Tuesday afternoon Charlie Weis held his weekly meeting with members of the media to discuss some additions and subtractions to personnel, a little bit about TCU and a look ahead to this weekend's game against NIU.
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis
On both teams having streaks going:
"You know, the good news and the bad news is we both have streaks going, only we're going in the wrong direction. They've won 16 consecutive home games since 2009. And we've lost 13 consecutive road games since 2009. And if you want to throw in those three games against our ex-arch rival that no longer is a rival, that were neutral site games, you could add those three losses in there, too, and make that 16. So 16 seems to be the magic number here. They've been winning at home and we've been losing on the road. And we're hoping to end a couple of streaks."
After last week there was definitely some hope injected into the Kansas fanbase but this is a pretty big thing to overcome. Confidence and lack of confidence both work in opposite directions. NIU has a team full of guys that don't know what it's like losing at home. Kansas has a team full of guys that don't know what it's like to win on the road. If Kansas goes in and gets a win, it will be a pretty big accomplishment and could be huge for the mental state of this team going forward.
Breaking down Northern Illinois' defense:
"They return most of their front; their front three out of four and their whole secondary. (Sean) Progar and (Alan) Baxter are their starting ends and they're both very good, athletic, speed pass rushers. They also are not afraid to throw in (Joe) Windsor in there and substitute him in at defensive end. But, Progar and Baxter are the mainstays. They are seniors, along with (Nabal) Jefferson - their nose inside. He's a senior, as well. They're all returning starters. They've got a lot of experience. (Ken) Bishop plays a three technique for them, and just like at end, they're not afraid to roll guys in on at defensive tackle. They're not afraid to put in (Anthony) Wells. As a matter of fact, he plays pretty good as an inside defensive lineman. At the linebacker position, that's one place where they have had a big turnover. (Jamal) Bass returns as their field linebacker. (Tyrone) Clark is back. He was gone last year, but he's back and either (Victor) Jacques or (Michael) Santacaterina, one of those two guys will handle the MIKE position. And as I said before, they return their whole secondary. All four of those guys do a nice job. (Jimmie) Ward's gotten a lot of pub. They're a nice secondary, you know, (Demetrius) Stone and (Rashaan) Melvin basically handling the outsides and Ward and (Duchane) Durante basically handling the safety position."
Breaking down Northern Illinois' offense:
"Offensively, before you even talk about their quarterback, which is a great place to start, (you have to know that) they shift in motion on almost every play. You have to make sure that you get lined up right, or else they cause a lot of problems for you. And one of the things they do maybe 40 percent of the time, they end up in an unbalanced line and you have to make sure you don't miss a line and treat somebody the wrong way, or else you can get yourself in trouble. (Jordan) Lynch, their quarterback, he might show, 6-feet, 215 (pounds) or so, but he plays a lot bigger than that. He's a dangerous player. First of all, he's a dynamic rusher. Anytime you're a dynamic rusher (at the quarterback), it opens up the passing game, because everyone has to worry about stopping the quarterback as well as the running back. And he does a nice job in the pass game, as well. (Leighton) Settle is the running back and he's 5-foot-9, 200 (pounds), but he's very, very quick. Two totally different receivers, (Martel) Moore, he's got pretty good size, he's 6-foot, 183 (pounds), and then you've got (Tommylee) Lewis, who's 5-foot-7, 155 pounds. But one thing about Lewis, he is fast and he is quick. He's also one of the two guys - it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure this one out. But he's one of the two guys that goes back there when it comes to punt returns and kick returns. You're going to have to contend with that guy. You know, he's a very dynamic player. They have two tight ends they play. One's the bigger one, that's more on the line of scrimmage guys, (Jason) Schepler. They'll also use (Luke) Eakes as kind of their move tight end. Then you get to their offensive line. (Matt) Krempel is their biggest guy. He plays the right tackle. He's a good 6-foot-5, 310 (pounds), I'd say, somewhere around there. He's a big, physical player, who plays with an attitude. You know, (Tyler) Loos plays opposite of him. He's not quite as big. The next biggest guy, actually, is their left guard, it looks like. (Jared) Volk, he's 6-foot-3, 315 (pounds). And then you've got (Andrew) Ness and (Aidan) Conlon in there. But both the right guard and the center, both are about 6-foot-3, 285-290 (pounds), so they both have pretty good girth."
Breaking down Northern Illinois' special teams:
"When you look at their special teams, (Ryan) Neir handles their punting. (Mathew) Sims handles their kicking. And then (Tyler) Wedel, he handles their kickoffs. And then, with their punt returns and kickoff returners, You have to worry about Lewis, as I mentioned before, but (Perez) Ashford is back there with him."
I continue to enjoy these mini breakdowns by coach Weis. I think my biggest takeaway is that the defense is going to be tested and they will be tested from a discipline standpoint. Coaching and preparation are going to be key in being prepared for what NIU is going to throw at Kansas offensively. Last week the defense showed a lot more promise, hopefully that continues.
On the changes in the depth chart on the defensive line:
"Well, it's a little bit skewed in the fact that last week, you know, how we've been listing Toben (Opurum) at end/SAM? Well, last week he played a lot of SAM in the game. So what happens there is Keba actually plays the end opposite of Josh when we do that. So that is based off of lining up just in a true nickel front, where we're in that rotation that we've been in. So, Jordan (Tavai) and Keba (Agostinho) are best suited in nickle to play three technique. And Kevin (Young) and John Williams are best suited to play one technique. But when we play end, we want to get bigger; the guy that we decide we will move outside, we've been using Jordan and Keba in both of those capacities. So we wanted to settle Jordan down into one spot right there, so that is what that was all about."
A nice summary of how the defensive line rotation is settling. It was good to see both Kevin Young and John Williams have strong performances last week against TCU.
On Randall Dent's progress switching to the offensive line:
"I think the fact that he's been able to move ahead of guys that have played that position on a regular basis says a lot about Randall Dent. I mean, I've been very pleased at Randall Dent's progress, and he just keeps getting better. I already knew he was a powerful guy, because when we played him on defense, the one thing he could do was he could knock everyone back. He just couldn't get off the block, because he's an offensive guard. But as an offensive guard, that's what you're looking for. So, I kept looking at him and I said, ‘(Defensive Line Coach) Buddy (Wyatt), don't worry, he's going to be on offense.' Buddy says he can't make a play. I said ‘don't worry, he's going to be playing offensive guard anyway.' I mean, so he's actually now settled in nicely. And actually, that right side of the line has settled in pretty nicely. And what we're going to do now, with Riley being down, is we're going to get into a little bit of a three-man rotation and get Aslam (Sterling) more involved here between the people who have position flexibility or Aslam and Gavin, where Randall's settled in at right guard, so that's what we're going to try to do now."
Dent entered the program with some pretty high yet under the radar expectations on the defensive line. He has struggled to find a home and he'd probably been nearly written off by a lot of folks including myself. Given the fact that he's been a strong physical player from the beginning, this is a great story if it continues.
On if he's noticed in Andrew Turzilli's confidence since Saturday:
"We've actually been trying to push Andrew into this position since the spring time, because some of those things you saw in the game the other day, we've been seeing all along. It is just that you have to be willing to take an older guy's job. And sometimes people don't understand that. You have to be willing to not say ‘well, he's a senior, when he's gone, then it will be mine.' You have to be willing to go take it and if you just are willing to sit back and let that matriculate, then you're not there. He started to challenge more and more, instead of just settling in and being the No. 2 guy. He's competed to be the No. 1 guy and he's potentially a very good weapon."
This is something this staff seems to be doing more of in the last two weeks and that's getting some of the younger players to step up and own their situation. This is just one example, but we saw several new faces in the game on Saturday and they all did some positive things. The last staff talked about competition, but did they reinforce that message? Maybe they did, but we're seeing a different set of players step up this year in some instances and it's encouraging.
On JaCorey Shepherd moving up the depth chart in the defensive backfield:
"JaCorey has been somebody who (Defensive Coordinator Dave) Campo's been tooting his horn about (for a long time). First of all, we had to have a trade between the offense and the defense. We need to have a trade and there were draft choices and everything that were involved. There were considerations for down the road on this one to take him from offense to defense. But really JaCorey was competing, at the time, he was our third slot, at best. Where, Campo believed that he could play himself into the two-deep (on defense). And to be honest with you, right now, he's played himself into the two-deep. So he's played himself into a backup corner. I think JaCorey Shepherd would be a fine slot receiver, so I don't think that he's without skills on offense. I think that he sees himself having the greater opportunity to move up the ranks on defense. And he's got quick feet, he can backpedal and he can turn his hips. Not every offensive player can play that position."
I'm curious to see how this personnel move develops. Overall there has been improvement on defense. Yes there is a long way to go, but Campo has done something to move the needle in the right direction so far. Given his experience, the hope here is that he's identified something in Shepherd that could benefit the Kansas secondary in the future.
On what he likes about Tony Pierson in the passing game:
"I've shifted him out into the slot and he's run corner routes that he's got open and caught. I kind of like that. He's come out of the backfield and run a wheel route for about another 25 yards. I like that, too. Alright, so, I just think he's got good ball skills and good route running ability for a running back. But make no bones about it, he is a running back, he's not a wide receiver."
It will be interesting to see if maybe we shift the way we use Pierson now that Sims is back. Get him in space a little more perhaps? Limit his touches and make the touches big play potential?
On if he thought Dayne Crist played loose last week:
"I think that it will just get better and better each week to be perfectly honest with you. I thought he was better this week than he was the first two weeks and I think it will be better this coming week than he was last week. I am talking about turning the corner - there are several things that when you come in, you have to make sure that you don't get your priorities wrong. And to turn the corner, one of the things that had to take place is that you have to get in the battle for the whole game. Now that I've seen them do that, my expectations would be for that to be the case every week; because I have already seen evidence, they can do it against a good team. So now, we just have to play better. I think that starts with Dayne on offense, because other than the center, he is the only one who has the ball in his hands on every play."
Keeping my fingers crossed that Weis is right. Through three weeks we haven't seen much out of Crist but I really do believe some of that has to do with the weapons in the passing game. Weis is shaking things up a bit in that area and hopefully that will help Crist. Either way we're beating a dead horse here a bit because Dayne Crist is the guy this year barring something unforeseen happening.
Plenty more from yesterday's presser and some Q&A with Dayne Crist at KUAthletics.com