Kansas already sets sights on season opener

Charlie Weis and his new-look Jayhawks are closing in on their

first game of the season, now just over a week away, and the push

is on to get everything ready in time for South Dakota State.

One thing that’s already set: the depth chart.

Even though Weis won’t release it until next week – and won’t

even tell his players – the former Notre Dame coach said Tuesday

that about ”90 percent” of the depth chart is set, and the only

remaining gray area involves a couple of players who arrived late

to fall camp.

”That’s where you hope to be by now,” Weis said. ”You hope to

know who you’re going with, because I think the one thing that

happens in training camp is you don’t get a ton of continuity,

because you’re rolling people in and out so much.”

The most entrenched starter is Dayne Crist, the once highly

sought quarterback who slipped off the radar at Notre Dame and

opted to rejoin his old coach at Kansas.

Weis has praised Crist at every opportunity, even stopping in

the middle of a question about the competition for the backup job

to talk about his starting signal-caller. Crist has taken on a

unique leadership role with the Jayhawks having worked with Weis in

South Bend, Ind.

”It’s a continual working relationship with Coach Weis with

what we’re doing well, what we need to improve upon. I’m just

working within the framework of what he’s giving me,” Crist

said.

Weis ultimately did address the backup quarterback job, giving

Mike Cummings the edge over junior college transfer Turner Baty.

Cummings was recruited by former coach Turner Gill, but sat out

last season and has impressed the coaching staff enough to get reps

with the second team.

”Right now, Michael is ahead of Turner, and if we were to play

a game this week, Michael would be No. 2,” Weis said. ”He’s just

played better.”

The pecking order at running back has also shaken out.

Fleet-footed Tony Pierson has assumed the No. 1 job, and Taylor

Cox has emerged as the backup ahead of Brandon Bourbon, who has

dealt with several injury issues during his career.

Weis said that should remain status quo until Week 4, when James

Sims is eligible to return to action. The junior running back has

been the most impressive in practice, but he was suspended for the

first three games of the season for violating team rules.

”Most of the jobs are settled. There’s a little gray area with

a couple of guys that got here real late,” Weis said. ”They know

if they’re still fighting. They’re not blind. They can watch the

tape and see who is playing better than the others, and who’s

getting more reps because of it.”

The depth chart along the defensive line could still receive a

jolt when Ty McKinney arrives on campus. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound

tackle has finished his course work at Trinity Valley Community

College in Texas, but there’s been a hang-up in allowing him to

take his final exam.

Weis said that McKinney could arrive any day, and he’s expected

to provide valuable depth.

”It’s going to happen sooner or later, even though it’s already

later from our perspective,” Weis said. ”We’re in class (at

Kansas), so what we can’t do is let one of our young men fall

behind academically. Let’s just get him in class. Forget about

football.”

In the meantime, players on campus have already turned their

attention to South Dakota State, the school from the Football

Championship Subdivision that will open the season next

Saturday.

Things pick up speed in a hurry after that – the Jayhawks face

Rice the following week before playing No. 20 TCU, one of the Big

12 newcomers, at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 15.

Don’t think for a second that Weis is looking that far ahead,

though.

And don’t think that he’s letting anybody else look ahead,

either.

”We’d better get off to a fast start or we’re going to have a

long year,” he said. ”Everyone else wants to look at the 12-game

schedule. I want to look at one. I have a one-game schedule. I

mean, it’s been a little while here since we came in the first game

of the year and had a really convincing performance, and that’s

what my intent is.”