Weis Sits Down with the Media to Preview 2014 Spring Game

Kansas football head coach Charlie Weis met with the media to preview the 2014 Spring Game Tuesday morning. Weis discussed the progress of the installation of the offense under new offensive coordinator John Reagan. He also went over some of the logistics of the Spring Game, in addition to covering the status of a few position battles. The full media session can be viewed by subscribers in the Jayhawk Digital Passport, and a transcript is included below. 

Kansas Football Head Coach Charlie Weis

On what the format will be for the spring game:
“Unless we get a rash of injuries here in the next two practices, we’re actually going to play a game. Four 15-minute quarters, running time, except for the last two minutes of both halves. Clock only stops for timeouts from the teams or the officials, except for the last two minutes of each half. It’s not offense vs. defense, which we toyed with that, that’s the easiest thing to do in the spring. Just to play the offense against the defense. Because your numbers at certain positions low, but at this time we have enough guys to go two different teams. I’ve got a couple wrinkles in there, but you’ll have to wait until Saturday, because you’ll see one rule in there. There’s a great equalizer rule and it has to do with an adjustment at half at time and you have to wait to get those rules, but it should provide for an exciting second half, not going through the motions, based off this rule. So you’ll just have to wait for that day. We’ve spent a lot of time between me dividing up and talking to the coaching staff and getting together with Katy (Lonergan) and getting together with (Jeff Himes) Himer and getting together with Kevin (Green) to get this all laid out, but right now, unless we have a bunch of guys go down in the next couple days, we’ll be able to play two opposing teams.”

On if playing two opposing teams is his preferred method:
“Actually, I’ve done it so many different ways. I’ve done it ones against twos, twos against ones. I had one year where I had only eight healthy offensive linemen, so they actually wore a different colored jersey and those eight guys played for both teams. It all depends on the numbers you have, so right now we have 11 healthy offensive linemen, and we have seven or eight defensive linemen, not including the BUCKs, where we have four of them. There are certain positions where we have more depth and at other positions we don’t have a bunch of guys. For example, there are two positions – left tackle and nickel – where we’re running two guys both with the first team. So at left tackle, (Pat) Lewandowski and (Zach) Fondal have both played with the first team. And at nickel, as of late, JaCorey (Shepherd) and Greg Allen have been running with the first team. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to split them up each half. So in the first half, Lewandowski and JaCorey will be on the Blue team and Fondal and Allen will be on the White team. At the half, they will switch teams. So they will both play with the first team and the second team. Those four guys will be the only ones that are affected as far as flip flopping teams. Now, really my call on the offense, the only thing I’ll do is during the game is if due to injury we have to have a quick trade, I will set the terms of the trade. So if all of a sudden you see one guy running from one side of the field, to the other side of the field. One thing you’ll notice is the quarterbacks will not be in red. Only one guy will have red on and that will be Tony (Pierson). The quarterbacks will be live.”

On if he has ever had live quarterbacks in a spring game:
“Nope. It’s because when the quarterback keeps the ball, you never know how many yards they could have gained and you can never tell. Now they have been hit plenty of times in this camp and they’ve been hit in the back, hit in the front. So this isn’t the first time they’ve been hit. The goal is for them not to get hit, but in the running game they are going to have the ball in their hands. Tony’s (Pierson) been hit too, so one thing we talked about today was going back and forth about whether or not we should keep Tony without a red jersey on or not. After going back and forth and going over the pros and cons, the last thing I want to do on the last practice, when he’s had such a good off season, is have a setback.  I was the deciding vote and decided to go in that direction.”

On if it is a good test-run for their new offense:
“John (Reagan) asked me today, ‘What should I hold?’ I said nothing. Just go ahead and run it. Call plays the way you call plays. You’re not really game-planning for this game. Actually when you get in training camp and an installation, it’s actually worse than when you’re game-planning for a game, because everything you installed is available to be called. Whereas, when you get ready for a game you don’t do that. You make it more game-plan specific to that opponent and the players are responsible for a lot less information going into a game than they are when going through an installation and through training camp. Because then the whole playbook you installed is available. And really, they don’t have a chance to zero in on than just the things that are opponent specific.”

On if the team has more speed or  well-conditioned athletes than before:
“The answer to that question is yes and yes, but with more talent. That’s always the most important thing. I always expect to be well-conditioned because of (Scott) Holsopple, and I’m a big fan of Holsopple. Yes, we upgraded our speed specifically on defense, we’re a lot faster than we were before. But I asked (Eric) Kiesau today, we were talking about the first three wide receivers and he came from Washington last year and I asked him a simple question. I wanted to know if our starting three wide receivers would be in the two deep at Washington so I wouldn’t put him on the spot. He said that he thought that the three guys that are playing would have all been in the two deep at Washington, and they were pretty prolific on offense last year. I think we’re making some serious headway at that position because I told him you can answer however you want, I wasn’t there, I can’t compare them. I think we have more talent and I think that at the end of the day, talent is really all it comes down to.”

On senior wide receiver Tony Pierson:
“I think he’s had a really good spring. The thing is he was nursing a little tightness in his hamstring, so he wasn’t completely letting it loose. He’s caught the ball very well, matter of fact, he hasn’t really had any problems as far as dropped balls except for the very beginning of the spring when he was first getting acclimated. We haven’t exactly played in mild weather this spring either, it’s been windy, it’s been chilly. So, the conditions have been pretty challenging. To go through spring when you’re used to playing in that balmy weather, without gale-force winds out there.”

On the possibility of Pierson returning punts and kickoffs:
“He’s working at punt return and kickoff return. He could be dynamic at either one. He already as a kickoff returner would be very, very dangerous. Punt returning is a little different. First of all, you don’t get to return them very often. With all the spread punting that everyone runs, everyone is in your face pretty quickly when you catch the ball. You need to be a little bit of a psycho to be a punt returner. That’s why Connor Embree fit that pretty well. He had nerves, great nerves. I think as a kickoff returner, you’re catching the ball and guys are at least 20 yards away from you when you catch the ball. So you have a full head of steam before any action takes place. I know Reggie (Mitchell) is working on returners and he’s got him penciled in there in the first two groups.”

On senior wide receiver Nick Harwell as a punt and kickoff returner:
“He’s punt returning and kickoff returning. He’s working both and Kevin Short is punt returning it and kickoff returning it. All of them are out there.”

On the potential at the returners:
“We have some interesting candidates. I think I’ll let the dust settle right there. You’ve got that catch-22. You want to make sure that you’re not losing people on the return game, but if a guy can change field position in the return game, I’d put him out there.”

On if the Spring Game will give him a better idea of Reagan’s offensive calls:
“No, because he’s not game planning. They really don’t know that until they’re game planning. When you see a game plan, and when you see how they’re going to attack the people they’re going against. If you don’t know the answers to why, then you ask well then, why are you going to do this? Why would you do that? That might be good for him because to me, they’re common sense that I can look at and say, ‘Hey, John, you sure you want to do that?’ I’ll give you an example, we were running a ‘man beater’, and in a man beater, a lot of the time you run cross-routes. On one of the man beaters we had Tony as one of the guys rubbing/picking for the guy coming from the other side. I said, ‘Why would you use him? That makes no sense to me.’ So needless to say, Tony is no longer the guy rubbing/picking on that play anymore. But things like that are just easy for me to see as I’m looking at it. Just common sense things like, you don’t want to do that. But right now he’s not worrying about game planning. He’s just calling plays, which is part what you’re doing when you’re installing.”

On if watching someone else run the offense is fun:
“I wouldn’t say it’s fun. It’s interesting for me because I’ve had so much more time to see things, because a lot of times at practice you don’t see things. There are a lot of things you just don’t see. You don’t have time to see them. I was able to make points to both the guys on offense and the guys on defense. In the past, I had enough time to run the offense and talk to the quarterback. So now you see so much more. I spend a lot more time in the day now, I’ll sit with the offense one day, with the defense one day. I’ll just sit there and things will come up and I’ll say, ‘Why would you do that? Explain to me why you would do that?’ So it’s been good because it gives you an opportunity to challenge them mentally to make sure they’re at the top of their game too.”