Weis talks offense

The idea of the Weis Offense kindles excitement in the minds of Kansas football fans, because for so long it has been synonymous with production. Gaining yards, scoring points - important components of winning football. But what is it, exactly? Monday, Weis sat down with a small group of media and shed a little light on his offensive philosophy; what it is and, more specifically, what it isn't.

The Charlie Weis Offense.

It's a concept that kindles excitement in the minds of Kansas football fans, because for so long it has been synonymous with production. Gaining yards, scoring points - fairly important components of winning football.

But what is it, exactly? A tactician the caliber of Weis isn't going to reveal the innermost workings of his offensive system, obviously, but he can state - with absolute certainty - one thing that it's not.

It's not the spread. At least, not by his definition.

There are many variations, of course, and no two offenses are exactly alike. But the common thread among spread offenses - at least as it is generally accepted today - is their attempt to spread defenses thin through formations and take advantage of one-on-one match-ups in space.

Weis explained his position through the prism of professional football. The biggest difference between a spread and a pro-style offense, he explained, is the exposure of the quarterback to risk. Some might say there are spread offenses in the NFL, but to his eyes the few that exist are usually extremely short-lived.

Why? For reasons of practicality. Quarterbacks are typically the most expensive player on the roster, and the best command staggering salaries. They also don't tend to mesh well with frequent collisions with 6-foot-3, 260-pound linebackers who hit with the impact of a small freight train.

"They all end up on injured reserve," Weis said, pointing to Michael Vick early in his career as an example, and the more recent media frenzy surrounding Tim Tebow. "Because the defensive coordinators say 'Forget about everyone else. Knock out the quarterback.' And they knock out the quarterback - and the quarterback is making too much money."

Oh, sure, they'll utilize spread formations - 2 x 2, 3 x 1, four-wide. Those are fairly common. But those don't define an offense, Weis said. They're formations - not a philosophy.

And here he comes to the crux of his definition of what constitutes a true, honest-to-God spread offense.

"Spread is when one of your main ball carriers is your quarterback," Weis said. "Because the number one play in the spread offense is the read-option. The number one play. You're either giving to the back and if everyone closes you're keeping the ball and running."

Though the Big 12 has a reputation as a spread offense league, by that definition there are actually relatively few teams who run it.

The most obvious candidate would be Kansas State, whose option attack saw quarterback Collin Klein rush for more than 1,000 yards and carry the ball 317 times during the 2011 season. Baylor would be another, because though Robert Griffin III put up passing numbers that are more commonly found in video games than in stat sheets, he also rushed for almost 700 yards.

But Oklahoma State, whom most casual observers would likely describe as a spread team? Brandon Weeden actually rushed for negative yardage (-102) last season, while throwing for maybe one half of football shy of 5,000 yards (4,727).

Historically, quarterbacks under Weis don't run much. The two who started for him at Notre Dame, never rushed for 100 yards in a season. Clausen, in fact, logged -355 rushing yards total for his career.

What they did do well was throw the ball. Quinn completed better than 60-percent of his passes during each of the two seasons he played under Weis, throwing for almost 8,000 yards and 69 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions.

Clausen was almost as prolific. Despite enduring a brutal freshman campaign that included major shakeups almost across the board on offense after the departure of Quinn and Co., he bounced back to throw for better than 3,000 yards during both his sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior in 2009, he completed 68-percent of his passes, threw for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns to just four picks.

What will the stat breakdown look like at Kansas? It's likely to be extremely similar.

"Well, Dayne will not be running the read-option," Weis said, smiling, of fifth-year Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist. "Now, do we have that play in there? Yes. But that play for us is a situations play. It's third and two."

With his tall frame, powerful arm and familiarity with the Weis system, the pieces are in place for Crist to have a big senior year through the air. Just don't expect him to be asked to do the heavy lifting in the run game as well.

"That's not what we do," Weis said. "Because I believe that runners run, and throwers throw."

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