Special-team problems still dog Kansas

10/26/2012 4:11 PM

08/05/2014 9:40 PM

In his first season at Kansas, Charlie Weis has established himself as a coach that will go to great — maybe even goofy — lengths to address a problem.

When KU was short on kicking options earlier this year, Weis scoured the campus for options, even digging up a kid who had experience playing Australian Rules football and giving him an informal tryout.

“They couldn’t kick a football,” Weis said of the would-be kickers. “They forgot it was a little different.”

But in his first season, Weis has also cemented himself as a coach who isn’t shy about calling out problems, either. After watching last week’s 52-7 smackdown at Oklahoma, Weis took aim at the Jayhawks’ shoddy special-teams work.

Kansas allowed a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns, and the Jayhawks’ own kick-return game was uninspiring for another week. In seven games, Kansas is averaging 17.5 yards on kickoff returns, 108th in the nation.

It led to Weis instituting an altered strategy with special-teams coordinator Clint Bowen: All hands on deck — starters included.

“He knows he’s got a free reign to put whoever out there,” Weis said. “And he doesn’t have to ask for my permission.”

Weis says the Jayhawks’ problems in the kicking game — on kickoffs and field goals — has magnified issues in other parts of the special teams. Junior Ron Doherty made 5 of 10 field goals before being replaced by sophomore Nick Prolago. And the kicking issues have handcuffed an already punchless offense.

Before the season, Weis suggested that many of his regulars would have to log time on special teams. The Jayhawks just did not have the depth, he said. And if KU put some of its better athletes on special teams, maybe that could give them a small advantage in one facet of the game. Well, it sounded good in theory.

But it has made the struggles a little harder to stomach. Like many of KU’s problems, Weis believes some of this will be corrected in recruiting. More athletes on the roster mean more bodies for special teams — and maybe more success.

“On special teams, very often it comes down to just a guy making a play,” Weis said. “You’re there, you’re covering the whole field and you have to make one, whether it’s a kickoff return or a punt return or whatever it ends up being. Sometimes it’s one-on-one and you beat a block and now you have to go make the play.”

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