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.