LAWRENCE — The Kansas football program enters its season opener against South Dakota State on Saturday with plenty of question marks. But for a team that finished 2-10 overall and 0-9 in the Big 12 last season, the operative word is improvement.
So here's a question to chew on as KU prepares for its first game under first-year coach Charlie Weis: Where will the Jayhawks see the most improvement?
"I think as far as personnel goes," Weis said Monday on the Big 12 coaches teleconference, "I think there will be a drastic improvement in the defensive line."
The Jayhawks ranked 120th last season in total defense — that's dead last in the FBS, by the way — and the defensive line was regularly chewed up on the ground while not generating much of a pass rush. Weis addressed the problem in his first recruiting class, bringing in juco defensive linemen Jordan Tavai and Keon Stowers. The Jayhawks should also get a boost from junior nose tackles John Williams and Kevin Young, two players that have battled injuries during their time at KU. (The current rotation doesn't include juco transfer Ty McKinney, who is scheduled to arrive on campus on Sept. 7 and be ready to contribute at some point this season.)
The defensive line is just one piece to the puzzle. But improved play at that unit could help KU improve in other, more general, ways. Like say, being competitive on a weekly basis. And for Weis, that's the main objective.
"That's the thing that bothered me the most (about last season)," Weis said Monday, echoing a sentiment he's stated for most of the preseason. "
"I think that there were just too many games that we just weren't competitive in. And I like to think that a staple of teams that our staff is associated with ... are teams that are gonna play their (rears) off for 60 minutes. Because I think if you do that, it always gives you your best chance."
Other notes from Weis' Big 12 teleconference:
**Weis said his players were definitely ready to face a real important after what he termed a "grueling" offseason. "I think right now that school's in session, and things get calmed down into a 20-hour week," Weis said, "I think they're really looking forward to showing everyone they're not as bad as they were."
**Weis spent a few moments on South Dakota State, saying that Jackrabbits defensive end Doug Peete, a former Olathe North standout, was a versatile player who would allow South Dakota State to mix up its defensive fronts.