Big 12 coaches using spring to address issues

New Kansas coach Charlie Weis isn’t exaggerating when he repeats

the coaching mantra that spring practice shows how far his team is

from being ready to play actual games.

Weis took over in the offseason after the Jayhawks fell to 2-10

under departed coach Turner Gill, and it didn’t take long for him

to see why Kansas had a coaching vacancy to begin with.

The Jayhawks have issues on both sides of the ball – including

the nation’s worst defense at nearly 44 points allowed per game in

2011. Weis took spring ball as an opportunity to start fixing

what’s wrong.

”My whole mentality is you have to come into a program that’s

won two this year and didn’t win any in the conference and try and

get these guys headed in the right direction, where that’s just not

acceptable on either end. There’s a lot of work that needs to be

done,” Weis said Monday in a league-wide conference call with


Not all the coaches in the Big 12 have as much work ahead of

them. But their programs all have areas that need to be addressed

before the players depart for the summer.

It’s no surprise that quarterback tops a lot of those to-do


Baylor has perhaps the biggest hole of any team in the country

to fill behind center, with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin

III departing for the NFL. The Bears will likely fill his spot with

senior Nick Florence, who started seven games in 2009 as a freshman

when Griffin was hurt.

Though Florence hasn’t seen the field much since, Baylor coach

Art Briles isn’t concerned because of his maturity.

”He’s already graduated from college. He’s already married,”

Briles said. ”He’s got a good grasp of what’s expected of that

position from playing it, from watching (Griffin).”

At Iowa State and Oklahoma State, quarterback battles have

dominated the headlines this spring. But coaches Paul Rhoads and

Mike Gundy have very different approaches on how they’re handling


Rhoads has no problem letting the battle between senior Steele

Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett stew all the way to September.

Gundy will likely pick junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W.

Walsh or freshman Wes Lunt as the starter by the end of the week,

allowing the program to move forward with clarity at the game’s

most important spot.

”I’m not a fan of going through the summer and preseason camp

with a quarterback controversy,” Gundy said.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones chose to return for his senior

year after a disappointing 2011 season for the Sooners, who were

No. 1 in the preseason but finished 10-3 and slipped all the way

down to the Insight Bowl.

Coach Bob Stoops says he’s pleased with how Jones, whose

touchdown passes dropped from 38 in 2010 to 29 a year ago, has gone

about trying to improve all aspects of his play.

”He’s just working for improvement in every part of his game,

and that’s positive. Not unlike Sam Bradford or any of the other

guys we’ve had here of working hard to continue to polish all his

fundamentals,” Stoops said.

At Texas Tech, finding a quarterback to put up big numbers in

its pass-heavy system isn’t usually a problem.

But defense was a year ago under coach Tommy Tuberville, who

said the main focus of spring practice in Lubbock was to fix a unit

that was nearly as bad as Kansas’.

The Red Raiders lost their final five games, allowing at least

52 points in three of their last four. Tuberville said inexperience

and a lack of speed doomed Tech’s defense a year ago, but he’s

hopeful that an infusion of freshman and junior college talent will

bolster the returning cast under new coordinator Art Kaufman.

”We’ve made some strides and we needed to. We weren’t very

good,” Tuberville said. ”We will be much better (overall). But it

all depends on our defense.”

Weis said he was pleasantly surprised by the talent he

discovered that Kansas possessed at certain groups like wide

receiver and defensive back. But he said the holes the Jayhawks

have, such as defensive line, are big ones that have to be closed

as much as possible so they aren’t bringing the rest of the team


Weis said he didn’t realize Kansas had a veteran secondary, even

if it was exposed some last season.

”I think a lot of that exposure was due to the fact that they

needed to get some bigger muchachos up front,” he said.