DR: What kind of offense/defense does Kansas run?
RCB: Kansas runs a spread offense (after having a pro-style offense last year). KU’s defense runs a “odd front” with three down linemen.
DR: How do you think the Weis and the Kansas offense will try to attack the Blue Devils?
RCB: KU needs to run the ball effectively to start, in my opinion. In the first half, KU did well in the running game last week and it led to some good things for Montell Cozart. But that was against Southeast Missouri State. Doing that against Duke is a different story. I think Weis will want to know if his running backs are legit and will run the ball heavily.
Defensively, KU’s secondary is going to have its hands full with your wide receivers. However, Weis views the secondary as KU’s deepest position so I expect him to rotate in guys until he finds what works effectively.
DR: Who are the players Duke fans should watch for that will be the difference makers for Kansas?
RCB: On defense, you’re going to want to watch Ben Heeney and Dexter McDonald. They’re KU’s two best defensive players. McDonald leads the NCAA in passes defended with four and had two interceptions last week (and was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week). Heeney just makes tackles. On the offensive end, Nick Harwell (WR) and Tony Pierson (WR/RB) are playmakers. Harwell had two touchdowns last week and Pierson had a sick spin move for a 60+ yard touchdown.
DR: Do you ever see Kansas making a Duke-style turnaround with their football program?
RCB: If anything, Duke had the KU-style turnaround. KU went to the Orange Bowl in 2008 (the 2007 season). However, once things got tough, KU’s athletic director (Lew Perkins) ditched Mark Mangino at the first sign of any kind of controversy. Perkins never like Mangino because he didn’t hire him. Because of Mangino’s rough personality (he was difficult to work with, even if you weren’t a player), Perkins had to hire a “nice guy” and ended up hiring Turner Gill, which in a lot of fan’s eyes, was a great hire at first. However, Gill ran the program into the ground and has set KU back dramatically. I think Weis has the program going in the right direction and part of that is by hiring great coordinators. John Reagan was here at KU in 2007 under Mangino and now he’s actually doing the play calling for Kansas. Before this season, Weis was doing it. I think going up 24-0 in the first game under Reagan’s play-calling proves it was the right decision.
DR: What’s the attitude in Lawrence toward head coach Charlie Weis? Do you think he’ll still be the coach after this season?
RCB: Right now, it is pretty negative but anything associated with the football program is negative. All the other sports at KU are doing decent. Volleyball and baseball had good postseason runs last year. The KU women track and field team won a national championship two years ago. KU basketball is just like Duke basketball so you know how that is. Ever since 2008, KU has been pitiful on the gridiron and part of that is on Weis but a lot of it is on Turner Gill, too.
Personally, I like Weis and I think he’s doing good things. He’s getting players here that normally wouldn’t come. And yes, some of them have turned into failures. But what program doesn’t have that? Weis gets a bad rap from the media because of his tenure at Notre Dame. I think he’s been humbled since then and the national media still thinks he’s arrogant. Even the people who covered the Chiefs while he was here view him in a negative light.
Anyways… his legacy at KU hinges on the first four games, in my opinion. If KU can go 3-1 to start the season, it is very possible KU can win 5-6 games and make a bowl game. If that happens, Weis will be considered a success. If KU goes 2-2 or even more likely, 1-3, Weis will need to make a bowl game next year or he’ll probably either resign or get fired (Unless he can have a miraculous season after a 1-3 start).
In my opinion, this team has a basement of four wins and a ceiling of seven wins. Teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to beat KU but teams such as Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and even Texas are beatable. As you know, Kansas hasn’t won a road game in a long time so I just don’t see KU winning many outside of Lawrence but maybe a win against Duke will dramatically change that.