University of Kansas

KU’s Charlie Weis shakes up offensive coaching responsibilities

Updated: 2013-10-16T04:32:12Z

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

— By the time Charlie Weis settled into a seat next to his son on the Kansas team bus, he knew something had to change. It was Saturday, and the Jayhawks had just lost their 23rd straight Big 12 game, falling 27-17 to TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

Weis’ offense had struggled again, scratching out just 198 yards. As he sat down next to his son, Charlie Jr., a student manager, the ride was permeated by silence.

“I don’t think I said two words to him,” Weis said. “And I sit there, and all I’m going through is ‘What can I do?’”

Three days later, after some reflecting, Weis unveiled his latest plan to spark a stale offense, shaking up the coaching responsibilities for the unit. Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus will now oversee the passing game, while tight ends coach Jeff Blasko will be in charge of the running game. The changes will allow Weis to take a more hands-on role in coaching the Jayhawks’ specific skill positions. And he’ll remain the Jayhawks’ offensive coordinator.

“I felt like I had to back off a little bit,” Weis said, “or else we were never gonna get any better. And it’s not easy for me to do it that way.”

Weis had designed a similar power structure for the defense during the offseason. Linebackers coach Clint Bowen, who had more experience defending spread offenses, was enlisted to run the defense at the ground level, while defensive coordinator Dave Campo retained his title and took on a more advisory role.

The change has paid dividends thus far; the new scheme has put more heat on opposing quarterbacks, and the KU defense has made measurable progress over the last year.

“I sat back,” Weis said, “and said, ‘Lookit: I was willing to do it with Dave, why am I not willing to do it with myself?’”

After the loss at TCU, which dropped KU to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12, it appears Weis reached a breaking point. Something had to change.

“I really don’t care about my ego,” Weis said. “I just wanna get better and win.”

Of course, if you’re looking for a wholesale change in scheme when Kansas faces No. 18 Oklahoma on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, you might not see it. The framework of the offense will remain in place, but Weis is hoping for a better exchange of ideas and more input from his assistant coaches.

Weis will also be sitting in on position meetings with the Jayhawks’ skill groups, another change from the old way.

“I’m gonna get much more involved in the coaching of the skill positions, which I think has been lacking,” Weis said. “I’ve been a position coach at all these positions — quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver — on the NFL level for multiple years. And I think some of the areas where we’re deficient at, I think that I can lend a hand and improve.”

Weis also remains hopeful that the staff changes could give a lift to the passing game, which has been a season-long issue. Junior quarterback Jake Heaps has completed just 52.6 percent of his passes while throwing five touchdowns and six interceptions. And Powlus believes that part of the problem is that Heaps is simply trying a little too hard to be perfect.

“He does strain,” Powlus said. “The kid is in tears after every game if we’re not winning. He strains so hard to make the offense work.”

On Monday, when the coaching staff met to discuss the game plan for this week, Weis said he began by asking Powlus and Blasko for their ideas. It wasn’t all that different than usual, Powlus says, but for Weis, it was a clear sign: The status quo can’t continue.

“I’ve always believed our offense is run through the quarterback,” Weis said, “and nobody knows what our quarterbacks can and can’t do any better than Ron.”

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com.

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