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Kansas Football 2013: Charlie Weis Talks Spring Football

Kansas Head Football Coach Charlie Weis met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss the upcoming spring football season and the approach for year two.

Jamie Squire

Kansas Football Head Coach Charlie Weis

Opening comment:
"Finally, spring ball, one of my favorite time of the year. Spring ball combined with March Madness, it doesn't get much better than that in sports for me."

On Huldon Tharp:
"First of all, there are a couple guys that don't show up on the roster. For example, Huldon Tharp. I got to meet with Huldon on Friday and we had discussed back at the start of the semester where he was thinking about not coming back to school and just walking away. I encouraged him not to do that. I encouraged him to get back to school, since he was that close in graduating and to get into classes, and I would let him not have to do football activity until Friday before spring ball and we'll sit down then, the Friday before Spring ball, and see where we want to go. He doesn't think he's capable of playing anymore, physically, even though he has a year left. All he wants to do is get healthy, graduate, and get out in the working world; which I highly encourage him to do. Not that I don't highly encourage him to play football, but it was important for me that he graduate from Kansas. Now, it's important to him as well."

On mid-year guys not on the list:
"Secondly, there's a couple of mid-year guy that aren't on the list. Let me just erase any doubt of going through what we went through last year. We're not dealing with any guys that would be coming here in August or not coming at all. There are a couple of guys who aren't here yet, but will be here sometime between now and the first week of June. So now we don't have to say, `Are they going to be here or not be here?' there are a couple of guys who aren't here yet and the latest they'll be here is the first week of June. Now we can get through that one without that being a major ordeal."

On injuries:
"There are a couple of guys that are injured that you possibly would notice and there are a couple that you would possibly not notice so let's go over them. Smiley had his shoulder done back in December, so he will be non-contact for the spring. In addition, as you know both Riley Spencer and Prinz Kande are coming off of knees (injuries). It looks to me that Riley is closer to full-go than Kande is. I think Riley is going to be able to go right off the bat in the first practice. With Prinz, it might take him a couple more days but he's pretty close too. He'll (Kande) will be out there, I don't know if he's not a couple weeks behind Riley, as far as completely recuperating for the knee. Also, during off-season, Schyler Miles had to get a knee procedure done. You know, he was never at full speed in the last year. Some of you might rate that as being slow, but it really wasn't slow, it was just that his knee was tweaked and finally with that knee tweaked, instead of having it rehabbed, we decided that it was time that he had to go ahead and get that fixed. Now the problem with that is that it's going to take into early April until he is completely healthy. So in all likelihood, for spring game to begin as early as it does this year, that would mean I would probably hold him from not playing in the spring game, even though he would be back and ready to go at that time."

On not having a special teams coach:
"A couple other issues are we won't have a special teams coach anymore. We won't have an assigned special teams coach now, even though I will be going to Scott Vestal to put it under his jurisdiction. What we're doing this year is every coach on the staff had an assignment on special teams with the exception of (quarterbacks coach) Ron Powlus. For example, if we are doing field goals (offensive line coach) Tim Grunhard has it, if we are doing field goal block, (defensive line coach) Buddy Wyatt has it. Every coach has an assignment on special teams. I was very unhappy with special teams play last year and I'm holding the whole staff accountable for it this year, rather than having it all on one guy's shoulders. Everyone has their piece of the pie. So it will be different coaches for punts, punt returns, punt rush, kickoff, kickoff returns, they all have their assignments and we have all been working on this for months. This is not just coming off as some new thing for our coaching staff."

On depth chart explanations:
"In addition, probably the main conversation we have today will be around our depth chart, so let me explain a couple of things. I'll have to explain a few more things on defense than on offense. So let's start with offense. Last year we had all these different `F's' that were down there and that is still the case, I still have a third wide receiver `F' and a second tight end `F', but right now the base of our offense going into the spring is to have two backs on the field, especially with the versatility that Tony (Pierson) brings. I just felt after analyzing our team that it doesn't do a lot of good to have one of your best players on the sideline a good portion of the play, which I felt with James (Sims) and Tony (Pierson) was happening a lot. So you'll notice we kind of split up those two positions. Will Tony (Pierson) play H some? Yes, he will and one-back set. We'll be utilizing a lot of two back sets with Tony's versatility. And you will notice I put Colin Spencer there because he has that type of versatility coming in as a freshman. It allows us to get into two-back sets in any formation and one-back sets with the utilization of Tony (Pierson) to do things. I spent a lot of time studying Tavon Austin from West Virginia and how they utilized him. I think Tony has a lot of similar traits that Tavon does. Obviously, Tavon is a much more polished receiver at this time, but as I watched that game last year and watched how he played leading up to that game with him at running back and wide receiver, I said `we have a guy like that, but we don't utilize him.' This is a copy-cat league and when you see somebody who is utilizing something that you think you have the personnel to do, then you go ahead and take a look at that. So you'll see a lot of James (Sims) and Tony (Pierson) on the field at the same time.

"Defensively, let me explain the front. The linebackers and DBs are self-explanatory, other than seeing new names in a lot of the places, so let me explain to you the front. First of all let's start off with the buck position. The buck position is the guy that can flip from the right side to the left. Everyone else doesn't flip sides, so this guy could be on the right or on the left, this means that the other three guys will adjust accordingly. That's why you'll see left end/tackle, right end/tackle because those guys play left and right. So if you were in the buck position on the right-hand side, the slide will be then to the left so that means that the right end will now become a tackle. If the BUCK were on the left-hand side, the slide will now be to the right, and now the left end will become the left tackle. The nose at the nose and the other two guys had to play both ends on tackle. The reason I did this was because I studied our personnel right when our season had ended felt that we had a good number of guys, big guys, both on our team and that we had recruited that I thought could play those three physical position up front. I also didn't feel we had enough pass-rushing ability and flexibility with our pass rushers. So the buck is the beginning of the answers to that problem. There will be times when we take two of those guys and put them on the field at the same time. But for a simplistic version, I just wanted to explain to you that's why it's listed like that. We can be in odd, even, over, under or bear. In this league with the quickness that teams run plays, Baylor for example, we can't be flipping people all over the place lined up when the ball is snapped. What this has done is this gives us now a mechanism where we can go ahead and do that and run people all over the place to go ahead and get lined up. I'm hoping that those two brief analysis of what I'm doing at backs and what I'm doing with the defensive fronts will give you a clear understanding of what those positions are."

On Dave Campo new role/coaching staff roles:
"He oversees the defense, I'm going to try to get myself to oversee the team a little more than just overseeing the offense. So what I'm trying to do is give all of our coaches more responsibilities as far as the offense and the defense. Buddy (Wyatt) is going to do more and Clint (Bowen) is going to do more. But Dave still oversees the defense."

On differences between this spring and last spring:
"Last year, I just tried to figure out what we had. We were putting in an offense or we were putting in a defense and in some cases we were putting a square peg in a round hole. You have to have an offensive and defensive philosophy and mentality. But now, a year in, now what you do is you start adapting what you do to who you have. And that's true by who you have on your team and who you recruit. For example, with the number of big guys that we have, you know two years ago we had no defensive linemen and now we have a bunch of big guys. So instead of asking guys to play defensive end, pure defensive end, you then tweak your system. Now what we have been able to do is we can come up with a system that fits our personnel and likewise have our personnel fit our system. This is, without going outside of our playbook, just adapting in year two, where now you know what you have and you're getting much better results. And now we can go ahead and get round pegs in round holes."

On changing expectations for the spring:
"Well, not to say it is a rhetorical question, I would be very disappointed at every position if the bar wasn't way higher. I'd be very disappointed."

On linebacker Courtney Arnick:
"He was basically the best player on the defensive show team (last year). He and Tyler Holmes were the two guys that every day were the best two players. At the end of year, we gave out an award for the best show team player and it was a tie between those two guys. We couldn't block Tyler Holmes inside and Courtney Arnick was a pain in the butt on every single play. He could pass rush, he made tackles in space and as we know in this league, that's what you have to do. Now, he gets his opportunity to make a name for himself, because we have a couple of other options. For example, this is a position that Prinz (Kande) had played in the past and in addition, we have a couple recruits that we kind of have labeled at that position as well. So this is his chance to take it and run with it."

On Pat Lewandowski playing offensive line:
"Well, he's 288 pounds and now he's reformed his body. He was probably the most athletic lineman we had last year. But you know, you're going from 260-270 to 280-290, and your best player last year on offensive line was the guy in front of you. So I think it gave him the opportunity to transform from a defensive player to an offensive player and not be thrown to the wolves. I think that's going to be a nice competition with him and Riley over there (at left tackle) to see what we got."

On new guys at the top of the depth chart:
"I think that it's a positive for the new guys and a negative for the old guys. I mean, if I were here and somebody was ahead of me that hadn't been here before, it's kind of sending a message to me like, `they haven't even been here yet and they're already ahead of me.' But (Mike) Smithburg can end up at center but right now we think our best group is the group we have out there and we want to see what we have from (Dylan) Admire and from moving Gavin (Howard) inside to center. Two or our brightest players are Admire and Howard and as you know the center is a position that takes a lot of mental work. Having Smithburg come in at the semester and be able to run the show, that would be asking an awful lot but having him play at right guard he has the center telling him what to do. He is a guy that can eventually move in there, but for right now, we will wait and see how it goes."

On the development of Charles Brooks:
"Charles Brooks, and I am not going to say anything that I wouldn't say to him, was a disappointment last year coming off his juco year. He was a really dynamic wide receiver (at Scottsdale CC) but we never got that in practice from Charles last year. In fact, Jordan Shelley-Smith isn't that far behind Charles Brooks. Now Jordan, I don't know what his weight is off the top of my head, but he might have gained 30 pounds. But when you see him, he looks like a different player. Charles, by experience, hopefully will be able to bring something to the passing game because that's one reason why we brought him in here. He had a heck of an off-season, which doesn't do anything for you, but gets you in good shape. Now, we have to see what we are going to do with it and we have high hopes for Charles."

On Greg Allen playing safety:
"We toyed back and forth with Greg Allen and Tyree (Williams). They both have safety size, but actually Greg's a little thicker. He's over 200 pounds and to have a guy who practices at corner most of the year and you're moving him to safety, especially in this league, is a very positive attribute. And he's going to be pushing for playing time now. We're high on Greg Allen."

On Jake Heaps' development in learning the offense:
"I am obviously very high on Jake (Heaps). Michael (Cummings) has progressed nicely, too. Those two guys are going to get all of the reps in the spring time. Blake (Jablonski) already knows this; he is going to get a handful of reps, but those guys are going to get plenty of reps. I think Jake is ready to go. I think he is chomping at the bit."

On how well Jake Heaps has assumed the leadership role:
"You will have to ask the players. That is (Director of Strength and Conditioning Scott) Holsopple's deal really until we get on the field. I am obviously very encouraged. Every player you ask is going to give you the same answer, and it is not one coming from me but from them (the players). You can ask defensive players and you are going to get the same answer. Leadership is not something that is faked; either you are on or you are not. Sometimes it can be suppressed. In other words, you can have a young guy that has natural leadership about him, but does not say anything because he does not feel it is his time yet. I am not worried about that too much with Jake."

On how Coach Weis had to talk to team about taking on a greater leadership role at the end of last season:
"I actually did a lot of it during the West Virginia game (last game of 2012 season). I said, `Do you see that pile of crap? Is that what you want?' There were several conversations going on during the game where I called a player over and said, `come here, take a look at this, is this what you want to be associated with? Because it is not what I want to be associated with.' Of course, I am the head coach so it falls under my jurisdiction, but we did not wait until the season was over to have these conversations. They (the players) knew that the second the game was over, I was going to go recruiting and they were going to get to work."

On the wide receiver position on the depth chart:
"I think every one of our receivers were incomplete last season. In other words, they were good at something and not so good at something else. The only unknown for us really, of the guys we have here and not the guys coming in, is Justin (McCay), until he gets out there and we see what holes he has in his game. Last year at this time, when we went through spring drills, we were very disappointed (with Justin's performance). He gained our support as time passed because he kept getting better and better. I would like to think that Justin is going to press Andrew (Turzilli), and Andrew better be ready to bring his `A-game.'

On the reports from Coach Holsopple this year compared to last winter:
"First of all, he is happier because their bodies look so different. I will cite one example, (senior offensive lineman) Aslam Sterling. When we got Aslam in August, he had to be close to 400 pounds. I don't know what it was, but it was ridiculous. He weighs 312 pounds now. He wins almost every drill that we do. This is the same guy that was 400 pounds when we got him in August. There are so many guys like that whose bodies are different and things look different where we are very encouraged. Last time I checked, you don't win championships just in the weight room. You have to be able to take that weight room stuff and have it translate into progress on the field. That is the next major hurdle for our team."

On Tanner Hawkinson and Bradley McDougald's performances at the NFL Combine:
"I think they both held their own. Neither one moved themselves anywhere but up (the draft board); they certainly did not move down. Both of them have had plenty of interest. Sometimes you don't understand the numbers that are expected at the combine, but Tanner (Hawkinson) tested very well for an offensive lineman. He weighed in `skinny' at 298 pounds. It is amazing now that you are 298 pounds and you are skinny. Bradley's (McDougald) numbers were, for the combine, very ordinary, which is not a bad thing. That means that you are right in the pack with most of the guys that play the safety position."

On the earlier start to spring football:
"The main reason I did this was because I felt that you get behind in recruiting doing it at the end of April. What ends up happening, you have your spring game the last week in April and then the next day you already have to be on the road recruiting. And for the next four weeks, you are using all of your visits during that time-frame. You have a six-week window where you can do your recruiting. By waiting until the end of April (to play the spring game), now you are limited to a four-week window to do all of your recruiting. In our case, one of the things we are going to do is recruit junior colleges. A lot of them are practicing and having spring games the last week of April. If you have your spring game at that time, you miss out on seeing all of those guys in person. Now, we can finish our spring game, come in and do our post-spring analysis, meet individually with the players, go out for a couple of weeks, come in for a week and watch the tapes we just gathered, and go out (recruiting) for a couple more weeks. The only problem with this schedule is having spring break right in the middle of this. That is one thing you always have to be concerned with, but I have a special `Welcome Home Party' scheduled for 6 A.M. the morning of (March) 25th. Coach Holsopple will be waiting for them with open arms to make sure their spring breaks were not too enjoyable. That is the only problem as I see it; having five practices before and 10 afterwards, but you gain tremendously in recruiting.

"I have to give `kudos' to our field guys. They have been working really hard the past couple of days; the field was a mess. You can't use a brush on our field because it is rubber-based field turf. You can't scrape it too low because then you will rip up the turf. They were actually out there with shovels once the snow was low enough. The field looks great now and they put in a lot of work to make that happen. I appreciate all of their efforts. The weather report for tomorrow is there is a chance of snow. I told them, `I hope it is a blizzard,' but I don't think that will be the case. I think the players are excited to get out there, but of course, they will be whining after about 15 minutes. I told them I don't want to hear it."

On if practicing in the snow will toughen the players up:
"I think it will get their attention in a hurry. I don't think anyone will be standing around tomorrow. I think they will want to be running around."

On Darius Willis changing positions:
"He will still play some role as a pass-rusher, which is the one area we had some utilization with him last year. He will still have a role in doing that. He is in the best shape he has ever been in. His body fits more for one of the two inside linebacker positions than it does for fitting a guy who is on the edge. You will notice with the buck people, I am looking for guys 250 pounds and up and Michael Reynolds is a bit below that. You will see Chris Martin and Ben Goodman because you need to be able to play on the edge when these tackles are blocking you; not just pass-rush on every down."

On the three kickers on the roster:
"As a matter of fact, they are in contention until the other field goal kicker actually ends up getting here. We had our walk-on tryouts and had one kid kicked 14 out of 15 fields goals, including 3-for-3 from 50 yards; his name isn't even on the roster. Trust me, we are not going through what we went through last year. We have a couple of really big legs in (Eric) Kahn and (Trevor) Pardula. When it comes to field goals, I am worried about the guys that can kick the ball through the uprights. That means even more to me than having bigger legs. There should be plenty of competition at that position. I think we will get some touchbacks on kickoffs, and I think we will be better in the punting game. Ron (Doherty) is in competition for all those positions, but based on where we were at last year, the positions will be earned because I was happy with none of the above."

On the new rules for recruiting:
"I think it is ridiculous. Basically, let's put all the rules on the institution and let them govern themselves and see whether or not they screw it up or not. I like rules; I like common sense adjustments to the rules. But to go from all to nothing, it will be like the wild west. I don't think it will be what they said they are going to do. I don't think there is any way that is the way it will stay. I think the Oversight Committee will get a more grounded approach in place."

On overhauling the secondary being a concern:
"I don't know. I've watched some other competitors of ours do it effortlessly; that is the way I've seen it. These are good players coming in. The players coming in are bigger. In addition to having speed, you are going to have some size."

On the secondary being able to adjust to the Big 12 competition:
"They know what they are up against. More importantly, they know what we are going to do. We are not going to be real complicated. We are going to line up and try and smack people in the mouth, that is what we are going to try and do; a novel-concept on defense."

On Jimmay Mundine:
"I have been very pleased with Jimmay. I have been pleased with him in just about every facet since the season ended. He changed his body and is in great shape. He is one of those guys that has emerged as a leader and we did not know he had that in him. It is definitely out there on the table, and I have high hopes for Jimmay."

On James Sims expectations for the spring:
"He is in a lot better shape now than he was last year at this time. Basically, it is because of the guys he is around; they are some of the hardest working guys on the team. Tony (Pierson) is like the Energizer Bunny. He is going to go full-speed on every play, every day. Taylor (Cox) is like that; Brandon (Bourbon) is like that. I don't think James (Sims) has ever been in this kind of shape. He feels really good about himself right now. The difference between James (Sims) and Tony (Pierson) is, Tony wants to do it, but James has to do it. There is a difference."

On community service projects this Saturday:
"I told you I studied a lot of things when the season was over. I think our football team does not get involved enough in community service. Despite Katy (Lonergan) always asking them (to participate in community service projects), and they usually say `yes' when she asks them, I really don't think the team understands the whole concept of community service and how good it can be to help complete you. As you know, I am involved with people with special needs with my daughter. Hannah and Friends, and their new student group, Hannah and Jayhawk Friends, got together with the Special Olympics and our athletic department and we are hosting a clinic for 100 Special Olympians on Saturday morning. They (Special Olympians) will come over and every one of our players and coaches will be assigned to one person with special needs. We will have 10 stations and we will go from station to station and use an adopted version of what we did with the kids on spring game day out there on the practice fields. I will bring the players in that morning and explain to them about community service and how they should get involved in something. I am using that as a springboard as a teaching tool for them (the players). On that day, anyone that wants to come watch, please feel free to come to the Anschutz Indoor Practice Facility. It will start at 9 a.m. and conclude at 10:30 a.m. This is one of the few times you (the media) are actually invited to be there."