hasn't come up to me asking if I'm going to win 10 and you just say `are you going to buy my groceries?' But for the most part the people have been great and I couldn't be happier about where we are right now."
All in all nothing earth shattering. A few position changes, a very clear indication that Dayne Crist is the man and some marked improvement in accountability. I'd say it's as good as it could be early on, but time will tell. Either way it's good to be talking football again.