LAWRENCE, Kans. - How bad was the Kansas defense last year? The answer to that question isn't open to debate.
Kansas was ranked 120th out of 120 teams in FBS football in scoring defense and total defense. In five of the Jayhawks' nine Big 12 losses, they allowed 30 or more points. In a non-conference loss to Georgia Tech KU allowed 66 points and that followed allowing 42 points in a victory over Northern Illinois.
For new coach Charlie Weis, the picture didn't brighten during spring practice.
"For a number of reasons, the offense had a big advantage during the spring," Weis said. "We just didn't have the bodies on defense. Now we have a bunch of contenders who can play football in the Big 12."
During spring practice, sophomore Pat Lewandowski and junior Randall Dent served on the defensive line even though Weis thought both were better suited elsewhere. Both have now moved to offense and figure to be backups on the O-line.
Josh Williams, a defensive end who transferred from Nebraska, middle linebacker Anthony McDonald, a senior transfer from Notre Dame, along with junior-college defensive linemen Keon Stowers, Jordan Tavai and Ty McKinney should add depth to the front seven. Tavai was a late arrival and McKinney is still delayed until he completes summer course work.
Defensive coordinator Dave Campo, a former assistant and head coach in the NFL, was selected by Weis to run the Kansas defense.
"I want us to play from the snap to the whistle, no matter what the situation, no matter what the time, no matter what the score," Campo said. "That is what I'm looking for. If we do that, then we are talented enough that we will stop serve on some of these guys.
"People are going to know they played us when we play. How good we are is going to depend on how quick we can come together as a team."
One area that needs a major upgrade is the pass rush. The Jayhawks had just 10 sacks last season.
"I told (the defensive coaches) this morning to just bring it," Weis said. "If they can get pressure on the quarterback with four guys, great. If not, we're gonna bring it. I don't tell 'em what to call on defense but if I see the other quarterback having all sorts of time and carving us up, then we're gonna have to bring it."
Weis was asked about senior receiver Kale Pick and answered that Pick had been the best player in practice so far. The best receiver? "No," Weis said. "Out of 105 guys out there, if I had to put somebody No. 1 so far, it would be Kale Pick. You judge players by how they produce and he's been productive."
A former quarterback, Pick moved to receiver last season and was second on the team with 34 receptions. Weis noted that Pick works hard, studies and takes advantage of his experience as a quarterback to understand the offense.
"He's just a guy you want on your team. He does all the little things," Weis said.
Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist also has been impressed with Pick.
"Some of the things Kale's done athletically have kind of exceeded the expectations I had for him athletically," Crist said. "He's made some great catches, some real athletic catches, some plays where you watch on film and you really 'wow' at them a little bit."
* At Saturday's open practice, freshman receiver Tre' Parmalee had a touchdown reception during seven-on-seven drills then returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns during special teams work. Parmalee is the son of former NFL player Bernie Parmalee, who was an assistant coach at Notre Dame and the Kansas City Chiefs along with KU coach Charlie Weis. "He's a skilled player," receivers coach Rob Ianello said. "And I think he'll fit in nicely with us. And I think he'll make a real impact here in his time at Kansas."
* With senior Dayne Crist the starter, there's a battle for the backup job. Freshman Michael Cummings and junior-college transfer Turner Baty are competing to be No. 2 behind Crist. Both are struggling to grasp coach Charlie Weis' offensive system. "Michael has a bit of an edge but it's still a competition," Weis said.
* The offensive line should be a strength this season but there is one spot on the line that needs to be filled. Kansas is hoping that Aslam Sterling can take over as the starter. The 6-5, 360-pound junior-college transfer has the size and talent to get playing time. Sterling arrived late and missed the conditioning program the rest of the Jayhawks went through. "He's got a really high ceiling," said KU left tackle Tanner Hawkinson said. "He needs to get in a little better football shape. He's a big guy, around 360, 365. He moves really well. He has really good feet."
* Weis believes the future is now and has not firm plans regarding redshirting players this season. "If a guy can help us win, he's playing," he said. "We'll worry about redshirt decisions down the road. I tell guys to plan on playing, not sitting out. We'll probably go about four games and then make decisions about guys who haven't played."
* Kansas' season opener with South Dakota State (6 p.m. on Sept. 1) will be televised in the Sunflower State by the IMG Jayhawk Television Network.