Weis ready to see Kansas in first spring game
By DAVE SKRETTA
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Different coaches want different things out of the annual spring game.
Some view it as little more than glorified practice, a chance to hit (but not too hard) while running at full speed (but not too fast). Other coaches want to see how their players perform with people in the seats, with at least some of the pressure that comes in a real game.
Kansas coach Charlie Weis wants a little of both on Saturday.
"I wouldn't call it a glorified scrimmage because it's going to be more than that, I think," Weis said this week. "I think you just want to line up and give them a chance to run."
And give them a chance to impress Weis.
There are more questions than ever surrounding the Jayhawks heading into next season, and at least a few of them promise to be revealed when they step inside Memorial Stadium.
Dayne Crist will be the No. 1 quarterback after the former elite recruit transferred in after the fall semester. He's eligible to play this fall because he's already graduated from Notre Dame, and he should instantly upgrade the most important position on the field.
Provided he lives up to the massive expectations he had coming out of high school, rather than struggling like he did during his injury-marred career with the Fighting Irish.
Jake Heaps will get reps as the backup quarterback after transferring in from BYU, even though he'll be forced to sit out this fall. Wide receiver Justin McCay will also get a look after he joined the program from Oklahoma, even though he's still awaiting the NCAA's decision on an appeal to play this fall after his waiver for a personal hardship was initially denied.
The newcomers aren't the only guys out to make a statement.
There are plenty of position battles up and down the lineup, including at running back, where James Sims is expected to be No. 1 on the depth chart but has been suspended for the start of the season for violating unspecified team rules.
There is a glaring hole at tight end, although two transfers expected to play in the fall have yet to arrive on campus. And a deep but untested wide receiver corps will try to shake out, especially if McCay - arguably the most talented of the bunch - is ineligible this fall.
"When you come to a team that's lost the last couple of years, you don't know what you've got," said Weis, who took over after Turner Gill was fired following a 2-10 season.
One of the reasons for the Jayhawks' downfall was their inability to stop anybody.
Kansas allowed nearly 44 points per game, 225 yards on the ground and more than 300 yards through the air, all ranking in the bottom three of the Big 12.
Weis reached out to former Cowboys coach Dave Campo, a defensive guru, to help turn things around. Campo has a few pieces already in place as he attempts to shore up the unit, but he's just as eager as anybody to see what he has when the whistle blows and guys go full speed.
"I think you learn more about your guys when they go live," Campo said. "It will be about individuals still - `This guy had a great spring game,' rather than, `This group had a great spring game.' `This guy did a great job. He showed us something in the game.' So it is an evaluation, and there is no better evaluation than seeing it live, no matter how you do it."
How the Jayhawks plan to do it goes something like this.
The team, assistant coaches included, has been split by Weis into two groups that will play against each other wearing blue and white jerseys. Specialists will wear an alternate color, as will defensive linemen, who will play for both teams because of a lack of depth.
There will be no kickoffs or returns, with the ball placed at the 30 to start each half or after scores. Punts will be fair caught or allowed to roll around until the ball is downed.
The game will still be four 15-minute quarters, but the clock will only stop for timeouts and injuries, except for the last two minutes of the half, giving the offensive on either side the opportunity to run the hurry-up offense in a true game situation.
"I'd like to see us defensively run around a little bit. I'd like to see us offensively sling it around a bit. I'd like to run it in there in the red zone when people are stacking you up and daring you to run it," Weis said. "Those are the kinds of things that I'd like to see."
Updated April 28, 2012