Charlie Weis held his standard weekly press conference on Tuesday, here's some of the highlight and a few thoughts on what was said.
Kansas Head Coach Charlie Weis
Breaking Down Rice
"They basically play a nickel defense for most of the time, which is a 4-2 personnel group with a fifth defensive back. I'll talk about the three safety-type players they play. Everyone noticed Cameron Nwosu last week, with his three blocked extra points setting a record. Besides him being their leading tackler last year, where he wore No. 34--he's one of the two players who's changed their numbers. In this case he's wearing No. 57 for a player who I'm familiar with by the name of O.J. Brigance, who, when I was coaching with the Pats, was playing with the Dolphins at the time. As a matter of fact, I think he was friends and teammates with Tre' Parmalee's dad, Bernie, while they were with the Dolphins. I think O.J. might've played with Rod Jones with the Rams for a brief period of time as well. I think the fact that both Nwosu and his roommate have both changed their numbers to honor past legends at Rice that are dealing with, in O.J.'s case it's ALS, but dealing with tough times, I think is a pretty good statement about the kids.
Jerry Williams, No. 97, is clearly the leader of their defensive line. (Kansas offensive lineman) Tanner (Hawkinson) will have his hands full, because that's where the guy lines up most of the time. In the secondary, people want to talk about (Bryce) Callahan, because he has six picks last year and he's coming back after being banged up some last year. With the corners, I think they're pretty solid. Interestingly, when you watch their defensive scheme and
studythem, they have two safeties--(Paul) Porras plays the boundary safety and (Corey) Frazier, who happens to be Leslie Frazier's kid, by the way, from Minnesota, is the field safety. They play (Malcolm) Hill, No. 11, as their adjuster, and because when you have three guys that could bounce from left to right, from deep to down, it gives them some versatility where you don't have to run people all over the place, to adjust to what we're doing offensively. I think it's a nice, sound scheme that they're running. They do have a dime package, where they'll put in six DB's. When they do that, they'll bring in (Alex) Francis, who's a backup corner, and they'll put him as an outside linebacker and play with three down linemen. Sometimes, they even take (Jared) Williams and move him inside to nose tackle, and sometimes they'll leave him at end, but he's the guy that's going to be on the field."
"Their whole offense starts with (senior quarterback Taylor) McHargue. He's different than what we played against last week in the fact that he's more of a dual-threat quarterback. He threw for about 180 (yards) last week and a couple touchdowns, but he ran for close to another 100 yards. Unlike last week, where the quarterbacks really weren't looking to carry the ball, he'll pull in the ball in a second in both the read-option plays and if a play breaks down. I think everything on their offense starts with him. They've got a big running back in (Charles) Ross. He must be 6-1, 230 pounds. He looks every bit of that. When they want to go to their Jayhawk formation--by now you guys should all have that one down--they'll use (Jeremy) Eddington. He'll come in and get some carries when they do that. They have interesting wide receivers. A kid I recruited years ago, Sam McGuffie, who started off at Michigan and is now at Rice, is a very athletic player. As a matter of fact, I'd better get this out of the way, he's the kickoff returner, he's the punt returner, and he's the starting slot, as well.
One of the guys they compliment him with, because he's not the biggest, is No. 15 (Jordan) Taylor, who's every bit of 6-5, 210 pounds. So, they have the tall receiver, and then they have the receiver with some shake and bake making people miss, and that's a nice compliment. The same can be said with their tight ends. They've got a couple of big guys in there, they'll use (Luke) Willson, He's about 6-3, 250. They have another guy, (Vance) McDonald, No. 88. He might be 6-3, 260, so they have two guys with some good size at the tight end position. Last, but not least, as far as their offense goes, if you look at the left side of their offensive line, you're going to see some serious height and size. Their left tackle, (Jon) Hodde, is 6-7, 300. Their left guard (Ian) Gray is 6-8, 340. That's two really big men to start off with, and then we get to a little more normal size, with (Nate) Richards at center, (Drew) Carroll at right guard and (Caleb) Williams at right tackle. The one with the most experience is their right guard, Carroll. He's the guy who started every game last year, so he's the guy who kinds of holds them all together."
"Their third tight end punted for them, by the name of (Taylor) Cook. Now, the kid's 6-7, 255 pounds, so it's unusual to see a guy who's 6-7 and weighs 255 to come out as your punter, but he was out there and he punts the ball very, very high. They had a front-line kicker in (Chris) Boswell both kicking off--he's got a powerful leg--and kicking field goals. He kicked a 54-yarder last week. He was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year, so they have a very, very strong kicking game as far as both kicking off and kicking field goals. In addition to McGuffie, you might see (Julius) White back there (returning kicks). A lot of times, they'll put two returners as punt returners, and in kickoff returns, I think (Donte) Moore will be the other guy who they'll list back there, who's a wide receiver."
I put all this in there because the level of detail that Weis gives in breaking down an opponent is pretty impressive. Especially just two days after he played the last game.
On Taylor Cox
"Coming in, I knew that Taylor had a little shiftiness and had some shake-and-bake. I also knew, coming in, that he could run with power, but seeing him do those both in the same game, I think was really encouraging. Probably the best thing for Taylor was after he fumbled, you look at somebody's face--remember, we talked about looking into their eyes--he couldn't get back out there fast enough. Here's one of the guys who wasn't in the tank. He just wanted to get out there and kind of make up for it. As a teaching moment, that's actually a good thing for him. Now, I'll never see a fumble as a good thing, but as a teaching moment, it's actually a good thing."
"I don't think you bring in a junior college player if you don't think they can play now. I think if you bring in a junior college player, and a junior college player that's been seasoned for a couple of years, they're not coming to you to sit on the bench. The reason why they're picking Kansas and your program is because they have a good feel that you'll utilize what they do, what they've shown for the last couple years and in his case, the kid wasn't picked All-American in junior college for no reason. I'm not being sarcastic. He was good. It's just that not very many people saw him. I said it last week, but Weed, Calif., go on navigation and see if you can find it. It's a tough place to find, but I'm telling you what, he was a really good player last year in junior college, and we thought that he could definitely help us and we're really happy that he's with us."
I could see Pierson's touches coming down and Cox's going up. Not because Pierson did anything wrong, but Weis said he wanted to keep him around 15 touches. He was closer to 20 and Cox can probably shoulder a bigger load if needed.
On week one to week two improvement
"First of all, if you have two weeks in-between the first game and the second game, you know sometimes people play games and then they have a bye then they play another game, I think that gives you an even better chance for that to happen. But I think that once you get the first game out of the way, I mean there are so many things that you can fix once there's evidence of it on tape. Remember now, we're a brand-new team, brand-new staff, chemistry: you're blending together kids who were here with kids who weren't here, but it's all new. The more these guys now start to play against an opponent together, I think that the improvement should be significant. But I'm expecting with many players at many positions for them to play a lot better this week than they played last week."
Weis sounds moderately convinced of this theory. Here's hoping everyone is right. There were some good things last Saturday and some bad things, but we'll need to improve if we want to sneak up and beat expectations this year.
On Dayne Crist This Week
"I think he knows what I expect at this point. He knows that he shouldn't be walking around like we lost the football game. You only get 12 of these regular season games and the first one was a win. Nothing bothers me more than when somebody feels bad after we win. You aren't supposed to feel bad after you win; you are supposed to feel good after you win. You deal with the problems in the game, but don't feel bad after you win. To be honest with you, when I was a younger coach, I was the same way. We would win a game and I would be miserable, because I would be thinking about the players that I coached and the mistakes they made in the game. I wouldn't even be thinking about the fact that we won the game, I would be thinking about all the bad things. As I have gotten older, mellowed out and all that other stuff, I have learned to appreciate a win for at least for 24 hours and then get to work on the next one."
I'm really anxious to see Crist play again this week. Almost more than I was last week. The two have a very solid understanding of what this year means for Crist and despite a bit of an underwhelming performance, neither player or coach are hitting the panic button.
On How He Evaluates the Offensive Line and the rotation on the right side.
"The quarterback only got hit a couple times. He got hit on one sack, which should have never happened. He got hit a couple other times, but nothing significant. On the third-and-one interception, he shouldn't have gotten hit. I wasn't too fired up about that. We ran the ball for a bunch of yards and gave up one sack. Most games, if the quarterback doesn't get hit very often and you run the ball for a bunch of yards, it usually means the offensive line played pretty well. You don't single out offensive linemen. You don't single out one guy. You don't say, `Well, Tanner (Hawkinson) played good, but (Duane) Zlatnik didn't play so well.' The offensive line, you talk about as a group. It is all five of them. They want to be treated as a whole. Some guys grade better than others, but that is not the point. It is really at the end of the day, what was the production in the run game? What was the production in the pass game? What role did they play in that production?
"I think the percentages will eventually change, but I don't think we are ready yet to do that. The one thing I am concerned with is making sure we build some inherent depth. I certainly don't want to take Tanner and Zlatnik off the field, unless I have to. One of the ways you do that is by playing more than five guys. We would like to have the opportunity to play more than seven guys and play nine or 10, but that is not the way the game played out."
On the defensive line improvement
"What I have said all along is that players are coming in and we are going to have more quality depth. You still don't know how good we are going to play, but you can say we have more quality depth. You put those first four guys out there, that is what they are supposed to look like. You look at Josh (Williams), you look at (Jordan) Tavai, you look at Keba (Agostinho) and you look at Toben (Opurum) and you say, `okay, that is what they look like.' That is what your standard nickel defense front four looks like. Then you start adding those guys behind them and you say, `okay, got some fast twitch from that No. 55 guy (Michael Reynolds) coming off the edge'. (Ben) Goodman, he showed up better than everybody thought he was going to play. Then you have John Williams and (Kevin) Young and (Keon) Stowers, there are nine guys right there I just named off the top of my head that all played meaningful, significant reps in the game. I think that is a good thing, because it is a long year and there are a lot of teams in this league with firepower, lots of firepower. You are going to have to keep them as fresh as you possibly can."
There was a heavy rotation up front and that was a nice change. Fresh bodies doesn't hurt and I liked the amount of reps that we saw out of Ben Goodman and Keon Stowers. Those are two players that can really boost the depth at the position.