Just as Wednesday means I post my thoughts on what to expect from the weekend's opponent, Thursday is the day for our opponent to drop by and share what they expect their team to do against the Frogs. This week we got in touch with Warden11 of SBNation's Rock Chalk Talk who was kind enough to give us the insider scoop on the Jayhawks. For my KU/TCU thoughts, be sure to check out my half of the Q & A here.
HawkeyedFrog: Though there were numerous breakdowns against Texas Tech, Kansas' defense looked solid in your first three games. Where are the strengths of the defense, and where have opponents found success?
Warden11: The biggest strength of the defense has been in defending the passing game. Going by S&P+ at Football Outsiders, the Jayhawks are 16th overall in passing defense. Kansas is also leading the conference in passes defended, led by Dexter McDonald and Jacorey Shepherd. The defense has also been very good (lucky?) in a bend but don't break sort of way. The defense hasn't allowed a run longer than 20 yards on the season, yet the defense has allowed the 3rd most yards per game on the ground in the conference. Further highlighting the bend but don't break, the opponents have made it to the red zone 18 times but only scored 9 touchdowns, a rate that puts Kansas 3rd in the conference.
Opponents have been pretty successful running the ball in the first four games. South Dakota gained 219 yards on the ground. Rice gained 192 on the ground. Texas Tech's numbers don't look pretty but adjusting for two huge losses on fumbles late in the game moves their rushing total to around 150 yards and 4.5ish yards per carry. Combine that with the bend but don't break passing game and we're in high stress situations too often.
HawkeyedFrog: The Weis experiment with quarterback transfers from religious schools continues with Jake Heaps, who TCU already has had some acquaintance with back when he quarterbacked BYU in 2010. What have you seen out of the highly recruited QB so far, and is he an upgrade from Dayne Crist last year?
Warden11: Jake Heaps has definitely been better than Dayne Crist was at any point last season. He shows great accuracy on his short passes and has been very good when making quick throws on his initial read. Against Texas Tech, Heaps started the game 7/8 for 104 yards. Then Tech started to take away the short, quick routes and Heaps was 9/24 for 85 yards for the rest of the game. The same thing showed up when reviewing the game against La. Tech. On quick reads Heaps was 22/30 for 172 yards. On passing plays that were either downfield or plays that he had to throw to a second or third option, he was 6 for 18 for 90 yards. That's not to say it's all his fault. The offensive line has not given him time to throw and the receivers cannot get open in their routes. To let you know how bad the passing game has been as a whole, the wide receiver with the most receptions this season is Tre Parmalee with 4. The tight ends and running backs catch quite a few balls but can an offense even be decent when passes can't get completed to wide receivers?
This week might be particularly scary because Tony Pierson will be out due to a concussion last week and he's not only caught almost twice as many passes as any other receiver, he's also gained three times as many yards as any receiver. I have no idea how we are going to move the ball.
HawkeyedFrog: Charlie Weis has been a target of ridicule in college football since his "schematic advantage" press conference at Notre Dame, so it's easy to forget that he was OC for three Super Bowl wins for the Patriots (who have achieved zero without him). You guys actually see him every week, so how do you actually rate Weis as a college coach? Is he getting better?
Warden11: This is a really good question that is really hard to answer right now. When Weis took over, the program was easily one of the worst programs in a BCS conference and probably throughout all FBS. We had guys skipping weights, classes, and generally doing whatever they wanted. He has cleaned that up quite a bit by all reports, that's a good step. But a lack of progress on the field is definitely concerning. Fans are starting to get a bit restless but most are still showing patience, knowing that turning around a program can take some time. Calls for an offensive coordinator to be hired are gaining steam because of how poorly the offense has looked but I'm not part of that crowd yet. I'm of the belief that we're paying Charlie Weis 2.5 million dollars a season because of his ability to run an offense, not his ability to run a program.
That was the political answer, my personal answer is that we hired the wrong guy from the start. I don't know what made our AD think a guy who wasn't successful at Notre Dame was going to be successful at Kansas. Weis did adjust the offense last year to feature James Sims and we ended up with the Big 12's leading rusher in 2012. Well Sims is still on the team but is averaging 16 carries and 77 yards a game in 2013. We're running shotgun zone reads almost exclusively when Sims is a north/south power back. I'm at the point where I feel bad for the kid because his talent is being wasted this year. Last week after we did start running the ball just to get the game over, the carries went to Darrian Miller with Sims nowhere to be found. Against Rice earlier in the year, we threw the ball 46 times. Weis just seems intent on hammering the square peg into a round hole. The team simply does a lot of things well coached teams don't do and sooner or later that has to be attributed to the coach.
HawkeyedFrog: Kansas dipped fairly heavily into the JUCO ranks this year to try and get a quick influx of talent to improve the team as quickly as possible. How has it panned out for the Jayhawks so far, and are there concerns about depth as the team goes forward the next few years?
Warden11: We're 2-2 and doubled the win total from last year, so I guess it helped in that regard. We've gotten some help from the JUCO recruits and a good number of them are on the 2 deep depth chart. We've also hit some back luck with a few guys being injured, ruled ineligible, and our highest rated recruit already transferring out of the program. In a way, the redshirts due to injury and being ineligible have helped to ease our concerns about the next couple of years because it helps to ensure all of the guys aren't leaving the program at the end of next season. However, I don't think you recruit 20 JUCO kids to go 2-10. So if this year doesn't turn around quickly and next year is only marginally better, I'd have to say the experiment failed badly.
HawkeyedFrog: Kansas seems to have things moving in the right direction, doubling last year's win total and breaking the losing streak against FBS foes. Is this the year Kansas breaks another streak and collects its first Big 12 win?
Warden11: I hope so. Can I get away with that as my answer? I posted earlier this week that I think the matchup with you guys is as good as any other in the Big 12 for us right now. That seems crazy but your strength is kind of negated against us because our offense is going to make a lot of defenses look amazing. With your offense still finding itself, we have to hope for a game that can be altered by one or two crazy plays that go in our favor. I don't think the conference losing streak is likely to end this week, I want to be clear about that. Just think it's a matchup that isn't as lopsided as it appears. Down the road this season, I guess we could pull off a victory against someone because the conference just does not appear that strong in the middle. Unfortunately, I wouldn't bet any amount of money on it happening this season.
HawkeyedFrog: Finally, prediction time. Kansas is on top of TCU in the Big 12 standings, but the Jayhawks come into Fort Worth as a heavy Vegas underdog. How do you see the game playing out?
Warden11: 40% chance of thunderstorms for Saturday, I like that. Hopefully it's a battle on the ground and the weather plays a part in a few TCU mistakes that allows our defense to score and we sneak out with a victory. Unfortunately, I think a fairly close game early followed by mistakes on our end will allow you guys to get a lead. After that, we're forced to pass and then we're burnt toast. TCU wins 37-3.
Thanks to Warden11 for dropping some knowledge on us (and being the first opponent to pick a TCU win this season). Hopefully his prediction will come to pass, but in either case make sure to check out Rock Chalk Talk for all things Kansas- I hear they enjoy some game with an orange ball. Weird, huh? I'll bet it would be a big deal if we beat them at it.