Top Seven, Eleven of ’15

As I’m loaded on liquid painkillers impatiently waiting for the sores in my throat to heal, I’m, like many people right now, reflecting on how fast 2015 flew by. I could write an entire book on my life and everything that happened in 2015. In the future, I’ll probably do something like that, but for now, I’ll spare you. For now, I’ll do a couple listicles.

The first one, about my life in general.

I feel that my most liked pictures on Instagram highlighted the overarching themes of my year.

  • My wonderful roommate Robert baked chocolate chip cookies for James and I, who were having ridiculously stressful semesters. He left a note: “You seem stressed. Have a cookie (or two).”
  • My mom and I took a photo together at Santa Anita Park in Santa Anita, Calif. On Oct. 24. We were in California celebrating my winning of the Jim Murray Memorial Award. She was diagnosed with breast cancer four days later.
  • I was accepted into the International Journalism study abroad program in Stirling, Scotland.
  • I snapped a photo of the historic Balmoral Hotel in the city centre of Edinburgh, Scotland through the window of our hostel. There was real no particular reason for it… I just thought the view was stunning.
  • My most liked photo on Instagram was an #artsy (not really) photo of an In-N-Out Burger and animal fries.
  • I ran from end zone to end zone at the Rose Bowl. In jeans.
  • I found out who my amazing little is. I love her with all of my heart.
  • I moved into a new place.
  • I hiked up a mini-mountain in Scotland… not quite a hill, not quite a mountain… and an accidental, super stereotypical photo was taken. I’m so not mad about it.

The overarching theme for those things? 2015 had lots of stress. 2015 had lots of love. I traveled over 15,000 miles in 2015. I ate tons of food in 2015. I made so many new friends in 2015. And there were lots of changes in 2015. Would I change that for the world? Not a chance.

Listicle two? My top seven of ’15:

I’ve written over 200 articles in 2015(!), but here are my seven favorites from the year.

  1. Cliff Cushman: a Jayhawk, an Olympian and an MIA veteran
  2. For Tiana Dockery, a volleyball career built on honoring a best friend’s memory
  3. Retired radio announcer Max Falkenstien reflects on the history of Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas basketball
  4. Dalton State (Ga.) College wins NAIA DI Championship
  5. Kansas forward Perry Ellis takes long path to 1,000 points
  6. The Rally: how Kansas volleyball survived 5 set points and advanced to the Sweet 16
  7. Stanford beats Clemson 4-0 in NCAA men’s soccer final

Listicle three? My other favorite pieces of sports journalism from 2015:

Student Journalism:

Professional Journalism:

 

 

 

Cliff Cushman: a Jayhawk, an Olympian and an MIA Veteran

This column is what I submitted for the Jim Murray Memorial Award in 2015. I, along with five other extremely talented student journalists from around the country, were selected as winners. At this time, this is not intended for reprint.

***

Cliff Cushman: a Jayhawk, an Olympian and an MIA Veteran

Cliff Cushman wanted to buy life insurance. The healthy, 27-year-old wanted to purchase a $25,000 policy, but was turned away.

Five days earlier, the Air Force pilot received his orders. He was going to Vietnam.

Just five years before, in the summer of 1960, Cushman competed at the United States Olympic Trials against the best of the best in the 400-meter hurdles. The top six finished within 0.9 seconds of one another. Cushman finished third, and took the last United States spot for the Olympic Games in Rome.

All three Americans—Glenn Davis, Dick Howard and Cushman—advanced to the finals. Glenn Davis clinched the Olympic record and the gold medal by two-tenths of a second, with Cushman earning the silver medal, and Howard finishing third.

At the University of Kansas, Cushman earned All-American status in 1959 for his NCAA runner-up performance in the 400-meter hurdles. In that same year, Kansas won its first NCAA Championship in track and field. The following season, in 1960, just months before the Olympics, Cushman captained the 1960 Kansas squad and one-upped his performance at the NCAA Championships from the season before, winning the 400-meter hurdles. That performance led Kansas to its second-straight national title.

Cliff Cushman. Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald

Cliff Cushman. Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald

Cushman received his orders for Vietnam around Thanksgiving Day 1965 and almost immediately attempted to purchase a life insurance policy in order to help out his young wife and newborn son in case he didn’t return. Cushman wanted Bill Dotson, an insurance agent for New York Life at the time, to draft him an insurance policy. Dotson was a long-time friend of Cushman’s. The two were teammates and did nearly everything from flying planes to running together.

But Dotson couldn’t write Cushman a policy. Insurance companies were not allowed to draft policies for men who had received their orders. Going to Vietnam was a death sentence.

“That’s the first time I ever saw him worried,” Dotson said in a recent interview. “I think his mind was telling him, ‘Maybe I’m not coming back.’”

Dotson said watching Cushman run was like looking at piece of art. “When he ran over those hurdles, it was amazing. He was so smooth. He had such a powerful stride. His form was almost perfect. Every time he went out there, you knew he was going to win.”

Except for the last time.

September 13, 1964: The thermometer registered at 70 degrees at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and Cushman’s hopes at winning the 1964 Olympic gold in the 400-meter hurdles lay with him on the cinder track. Cushman had done something he rarely did: Fall.

He came over the fifth hurdle too low, catching his shoe on the top of the hurdle. Cushman was badly bruised and couldn’t finish the race.

He wrote the “Letter to Youth” after the end of his track and field career.

“Don’t feel sorry for me. I feel sorry for some of you!” Cushman wrote. “In a split second all the many years of training, pain, sweat, blisters and agony of running were simply and irrevocably wiped out. But I tried! I would much rather fail knowing I had to put forth an honest effort than never to have tried at all.”

Dotson said whatever Cushman was called to do, he would go out and do it.

Less than a month after being stationed in Vietnam, on September 25, 1966, Captain Clifton Cushman took the air for the last time. He piloted an F-105D, the only aircraft in U.S. military history to be pulled from combat for high mortality rates.

Cushman and two other pilots were conducting a combat mission during the afternoon to bomb a railroad bridge. “Devil 2” was Cushman’s call sign.

Once they had pulled off the target, Cushman radioed that he had been hit by enemy fire and his fire warning light had come on.

One of the other pilots on the mission saw Cushman’s plane burst into flames and break into several pieces, as Cushman ejected. He was never seen or heard from again.

His plane crashed into a remote area, making his recovery impossible. He was listed as missing in action. He maintained that status until Nov. 6, 1975, when he was declared dead. His body was never recovered.

Even though Cushman never made it home, his legacy remains.

His full name, Clifton Emmet Cushman, is etched in the native Kansas limestone that makes up the Vietnam War Memorial at the University of Kansas. His name lives on at his high school in North Dakota, whose football stadium bears his name. His memory lives on with Dotson, who said he always tries to talk to Cushman right before he goes to sleep.

He’ll always be remembered for the two NCAA Championships he helped win, for the individual national title he brought home, for the Olympic silver medal he earned in Rome, and for his ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.

50 years later, people are still living up to one of his philosophies:

“Do something worthwhile with your life. If you’re going to do it, do it in a way you’ll be noted for.”

The Battle for the Governor’s Cup

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog on November 30th, 2013

The Sunflower Showdown is the storied rivalry between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas State Wildcats. They meet for the 111th time in the 2013 edition of rivalry week. Being the 14th most played game in the country, the Governor’s Cup is no joke. The rivalry dates back to 1902, where the Jayhawks won 16-0. Kansas won the opening four games of the rivalry. In the early days of the rivalry, Kansas was dominant. From 1902 to 1923 Kansas only lost once, in 1906 by a score of 6-4. There were three ties as well (1916 0-0, 1922 7-7, 1923-0-0).

For all time results, Kansas leads 65-40-5. However, in the recent years (from 1969 to now), the Wildcats have the winning record of 24-19-1. Kansas State has won the past four matchups against the Jayhawks, the past three being blowouts. The last time Kansas beat K-State was in front of one of the biggest recorded crowds for the Sunflower Showdown. Kansas handily won against the Wildcats in 2008, 52-21, with a crowd of 52,230 cheering the Jayhawks on to victory.

What’s Kansas dealing with today? The 3-8 Jayhawks host a 6-5 bowl eligible K-State team. Both teams were dealt losses last week. Kansas lost to Iowa State in the frigid tundra of Ames, where K-State lost at home to the Sooners of Oklahoma. Kansas has a hard game ahead of them, even though the Wildcats aren’t ranked. K-State boasts 70th in the FBS for passing yards, averaging 226 per game. They’re ranked even higher in the country for rushing yards as well at 57th, running an average of 177.9 yards a game.

The offense knows how to put points on the board, averaging 33.6 points a game, having them ranked 42nd in the country. Their defense? They know how to stop an offense, that’s for sure.  The Wildcats hold their opponents to an average of 24.9 points per game, ranking the 48th in the country. The star of their defense, Ryan Mueller, leads the Big 12 in sacks and tackles for loss. With 55 tackles on the year, he has 17 that happened behind the line of scrimmage, ranking him eighth nationally.

Kansas State has a good quarterback at the helm of their offense.The 6’1” junior from Council Bluffs, IA has thrown just over 2,000 yards on the season for 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions, where five of those came in the first three weeks of the season. In just November alone, Jake Waters has thrown six touchdown passes. His longest pass of the season was a 90-yard long shot last week against Oklahoma. Waters’ main target is Tyler Lockett. He’s had six 100-yard games this season, including two games where he broke the 200 yard mark (237-Texas, 278-Oklahoma). He’s not just a wideout though, he’s K-State’s leading returner as well.

How is Kansas going to strike back? It’s James Sims’ last game as a Jayhawk. He has 325 yards in the last two games. He’s undoubtedly one of the best running backs in Kansas history. He is the first in Kansas history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He’s just the third to break 3,500 career yards. His career best? 211 yards in a game against West Virginia two weeks ago.

Senior day in Kansas is going to be a difficult one, because after this game, the Jayhawks lose linebacker Prinz Kande, wide receiver Josh Ford, defensive lineman Jordan Tavai, wide receiver Christian Matthews, punter/kicker Ron Doherty, safety Dexter Linton, running back James Sims,  running back Taylor Cox, tight end Nick Sizemore, cornerback Deron Dangerfield, buck Darius Willis, long snapper Zackary Young, offensive lineman Randall Dent, offensive lineman Gavin Howard, offensive lineman Riley Spencer, tight end Charles Brooks, wide receiver Nick Harwell, defensive lineman Kevin Young, defensive lineman Shane Smith, and defensive lineman Keba Agostinho.

With all the seniors playing their last game, who knows what could happen? Will their emotions get the best of them? Will they channel their emotions into victory?

The cold, Cozart, and concussions

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog November 21, 2013.

One thing is for certain: it’s going to be a brisk evening in Ames on Saturday.  The weather channel has a high of 24 during the day with a low of nine (yes, single digits). That isn’t taking into account the wind chill that will be associated with the north-northwest winds that will be blowing steady around 17 miles per hour.

Weis said that he discussed the weather situation with the players after Tuesday’s practice and that’s the end of the conversation. He doesn’t want to hear the players complaining about the weather. Kansas hasn’t played in frigid temperatures yet this season, which is fortunate for the Jayhawks, until now.

The weather isn’t the only change this week for the Kansas squad. Freshman Montell Cozart was listed at the top of the depth chart in the quarterback position. This came as no surprise, considering he took every snap in last week’s victory over West Virginia, leaving junior Jake Heaps on the sideline.

“Jake—how he has handled Montell has been one of the biggest blessings we’ve dealt with,” Weis said.

Unfortunately, there’s another change, but something that Kansas has known well. Tony Pierson, the star receiver for the Jayhawks, has already missed four games this season and he’s could miss more. He has had signs of concussion three times during the season.

“In the age of concussions, somebody has to make a stand,” Weis said, remarking on why Pierson wasn’t listed on the depth chart this week.

“The best thing for Tony’s health, therefore the right thing to do, instead of coming out and putting him down on the depth chart… at the end of the day, the right thing for me and the training staff to sit there and say ‘Tony, you might be able to go, but you’re sitting down the next two weeks. We’re going to make sure this head of yours clears up,’” Weis elaborated.

Unfortunately for Kansas, Pierson will be doubtful to return on the field for the last two games of the season. Which will give him plenty of time to recover for spring ball.

Playing Pierson in these next two games could be risking something much more than the game of football; it would be risking Pierson’s health in the future.

“If really want to practice what we preach, instead of being hypocritical, I think that we have to be the trendsetters. It’s tough now, you’re losing football games and one of your best players. Maybe he can go, maybe he can’t go, but really for what? What do you gain and at what risk?” Weis noted.

It’s true. Kansas is definitely going to not be at their best without Pierson, but luckily for them, the men behind him have had their fair share of repetitions.

The chips are on the table

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog  November 16th, 2013.

“There are two ways of handling things. There is the ‘oh well’ way of handling it and then there is the ‘finding another way to do it’ method. I have never been much of an ‘oh well’ kind of guy,” said Weis in his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

How are the Jayhawks “finding another way” to come up successful at the end of the season? First things first, this past week’s practice schedule was a definite change up from how things have been all season. The team has spent practices working on first and second downs for both offense and defense. Another thing that has been emphasized are the transitions, but not the typical transitions. Weis wants the players to take their dedication in the classroom and transition it onto the practice field. Then from there to the practice field.

“I’m all in. I have all my chips on the table. I’m either going to double up, or I’m going to walk away empty-handed,” informed Weis.

One of the chips on the table is Tony Pierson, a junior running back. Last week he had one of his best games against Oklahoma State. He had 87 yards on a mere six carries. Pierson sustained a concussion earlier in the season, preventing him from playing a few games.

“Whenever Tony touches the ball and we get him in space, you can see that’s like our passing game. That’s where we get our chunks [of yardage],” emphasized Weis.

The Mountaineers of West Virginia come to Lawrence on Saturday. They’re 4-6 with a two game losing streak. However, West Virginia wasn’t blown out in either of those games. Both of their past two losses came in overtime heartbreaks. They’re hungry for a road win, but not just because of their past two game. If the Mountaineers want to be bowl eligible, winning on Saturday is a must.

Unfortunately for the visiting Mountaineers, there is still uncertainty if their starting quarterback will play during the game. Clint Trickett sustained a head injury in their last week’s loss to Texas.

The quarterback situation from Kansas looks grim as well, but for different reasons. Kansas’ dual quarterback system hasn’t worked in the ways that the Jayhawks would like. Freshman Montell Cozart took the majority of the snaps in last week’s game over junior transfer Jake Heaps.

This game is the first “playoff game” for the Jayhawks… in their mindset anyway. That’s how Weis described the last three games of the season. “The Saturday after Thanksgiving is our bowl game,” added Weis.

West Virginia is one of the weaker Big 12 schools this season. If Kansas shows up and plays to the best of their ability, a win on Saturday is possible.

Where does Kansas go from here?

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog November 11th, 2013.

Saturday loomed large for the Jayhawks, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys gave Kansas their seventh loss on the season. With the road loss came an extension of streaks that the Jayhawks have yet to break. They sit at 27 straight conference losses, as well as five straight seasons ineligible for post-season play.

“This season will be remembered on what happens in the last four games,” said Weis.

What will the fans remember from the Oklahoma State game? That on the opening kickoff Justin Gilbert returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown? That Kansas was outplayed in every aspect of the game except for time of possession? It’s possible that’s what they remember. Will they remember that Cozart, a freshman, played with more success than Heaps, a player who KU was extremely excited for in the pre-season?

The next three games are against West Virginia, Iowa State, and Kansas State. The next opponent, the Mountaineers of West Virginia, are 4-6, with conference losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas(Sound familiar?).

Even if Kansas wins the season out, Weis isn’t going to be happy.

“I’m going to be miserable anyway; it doesn’t really make a difference,” said Weis last Tuesday. “I like to win every game. I’m 2-6 [now 2-7] as the head coach this year—I’m not very happy, but it’s not because the players aren’t playing hard.”

The players are playing hard, especially James Sims. He’s had 703 yards rushing on the season with three games left. There have been three games in the season where he rushed for more than 90 yards (South Dakota, Rice, and Oklahoma). He has 145 yards receiving as well. His best receiving game was against Texas, where he made five catches for 51 yards.

It’s not just James Sims. Many players on the defensive side of the ball have shown how hard they play with their game statistics. Ben Heeney has 63 total tackles on the season, and he sat out both the Oklahoma and Baylor game. Heeney also has 10 tackles for loss, with two of them being sacks. Isaiah Johnson is right behind Heeney in total tackles on the season with 61 and has four tackles for loss. The defensive unit as a whole has 42 pass breakups with 10 interceptions on the season.

With basketball taking over most of Jayhawk Nation’s attention, how can the “gridiron gang” gain the attention of their fan base? Obviously a win or two or three would help, but other than that?

Good fans support their teams in good times and in bad. It’s essentially like marriage. Look at the Kansas City Chiefs for example.  Last season they were 2-14. This season, they’re 9-0. Most teams don’t have great success immediately after personnel changes, most of the time it takes a few years.  This season is two years after personnel changes. Patience is key in times like this. It’s hard to be a fan of a team that has two wins with three games left, but patience is something that needs to be kept. Without the support of the fans, what would the team be working toward?

Regardless of if Kansas wins out or loses out, the players aren’t professionals. They’re still in the process of learning. They’re college kids. They’re kids ranging in age from 17-23. They’re kids that need support, regardless of their record.

Where does Kansas go from here? They’ve had things to fix all season. In the last three games of the season, it’s time to put everything to the test. It’s time to showcase all the changes and development. It’s also time to realize that life as a Jayhawk could be worse. Two wins are better than one. Two wins, that’s progress. It’s not a lot of progress, but it’s a start, and the season isn’t over yet.

Ball (Jay)hawk: JaCorey Shepherd steps up for Kansas defense

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog October 23rd, 2013.

When JaCorey Shepherd stepped on to campus his freshman year, he made an impact on the field… as a wide receiver. Shepherd played in ten games and started in two. In the McNeese State game, he had three catches for 107 yards. Two of those three catches were touchdown receptions. He was the first freshman to have 100 receiving in game in 14 years. His longest reception of the season was a 68-yard touchdown catch. That catch was the longest on the team for the season.

When his sophomore season came around, he changed positions. He left the wide receiver daily grind to be a defensive back. He had a solid season in that position as well. Shepherd played in eight games, with three starts and had 15 tackles, one tackle for loss, and three pass breakups on the season.  He recorded a career high seven stops against West Virginia.

His success didn’t stop there. Only this time, it was off the field. In 2012 (his sophomore season) he received Academic All-Big 12 Second Team Honors, and was on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in the spring semester.

“I work hard,” said Shepherd on his success on and off the field. “I do whatever I can above and beyond to make sure I succeed.”

This season, Shepherd has started in every game thus far at cornerback and has made a solid impact. He’s made 30 tackles (19 solo, 11 assisted), two of which were for a loss, and has forced a fumble. Along with Isaiah Johnson and Ben Heeney, Shepherd is tied for fifth in the Big 12 with two interceptions. Along with Dexter McDonald, he’s tied for second in the Big 12 with eight pass breakups on the season. Additionally, Shepherd is tied for sixth nationally in passes defended with an average of 1.7 per game.

Shepherd used the offseason to transition better into his new position.

“I think it’s starting to come around for me,” said Shepherd following the Jayhawk’s loss to Oklahoma on Saturday. “But like I said earlier, there are always things to do better. It comes down to eye control; it took the spring and summertime for me to get comfortable in this position.”

In just his last two games alone, Shepherd has influenced four turnovers for the defense: two interceptions, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble. His interception against TCU tied the game at 10-10 after he returned the pick for a 32-yard touchdown.

With his success on both sides of the field, one would wonder what position he liked better. Shepherd, without a doubt in his mind, replied “corner. But he doesn’t forget his days as a receiver.

“Even in the beginning of this year, (I thought about playing wide receiver),” Shepherd told reporters following Saturday’s game . “But right now, I’m just trying to do what I can do. There’s only so much you can do.”

“I played (receiver) most of my life,” said Shepherd. “I feel like I’ll always have some type of skills to go out there. I’m not saying I’d be able to go out there and be 100 percent, like the best…but just like at cornerback, as I continue to play I get better.”

He feels that it’s easier to read the players that he’s covering because he knows the footwork that goes into the different plays. One of the reasons Shepherd enjoys playing corner over receiver is “the race to the ball”.

Unlike most of the football players, Shepherd avoids social media completely.

“I’m not into that stuff,” he commented.

Sure enough, he’s nowhere to be found. When he’s not breaking up passes or scoring highly on tests, Shepherd volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Even though he’s a collegiate athlete (and a good one at that), he’s still a normal person, who embraces “Southern Hospitality” by giving others generous amounts of kindness and respect.

Bear down: come loud and stay loud

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog October 22nd, 2013

There’s no easy way to say this… but Kansas plays Baylor on Saturday. Baylor currently ranked 8th in the BCS, 6th in the AP, and 5th in the Coaches poll is headed to Lawrence to face a struggling Jayhawk squad. The last time KU played a top ten ranked opponent was last season, against K-State (No. 7) and the Wildcats slaughtered the Jayhawks, 56-16.

Back to Baylor. Kansas hasn’t played a team as solid as Baylor so far this season. Baylor is ranked in the top three in a numerous amount of statistics:

  • First nationally in Points Averaged (64.7)
  • First nationally with Average Yards Per Play (9.06)
  • First nationally with Average Yards Per Completion (19.41)
  • First nationally with Team Passing Efficiency (213.22)
  • First nationally in Average Forced 3-and-outs (7)
  • First nationally in Least Amount of 3-and-outs (5)
  • First nationally in Percentage of TD Drives (.583)
  • Second nationally in Average Tackles For loss (9.2)
  • Second nationally in Red Zone Defense
  • Third nationally in Passing Offense (414 yards/game
  • Third nationally with 3rd Down Conversions (56%)

Baylor has broken several records this season.

  • 872 total yards against West Virginia (Baylor and Big 12 record)
  • Top five scoring games (school history) 69 points vs. Wofford, 70 vs. Buffalo, 70 vs. ULM, 73 vs. West Virginia, and 71 vs. ISU.
  • First team to score 69 or more points in four consecutive games ever.
  • Won six straight Big 12 games (school record).

Their quarterback, Bryce Petty, leads the nation in Pass Efficiency (221.8) and yards per completion (19.83). He also leads the Big 12 in passing yards (337.2) and completion percentage (70.8%). Lache Seastrunk, Baylor’s running back, leads the Big 12 in average rushing yards per game (126.7) and most touchdowns (10). Seastrunk, a Heisman candidate, has nine 100-yard rushing games in the past 10 games. Wide receiver Antwan Goodley leads the conference and is third nationally in average receiving yards per game (141.8).

Okay, okay, enough about how Baylor is amazing at everything. Baylor’s statistics are inflated. They haven’t played a ranked team yet this season. They’ve played Wofford, Buffalo, LA-Monroe, West Virginia, Kansas State and Iowa State. The best defense the Bears have played is the Buffalo Bulls (42nd ranked defense nationally). The three conference games that Baylor has played were against three of the worst four teams in the conference this season. Their worst game of the season, K-State, had the highest attendance of the season with 52,803.

In the weekly press conference, Charlie Weis emphasized the major importance of a loud crowd. The louder the crowd, the harder it is for Baylor to execute their plays, because they call their all their plays at the line of scrimmage. Weis wants the crowd to yell when they get to the stadium and shout each and every time the Kansas defense is on the field.

“They can yell bad things at me, just make it very loud,” Weis joked.

It’s not going to be easy for the Kansas defense to try and stop the Bears’ offensive attack with Ben Heeney still listed as day-to-day. Weis commented that he knows if Heeney will play, but he’s listed–for media purposes–as day to day.

With all of the statistics going against Kansas, most everyone is counting them out. If, by some magical fate that Kansas wins on Saturday, what an upset that would be.

More changes for Kansas football as they prepare for Oklahoma

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog, October 16th, 2013

“I will do anything to give us a better chance of winning, besides cheating. Cheating I will not do,” said Weis in his weekly presser on Tuesday.

If you thought the changes last week were large, think again. There’s even more changes this week, on and off the field. Why? No one “played wonderfully” against TCU, Weis admitted.

One of the biggest changes for the KU team are the amount the day-to-day players.

  • Tony Pierson

Remember, Pierson had took a hard hit with his shoulder on the ground in the game against Texas Tech. Weis said today that Pierson has passed all his concussion tests, however, he still has headaches.

The following players remain day-to-day:

  • Ben Heeney
  • Trent Smiley
  • Andrew Turzilli
  • Tedarian Johnson

The other biggest change for the KU team is a staff shakeup. On the defensive side of the ball, Dave Campo is overseeing the defense with Clint Bowen acting as coordinator. There are changes on the offensive side of the ball as well. Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus is heading up the passing game, with tight ends coach Jeff Blasko is overseeing the run game. Weis is going to watch over the entire offensive side of the ball.

Weis mentioned that Powlus will still run the quarterback meetings. Weis also believes that the offense goes through the quarterback. No one knows better about that than the quarterback himself. That was the staff’s reasoning behind giving Powlus the role of controlling the passing game. He has spent the season up in the box and according to Weis, he will stay up there.

Are these changes permanent? Weis says so. Why? “I’m doing it because I think Kansas needs it. I don’t care about my ego,” he elaborated. “…You can sit there and blame the players all you want, but our job is to figure out how to make it better.”

Charlie Weis implements major changes

Originally posted on Rock Chalk Blog: October 8th, 2013.

Even after Late Night in the Phog and a high profile basketball commitment from Kelly Oubre, the University of Kansas’ football team seems washed away. However, that’s far from the case.

After the 54-16 rout from Texas Tech, it was obvious to the coaching staff that changes needed to be made.

“This is a large volume of changes,” said Weis at Tuesday’s press conference. “We’re kinda running out of alternatives. We have to start settling down into what we’re going to be.”

“Large volume” puts the changes lightly, especially on offense.

Offensive Changes

  • LT: Pat Lewandowski
  • C: Gavin Howard
  • RT: Aslam Sterling
  • F: Brandon Bourbon
  • WR: Andrew Turzilli
  • WR: Josh Ford
  • TE: Jimmay Mundine

Bourbon is taking over the starting position at fullback due to the concussion injury that Tony Pierson sustained after making a 39-yard run into the red zone and eventually onto the track.

Weis commented on the situation: “He hit his shoulder on the track, he didn’t hit his head.”

Weis also was confident that Pierson would be back on the field sometime, but he wasn’t sure when.

Defensive Changes

  • WLB: Jake Love

Love is taking over the starting position that Samson Faifili previously held at WLB because “he looks like he’s ways away from playing. He’s a potential medical redshirt,” commented Weis. He hinted more at the potential medical redshirt rather than in the other direction.

With the changes in depth chart and injuries in mind, the Jayhawks aren’t down and out for the count. There’s a solid two months left of the season to make progress.

“Newsflash, we’ve only played 4 games, we’ve got 8 games to go,” Weis said.

This week, Kansas takes on the TCU Horned Frogs of Fort Worth, TX. It’s their homecoming game. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, they’re playing at a time they have become very familiar with… 11 a.m. Kansas has played Louisiana Tech and Texas Tech at that time so far this season. Fortunately for TCU is also getting accustomed to early games. Four of their past five games have been 11 a.m. kick offs.

TCU has a record of 2-3 with those losses being against ranked teams: LSU, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech. In their two wins, the Horned Frogs have outscored their opponents 86-34.

Don’t worry Jayhawk fans. That statistic is one of the only daunting statistics that favors the Frogs. The leading scorer (aside from the kicker) for the Frogs, B.J. Catalon, has 222 yards with four touchdowns on the season, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. James Sims for the Jayhawks matches up with 309 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.  On the defensive side of the ball, the Frogs’ leading tackler, Chris Hackett, has 35 total tackles, three tackles for loss and three interceptions. For Kansas, Ben Heeney leads the charge with 44 total tackles, six tackles for loss, and two interceptions.

Kansas has the potential to break two streaks on the road on Saturday. Kansas hasn’t won a road game since September 12th, 2009, with a victory against UTEP. The other streak that Kansas could break on Saturday is the Big 12 losing streak. The Jayhawks haven’t won a Big 12 game since November 6th, 2010.

With the extensive changes the offense has put into place, anything is possible.