Spanning the Big 12: five questions with Lawrence Journal-World beat writer Matt Tait
Continuing our series checking in with the beat writers who cover Oklahoma State’s conference opponents as we march closer to the start of college football season.
Kansas with Lawrence Journal-World beat writer Matt Tait
Here’s our exchange:
Gina Mizell: What was the initial reaction from fans to the hiring of Charlie Weis, and has that changed in the months since? What about this job attracted him to it?
Matt Tait: Some were upset about it and some were left scratching their heads. In the months since, most have been converted. I think people were afraid of what they were getting because they only knew of Weis’ reputation at Notre Dame. But he’s been great since he took over here and his emphasis on discipline, accountability and honesty has really won over a lot of the fans. Now, they’re thrilled to have a guy of his caliber running their program. As for why he took the job, I think it’s simple: KU gives him the opportunity to do things his way at a place that has a lot of positive elements in place (Allen Fieldhouse, the football building, etc.) and also gives him the chance to prove that his “struggles” at Notre Dame were a fluke. He’s said over and over that he loves that KU was 2-10 last year because there’s no place to go but up from there.
GM: How effective can new quarterback Dayne Crist be in this offense? Does he have enough talent around him?
MT: Crist can be good. Really good. And it all depends on if they can protect him and keep him out there for 12 games. He knows the offense inside and out, has the trust of his head coach and has enough talent around him to turn KU’s offense into a pretty solid group. For starters, there are a few play-makers on the offensive side of the ball, most notably sophomore running back Tony Pierson and senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson, who missed most of 2011 because of injury. Those two are a threat to score every time they touch the ball. Beyond that, though, there is quality depth on the Kansas offense. The running back position is at least three deep with front-line talent and there are nearly a dozen wide receivers vying for meaningful snaps. Add to that a variety of talent at tight end, including Notre Dame transfer Mike Ragone, and you’re looking at a group that could be pretty efficient and productive this season.
GM: Obviously, this team was poor in a lot of areas a season ago. Where are the Jayhawks most likely to improve this season? Why?
MT: The biggest area in which KU will look different is how they line up. Too often during the past two seasons, players did not know what plays they were running and were dancing around all over the place when the ball was snapped. Not only did that lead to some awful performances but it was also an obvious indicator to the fans that the Jayhawks did not know what they were doing. That’s on the coaches and this group of new coaches will not let that happen. Crist alone makes the offense much more dangerous and the defense, though still a work in progress, should take a couple of steps forward and look a lot more like the solid defenses KU fans grew to love under Mark Mangino.
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