Charlie Weis knew change was necessary.
The Kansas coach stepped away from the Jayhawks offense this spring after his team fielded one of the nation’s worst offenses. Weis hired former Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan to take over the offense as well as coach KU’s offensive line. They’re only 15 practices into the change, and there's a long way to go until the offense reaches its destination, but Weis has been happy with the results after one spring of drills.
“I think he’s blended in very well in our place,” said Weis, who had studied Reagan’s offense at Rice before luring him to Lawrence, Kan. “It gives the offensive line a little bit extra when they know the guy setting up the offense is also their position coach.”
The general theme?
Less is more.
Weis has made a point of stepping away from the offense and allowing Reagan to take over that side of the football. He doesn’t sit in or look over the shoulder of his new offensive coordinator, or try to put his stamp on every little aspect of the offense. Instead, his role is being a sounding block and a resource for the Jayhawks’ new play-caller.
“I’ve moved away and let them do it,” Weis said. “He has a great resource where he can come to me, ‘What do you think of this? What do you think of that?” and I don’t step on his toes. I’m letting him do it, I’m not sitting with the offense, [saying] ‘Do this, do that.’ It’s been really good for him, and I think it’s been really good for me too.”
Less is more translates to the field as well.
The offense has been simplified making things easier on the Jayhawks' playmakers. Less plays means less thinking and, hopefully, faster and more explosive playmaking from players such as dynamic running back Tony Pierson and newly anointed starting quarterback Montell Cozart.
“Because there are a lot less plays, you’re putting a lot less mental pressure on your players and putting more on the play-caller [Reagan],” Weis said. “Because there aren’t as many plays to choose from, the quarterbacks have a very good understanding where if they have a bad play at the line of scrimmage, they have the opportunity to put us in a good one.”
The simplified offense could help Cozart, who Weis named his starter on Thursday. Taking mental stress off of the shoulders of the sophomore could allow him to trust his football instincts to take over instead of overthinking while behind center and triggering KU’s attack.
The transformation from Weis’ offense to Reagan’s offense has come with a change in tempo as well. The Jayhawks focused on tempo this spring, but not for the reasons many would expect. KU doesn’t want to join Baylor and Texas Tech among the nation’s leaders in plays per game.
The Jayhawks do, however, want to inject added flexibility into the offense.
“[That's] the interesting thing with John’s offense,” Weis said. “So many places are just, ‘How fast can you snap the ball?’ That’s only one element. His [offense] is no-huddle, but they can play at a really fast tempo or they can play at a really slow tempo. He’s practiced a slow methodical tempo and one where you’re trying to snap the ball every 10 or 15 seconds.”
Sometimes the threat of being able to snap the ball quickly is just as beneficial as actually doing so. But having the ability to slow the pace of the game down is important as well, particularly if KU is looking to give its defense additional rest or change the overall momentum of the action.
“Most teams running no-huddle are ‘How many snaps can we get off?’” Weis said. “Well that’s great if you always feel like you have better players than the other team, then you’re just wearing them out. In his case, he can go either way. He can go that way or he can slow the whole thing down. It gives him a lot of flexibility.”
It’s a different era of offensive football for KU heading into the fall. And Weis is hoping addition by subtraction will pay dividends for the Jayhawks offense in 2014.