Kansas coach Weis counting on JUCO-led rebound

Kansas coach Charlie Weis caused quite a stir at the Big 12’s
media day in Dallas last month when he was asked about last year’s
team, which stumbled to a 1-11 finish in his first season.

He referred to it quite bluntly as a ”pile of crap.”

His opinion hadn’t changed on Wednesday, even as the Jayhawks
prepared for a fresh start armed with a new quarterback in Jake
Heaps and an influx of junior college players ready to
contribute.

”For anyone who knows me personally, I put me as the leader of
that group,” Weis said, when asked about the national stir caused
by his comment. ”They want to say, `You’re throwing your team
under the bus.’ But I always sit there and say, `What could I have
done?’

”Whose record does that 1-11 go on?” Weis continued to ask.
”Last time I checked it goes under my name, right? Kansas football
and me. I’m the leader of that. How else are you going to describe
it? You want me to give it a cleaner way? It wasn’t very good. OK,
I could have said that.”

Well, then. On to this season.

The Jayhawks lost a slew of starters from a team that failed to
win a league game for the second straight year, though that may not
be such a bad thing. After all, the Jayhawks were beaten 56-16 by
rival Kansas State, routed 51-23 by Iowa State and lost 59-10 to
West Virginia.

In their place comes a whole bunch of transfer already filling
the depth chart.

The most notable name is Heaps, the once highly touted high
school quarterback who spurned offers from several big-time schools
– including Notre Dame, back when Weis was the coach – to go to
BYU. But after setting several records as a freshman, Heaps was
shuffled out of the quarterback competition there, ultimately
electing to transfer to Kansas and finally joining Weis.

He sat out last season as another transfer, former Fighting
Irish quarterback Dayne Crist, struggled mightily in his only
season with the Jayhawks. But now, Heaps was the clear-cut No. 1
quarterback on the depth chart that Weis passed out prior to the
start of fall practice.

”We’ve all been very, very pleased with how things have gone
with Jake,” Weis said.

His supporting cast ought to be vastly improved, too.

The Big 12’s top returning rusher, James Sims, will be eligible
to play Week 1 against South Dakota after being suspended for the
first part of last year. Taylor Cox and former
Jayhawk-turned-junior college transfer Darrian Miller provide some
explosiveness behind him.

In fact, the Jayhawks were so deep at running back that Weis
moved Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon to wide receiver, though
both could still be used as running backs in some situation.

Another transfer who made headlines during the spring game is
wide receiver Justin McCay, one of the highest-rated wide receivers
coming out of high school. He transferred from Oklahoma and sat out
last season, catching plenty of passes from Heaps while awaiting
his chance to play.

The Jayhawks won’t have the services of Nick Harwell,
though.

The former Miami, Ohio, standout who was dismissed from the
RedHawks last spring for off-the-field reasons was unable to finish
his final six hours of classes. That means that rather than play
immediately as a graduate transfer, Harwell will be forced to
redshirt after leading the Mid-American Conference team with 68
catches for 870 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

Despite all the changes on offense, there are even more on
defense.

Weis spent most of December and January dissecting tape of every
game from last season, painful as the experience may have been.
What he learned was that it’s no longer possible to run defenses in
a conventional way – offenses in college football these days simply
operate too quickly.

So rather than listing a base defense on the depth chart, Weis
listed a nickel package as the No. 1 unit, and said it’s possible
to see seven or eight defensive backs on the field at once.

”In the olden days, you know, you’d sit there, you’d watch the
offensive personnel substitution, you’d send your personnel on the
field and your defense was called based on down, distance and hash
mark,” Weis said. ”You can’t do that now. A lot of it is coaching
on the fly.”

To help do that, defensive coordinator Dave Campo will now coach
from the sideline.

The guys he’ll be using have changed dramatically, too. The
initial depth chart listed four junior college transfers as
starters with four more serving as backups.

The depth chart is fluid until Aug. 17, Weis said, when things
will firm up.

As for last season, well, Weis said he’s relived it several
times. He can’t do anything about the outcome now, but he spent the
offseason trying to avoid going through it again.

”You’d like to think we’re better in a lot of different
areas,” Weis said.