Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday along with senior starting quarterback Dayne Crist. The press conference was the first game week press conference of the year in what will be a standing presser every Tuesday on a weekly basis. Wednesday morning we'll dig into a few notable quotes and take a snapshot view of any items of note. If you're interested in reading the full transcript I'll be providing a link; week one.
Kansas Head Coach Charlie Weis
On the Aslam Sterling moving to guard and the starting right side of the line
"I did that a little while ago and moved from tackle into right guard when I knew that Riley (Spencer) was going to be definitely healthy enough to be playing. He was banged up for a while, and that was going to be a big question: what's going to happen with Riley? Riley hasn't practiced full speed that much. He's practiced and he's up to par now. That's why Gavin (Howard) deserves, with the camp he's had, to be in the starting lineup. Right now, we've settled the offensive line down. Instead of there being roving parts, we've settled it down, so Gavin and Riley have settled down at right tackle and Aslam and Randall (Dent) have settled at right guard. I think that you should expect to see all four of those guys playing in the game."
This was one of the more surprising moves when the depth chart was released. Sterling was always assumed to be a tackle prospect but with Riley Spencer going down, Howard has worked his way into the starting role at the right tackle position and Sterling moved to the interior. Weis went out of his way to say that Howard has had a great camp and earned the job as opposed to just backing into it due to injury so that has to be viewed as a positive. Moving Sterling to guard seems to be all about getting the best five players on the field.
Weis also followed up with the comment that Dent and Spencer would likely get snaps. Sterling still has work to do as far as getting into game shape, but he's dropped 20 pounds so far and he's putting in extra work. The right side of the line is definitely a big question mark and could be labeled a concern heading into the season. Hopefully things come together.
On Anthony McDonald and the middle linebacker position
"As I told you last week, Anthony McDonald's strength is when he's a very physical player; as physical of a player as we have. I don't believe Anthony can just turn it loose right now. When he can turn it loose, the depth chart will change. Being around the kid for long time, I think he needs to be a guy. He's not the fastest guy in the whole world, his whole game is physicality. I think that right now, I just don't see him being able to turn it loose. That's why I have Schyler (Miles) and Jake (Love) backing up (Ben) Henney in that position right there. If this were the last game of the year, and we had nothing else to play for, he'd play this week. But it's the first game of the year and I want him to play when he plays like I just explained to you. I want to be able to see him do that, because these other guys, you know, I think are pretty good."
I take this as a sign that McDonald is probably the no. 2 and a strong no. 2 on the depth chart if he's healthy. I do believe Heeney has earned this spot and fits the style necessary for most Big 12 opponents, but McDonald brings another element to the table and he'll figure into the rotation as soon as he is able to.
Very positive follow up comments regarding Love as a physical, athletic player who goes out and makes plays on special teams which has earned him an opportunity to work into the regular rotation. That's really the first we've ever heard of Love from anyone on the staff and it sounds like he's a player that has put in the work and earned an opportunity. I like that Weis takes that approach and rewards players who go out and compete to earn a spot. That doesn't always happen.
Fourth Team Captain
"Usually our fourth captain will be, whoever played the best on special teams the previous week. We haven't had that take place yet, so we will wait until after this week's game."
I had forgotten that Weis did this. I think it's a pretty good way to reward someone who isn't necessarily in a glory position.
Breaking down SDSU
"The defense returns seven starters. Everyone will talk about how undersized Andy Mink is, No. 52, but he's a true pain in the butt for whoever is going to go against him. He's a good, solid football player. They have several locals, one is an Olathe product, Doug Peete, No. 34. He's listed at weak side end for them, but he's the guy who brings versatility in their in their defense to allow them to go back and forth between even fronts and odd fronts by being able to play weak side end, then being able to stand up and play outside linebacker. Their defensive secondary has got three seniors and a junior. The one junior is one of the Wright brothers, no pun intended, from Lee's Summit (Mo.), Winston, who, led the team last year with three interceptions and seven pass breakups. I'll talk about his brother (Dom) here in a bit."
"On offense, they return nine guys, including their whole offensive line, although we'll address that one a little bit here in a second. Last year, they led their conference in passing. This year, they're trying to get to more of a balance and be able to run the football a little more, and with the size and experience of the offensive line, you could see why they'd want to be doing that. Coach (Eric) Eidsness is in his first year as a coordinator, but this is his third tour of duty at South Dakota State, so he's very familiar with what they do and how they do it. They're about a 50/50 spread you out team or line up and pound you team. They use 12 personnel more than most teams we play. 12 personnel, as we talked about earlier, is with one back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. Most teams you play are using 11 or 10, which is three-or-four wide receivers and we'll talk about their tight ends here in a bit and why they're in a position where they can go ahead and do that."
"(Austin) Sumner had a really good year last year. He's 6-5, 230, completed 60 percent of his passes, threw 16 touchdowns, he's got a good arm, he's got good arm strength and he's very accurate. The word is that he injured his thumb. He hasn't practiced for a few days. We can't take that as gospel. We have to be ready to play as if he were going to play, but either way if he doesn't play, they have a redshirt freshman, Eric Kline, who's 6-4, 205, and I think that they'll feel very confident about him, as well. Sumner is who we'll prepare for and it ends up being Kline, we'll be ready to go."
Maybe I'm blinded by the complete lack of success these past two seasons but is it me or does this quick two paragraph synopsis of SOUTH DAKOTA STATE make it seem as though our head coach has done significantly more x's and o's gameday preparation than we've had done during the past two seasons combined? That might be an exaggeration, but Weis talks about specific players, personnel groupings, it's a different ball game and we're not just using coach speak and generalities.
Kansas senior quarterback Dayne Crist
On how much progress the offense has made since practice began:
"I think a great deal. The one area I'm most pleased with, just being a member of the offense, is seeing the way that the level of confidence has grown. Guys are just playing so much more confident. When you do that, you play faster, you make plays and you go out and do what you love. Guys can really show their athleticism and show their talent. If you're thinking or if you're unsure, you play a little slower than you actually are, so I'm just happy to see that everyone is consistent in their approach and that the level of confidence is pretty high right now."
Confidence can go away in a hurry but I have to believe that this team is going to feel more prepared on a weekly basis and that is going to help our confidence from absolutely crumbling in just a few plays. The Baylor game last year is a prime example. I don't think any fan, player or coach ever had confidence in holding on or managing that lead. Can the new staff shake that?
On how the right side of the offensive line has come together:
"I think it really stemmed from a great deal of competition at those right guard and right tackle spots that you want to talk about. I think all the guys in that rotation have done a great job being consistent and showing mentally they know what they're doing, they're locked in, they can be trusted and they can be counted on. I think that the two guys that we have in there right now are doing a great job, and we're excited to see them make some plays on Saturday."
On if 6-5, 360-pound Aslam Sterling is the biggest right guard he's ever seen:
"Right guard, yes. Left guard, we had a guy a little bit bigger. Chris Stewart was huge and 400 pounds or something like that at one point. Aslam's very athletic for his size. It's great to see him develop. You've definitely seen him grow in the short time that he's been here. It's a guy you love having in front of you, protecting you."
"It's great how mature he is. He came in with a total business mentality. He knew he was a little behind walking in the door. He got here late, but the ground that he's been able to cover has been pretty remarkable, especially from the mental side of it. The other guys there had an entire semester in the spring, but he's done a great job. He's very competitive. In terms of chemistry, he's a great guy. He's a little quiet, but a great guy and great guy to be around."
Two quick blurbs on the right side of the offensive line. Marrongelli, Zlantik and Hawkinson are expected to perform. These other two are a bit of a wild card. Sterling is getting a lot of attention due to his size, but also due to the fact that I think everyone understands that the quality of the entire offensive line probably rests with these two positions.
Again, full transcript available here. Great stuff from both Weis and Crist and the countdown now sits at 3 days and change.