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
”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.