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April 9, 2013On Tuesday, Kansas coach Charlie Weis conducted his last press conference before the spring game.
To start, let's look at the trenches. Weis said that nose tackle Keon Stowers and buck linebacker/rush end Chris Martin have been the two most productive players out of anybody on both the offensive and defensive lines.
"With Martin we can't block him with just one lineman," Weis said. "Keon is in the backfield every time you turn around. He is lightning quick and plays with enthusiasm. He's infectious to be around and he has been as good as it gets."
As for the linebacker position, one of the players Weis singled out for the biggest improvement in that group through spring practice was Ben Heeney. Weis said Heeney was someone he was initially disappointed with at the start of spring camp. Heeney had led the team in tackles last year but Weis isn't overly impressed with that accomplishment.
"I think he felt good that he had `a zillion' tackles last year," Weis said. "I reminded him that `a zillion' tackles on a team that went 1-11 helped put things back in perspective. I think, as of late, he has been on a very big rise. He has been playing, clearly above, everybody else at his position right now."
As for the secondary, Weis said the most consistent player that makes the fewest mistakes is Cassius Sendish. He talked up the potential of Dexter McDonald and Jacorey Shepherd, but also stressed that they have three junior college players coming in the summer that will likely be in the mix.
"The change from last year's secondary to this year's secondary will probably be as dramatic as any position on the team," Weis said.
On the offensive side, a major factor for the run game's success this year depends on how well the new faces on the offensive line mesh together after losing three seniors. Weis said that in certain areas the run blocking will be improved compared to last year. Mike Smithburg who has been moved to center and guard Ngalu Fusimalohi are two players who should contribute by the time the season starts in September. Their production likely has been hindered somewhat this spring due to being new to the system and learning the offense. At the other guard spot it's a battle between Randall Dent and Damon Martin.
Weis described Pat Lewandowski's strengths at left tackle catered more towards pass blocking. Senior Riley Spencer's name got a mention as a player who has lately put together a string of good practices and could challenge for playing time at one of the tackle spots. Tackle Brian Beckmann is another player who has earned more reps at practices recently. While he likely won't be starting this year his improvement was a surprise to Weis.
"I thought he was much further away than where he is," Weis said. "He shows a lot of promise to be honest with you."
At wide receiver the starters for the spring game will likely be Justin McCay and Christian Matthews, but expect running back Tony Pierson to be used more as a receiving threat this year.
"Tony is still the most dynamic running back we have and the problem is he might be the most dynamic receiver we have as well," Weis said. "He has shown in a short period of time that he can run legitimate routes and catch the ball and most importantly he can get open."
Finally the style of offense will likely depend on which quarterback is on the field. If it is Heaps then Weis said you could see more drop-back passes and if it is Michael Cummings it will be more run based and play-action action plays. The assistant coaches will divide up to manage the two teams. Weis will be up in the booth observing all the action.
"If I am sitting up in the box and see people on the sidelines not paying attention--that is the kind of stuff I will be looking for," Weis said. "I look at the guys in the game, as well as the guys on the sideline. For example, we had this long scrimmage on Saturday. One of the things I really liked was the enthusiasm on the defensive sideline. I am calling the plays from the golf cart behind the line of scrimmage, and I felt the enthusiasm on the defensive sideline. That does not mean they were winning the scrimmage, but I felt the enthusiasm and those types of things are important to me."