It ain’t rocket science — KU will go as far this fall as the passing game can take it

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Look, Charlie Weis will say dumb things. Really, really, dumb things. Asinine things. Honest, but asinine.

He will sit before hundreds of reporters and call his team a pile of crap. It comes with the package, along with the self-deprecating humor, the occasional fits of temper and the constant stream of sarcasm.

With Uncle Charlie, gray area is not the first thing that leaps to mind; it’s usually a love him or hate him sort of proposition. What you see is what you get. Filters and salads need not apply.

But if we’re going to pile on the big man — and we did — for saying the wrong thing to the wrong audience, we should praise him for the moments of absolute, spot-on astuteness, as well.

Weis had several of those moments Wednesday at his preseason-camp-opening news conference, but none sharper than this singular moment, when he declared:

“If we can’t throw the ball, we won’t win.”

Bingo.

It’s been said before, it’ll be said again, but the Jayhawks in Year 2 of the Weis regime will go as far as the passing game will take them. Quantum physics, it ain’t.

If new quarterback Jake Heaps is as good as the whispers from behind closed doors say he is, this is a four- to six-win kind of football team. A team that pulls a Bill Snyder, a team that makes the preseason prognostication mafia look like complete tool sheds.

If he’s half as good — and this is where much of the mafia guessing falls, at this point — then it’s a 3-9 sort of bunch; better, but nationally, little more than a speed bump.

If he’s Dayne Crist, start prepping the body bags.

“Jake has totally different issues than Dayne had,” Weis said of Crist, the highly touted Notre Dame transfer, a nice kid who nonetheless helmed a 1-11 lemon a year ago. “The situations were totally different.”

For one thing, Weis said, Crist had been saddled by the kind of rust (injuries, demotions, baggage) that had been ingrained too deep to completely shake off. Heaps, despite sitting out last season as a transfer from BYU, is fresher, without the scar tissue, and with better tools — Justin McCay at wideout, chief among them — at his disposal, even without gifted transfer Nick Harwell, who’ll have to sit out this fall as a redshirt.

He also has more good running backs — James Sims, Taylor Cox, Darrian Miller, Tony Pierson, Brandon Bourbon, etc. — than Weis knows what to do with. Ergo, the big lug is trying Pierson and Bourbon out at receiver.

“I think we’ll be running the ball a lot,” Weis said. “And I think we’d be stupid not to.”

But good intentions are one thing; good execution is another. The Jayhawks could run the ball on almost anyone when they wanted to last fall. But much like an ace closer on a 94-loss big league baseball team, a stellar ground game starts to get superfluous if you rarely have a lead in the first place.

The Jayhawks of 2013 don’t have to be truly and genuinely balanced. They just have to complete enough throws to keep defenses honest, to keep them from loading everyone but the pep band in the stinking box.

Because the one thing Weis can’t have is a repeat of 2012 — at least, not through the air. When he mentions crap, these are the numbers he’s referring to: KU was last in the Big 12 last fall in terms of scoring offense (18.2 points per game); passing offense (148.7 yards per game); total offense (360.3 yards per game); pass efficiency (94.2); first downs (240), and third-down conversion rate (32.3 percent).

“You’d like to think we’d be better in a lot of different areas — let’s start with coaching,” Weis said. “I don’t think the coaches did a real good job, starting with yours truly. I don’t think any of us did. One and 11. I don’t think anyone did a very good job.”

A pause.

“Maybe (running backs coach) Reggie Mitchell. Maybe I should give him a raise.”

Weis allowed himself to smirk a little at that last one. When the record is 6-30 overall since 2010, 1-25 in league play, sometimes you’ve just got to laugh to keep from crying yourself to sleep.

“Talk is cheap,” Weis said. “We’ve all had a lot to say and haven’t done a damn thing. It’s time to shut up and go to work.”

New season. New quarterback. New hope. Same Uncle Charlie.

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com