Jayhawks finish winless Big 12 season with thud
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)
If Charlie Weis had his druthers, he wouldn't have accompanied his team back to Kansas on Saturday night. He would have hopped on the next plane to Texas or Florida or California or some other recruiting hotbed.
After watching West Virginia's Geno Smith torch his Jayhawks in a 59-10 defeat to West Virginia that left Kansas 1-11 and 0-9 in the Big 12, it became painfully evident what is lacking in Lawrence: Talent. Speed. Guys who can make plays on both sides of the ball.
''There isn't time for me to reflect on the season,'' said Weis, the former Notre Dame coach who was hired in December to piece together a program fallen once again on hard times.
''I'm fully aware of our deficiencies,'' he said. ''In about five seconds, I want to be out recruiting so I can plug some of these deficiencies. You saw a gross mismatch out there and it didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out whose players were exposing the other team's players.''
It was a harsh assessment of the team he inherited, but an honest one.
Kansas won its season-opener against lower-subdivision South Dakota State, and then lost every game the rest of the way. There were blowout losses to rival Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma along with an overtime defeat to Texas Tech and a last-minute loss to Texas.
Over the course of the season, it became clear the Jayhawks were improving, particularly on defense, where Weis lured former Dallas Cowboys coach Dave Campo to shore up that unit.
The Jayhawks held Oklahoma State's high-flying attack to 20 points, and held the Longhorns to a pair of touchdowns until the final minutes of their game in late October.
''I feel like we laid the foundation,'' said wide receiver Daymond Patterson, one of several seniors who went through three coaches after committing to former coach Mark Mangino.
''We didn't have as many wins as we wanted, but we got better, and I think people noticed.''
Nevertheless, the 11 straight losses to finish the year are the most since the school had a 17-game losing streak from 1953-55.
So on Saturday night, when their finale against the Mountaineers was beginning to spin wildly out of control, Weis was already turning his attention to next season.
''I had several conversations with a bunch of players during the game, some with the young guys who aren't even playing,'' he said. ''I took a couple of redshirts that we weren't playing and I said, `Are you watching this?'
"When the game was out of control, I was already working on next week and into the spring. You don't wait. It's never too early to start moving forward.''
The Jayhawks were expected to be improved over the ragtag, 2-10 bunch that got former coach Turner Gill fired. Weis had to scramble to put together his first recruiting class, but it was buoyed by the influx of several Division I transfers taking advantage of an NCAA rule that would allow them to play immediately if they'd already graduated from their previous school.
The highest-profile among them was Dayne Crist, who was recruited to Notre Dame by Weis and had to watch this season as his former teammates put together a dream season that could culminate in a national championship, all while he was eventually shunted to the bench.
Crist completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards with four touchdowns and nine interceptions before giving way to redshirt freshman Michael Cummings, who will go into next season knowing he'll have a fight on his hands to keep hold of the starting job.
Sitting out this season was another transfer, former BYU starter Jake Heaps, another high-profile recruit whom Weis lured to Kansas in an attempt to turn things around.
Kansas will lose its top three wide receivers, their tight end, half their offensive line and a handful of seniors on defense, though the number of wins they've compiled suggests they the losses won't leave massive voids. Rather, they'll provide an opportunity for Weis to bring in his own players to shore up a program just five years removed from the Orange Bowl.
''We need to fill these voids quickly with players that can play now,'' said Weis, who has made no secret that he intends to heavily recruit junior college players.
There is talent returning, particularly at running back.
James Sims is expected back for his senior year after eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark against the Mountaineers, something few thought possible when he missed the first three games of the year for violating team rules. Taylor Cox and Tony Pierson will also be back in the fold.
There are a few workable pieces on defense, too, but not nearly enough.
''I'm really excited about the buzz in recruiting right now at Kansas,'' assistant coach Tim Grunhard said. ''I really believe in this product and I really believe in what we are trying to do here, so it's not difficult for me to sell it. If you show that enthusiasm, then I think the kids will see that and buy in.''