Weis clearing house as he revitalizes Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Charlie Weis is hoping turnover in the Kansas roster yields a turnaround on the field.
The first-year coach of the Jayhawks has stuck to his promise that guys who don’t play by the rules will be gone, dismissing two more just this past week. Meanwhile, he’s brought in three of his former players from Notre Dame to jumpstart the scuffling program.
It’s been a whirlwind start to his tenure at Kansas, but Weis is confident the Jayhawks are headed in the right direction as Saturday’s spring game approaches.
“I think you get one opportunity to set it right. You only get one chance,” Weis said Tuesday afternoon. “You don’t get a do-over. And I learned a long time ago, it’s always easier to set that table right in the beginning.”
In some ways, it’s been more like clearing the table.
Weis started off in January by rattling off the names of 10 players who were no longer part of the team. Six of them were released by the program, including promising running back Darrian Miller and wide receiver Keeston Terry. Another player announced he was transferring while three others remained enrolled at the school but left the team.
That included quarterback Jordan Webb, who would have been a junior this season. Webb showed signs of being capable last season, throwing for 316 yards in a loss to Oklahoma State.
The changes kept coming as spring rolled around.
Defensive lineman Julian Green was dismissed for violating team rules. And Monday, linebacker Collin Garrett and defensive back Chris Robinson were let go for the same reason.
Junior running back James Sims, who is expected to be a key contributor this season, was suspended three games for violating team rules. He’s participating in spring ball, but will be sitting on the bench when the season starts Sept. 1 against South Dakota State.
“It’s not usually just because of the one act they were involved in, it’s usually a string of things that are brought together,” Weis said. “We’re not in the business of taking these guys and running them out of here. That’s not what this is about. But I think it’s really important for this football team to understand the team is more important than the individual player.”
Weis said the most recent round of dismissals prompted a team meeting Monday, a sort of clear-the-air kind of heart-to-heart between the coaching staff and the players.
The word “responsibility” was an underlining theme.
“One thing you have to do is set a mentality that matches your philosophy on how things are going to be run,” Weis said. “When I came in here, I clearly stated there’s a right way and wrong way of doing business. There’s learning experiences that take place in college, because the No. 1 thing that happens is you grow up. That’s probably the most important thing that happens.
“But there comes a time where they have to determine when enough is enough,” Weis said, “when they have to decide to turn the corner.”
Weis has been relying on some high-profile transfers to help get them around the bend.
Tight end Mike Ragone and linebacker Anthony McDonald along with quarterback Dayne Crist are taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows players to transfer and play immediately, without having to sit out a season, if they’ve graduated from their previous institution.
All three players were part of the Fighting Irish under Weis, who was fired by Notre Dame in 2009. And all three decided they wanted to finish their careers with him.
Crist is easily the most heralded of the bunch, a former elite prospect whose career in South Bend was largely derailed by injuries. He was anointed the No. 1 quarterback at Kansas the moment he arrived on campus, and has done nothing to hurt his status so far this spring.
“A leader is a leader, whether he’s on the offensive side of the ball or the defensively side of the ball,” said defensive coordinator Dave Campo, whose guys have had their hands full trying to stop Crist during scrimmages and passing drills.
“I don’t have any problem telling our guys, `Hey look, all we need is three stops in this ball game. Three stops in this ball game and we’re going to win,” Campo said, “because that guy over there is leading us, and he’s going to put the ball in the end zone.”
Weis said there are still several more transfers scheduled to arrive this summer, once they complete coursework elsewhere. He’s prohibited from divulging their names due to NCAA rules, but Weis has intimated that they will give the Jayhawks help along the defensive line.
That means changes to the roster are still on the way.
“We’ve made great strides, and I think there’s still a bunch of questions, but there’s also a bunch of answers, too,” Weis said. “If you asking me if I have a lot better feel for our football team, then yes, I have a lot better feel for our football team.”