Kansas football head coach Charlie Weis met with the media late Tuesday morning to preview the upcoming Spring Game and take questions on how the Jayhawks have fared through the 2013 spring season to date.
The following is a transcript from Weis' press conference Tuesday.
Kansas Head Football Coach Charlie Weis
"This is my last press conference as it relates to the Spring season. I will talk briefly after the game on Saturday. I gave you the format for the game, including tentative rosters, and if injuries hold out this week we will play as two separate teams. The coaching staff has been broken up, though they're not listed on the roster. Weight room guys have been broken up, trainers have been broken up, they will be working with their respective teams. I will not be on the field. I will be in the coaches box watching the game from up there. I am not calling plays for either side. It would be the easiest way for me to do it and get around (due to recovering from a broken ankle). We have the kids clinic going on and our players are all fired up about that. It's at 10 o'clock. We have all the alumni players coming in on Friday evening, I'm kind of excited about that. So we are in pretty good shape here. It's the last week to go, knock on wood, not a whole bunch of guys are banged up. We've got some bumps and bruises and some guys I will be holding from the game, not many of them as you noticed. So we have practice today, and early meetings tomorrow morning and practice on Thursday and meetings on Friday. We have the BBQ with the alumni Friday night and get going on Saturday."
On looking for anything different this Spring Game:
"After dividing the rosters, I would think you would see the Blue Team throwing the ball a lot, and you would see the White Team running the ball a lot. I didn't put James Sims on the White Team, I put him on the Blue Team. Offensively, one of the biggest things is playing to the strengths of our two quarterbacks. If Michael (Cummings) were to be the quarterback, it would be a run and play-action featured team. If Jake (Heaps) were the quarterback, it opens up a whole set of passes that he would be more efficient at in the drop-back passing game. We are going to try and expose both teams to that. I split the offensive line up some to where you will see, not necessarily a first offensive line or a second offensive line. We did similar things with the defense. It is not necessarily all first defense on the blue and second defense on the white, although there are a lot of those guys there. Knowing the mentality of what the offenses are going to do as the coaching staffs game plan, but now you have to plan with your defense' to go ahead and stop what they are doing. I think the most important things is now, I expect our improvement on both sides of the ball to be drastic; I will be very disappointed if I don't see that, even in the Spring Game."
On the progression of Michael Cummings:
"The strengths that Michael (Cummings) had last year, he still has, obviously. He makes far-fewer mental mistakes, which I think is a very good thing. He has a much better understanding of the terminology and his presence in the huddle has gotten better. Last year, he was reading plays; now, he is calling plays. Reading plays is like calling a play, going to the wristband, and then reading the play off. When calling plays is, you go to the wristband and see the play and say, `OK, here is what we've got, fellas.' There is a difference. There are a lot of things he still needs to work on, but I think that the team views him as somebody they can win football games with. If they don't think you can win with you playing, then you really don't have a chance at that position."
On most encouraging signs of overhaul of offense:
"First of all, I think our running backs, which were our best position last year, are by far better this year. That is a good place to start. We have talent and depth, and if you run the football with efficiency, the passing game should not be as tough as we made it look last year. That opens a lot of doors for us, offensively. I have been encouraged with a number of things, and obviously you have heard about tweaks with some personnel and some things we are doing. I think we are putting playmakers in better position to do some damage. That is what we are hoping for in the passing game."
On will it be tough to duplicate run-blocking from last year:
"In a couple of cases, we should improve in run-blocking. Your view of how they run-block, and my view of how they run-block is not exactly the same. I think a couple of guys that are involved here now, run-blocking is their forte. There is a chance, in a couple of cases that we could actually improve."
On rating the intensity level of Spring Practices:
"There has been a lot more fights, and that is always a good thing. There is a gray area as a head coach when it comes to trash talking because you have to encourage it, or cut it loose. I have talked with them (the team) about playing with a little chip on their shoulders this year. I think if they keep on the path they are heading right now, I think we will be much better off going into next season."
On the improvement of the linebackers:
"Ben Heeney, early in camp, I was actually a little disappointed with. I think he felt good that he had `a zillion' tackles last year. I reminded him that `a zillion' tackles on a team that went 1-11 helped put things back in perspective. I think, as of late, he has been on a very big rise. He has been playing, clearly above, everybody else at his position right now. You all assumed that, since he was a starter last year, he would be a fixture on the defense. Early in camp, he wasn't playing very well. That has changed, and he has really tied a few good practices together."
On any depth chart and/or positional changes:
"There has been movement on the offensive line, and there will continue to be movement, but I kind of know how this is all going to end up. For example, (Mike) Smithburg was strictly a guard, and he will probably be playing center for us. We only have a couple of lineman coming in, one JUCO and one high school kid that are not here yet. We are going into camp knowing where everyone will be settled in, position-wise. There is still some competition to take place, but I feel we have a pretty good understanding of where we are going to head into August with the offensive line. Smithburg is more naturally a center. The thing is, when you come here and you have to make all the calls, all he is worried about right now is making the calls; he is worried about getting the quarterback center-of-exchange. He is one of those naturally nasty guys, but right now, he can't play that way because he is just worrying about carrying out his assignment on that play. We slid Smithburg into center because we have some physicality at the guard-position, and it gives us a chance to throw out a pretty physical offensive line."
On what player has stepped up the most in the secondary:
"The guy who makes the least amount of mistakes and shows up every day is Cassius (Sendish). I like the improvement that JaCorey (Shepherd) has made. (Dexter) McDonald can cover anybody. Remember now, we have three defensive backs coming in. We have three guys that can all play. The change from last year's secondary to this year's secondary will probably be as dramatic as any position on the team."
On how the running backs will be utilized in the new passing game:
"Tony Pierson will be very involved. His role with the team is evolving very well. We obviously have big plans for Tony. We didn't do all of that research on Tavon Austin for nothing. This is a copycat business; all of those guys that try to act like all their ideas are original, they are all liars. When you get someone who is doing something really good and you think you have someone that fits that build, then you go and study them. Tony is still clearly the most dynamic running back we have, but the problem is, he might be the most dynamic receiver we have as well. He is a definite pain in the butt for the defense, because he can play detached from the backfield. Tony has shown that he can run legitimate routes, catch the ball, and most importantly, he can get open. That gives you a chance."
On if Tony Pierson is similar to Dexter McCluster:
"Tony (Pierson) is significantly faster than Dexter (McCluster of the Kansas City Chiefs). Tony has toughness, but hardly anyone is tougher than Dexter. I loved Dexter coming out because, he was tough pound for pound; I would put Dexter with anyone. Dexter is more quick than fast, and Tony is fast. Tony is in the 4.3 (40-yard dash time) and change range where Dexter is more of a 4.5 guy. Two-tenths is a significant difference in speed. I would take Dexter too if you wanted to give him to me. We would definitely get him in there."
On what freshman could see some quality time in the Spring Game:
"I mentioned (Brian) Beckmann, and I am not saying he is challenging for a starting spot, but I have been very pleased with his progression. I talked about Tre' (Parmalee) who played last year out of necessity, not because he wanted to. In all reality, he would have been a perfect redshirt candidate last year. To be honest, if he wasn't sitting as our third receiver right now, I would be contemplating redshirting him this year, but he is one of the guys striving to get on the field. On the defensive side of the ball, Courtney Arnick has been running almost the entire spring with the first-string defense. Physically, he will have to get bigger, but he has very good athleticism. That doesn't even include Jordan Shelley-Smith, who has been one of the most pleasant surprises. Right now, he might be our best blocking tight end. When we recruited him as a pass-catching tight end, he was 215 pounds and now he is bigger than everybody. (Trent) Smiley has been out all spring so we will have to see what happens, but Smiley will have his work cut out for him because Shelley-Smith came to play. Obviously, Jimmay (Mundine) is the guy, but we don't play with just one tight end."
On how much weight the Spring Game holds:
"Stats mean absolutely nothing to me, but how the players carry themselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, that is what is important to me. If I am sitting up in the box and see people not paying attention--that is the kind of stuff I will be looking for. I look at the guys in the game, as well as the guys on the sideline. For example, we had this long scrimmage on Saturday. One of the things I really liked was the enthusiasm on the defensive sideline. I am calling the plays from the golf cart behind the line of scrimmage, and I felt the enthusiasm on the defensive sideline. That does not mean they were winning the scrimmage, but I felt the enthusiasm and those types of things are important to me."
On hitting the recruiting trail following Saturday's Spring Game:
"I can't go see anyone myself, but we will use every single visit we possess. One of the reasons why I changed the schedule and moved the game earlier is because the JUCO's have spring games at the end of April. In the past, we haven't finished until the end of April and, by then, we missed out on our chance to hit a lot of schools. Now that we hit these schools pretty hard, our first week out, we will hit the JUCO's heavy. Then the first week in May, we will address the other areas we need to cover. We will utilize every day that we are allowed to go out, and every visit we are allowed to take. We will be out there (on the recruiting trail) in full force."