By Trevor Graff
The Jayhawks opening performance in Memorial Stadium Sat. wasn’t perfect. Crist left a lot to be desired. The secondary gave up 174 yards to Austin Sumner in a little under a half of play – they also picked off four Sumner passes.
But, for Coach Weis, this week on the practice fields is “utopic.” To Weis, there’s no better time to develop skill sets than after a sloppy win. The Jayhawks take this tone of improvement into this weekend’s home showdown with the Rice Owls.
The Owls, led by sixth year coach David Bailiff, struggled with UCLA at home last week, losing 49-24 and surrendering 646 yards.
The offense, featuring junior quarterback Taylor McHargue and former Michigan receiver Sam McGuffie, gained 358 yards in the 24-point effort. The Owl defense may not live up to Big 12 standards on paper, but the offense is stocked with threats that could make Saturday’s game interesting.
McHargue threw for 172 yards and two touchdowns while running for 95 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
“Their offense starts with McHargue,” Weis said. “He’ll pull the ball in in both the read option and on broken plays. I think everything on that offense starts with him.”
McHargue’s receiving corps doesn’t lack targets, most notably Michigan transfer Sam McGuffie. The Owls rely on McGuffie for punt and kick return duties, in addition to his role as slot receiver. Weis once recruited McGuffie for his versatility and athleticism.
The Owls compliment to the 5’ 9” McGuffie comes in the form of 6’5” 210-pound Jordan Taylor who pulled down 2 catches for 48 yards against UCLA. Tight end Luke Wilson adds to the passing attack with his 6’5” frame.
Couple the skill positions with an offensive line featuring 6’7” 300-pound left tackle Jon Hodde and 6’8” 340-pound Ian Gray and the Jayhawk defense will have work to do in defensive meetings.
On paper, the Owls defense is less than impressive. Speed is important to their 4-2-5 scheme.
Strong side Linebacker Cameron Nwosu, last year’s leading tackler for the Owls, blocked three extra points, an NCAA record, en route to a nine tackle performance.
Jared Williams anchors the Owls line. At 6’2” 250 pounds, Williams accounted for five tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery against UCLA.
“Tanner (Hawkinson) will have his hands full, because that’s where the guy will line up most of the night,” Weis said.
The secondary is littered with the speed that lends itself to a 4-2-5 scheme.
“Because they have three guys that can bounce from left to right and deep to down, it gives them the versatility to not have to run all over the place to adjust to the offense,” Weis said.
Look for the Owls to run up to 6 defensive backs on to the field on Sat.
Rice will test the Jayhawks awareness with multiple threats on offense, and an intricate scheme on defense.