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March 27, 2013
Notebook: Postion battles heat up
One of the positions that is a big question mark going into next season is left tackle. Charlie Weis believes Pat Lewandowski has a high ceiling and is getting better. We have more on KU football.
One position a lot of KU football fans are keeping a close eye on is left tackle. One player that has a chance to win the job is Pat Lewandowski. The former Blue Valley West product recently made the switch from defense to offense.
"When we moved Pat (Lewandowski) from defense to offense, he probably had the best feet of any of our lineman," said head coach Charlie Weis.
Lewandowski made the change and immediately started with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple. He added weight to his frame and is currently listed at 6-5 ½ and 287 pounds. His athleticism made him a prime target to make the switch.
"Adding all that weight should help with his aggressiveness," Weis said. "He has a high-ceiling that he has not even come close to yet. His feet already put him in position to be successful there. He is up significantly in weight as he is right around 290 pounds now and when he originally flipped positions, he weighed only 260 pounds. He still has plenty of room for growth, but he is becoming a much better football player."
Attitude change on offense
Last season the Kansas offense turned to their ground game and it was successful. It could pay off more this season because it taught the offense to change their mentality. A lot of football coaches will tell you running the ball with success is all about attitude.
"Other teams knew we were running the ball, and we still ran the ball with some efficiency," Weis said. "We became a much tougher football team, because we clearly became tougher up front."
Kansas had two of the top rushers in the Big 12 with James Sims and Tony Pierson. Weis hopes the success of the ground game and the effort carries over to the upcoming season.
"We have a changing of the guard and different players have to step up," he said. "We need to have guys with that mentality that we aren't going to drop off at any one position, and in turn, we will get much better with our pass-protection."
Weis hopes to be at Kansas for long time
Last season wasn't easy on Weis, the coaches, or the players. The first order of business was getting the program back to square one. That meant removing 29 players from the roster. Weis said it wasn't a culture change that was needed as much as cleaning out the program.
"It's not changing the culture it's cleaning out the program," Weis said. "Cleaning out the program meant top-to-bottom. If you don't want to be here, leave. I could care less whether you're here or not. Either you're a Kansas guy, or you're not a Kansas guy."
Once Weis got his players in the program a big change happened off the field. In his first semester as the head coach the team compiled the best GPA in program history. In the fall they recorded the best GPA during the season in the team's history.
"It was the expectations in the classroom, it was the expectations socially," Weis said. "We got rid of 29 guys. A lot of them were guys that were really playing."
To get Kansas back to where he wants to go Weis realized early on what needed to be done. He doesn't have any plans to leave Lawrence quickly.
"I didn't choose to leave Notre Dame, they chose that for me," Weis said. "I went to the Chiefs and my daughter had a bad experience there, so that's why we left. I went to Florida and really had no intentions of leaving. after talking to Dr. (Sheahon) Zenger a few times, I just felt like this was a place that I wanted to be, and want to be for a long time. If I want to be here for a long time, there are a lot of things that have to change. One them is we have to start winning more football games. That would be a good place to get to this year."
Battle brewing at linebacker
When the depth chart came out before spring football it was obvious nobody was going to be handed a position. Several junior college players who just arrived appeared on the two deep.
One surprise came Tuesday when Weis said Darius Willis was having a good camp and not conceding his spot to Ben Heeney. Last season Heeney was one of the top tacklers in the Big 12.
Last season Willis was moved to defensive end. But after the defense switched up its alignment Willis moved back to linebacker. In 2011 he led the Jayhawks in tackles.
"I'm very encouraged with Darius," Weis said. "He worked his butt off. He's pushing (Ben) Heeney. It's not a run-away with Heeney in first. He's pushing him for playing time. It's been a nice competition and I've been very pleased with Willis."