By Will Martin
2014 marks the third year of Charlie Weis leading Kansas to a better result. He previously coached at Notre Dame and the Patriots in the NFL.
Usually one to play things close to the vest, there was a curiosity factor about what Coach Weis might consider a good year, Jimmay Mundane, Jacob Bragg, and the issue of cheating as mentioned by Bob Bowlsby earlier in the day.
THE MODERATOR: We’re ready to start with Coach Charlie Weis. Coach, welcome, and your thoughts about the upcoming season.
COACH WEIS: Well, still got a couple of weeks of vacation left, right. But it’s right around the corner. The players are coming in on August 7. We don’t play in August. We open up on September 6. So we’ll come in on the 7th and we’ll get going on the 8th and get our 29 practices in in plenty of time and get ready to rocking and rolling in September.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
I wanted to ask you about your tight end, Jimmay Mundine, what you expect from him and what you have seen from him so far in his three years there.
COACH WEIS: Jimmay has become a more well rounded player. When I first got here, he had better offensive skills than he did blocking skills, and now he’s become more efficient in both manners.
And I think with the change of offensive philosophies that we’re going through this year, going more to a spread mentality, I think the tight end position gets accented even more than in the offensive I’ve been used to running.
I think Jimmay will be an integral part of our offense this year.
With Cozart coming in sophomore season, stepping in that starting role, what are your expectations for him in being able to deliver victories this season?
First of all, I’m glad that I made the decision halfway through last year to play him. You’re getting halfway through your freshman year, do you play him, do you not play him, and there were high points and low points in that first, that last half of the season. But I think that now we kind of know what we’re getting, and I think I don’t have to worry about the freshman jitters in the sophomore campaign.
In this offense that we’re running, I think athleticism at the quarterback position is a critical factor, and he definitely has athleticism. So besides being able to stand in the pocket and deliver, I think that that added element to either on called runs by quarterback or just scramble ability to bail you out of some trouble situations gives us a better chance to score more points.
Talk a little about Nick Harwell and kind of what he’s going to bring to your offense.
Well, anytime you can plug in a No. 1 wide receiver that’s already been playing, played three years already as a starter with big production, big production, it puts a whole different composition to your wide receiver position.
Obviously wide receiver is one of the multiple positions on offense that we’ve struggled at in the last couple of years. I think adding a valuable senior leader like Nick with his athleticism just makes everyone around him play better.
I wanted to bring up something. You have two helmets there with the NCAA guidelines. What are you doing to make sure that there’s maybe less contact at your university?
Well, my trainer that was actually by the name of Murphy Grant was actually the guy who was kind of the guy who headed this no pun intended, headed this concussion type of discussion on behalf of the Big 12.
We’ve had a lot of talks at length about making sure we minimize as best we can the helmet to helmet type of thing. Fortunately, unfortunately, getting ready to play football, you need a lot of tackling to be able to practice fundamentals of techniques.
And we will, like we do every year, we’ll have our defensive coordinator get up and demonstrate the proper way of tackling. And as far as the contact itself goes, I think we’ve already abided by that two days a week maximum.
I think that it’s kind of the mentality in which I grew up in. I know some other places hit more than that. But I think that take them to the ground there’s only so many times during the year you can take them to the ground, especially as the season wears on, I think you even have to cut it down more and more as the year goes on.
As far as the offense being able to continue to move the change last year, a lot of three and outs, a lot of; struggling down the field, what do you guys have to do on first and second downs and how does Cozart play into that so you can put yourself in better third down situations?
I think that anytime you have a mobile quarterback, which is really not the way that we’re suited to last year, until Montell started playing, okay, you’re playing 11 on 10 football. Because if the quarterback is never going to carry the ball and is not a threat to the defense, and they don’t have to worry about him, they’re plus one as far as numbers go.
I think by having the quarterback being able to be one of the guys that carries the ball, puts much more stress on the defense.
Can you put a number on wins or what would be a successful season this year in year three?
Yes, I can.
But you won’t?
No, I won’t.
What would be?
I think it’s really, really important. I agree with you that your team’s expectations must be clearly defined, but we haven’t done a thing in the two years I’ve been here. We won one game two years ago, we won three games last year, we won one game in the conference, we haven’t won a game on the road, for me to get up here say these are what my expectations are for you, I’m just not very I’m not very smart.
But our team very clearly knows what our expectations are. There’s no hiding it.
With your move to a spread offense, what parts of the Charlie Weis offensive philosophy and concepts have you kept and maintained, will it still have a Weis flavor to it, or…
My involvement with the offense will take place during the week. It will not take place on game day. I will not be involved on game day, other than a critical situation or if I see Coach Reagan has them on the ropes, for example, after he hammered them in the run game, I might say keep pounding them.
But I’ll let the offensive staff run the offensive line. I’m more of a sounding I’m in a different route. I’m more of an advisor right now. I’d like to think I’m a good person for him to use as a resource, a resource as far as how would you do this, how would you do that, how would you attack this defense, but my involvement will take place early in the week and I’ll stay out of the way on game days.
There’s been some talk among a lot of people about possibly limiting contact in practices to two days a week. I’m curious what you feel about that?
I think that here’s the only gray area that really people, we have to get our finger on the pulse on. You get a game and you got some guys that play maybe 20 or 30 plays in a game. You know, whether they’re a special teams player or mop up role that don’t play like a full game.
If game day is one of your contact days, how do those guys get any better? I think that if they can define subjective take it out of the subjective role and get it more objective, what are you going to do with those guys, your young guys, to make them better.
I don’t think anyone pounds their guys that play all the time every week all the time. I don’t think that happens with anybody. I think that the only gray area is going to come into the fact that how do you get your young guys prepared to play if they’re not getting any of the real reps when you’re getting ready to play your game.
Could you talk about incoming freshman Jacob Bragg, talk about how much he can improve the offensive line?
I think the fact that you have one of the best pure centers in the nation coming in out of the state of Texas is very, very encouraging, and I think that as I told Jacob, I tell Jacob the same thing I tell every single kid we’re recruiting, I said: Don’t come in here with the mentality that you’re going to be redshirted your freshman year; come in here trying to beat everyone out.
Jacob’s going to come in, he’s going to start at the bottom of the depth chart just the way every other freshman who walks in the door. But when Jacob’s ready to play he’ll play, and he has tremendous upside.
Commissioner Bowlsby spoke this morning about cheating being widespread on campus because of the NCAA’s lack of enforcement. Have you seen some of that going on in other places and your thoughts about that, please?
What cheating was he referring to?
Their lack of enforcement right now has led to cheating. His quote was if you cheat, you can do it and get away with it.
First of all, the commissioner knows a lot more than I do. And I will not try to without me hearing exactly the content/context of what he said it would be tough for me to comment.
I’ve been in multiple places, and the places I’ve been I just haven’t seen it. So maybe I’m oblivious. I hear about it all the time. There’s things that annoy me sometimes at other places. But really I just try to speak for Kansas. nd I certainly would not want to respond to something that the commissioner said without knowing fully what his intent was.
You had three JUCO guys from last year’s class who didn’t wind up playing in Andrew Bolton, Marcos Jenkins-Moore and Kevin Short. Could you talk about what you saw from them in the spring and how much they’ll help you defensively especially as far as depth purposes go?
I saw a lot more out of Bolton and Short than Jenkins-Moore because Jenkins-Moore had a knee that’s taken the whole time just to recover. Bolton came in banged up and really wasn’t ready to go. And he’s a big, physical, bruising type of guy that I would have liked to have played last year. I’m glad we didn’t. Kevin has all sorts of athleticism.
And the one position that you look at our defense right now, we have a veteran secondary. So I think Kevin being thrown in with the rest of those guys in the secondary gives us a chance to be able to cover all these offenses that play fast pace and play it on space. Jake came in as a dynamic pass rusher, but I still think that that he’s a ways away at this point.
Bob Bowlsby told us a little while ago for your Southeast Missouri game you’re going to have the first female official in Big 12 history as part of the crew. Is that going to be different for you? Any change? Will you even notice? What do you anticipate with that event?
I’ll try to watch my language. I believe in the old fashioned way. So I’ll try not to use as many bad words. But it means nothing to me. It’s great that a woman is put in a position where she can be put on equal footing with the men. And if I said other than that, I’d be in trouble with my wife. So all power to her. And that’s an honest answer.
Can I ask you about Ben Heeney and kind of the big role he’s going to play this year?
I think that Ben is probably one of the more under appreciated defensive players, if not players in this league. I think that because our team has not been good for the last couple of years people don’t notice a guy like Ben Heeney. Arguably over the last couple of years other than the couple of years where he’s banged up with a knee last year he was as good as just about any player playing on defense in our league.
He reminds me a lot of Zach Thomas, middle linebacker, a little short in stature. So people, Ah, he can’t do this, all he does is plays sideline to sideline and plays with a vengeance. I don’t think anyone we plays against doesn’t think Ben Heeney is not a front line player, and I’m certainly a big fan.
Neil O’Donnell, Vinny Testaverde, Tom Brady, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, how troubling has the quarterback situation been at Kansas since you’ve been here?
I think with the nature of the offense we’ve been running from the last couple of years, I think the true dropback quarterbacks have been exposed. And that’s one of the reasons why I changed what we’re doing.
I think that the only position arguably you could say have been in Big 12 caliber for the last two years has been the running back position. And I think our running back position will be a position of strength once again even though James is gone.
But I think when you have a true dropback quarterback, when you’re playing with marginal offensive line, playing with marginal wide receivers, when you’re playing marginal every position except for running back, you get exposed.
And I think that changing the mentality on offense, going to a more spread out, wide open offense with an athletic quarterback, hides a lot of sins. And I think I’ve seen a lot of other people do it with high efficiency and I know the bottom line is if we don’t score more points we’re not going to win games.