When the Kansas Jayhawks take the field for Saturday's Spring Game, it will give everyone a chance to see the strides the team has made since completing their difficult 2012.
Head coach Charlie Weis said prior to spring football that the page was being turned as the season came to an end at West Virginia on the first weekend of December.
Coupled with a banner recruiting campaign, Weis is counting that the struggles of last year, as well as an influx of new talent has led the culture change and with translate into on the field success.
"It's always fun to get out there and compete," running back James Sims said. "We're real excited as a whole team to get out there and proved that we improved on the aspects that we didn't do well last year and it's just time to show everyone that we're a better team than we were last year."
"You'll see the blue team throwing the ball a lot, and you'll see the white team running the ball a lot," Weis said.
The idea is that the blue team led by Cummings will showcase a heavier run emphasis that will incorporate more option plays. Meanwhile, the Heaps led white team will feature the BYU transfers biggest strengths, which will be more a dropback passing game.
Weis hopes this will expose his team to both types of offenses and to ensure that it isn't a first team against second team situation, he will split up the offensive line, putting first stringers on both sides to bring balance to the attack. He is also doing this on defensive side of the ball to create more competitive balance.
"The most important thing is I expect from where we were last spring to now, is I expect to see some drastic improvements on both sides of the ball and I'll be very disappointed if I don't see that in the Spring Game," Weis said.
The key to the offense will be the running game, which Weis acknowledges is a great starting point to assure maximum efficiency.
"First of all, I think our running backs, which were our best position last year are better by far this year, that's a good place to start," Weis said. "I think we have talent and depth and they're better and they were already good and I think that if you can run the ball with efficiency, the passing game shouldn't be as tough as we made it look last year."
The passing game will be under the microscope, as Heaps will make his long awaited debut after sitting out 2012. Coming off a year where the Jayhawks failed to record a wide receiver touchdown, Weis expects improvements and knows he has the tools to do just that even before the team gets reinforcements this summer in the form of new arrivals from the JUCO and high school ranks.
"We've put some playmakers in position to do some damage and that's what we're hoping for in the passing game," Weis said.
In addition to the debut of Heaps, Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay will see action for the first time. Joining him at wide receiver will be Christian Matthews, who's days as a Wildcat quarterback seem to be yielding to full time receiver duty. Weis gave the ultimate nod of approval by saying that they would be starting if they played a game now, while reminding everyone that reinforcements will be coming for fall camp that should bring increased competition in hopes of improving the corps as a whole.
In addition, Weis is giddy about the greater utilization of running back Tony Pierson in the passing game. Weis plans to use the speedster the way West Virginia used Tavon Austin. Pierson says he's worked with an 80/20 pass to run ratio. Weis hopes the implementation of Pierson will create havoc and mismatches and ignite big plays.
"Tony is clearly still the most dynamic running back we have. The only problem is, he may also be the most dynamic receiver we have as well," Weis said. "Tony's clearly not a guy that we can't just attach and say he's a running back. He is a definite pain in the butt for the defense because they really don't know whether to call him a running back or a receiver."
Weis, who will not call plays for either side and will be looking on from the coaches box will also be looking at body language and other intangibles that can't be told by just looking at numbers.
"Stats mean absolutely nothing to me, but how they carry themselves, mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, that means a lot to me," Weis said.