Outspoken Offensive Line Speaks Loudly Tuesday
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Following a hot morning practice inside Memorial Stadium, a few of the Kansas football team’s vocal offensive linemen were made available to speak with the media Tuesday at the Anderson Family Football Complex.
The offense as a whole, but particularly the offensive line, will be under new leadership in 2014 as head coach Charlie Weis hired John Reagan to double as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. After revamping Rice’s offense and helping the Owls win the Conference USA championship in 2013, Reagan rejoins the Jayhawk staff after serving previously as KU’s offensive line coach from 2005-09.
With the addition of Reagan to the staff, Weis has taken a hands-off approach with the offense, but noted that regardless of who lines up along the offensive front, the Jayhawks are going to be large.
“We are going to be very big,” Weis said. “Now, I don’t know right now how this is all going to play out, but I know when I looked in the hallway yesterday and saw (Larry) Mazyck and Devon Williams, both pushing about 370, there was no room to walk down the hallway next to those two guys. A lot of the people we go against every week, the one thing, they’d have is a lot of big people out there and we wouldn’t. Well, we’ve got a lot more big people now than we’ve had.”
With the addition of larger bodies along the offensive line, it becomes especially important for linemen to be able to bond together and communicate on audibles and blocking schemes because they’re not as fast off of the ball. Hoping they can make communication easier for newer guys on the line, the Jayhawks look to start two experienced seniors on the left side at both guard and tackle.
Pat Lewandowski currently sits atop the depth chart at tackle while at guard KU will look to build off of the performance from All-Big 12 honoree Ngalu Fusimalohi a season ago. Fusimalohi believes Reagan is creating depth at the position, while the cohesiveness of the group is going to be a big difference this season.
“(The depth), it’s good, it gives us a chance to compete for our spot,” Fusimalohi said. “Everything we do, it gives us more (depth) at our position. Connecting and coming together and being on the same page, I think really that is what the offensive line is about. You can’t play as an individual on the offensive line.”
Of the offensive linemen, Lewandowski is the most verbal communicating with his teammates on nearly every play. The verbal leadership is something Reagan says Lewandowski had to grow into getting used to.
“I think he has made some great strides this summer as kind of the leader of that group at times and I think the guys respond to him,” Reagan said.
Other guys that line up next to Lewandowski have noticed that the senior has become more of a vocal leader. There has also been a change in the terminology and style of calls now that Reagan is calling plays.
“We can communicate calls quicker and we can think about what we’re doing and not think about all the words,” said senior guard Mike Smithburg. “Sometimes with a long play call, and you’re playing Texas in front of 100,000 people, it gets hard to hear all of it.”
The shorter calls and ever improving communication and bonding among the offensive line is paying dividends for newer linemen who haven’t been at KU very long. Transfer tackle Larry Mazyck thinks the transition into the program has been easier because of the way the line communicates with one another.
“Communication is the number one key for the offensive line,” Mazyck said. “As a unit, it’s very important because my assignments are based off of the next guy’s assignments. Whatever he does, I will have to do the opposite. If he doesn’t communicate with me, we could try to block the same person.”
Reagan realizes that if Kansas is going to be successful and score points while breaking in an unfamiliar offense, the offensive line is the key to making the transition as smooth as possible.
“It is (a tough job),” Reagan said. “At the same time, we’re asking them to do at Kansas what they’re asking them to do at every Division I school. They’ve got to be hard-nosed, willing to grind and be willing to be unselfish players. Within that, for them individually they’ve got to be able to gel and work as a group and work as a unit. I feel confident and hopeful that this is a group that can do that.”
KU KICKOFF AT CORINTH SQUARE
The ninth annual KU Kickoff at Corinth Square, sponsored by First National Bank, will be held on Friday, Aug. 22, beginning at 6 p.m.
Kansas Athletics and the KU Alumni Association will join forces to host the family-friendly event located at 83rd & Mission Road in Prairie Village, Kansas. KU football head coach Charlie Weis and women’s basketball head coach Bonnie Henrickson will each address the crowd at Corinth Square.
Also sponsored by Shawnee Mission Health, the KU Kickoff at Corinth Square will include food, drinks and KU giveaways as well as inflatable games for kids. The band Coversmith is scheduled to perform from 8-10 p.m. A limited number of coupons for Corinth Square vendors will be available for members of the KU Alumni Association and Williams Education Fund who show their membership cards.
The Kansas football team will hold a press conference Wednesday, Aug. 20 at 12:00 p.m., where Weis will announce the 2014 Jayhawk captains.
To stay up to date during fall camp follow the Jayhawks online via 2014 Fall Camp Central and on Twitter @KU_Football.
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