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April 20, 2013

KU will have different offensive threats

Charlie Weis said his favorite day of the football season is Monday. That is preparation day. There is no practice for the players. That is the day the offensive scheme for that week is put in place. Weis will start looking over the opposing defensive film on Sunday and then draw his plan on Monday.

Last year several defensive coordinators and head coaches in the Big 12 credited Weis for coming up with something new each week. Although the offense lacked consistency the team found a way to move the ball and stay in half of their conference games until the last possession.

This year could be a different story.

Last season they devised different run blocking schemes, used different looks from the Jayhawk formation, and leaned on the running game. It produced the Big 12's leading rusher in James Sims. Weis went to his strength, which was mainly the running game.

Fast forward to the 2013 season.

The Kansas offense is going to have different ways to move the football. Jake Heaps was a cool 20-of-28 in the spring game. He made quick decisions. He gets the ball out quick. He's already taken over with his leadership skills.

Heaps is very familiar with what is looking like his favorite target Justin McCay. Just three years ago the two played on the West squad at the Army All-American game. McCay was catching passes from Heaps before they ever got to Kansas. Heaps was the number one rated pro-style quarterback and McCay was the sixth ranked athlete.

Last season Heaps and McCay were building chemistry and getting their timing down on the scout team. Both had to sit out last season and that may be a blessing.

"Justin has been hanging out with Jake for some time now," Weis said. "You can't underestimate chemistry. Jake knows where to throw it and where Justin will be."

Another area that opposing defenses will have to account for is tight end. Jimmay Mundine caught two touchdown passes from Heaps in the spring game. Mundine has always shown the ability to make plays. He adds another dimension to the offense.

Everyone knows about Sims. Last season he led the Big 12 in rushing. He looks even leaner than year and possibly a half step quicker. Sims has already proved what he can do.

That brings us to the wild card- Tony Pierson.

In the spring game Pierson lined up all over the field. He's dangerous with the ball. He is among the most explosive weapons in the conference. In the off-season Weis decided to add wide receiver to Pierson's resume. He can get the ball out several different formations.

"What you've seen is him line up in the backfield in two back sets and line up in the backfield in one back sets," Weis said. "Then line up out of the backfield and motion into backfield to run a speed sweep. And then line up as wide receiver. Now, we haven't lined up him in the backfield and motioned out. Well we have done that, just nobody has seen it."

Pierson gives the offense flexibility. He gives them a look that defensive coordinators will have to account for.

"He can play both positions now because he has been trained in the off season," Weis said. "The question now comes if you are a defensive coordinator. What is number 3 (Pierson) when he goes on the field. Is he a back? Or is he a wide receiver? When you put him out there with a tight end and three wide receivers, does that mean they will be in empty with four wide receivers (called 01 personnel). Or does is that 11 with him as the halfback? That's the decision they have to make.

"When he and James are out there together will they treat it as 21 (2 RB, 1 TE) or 11 (1 RB, 1 TE)? 21 is totally different than 11 to the defense."

The offense is going to give Heaps more options. There are more players on the field this year that will present match-up problems for the defense. Heaps likes the make-up and what the versatility of Pierson adds.

"It is huge," Heaps said. "It's an impossible task because we can line him wherever we want and use him in any capacity we want. It is going to be a lot of fun to see how he does. It's great to be able to throw a little swing pass and have someone that can go to the house. That makes my job easy."

The Jayhawks have demonstrated they have new play-makers. They will use several schemes and formations we have yet to see. The biggest question may be the offensive line. Expect the coaches to find the pieces to the puzzle in the off-season and get the right mix.

Weis was creative last year. Expect even more this season.

In the spring game they even showed a hurry-up offense getting the signals from the sideline. That was a new wrinkle they didn't show last year.

"That's the fun part is a guy that gets to scheme with all of that," Weis said.



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