Already, this is the last chance for Charlie Weis. You can tell that he knows. After his colossal failure at Notre Dame, he bounced around a little and now is at Kansas, with the bar so much lower than it was in South Bend.
Kansas should be a safe place for Weis, who now has experience and no spotlight. Instead, he’s fully in desperation mode.
Just a few years ago, he was the biggest name in college sports, the biggest savior. Now, one crummy year at lowly Kansas and he has already completely revamped his plan into something that I don’t think is going to work for him.
Weis was all arrogance at Notre Dame, waving his Super Bowl rings as proof he knows more than you, and telling his players that they would have a “decided schematic advantage’’ over everyone else because of his coaching.
In some ways, you wanted to knock the smug off his face back then, but now, this is just sad. Two-thirds of his recruiting class was made up of junior-college players.
Two-thirds. And what for?
“I needed guys that could play now,’’ he told me Monday at Big 12 Media Days. “If not, I’m going to be ranked 10th in the league every year.’’
This is ridiculous. Yes, Kansas won just once in Weis’ first year there last season. He said he kicked off 29 scholarship players for off-field reasons and now finds his roster so short that he had to do more than just plug a few holes, but instead build a whole new dam.
Fine, the team was awful. But what kind of pressure could Weis really be under to turn it around with a bunch of high-risk junior-college players? So many juco players tend to get in trouble, or leave school, or who knows what.
I suspect the pressure is coming from within. It’s a big-dollar world of college football now, but it’s impossible to believe that Kansas was counting on Weis to turn things around by year two.
At Notre Dame, Weis’ problem goes down as too much bluster. But the bigger truth is that he just didn’t realize the one main truth of college football:
It is all about player development. Weis came in from the New England Patriots, where he was credited as the guru for Tom Brady, and he made the classic pro-coach-turns-college mistake:
He thought he could just out-think the other coaches. In the pros, when a player isn’t working, you get rid of him, replace him. In college, you’re either stuck with him or have to start all over.
When Weis was at Notre Dame, I used to call him The Intern, because he was learning on the job, the highest-profile college job in the country. He had never been a head coach before and had almost no college experience.
Well, you’d think he would have learned by now, after what he went through. He did talk about player development last year but now is bringing in all these juco quick-fixes with only two years of eligibility left.
So I asked him how junior-college players factor into his idea of Kansas’ future.
“I think that you can’t factor junior-college recruiting to the number that I brought in this year into long-term plans,’’ he said. “I think that the high volume of players I took this year was a necessity . . .
“See, in recruiting, It think it’s imperative to understand that, when you bring in a high school kid, there’s a good portion of them that need at least a year to go ahead and develop. At least a year. Sometimes it’s more than a year.’’
True enough, but why doesn’t Weis feel comfortable taking a year or two to develop a team comfortable with his system, his style?
Typically, you get one or two juco players to fill a need. They’re like free agents in baseball. Your system didn’t produce what you need, so you plug someone in.
That’s what Weis is doing now, trying to build a team without a minor-league system.
“I think the long-range plan and the plan that we’ve laid out as a coaching staff, that sliding scale should start working in the other direction,’’ he said. “The majority of the players (eventually will be) high school players.’’
Look, there is little difference between winning one game and winning three, which might be what Kansas does this year.
It’s true that Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has had success relying heavily on junior-college players, but that’s such a rarity.
Last year, Weis went with fifth-year Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist at quarterback. It didn’t work. Now he’s got Brigham Young transfer Jake Heaps.
This is no way to develop anything. Just take your time and get it right. Three years later, Kansas can start showing results.
Weis needed to do it right this time. It’s his last chance.