Big 12: John Reagan

Even though he was a four-star recruit and a rare ESPN 300 signee for Kansas, Jacob Bragg arrived in Lawrence this summer with a serious chip on his shoulder.

The Under Armour All-America center from Nacogdoches, Texas, didn't have a choice when it came to leaving his home state. None of the major programs in Texas offered him a scholarship. No doubt that will be on his mind whenever he first takes the field against Big 12 foes.

We complete our series of weekly Q&As with the Big 12's best incoming freshmen today with Bragg, the nation's No. 3 center prospect.

What were your goals this spring before you leave for Kansas?

JB: I'm trying to get to 10 percent body fat and trying to maintain 290 pounds. A year ago I was probably 330 pounds. Yeah, I was fat. It was bad.

Is this something the Kansas coaches requested or is it your personal goal?

JB: It's both. I'm trying to get more into college playing shape and just being healthier. If I'm lighter on my feet, I can make more plays and I can move better. I'm more agile and definitely stronger now. It's amazing. I got with a personal trainer and we're working every day. Everything I'm doing (in the weight room) has probably doubled.

What was it about Charlie Weis that you appreciated during your recruitment?

JB: Coach Weis has all the NFL experience. He's a winner, he's just trying to put it all together. Recruits aren't going to come to Kansas immediately. We're obviously not winning a bunch of games, it's not really attractive. But he's doing everything he can to get us in the right direction and get good recruits out here. I believe in Coach Weis and I can't wait to come play for him.

Have the coaches told you that they want you to be ready to play? How do they treat that?

JB: Charlie Weis came to my house and told me to expect to play early. Just come in and work hard. They're not going to give me a spot, I have to work for it. The offensive line coach has said the same thing. I'm just going to work as hard as I can.

Do you like playing for an offensive line coach, John Reagan, who's also the offensive coordinator?

JB: That's awesome. He's going to know how to play off our strengths and weaknesses. If we're not run dominant, we're going to pass. If we can't pass protect, we're going to run. If anyone should be able to run the offense, it's the offensive line coach. It all starts with us. It really helps.

Tell me about the Under Armour game experience and playing against the best in the country.

JB: It was definitely an eye-opener. It puts you in your place. I dropped weight before I went there and I thought I did very, very good. Nothing was too hard for me. But some of those guys are going to be starting in the SEC next year, so I'm doing pretty good if I'm handling my own out there. It was nice to finally get to go against people my size or bigger, just to see where I am. You're not going to meet people like that every day. They're humongous.

Who impressed you at that game? Who are we going to be talking about for the next few years?

JB: Braden Smith is No. 1, without a doubt. He'll probably start for Auburn. He's amazingly strong and fast. I don't think I've ever seen an athlete like that before in my life. You don't really hear about him a lot, but he is, to me, the best athlete I've ever seen.

Do you feel like schools in the state of Texas overlooked you? Why didn't they show you more attention?

JB: You know, I really don't know. That kind of hurt, knowing that I didn't have any Texas school offer me at all. That, personally, really kind of hurt. But now that I'm with Kansas, I'm fine. I'm just going to make sure I play twice as hard against them to stick it to them.

Nacogdoches has several big-time recruits on their way up, including Jaylon Lane and Brandon Jones. Are you seeing a jump in talent in that area?

JB: We have a bunch of talent. People don't expect us to do good, and I come from a high school team that's kind of like how Kansas is doing: not really winning that many games. It's very hard to turn that around, and this is the first year we made the playoffs in 40 years, our first winning season in 15 years. It's going to take a lot to turn that around. They've just got to believe it will happen. I watch them every day and it's amazing what they're doing.

What gives you optimism about where Kansas is going as a program?

JB: People are just going to keep doubting us. I could see it on my official visit: They're so hungry to win. You can feel it when you talk to them. We're going to turn things around. People are going to be really surprised this year, and if not this year, the next year. It's going to happen, it's just a matter of when.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
Here's the latest in recruiting around the Big 12, with several programs seeing their commit list grow during the past week:

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Baylor offered Class of 2016 standout Shane Simmons, a defensive end from Hyattsville (Maryland) DeMatha. The Bears joined West Virginia, Arizona State, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and others on his offer list. Baylor also joined the race for elite 2017 prospect Anthony Hines III of Plano (Texas). Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and Kansas are among the 20-plus teams who have offered Hines, who has committed to Mississippi State.

Total commits: 3
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones have been on a roll on the recruiting trail, landing Waukee (Iowa) defensive end Anthony Nelson early last week, just days after Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Prairie offensive lineman Bryce Meeker joined Iowa State's pledge list. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Nelson is a lean defensive line prospect with plenty of room to grow.

Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Kansas' commit list exploded over the weekend with five junior college standouts picking the Jayhawks, according to Charlie Weis’ program secured verbals from offensive lineman Jarek Smalley of Garden City (Kansas) Community College, defensive tackle Jacky Dezir of College of DuPage (Illinois), offensive lineman DeLonte Murray of Lackawanna (Pennsylvania) Community College, offensive lineman Will Smith of Butler County (Kansas) Community College and receiver Raeshawn Lee of College of San Mateo (California). It’s pretty clear new offensive coordinator John Reagan wants to upgrade the talent along the offensive line.

Total commits: 3
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: K-State landed a commitment from Seward, Nebraska, defensive end Adam Holtorf, who announced his pledge on social media late Sunday night. The Wildcats also began their pursuit of Class of 2015 Sachese, Texas, running back Devine Ozigbo with an offer last week. Kansas, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Boise State are among the teams that have offered the three-star prospect.

Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Oklahoma added another commit to its list, with Lancaster (Texas) guard Dominique Hearne choosing the Sooners. Hearne turned down offers from Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and Arizona State to pledge to Bob Stoops’ program.

Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys landed commitments on back-to-back days last week with the additions of Tyler (California) Junior College defensive tackle Motekiai Maile and Houston (Texas) Alief Taylor safety Kenneth McGruder.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Gary Patterson’s squad continues to add athletes to its class with Mansfield (Texas) athlete Julius Lewis joining the Horned Frogs’ commit list this week. Lewis has the ability to play several different positions at TCU, but has been recruited as a cornerback to add speed and athleticism to Patterson’s secondary.

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Longhorns didn’t hesitate to throw their name into the mix for ESPN 300 athlete Louis Brown of Burton, Texas, making an offer to a player who decommitted from Baylor last week. Charlie Strong’s program also offered Class of 2016 running back Devwah Whaley of Beaumont (Texas) Central.

Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Kliff Kingsbury’s program secured a early commitment from up-and-coming safety Collin Wilder of Katy, Texas, as Texas Tech got a jump start on its Class of 2016. The Red Raiders offered Marvel, Texas, athlete D'Eriq King joining Clemson, Louisville, Michigan State and UCLA. Kingsbury’s program also offered Hines and Class of 2016 quarterback Shane Buechele of Arlington (Texas) Lamar Consolidated in the past week.

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers began their pursuit of in-state signal caller Tyrhee Pratt of Charleston Capital. The Class of 2016 prospect could be a key recruit for West Virginia's 2016 class, as they’d hate to miss out on a in-state prospect who could end up with a lengthy offer list.
There’s a weak link on every team, but also a strength. This series will look at the strongest and weakest position groups for each Big 12 team heading into the fall.

On Wednesday, we continue the series with Kansas.

Strongest position: Secondary

The Jayhawks have arguably the best returning cornerback duo in the Big 12 with JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald. They combined for 27 passes defensed in 2013, each ranking in the top 10 in the conference in that category. And Shepherd and McDonald still have room to grow as individual players.

KU’s safeties are just as productive. Isaiah Johnson was the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after making 73 tackles and intercepting five passes during his first season in the conference. Fellow safety Cassius Sendish was right behind Johnson with 67 tackles of his own.

Add cornerbacks Kevin Short and Greg Allen, who looked ready to contribute during the spring, and the Jayhawks secondary brings experience, production and depth to the field on Saturdays this fall, three traits several other Big 12 teams wish they had on their rosters.

Weakest position: Offensive line

If KU has any hope of John Reagan’s offense taking off during his first season as offensive coordinator, the offensive line will have to reach new heights.

The Jayhawks return a league-worst 34 career starts along the offensive line, with All-Big 12 honorable mention guard Ngalu Fusimalohi as the lone returnee with double-digit starts (12). Reagan, who is the offensive line coach in addition to his coordinator duties, is tasked with making the inexperienced group the foundation of his offense’s success.

KU has five different returnees with starting experience and will add ESPN 300 center Jacob Bragg into the mix this summer so the Jayhawks have options to work with. Head coach Charlie Weis has promised the Jayhawks will strive to put their top five offensive linemen on the field, regardless of their previous position, so the summer and preseason could feature plenty of shuffling along the offensive line.

Fusimalohi is a great place to start but plenty of work remains for Reagan and Weis to transform this unit one of the strengths of the team.

Big 12 spring stars, Part 1

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
Spring football is coming to a close in the Big 12, with several players making a move in their respective programs and securing or bettering their role on the team. During the next two days, we’ll review the Big 12’s stars of the spring by taking a closer look at their pre-spring roles, spring performance and potential roles this fall.

Defensive end Shawn Oakman, Baylor

Pre-spring role: Oakman looked like he could be a breakout star on Baylor’s defense after recording 12.5 tackles for loss in a backup role.

What he did this spring: Oakman cemented his spot in the starting lineup and boosted the belief that he could be one of the Big 12’s top defensive linemen this fall.

What his role could be this fall: A freakish athlete at 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Oakman has NFL ability and could show it as the key piece in Baylor’s stellar defensive line.

Quotable: “We can't block him. And I don't think anybody else will, either. It's what I've been saying all along: Our defensive line is as good as anyone's in America. He's just one of them out of six or seven that is going to be a dynamic player for us in the fall.” - Baylor coach Art Briles.

Receiver Brett Medders, Iowa State

Pre-spring role: The redshirt junior hadn’t really made an impact during his first three seasons, so not much was expected from him.

What he did this spring: Medders emerged as a legitimate option at receiver for a Cyclones offense searching for additional playmakers this spring. He had six receptions for 48 yards in the spring game. Coach Paul Rhoads praised Medders' performance during ISU’s spring practices.

What his role could be this fall: Even though ISU has several potential options at receiver, including true freshman Allen Lazard, Medders could have carved himself a role in Mark Mangino’s offense. He’s not a game-changing target, but could help force defenses to account for receiving threats other than Quenton Bundrage.

Receiver Nick Harwell, Kansas

Pre-spring role: The Jayhawks knew they had someone who could help them in Harwell, who was forced to sit out the 2013 season after transferring from Miami (Ohio).

What he did this spring: Harwell emerged as arguably the Jayhawks’ go-to playmaker. He’s a shifty receiver who can excel in the open field. KU repeatedly tried to put the ball in his hands during its spring game, so expect that to continue this fall. The Jayhawks wanted to identify playmakers during the spring and Harwell stepped up to fill that void.

What his role could be this fall: Harwell will be Montell Cozart’s main target and should join running back Tony Pierson as KU’s top playmakers in John Reagan’s new offense.

Quotable: “You try not to get too excited because he is so competitive and he runs good routes and he catches the ball. He doesn't like getting beat in drills. He wants to go against the best guy every single time. He is the type of competitor I am used to playing with. If he comes even close to the expectation I have for him, then I think we will be pretty happy.” - KU coach Charlie Weis

Cornerback Morgan Burns, Kansas State

Pre-spring role: Burns was poised to battle for a spot in the secondary after two seasons in a backup role.

What he did this spring: While the Wildcats' spring is not over yet, Burns has worked himself into a key role while separating himself among the Wildcats’ cornerbacks, who are competing for two starting positions.

What his role could be this fall: He appears poised to be KSU’s No. 1 option at cornerback unless he takes a step backward during the four months before the season kicks off.

Safety Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma

Pre-spring role: He was very solid as a freshman, playing a role on special teams while getting spot duty on defense. Thomas was expected to battle fellow sophomore Hatari Byrd to replace Gabe Lynn at safety.

What he did this spring: Thomas showed he’s going to be on the field one way or the other with a strong spring, which he capped with several plays in the spring game. He showed the ability to line up at multiple positions in the Sooners defense, allowing OU to use him in several roles.

What his role could be this fall: Byrd had a solid spring as well, so Thomas didn’t run away with the job at safety. But it would be a surprise if Thomas is not a key contributor on OU’s defense in 2014.
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?

[+] EnlargeTony Pierson
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsKansas is hoping that John Reagan's simplified offense will mean more big plays for players such as Tony Pierson.
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.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
Tap, tap. I can't wait for this 30 for 30.

Spring game review: Kansas

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
The time is now for the Kansas program under Charlie Weis. The Jayhawks head coach made several changes to his coaching staff this offseason, including the addition of new offensive coordinator John Reagan. Saturday’s spring game was unique, with the Blue team featuring KU’s first and second-teamers and the White squad featuring the third and fourth-teamers. In addition, all quarterbacks were live, meaning they could be hit, as KU tries to find its starting quarterback. Here’s what happened:

Best offensive performance: After entering the game alongside Jake Heaps as dual front-runners to start at quarterback, Montell Cozart was the best signal-caller on the field. The sophomore finished with 70 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with a game-high 58 passing yards, completing 6 of 10 passes. Cozart didn’t lock himself in as the Jayhawks starter, but Weis was pleased with what he saw.

[+] EnlargeMontell Cozart
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerMontell Cozart made several plays with his legs and showed poise in the pocket in Kansas' spring game.
"I was pleased to see him sit in the pocket,” Weis said. “We know he can bootleg and run on the edge, but it was good to see him show some poise in the pocket."

Best defensive performance: Linebacker Jake Love is a quiet playmaker alongside fellow linebacker Ben Heeney, who garners most of the headlines. Love finished with a game-high 10 tackles, including six solo stops. Love, who averaged 4.8 tackles per game in 2013, picked right up where he left off during the spring game. He could join Heeney to give KU one of the better linebacker duos in the conference.

Best debut: Receiver Nick Harwell’s final numbers were uninspiring. Four receptions for 31 yards won’t send fear into the hearts of Big 12 defensive coordinators. Those same coordinators would be wise to learn the name of the Miami (Ohio) transfer. His playmaking ability was evident and, if the spring game is any indication, Reagan’s offense is likely to try to put the ball in his hands often this fall.

Notable play: Cozart’s 60-yard run in the fourth quarter was the longest run of the game and was a glimpse at the reason why he could have the edge in the quarterback race if he continues to develop as a passer. He’s far from a finished product, but the sophomore could be a playmaker for Reagan’s offense.

Developing storyline: Michael Cummings has been the forgotten name in KU’s quarterback battle, yet he looked like the second-best quarterback on the field, outperforming Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Cummings, playing on the White team, which featured third and fourth-teamers, led his squad on a 12-play, 74-yard drive against the No. 1 defense that resulted in the only points of the first half, a 26-yard receiver pass from Tre’ Parmalee to Andrew Turzilli. Cummings didn't finish with great numbers (3-of-10, 42 yards, INT) but looked like his name should be alongside Heaps and Millweard behind Cozart.

Biggest question answered: The Jayhawks have some playmakers emerging on offense to help offset the loss of running back James Sims. Harwell will be a threat at receiver, Tony Pierson is one of the Big 12’s most explosive threats when healthy and running back Brandon Bourbon more than held his own at Sims’ former spot in the backfield with 12 carries for 96 yards. KU’s offensive line and quarterback play will decide how explosive this offense can be, with multiple playmaking options starting to emerge at running back and receiver.

Quotable: “We still have questions, but we also have a lot more answers now than we did in the beginning of the spring. We've implemented a new offense and we still have a ways to go, but I think it's positive at this stage. We've got to continue raising the bar around here." -- Weis

Spring game preview: Kansas

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
Charlie Weis will face the biggest season of his tenure as Kansas coach in 2014. He has made several changes on his coaching staff with the hope of making drastic improvements in a program that has won four games during his first two seasons. KU holds its spring game on Saturday, the first glimpse at the Jayhawks' offense under new offensive coordinator John Reagan. Here’s what to watch during KU’s spring game:

When: Saturday at 1 p.m. CT

Where: Kansas Memorial Stadium

What to watch for:

  • Quarterbacks will be live: Weis isn’t playin’ around. If the quarterbacks want to win the job, they’ll get the chance to prove it. “The quarterbacks will not be in red,” Weis said of KU's protected jersey color. “Only one guy will have red on and that will be Tony [Pierson]. The quarterbacks will be live. The goal is for them not to get hit, but in the running game they are going to have the ball in their hands.” Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart have risen above the rest in the competition to start, and Weis said he would play both quarterbacks and use them in different ways if the season began today. Heaps is the better passer of the two, while Cozart has the ability to make plays with his feet.
  • [+] EnlargeNick Harwell
    Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsNick Harwell, who transferred from Miami (Ohio), could be the Jayhawks' top receiver in 2014.
    New offensive coordinator John Reagan’s offense: Some teams elect to go vanilla in the spring game. The Jayhawks aren't one of them. They aren’t planning to hold anything back on Saturday. “John asked me, 'What should I hold?' I said nothing,” Weis said. “Just go ahead and run it. Call plays the way you call plays. You're not really game-planning for this game.” Reagan’s offense will be on full display so it will be interesting to see if any new playmakers emerge alongside Pierson. The opportunity to become a big part of Reagan’s plans is staring every offensive player in the face. Some players will seize it during the spring game, others will not, opening the door for summer arrivals to make an impact.
  • Nick Harwell and hope at the receiver position: Harwell, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), is making a strong impression for the Jayhawks and looks like he could be a key piece in the offense this fall. No Kansas wideout had more than 12 receptions in 2013, so unless someone steps up at that position, it’s unlikely Reagan’s offense can soar in his first season. Harwell and Rodriguez Coleman appear to be the Jayhawks' most talented pass catchers so a strong spring game showing could help them cement their spots.
  • Can the defense take another step forward? The difference between KU’s defense in 2012 and 2013 was like night and day. Last season's version was faster, more athletic and more productive than the 2012 squad. Yet it can still get much, much better after finishing in the bottom half of the league in almost every defensive category. KU is hopeful it has upgraded the overall athleticism on the defense again, especially along the defensive line. And linebacker Ben Heeney is a great place to start as defensive coordinator Clint Bowen builds his defense.
  • Who replaces James Sims? For the first time since 2009, KU won’t have Sims to lean on offensively. The running back rushed for 3,592 yards during his four seasons as a centerpiece in KU’s backfield. Senior Brandon Bourbon gets the chance to solidify his role on Saturday before several other candidates arrive in the summer, including highly-regarded running back signees Corey Avery and Traevohn Wrench.
The last time Kansas’ offense really soared, John Reagan was a driving force behind it all as the Jayhawks' offensive line coach and run-game coordinator.

During 2007 and 2008, the Jayhawks recorded their highest winning percentages, best points-per-game averages, yards-per-play averages and highest yards-per-game totals since 2004. In 2007, KU went 12-1 while averaging 42.8 points per game, 6.3 yards per play and 479.8 yards per game. In 2008, KU went 8-5 while averaging 33.4 points per game 5.95 yards per play and 432.4 yards per game.

[+] EnlargeJake Heaps
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsNew OC John Reagan expects his up-tempo offense to benefit Jake Heaps and all the Kansas QBs.
Reagan was a key member of the coaching staff during that span, spending five years (2004-2009) on the offensive staff during his first stint at KU. With Todd Reesing triggering the offense, KU committed to an up-tempo offense and strong running game to become a winner in the Big 12.

This spring, Reagan returned to Lawrence, Kan., as offensive coordinator and with a hope of using that blueprint to re-ignite the offense.

Ripples of the offensive changes have been on display during the early portion of KU’s spring football practices, in which returning offensive players are noticing the change in style and tempo. Quarterbacks Montell Cozart, Jake Heaps and T.J. Millweard have spent minimal time under center in Reagan’s up-tempo, no-huddle attack, but the Jayhawks are also focusing on being efficient while going fast.

“Like Coach Reagan said, we can go 100 miles per hour, but we have to perfect going 100 miles per hour before we can speed it up,” Cozart told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “So the offense is doing pretty well, and we’ll be able to put a lot more pressure on defenses this year.”

Reagan’s plan to amp up the offense shouldn’t be a surprise. KU’s most productive offensive seasons since 2004 were also its fastest during that span. Kansas ran 987 offensive plays in 2007 and 945 offensive plays in 2008 with those seasons ranking as the times it surpassed 900 during that span.

An up-tempo attack, commitment to the running game and taking advantage of the running ability of KU’s quarterbacks could make the offense more explosive in 2014, particularly if playmakers emerge alongside running back/receiver Tony Pierson.

“There definitely are a lot of new things we’re doing in this offense that keep me excited,” Cozart told The Topeka Capital-Journal.

At KU, a return to the past could greatly improve its future.
The quarterback position was supposed to be a position of strength and certainty for Kansas heading into the 2013 season. Instead, Jake Heaps struggled and true freshman Montell Cozart replaced Heaps in the lineup, starting KU’s final three games. Heading into this spring, the starting quarterback spot is wide open.

[+] EnlargeJake Heaps
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerKansas quarterback Jake Heaps will look to regain his starting spot in a wide-open spring race.
Departed: None.

Spring contenders: Senior Jake Heaps, sophomore Montell Cozart, sophomore T.J. Millweard, junior Michael Cummings, redshirt freshman Jordan Darling.

Summer contenders: None.

The skinny: After watching his offense sputter around the Big 12 in 2013, head coach Charlie Weis hopes to sit back and watch a starter emerge under center for the Jayhawks this spring.

“I don't think you can come in with any preconceived notion,” Weis said of the spring quarterback battle. "There will be some people that will say, ‘Well, I'll be surprised if it doesn't go deep into August,’ and that's never a good thing. It's never a good thing if it goes deep into August because it means you don't have one. Any time there is a quarterback competition that goes to the end, I had one, trust me, it means you don't have [a quarterback].”

Weis has his fingers crossed that he has at least one quarterback.

Heaps and Cozart had their opportunities in 2013 and didn’t exactly take the job and run away from the competition. Cozart is an athletic quarterback who needs to improve his passing skills to become a difference-maker in the Big 12. Heaps can excel as a passer but doesn’t bring the mobility Cozart can provide.

Therefore, a lot of eyes will turn to Millweard, a UCLA transfer who joined the program shortly before the 2013 season. He was a four-star recruit as the No. 91 player in the ESPN 150 when he signed with UCLA as a member of the Class of 2012. At 6-foot-4, 255 pounds with terrific passing skills, Millweard could rise to the top of the depth chart, particularly if he proves to be a dual-threat quarterback who can combine mobility and passing skills.

This is a wide-open race, particularly with every quarterback on the roster starting from square one in a new system under first-year offensive coordinator John Reagan.

“Who is going to put us in the best position to score touchdowns, that is what it all comes down to," Weis said.

Prediction: Millweard rises to the top of the depth chart. Without a college snap under his belt, Millweard is inexperienced but could have the best upside of all the quarterbacks on campus. With Reagan and Weis searching for playmakers and using the spring to find the guys who will be the foundation of KU’s offense in 2014, don’t be surprised if Millweard begins to separate himself from the competition and heads into the summer as the main man under center.
Change was inevitable at the University of Kansas.

The Jayhawks offense was the worst in the Big 12 as it struggled to find consistency and rhythm throughout the season. Thus, head coach Charlie Weis has made plenty of changes in his offensive coaching staff, led by the hiring of John Reagan to run KU’s offense. Reagan was Rice’s offensive coordinator for the past three seasons and helped the Owls average 29.6 points and 405.6 yards per game on their way to a Conference USA title in 2013.

With spring football set to begin on March 4, Reagan took some time to chat with about what interested him about the job and what has shaped him as a coach in Part II of this Q&A session.

When you were approached initially what intrigued you most about coming to Kansas?

Obviously I have ties here: I was here five years with Coach [Mark] Mangino, so I knew the special place Kansas can be. We had pretty good years, those five years. I had watched them from afar and had a couple Kansas grads working with me at Rice, so we’d been watching them for the last two years. What I had noticed from where it had fallen after our departure to what Coach Weis had going on [now], you could see kids playing hard, playing with a passion with a desire and being very competitive, playing physical. I felt like that was something we could build off of and develop a pretty good offense out of that. And my children are nine and 11 and they’re still in Lawrence, so there was that draw was well.

Sounds like a good fit.

It was kind of the perfect storm if you will. From a personal level it was great, and the position that opened up was an offensive line position and they needed a coordinator, and there’s not a whole lot of that going on this day and age. I do feel pretty blessed and lucky it lined up this way.

When you look back on your coaching career, is there a particular season that shaped you as a coach?

I don’t know that there is a particular year, I could point at two or three different things. For me being coached at George DeLeone at Syracuse there’s a lot of things, work ethic, knowledge that he demanded of us that shaped who I am and my coaching. The transformation we had there, where we kept working for two or three years than all of a sudden things line up the right way and we wind up in the Orange Bowl in 2007 with really good players and end up in the top 10 in the country was really special. And the last two years at Rice, they taught me a lot. You had kids who are really smart players and two years ago were staring 2-6 in the face and we won five in a row, including a bowl game. Then this year we did something that hadn’t been done since 1957 at Rice, winning a conference championship. The common theme is you just keep working, you just keep pointing one foot in front of the other and believe the next day is going to be better and don’t worry about the things you can’t control.
Change was inevitable at the University of Kansas.

The Jayhawks' offense was the worst in the Big 12 as it struggled to find consistency and rhythm throughout the season. Thus, head coach Charlie Weis has made plenty of changes in his offensive coaching staff, led by the hiring of John Reagan to run KU’s offense. Reagan was Rice's offensive coordinator for the past three seasons and helped the Owls average 29.6 points and 405.6 yards per game on their way to a Conference USA title in 2013.

With spring football set to begin March 4, Reagan took some time to chat with about his vision for the offense, core principles and priorities for the spring in Part I of this Q&A session.

Ideally, what would your offense look like?

I think obviously we’re going to be spread, we’re going to space the field out and we’re going to look for matchups and try to do things with the ball in space and put the ball in the hands of our players. To say, right now, ideally what that would look like would be hard to do until I get on the field with some of these guys and see what they are capable of doing within this offense. I would say it’s going to be very similar, in looks, to what we were doing at Rice, but at the same there is some skills talent and things that are very different here that we will try to take advantage of.

Looking five years from now would there be an ideal look for the offense, or does it change year-by-year based on personnel?

One of the things that is unique and special about college football is even though we recruit, you don’t get to draft your personnel so you can’t just hire and fire, you adapt with the personnel you have. It’s an ever-changing landscape; what we were doing six or seven years ago would look very different from what we did last year. The personnel at Rice dictated that we were better off trying to run the football with a controlled passing game. I think sometimes the personnel allows you to go down the field a bit more so it’s hard for me to paint a picture for you and say this is what we’re going to work toward. The one picture it will look like is we’re going to force people to defend the entire field in a lot of different ways. That’s the No. 1 thing.

What would you say the three core principles of the offense would be?

Man, you’re getting personal with me now. In college football, you have to be able to run the football, regardless of whether you do it with five guys blocking or nine guys, you have to be able to run the football, so we’ll be able to run the football. The No. 1 thing we will talk about and make sure we are coaching well is ball security; turnover margin is the No. 1 thing we will focus on. And then, realistically, you’re going to see the ball in the hands of our playmakers. There are different ways it can happen, but that will be a characteristic. If somebody was talking about us, that would be three things I hope they would say.

With spring around the corner, what are some of your top priorities?

No. 1, we have to instill the system. It’s going to be brand new -- we’re going to be no-huddle and it is going to be brand new to our players -- so just learning it. Second, we need to find out how our players fit the system and fit the system to our players, that will be a big part of it. Then I think we have to go into this with a new mindset, not the hope but the belief we’re going to come out being a better offense, a much better fundamental offense at every position.

Spring preview capsules: Big 12

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
Spring football is rapidly approaching.

Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:


Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 5

What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.

Iowa State

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.


Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.

Kansas State

Spring start: April 2

Spring game: April 26

What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.


Spring start: March 8

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.

Oklahoma State

Spring start: March 10

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.


Spring start: March 1

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.


Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.

Texas Tech

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.

West Virginia

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.

Big 12 lunchtime links

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
Exclusive video of my workout this morning. Don't judge me.