The only direction for a Kansas Jayhawk football program
that registered only two wins overall in 2011 and just six wins in Big 12
Conference play since 2008, is up.
New head coach Charlie Weis knows that and the recent
struggles were one of the reasons he took the gig in Rock Chalk nation.
“It kind of encouraged us to go ahead and take this job and
take a losing program and make it, turn it into a competitive, winning
program,” Weis said during Big 12 Media Days in Dallas.
But the turnaround will not be an easy one considering how
monumental week in and week out the Jayhawks were losing last season.
Kansas averaged just 22.3 points per game in 2011, while
opponents were averaging 43.8.
Breaking it down even further, Kansas averaged just 3.5
yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass, which does not add up to a lot of first
downs and a lot of scoring either.
The closest game for Kansas in 2011 was their battle with
Baylor, falling 31-30, and arguably the worst loss was to former Big 12 member
Texas A&M, falling 61-7.
With everything that was wrong with the Jayhawks for the
past few seasons, Weis said the top priority they for them this season is becoming
more of a threat.
“I think that the first thing you better do is get your team
to be more competitive on a weekly basis,” he said. “Because once you get your
team more competitive on a weekly basis, more wins will naturally follow.”
To shed some good light on the situation in Lawrence, Kansas
right now entering the 2012 season, the Jayhawks will have an experienced
quarterback taking snaps for them and a gunslinger Weis knows well – Dayne Crist.
“Well obviously Dayne and I have
known each other since going back to early high school days when we first got
involved in the whole recruiting process,” Weis said. “Our relationship is
wonderful. It was whether or not he thought that he could come in here and be
competitive or not … And I think he’s such a natural
leader that it was easy for the players to follow.”
Crist and Weis of course dating back to their time at Notre Dame, where Crist was entering his prime when Weis was heading out the door.
Now turning the program around with a new quarterback and
new head coach will be a challenge, but according to Weis it can be done.
During his time at Big 12 Media Days, the former NFL
Offensive Coordinator, made references to programs in the vicinity of Kansas,
like in-state rival Kansas State and new SEC member Missouri and threw their
success on the table as an example of what can be accomplished.
Both of those programs turning in decent seasons in 2011,
both making it to a bowl game – Tigers beating UNC 41-24 and Kansas State
being edged out by Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl 29-16.
But both have found success, which leads Weis to believe his
program can too, eventually.
“I think that’s one of the reasons that gave me optimism,
because there’s no reason why you can’t have a third one into the mix and
become more competitive,” Weis said. “Time frame, I can’t give you, but I can
tell you there’s already two teams doing it, okay, which tells you that it
obviously can be done.”
To get that done, recruiting will be a huge factor down the
road for Weis and his coaching staff.
Weis is a huge college basketball fan, and considering the
job he landed it must be paradise to be at the college where National
Championships have been won behind Bill Self.
With that luxury of having one of the consistently top ten
teams in the country and National Championship contenders, year in and year
out, recruiting visits will be easy to plan.
Take the recruits to a Kansas basketball game.
“So it’s a Saturday afternoon in January. And your going out
on the fieldhouse with about 20 recruits you’re bringing in. The place is
rocking and rolling. The decibel level is well over 100,” Weis said. “You’ve
got one of the best basketball teams in the country with arguably the best
coach on an annual basis playing, an the fans are going bananas. And what
you’re saying to these players coming in saying: That’s what we want Memorial
Stadium to become like.
“You’ve got to come here and give them a reason to be that
Coming from Notre Dame, where Weis spent five seasons as the
head coach, turning in just three winning seasons and one 10-win campaign back
in 2006, but that wasn’t enough to save his job after a 6-6 mark in 2009, he
knows there are high expectations for football.
But in Kansas with it being a basketball school primarily,
some people might think the expectations are not as high for football like they
would be at a school like Notre Dame.
The fact is wherever you go the expectations will be high
for any sport entering a season, and it wasn’t that long ago that the Jayhawks
were making bowl appearances and bringing home the hardware with wins.
Kansas winning back-to-back bowl games, 2007 FedEx Orange
Bowl, beating Virginia Tech 24-21, and 2008 in the Insight Bowl beating
So Weis knows the expectations are there and the fans want
to see the Jayhawks return to national prominence under his watch in 2012.
“The Jayhawk fans, you couldn’t get any more exuberant fans
than the people who root for the Jayhawks,” Weis said. “So really at the end of
the day they all want the same thing.
“They want their team to go out there and play competitive
football and win.”