Kansas coach Charlie Weis, the offensive coaches and the players talked with the media between their two practices on Monday.
Charlie Weis gave an update on injured right tackle Riley Spencer. Weis said Spencer tweaked his knee a week ago and should be back practicing by next Tuesday. To fill the void Gavin Howard has shifted over from right guard to right tackle, and Randall Dent has temporarily moved in as the starting guard.
Weis said having players able to play multiple positions gives them flexibility on the offensive line.
"Going into the season you are not always going to have ten guys ready to go on the offensive line so sometimes you will have to have guys who are a swing tackle," Weis said.
Howard, who is Spencer's roommate while the team stays at Naismith Hall during fall camp, said Spencer is putting in extra work to quicken his return to the field.
"On Sunday we got to sleep in for the first time until noon and he was up at 7:00 in the morning getting rehab," Howard said.
In other injury news, linebacker Anthony McDonald is still limited in practice. Ben Heeney took most of the first team snaps in place of McDonald at Saturday's practice.
"Ben's had a really nice camp," Weis said. "He's put himself in a position to play a lot."
Defensive Line Addition
Defensive lineman Jordan Tavai arrived on campus several days ago after finally completing his last junior college class. Tavai has been limited in drills while he gets up to speed after missing a week of camp. He initially weighed in at 291 pounds and has earned praise for how he handled his conditioning away from the team.
"When you are taking 900 classes and trying to schedule everything, where are you going to find time to get workouts in," Weis said. "I was expecting less than what we got. I was very happy with his conditioning."
Ty McKinney is the last player yet to arrive. He has completed all of his work for his junior college class, now he has to wait for the teacher to grade it all before he can take his final.
Weis hopes that it will take place in the next few days but doesn't have an exact date.
"He's ready to take the final and get his butt here," Weis said. "He's anxious. Coming here will be easy for him, it will be the easiest thing he has done in months just coming here and getting involved with us."
Running Back Competition
Weis also commented on who is in the lead as the starting every down back. James Sims would take that spot but he is suspended for the first three games of the year. Tony Pierson is still billed as a specialty back because of his smaller size. That leaves Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon and it appears Cox has a slight edge because of his production so far in fall camp. Weis said he has a simple rule when judging talent.
"The safest thing you can do when evaluating players is go by what you see and not by reputation," Weis said.
Charlie Weis Q&A
On the depth chart at center:
"I think the two criteria at the center position are intelligence and toughness. The kid (Dylan Admire) is a 4.0 student. I am blessed with the guys that were already here to have both (Trevor) Marrongelli and (Dylan) Admire being way up there academically. I think that the center position, more than any position on the offensive line, you need someone with that high intelligence. What he gives up in girth he makes up for it, because he is tough and he is smart. I would have no problem playing him (Admire)."
On the plan to turn the program around:
"The plan is exactly the same. It starts in strength and conditioning. That is where the whole mindset is set. The whole thing is about playing with toughness and being competitive. That is where you have to start. Before you can talk about X's and O's and all that other stuff like how much better everyone looks and what kind of shape they are in. Are they going to play with toughness? Are they going to play for 60 minutes? Are they going to play competitively? I think if you do all those things, even if there is a talent discrepancy, you have a chance."
On the progress the team has made in the offseason:
"We have made significant progress, but that is all great until Sept. 1 rolls around. Then it is a whole new set of encyclopedias. I guess they don't even make encyclopedias anymore, so that shows my age. That is a whole new story. I am pleased with a lot of different elements of our team. We are still ranked the last team in a tough conference. We have a lot of work ahead of us to start raising the bar."
On the battle for No. 2 QB:
"Mike Cummings is still a little bit ahead. Neither one of them have played terrible. Neither one of them has played great. Michael has such a big arm though and he has the nudge, because he was here in the spring time when we put it in. Both Turner Baty and Michael have gotten better and if I had to pick somebody to play a game right now, Michael would still have the edge over Turner. It is a competition, not just a lock-down deal."
On the philosophy of redshirting a player:
"If a guy can help us win, they are playing. We will worry about redshirts down the road. Let's take Tre' Parmalee for example. You guys were there the other day. He had three big plays on the day. I told you two weeks ago when I talked about him. Everyone thought I was just throwing it out there for the heck of it. I said, `this is what the kid has been doing. The whole camp has been like this.' If the kid is maybe not in the two-deep, but he is two- and-a-half. Maybe you don't really need to use him. Let's sit him, because we have all these senior wide receivers. Can you tell me that everyone is going to stay healthy and that I am not going to need the guy? I don't know what is going to end up happening, so I tell all these guys when I first get them. `Don't plan on sitting, plan on playing and we will make a value judgment probably after the fourth game.' After we have gotten through the first four and we get to the bye week after Northern Illinois, we will probably make a value judgment at that point on guys that we would like to try and save, if they haven't played at that time. I am not worrying about it going in. If I need Tre' Parmalee in the first game against South Dakota State, then I am going to play him and that will just get him better for next year when those other guys are already gone."
On what senior wide receiver Kale Pick brings to the offense:
"If I had to rate the performances in camp, he would rate No. 1, if I had to rate performances in camp. I am not saying that he is our best receiver, but if you had to rate performances in camp, he would rate No. 1. Out of 105 guys, he would rate one. He is first guy that I would put up there if I was going to rate performances in camp. He has a great work ethic, but there are a lot of guys who have great work ethic. He has made plays, it is always great when the wide receiver makes plays. I was just talking to the scout from the [Carolina] Panthers a while ago and I said, `he is just a guy that you want on your team. He does all the little things. He takes notes, pays attention to everything you say, he is doing the little extra things.' He is a guy that you don't have to worry about him. He would play on every special team's play, if you let him play on every special team's play. He is an interesting prospect that was a quarterback two years ago. To be where he is and have his skills as a receiver that is pretty good on his part."
On his goals for this year:
"I have said before, obviously the goal is to win as many games as you possibly can. That goes without saying. I haven't set a number, at least publically I haven't, internally I have one, but I could never tell you. Most importantly I think, as I have said many times before, there are just too many games that the team was out of last year. We have to get away from that. We have to get to where people say. `What happened to those guys? That used to an easy win.' We want them to start worrying about playing you and not just saying it to be politically correct. There are already coaches in the league that, because I am here, don't want to say something degrading. So they say, `Well, Kansas will be much improved.' They don't really mean that, they are just saying it to sound good. It has got to get to the point where they start worrying and hopefully that will happen this year and not next year. We are not looking for that to be a three-year project to get to that point. We are looking for that to occur this year."