Jayhawks under Weis all about second chances
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist sat behind a table flanked by former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps and ex-Oklahoma wide receiver Justin McCay. Over to the side sat Charlie Weis, the smile on his face stretching nearly ear to ear.
All of them are getting a second chance at Kansas.
Weis introduced the three high-profile transfers on Monday, ushering in a new era of Jayhawk football with gusto. Crist and Heaps were both among the best QBs in the country coming out of high school, and McCay was one of the nation's most dynamic wide receivers.
"I don't think any of us expected to be sitting here today when we all committed to different places," Heaps said in a steady voice. "You don't go in expecting it's not going to work out, but at the end of the day, things happen for a reason."
Just about everything has been overhauled at Kansas since Weis took over as coach for the fired Turner Gill. Players will have their names on the backs of jerseys this fall, a new coaching staff is taking shape and already the roster has experienced significant changes.
Darrian Miller, the team's second-leading rusher, and defensive back Keeston Terry, the fourth-leading tackler, have been dismissed. Also dismissed were defensive backs Dexter McDonald and Adonis Saunders, quarterback Brock Berglund and defensive end JaQwaylin Arps.
Jordan Webb, the starting quarterback last season, remains in school but is no longer part of the program. The same goes for offensive lineman Tom Mabry and defensive end Tyrone Sellers.
Weis declined discuss specifics of why the players were no longer with the team, but he said the reasons varied in each case, some of it having to do with accountability.
"You can't make decisions, especially coming into a program, based on how good they are," Weis said. "You have to make decisions based on them doing the right thing, because if you don't, you're a hypocrite as a head coach."
Weis had about 14 spots available for incoming players when he arrived at Kansas. That number has swelled to more than 20. Many will be high school recruits, but the former Notre Dame coach has also emphasized junior college players who can immediately help a team that went 2-10 last season.
Weis also said there could be additional transfers like Crist, who will have earned their degree and have eligibility still remaining. NCAA rules allow them to play without sitting out a season.
Crist represented the first major coup for Weis, who recruited him to Notre Dame and had remained close to him even after the coach was fired following the 2009 season.
Crist had a season-ending knee injury his freshman year and another last year, after he completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,033 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven picks under Weis' replacement, Brian Kelly. He came back from the injury to regain the starting job this season, but was benched at halftime of the opener against South Florida. He played only a handful of snaps the rest of the way.
"I was recruited for what Coach Weis wanted to do and those things, but you have to adapt and overcome," Crist said. "I feel so much more comfortable doing the things Coach Weis wants me to do. That's why I committed to him the first time at Notre Dame."
Within hours of news that Crist had committed to Kansas, Heaps also made the decision.
He was the nation's top-ranked quarterback coming out of high school, and set several freshman records at BYU. But he struggled early this season and lost his starting job to Riley Nelson.
Heaps will have to sit out this season under NCAA transfer guidelines, though he'll be able to participate when spring practice starts March 27. He's expected to take over the starting job once Crist is done, giving Weis a pretty good idea who will be under center the next three years.
"I wanted to address quarterback, and how'd I do? That's not too bad," Weis said.
McCay's situation is a little less settled.
After playing in three games while struggling with injuries, McCay was granted a hardship release by the Sooners to transfer to Kansas, Kansas State or Missouri. One of the reasons he transferred was to be closer to his family in the Kansas City area.
As it stands, he'll have to sit out this season and have two years of eligibility remaining, but Kansas plans to file an appeal to the NCAA that would allow him to play this season.
"He has some legitimate things. This is not something you have to make up. He has some legitimate things," Weis said. "From the track record, based on what I've seen, he'll have a chance."
McCay was asked whether he'd thought about catching passes from Crist this season, and Heaps the next couple of years. Just like Weis, who was smiling at his new players from a chair in the corner of the room, a grin began to slide across his face.
"We all wanted the same thing. We all knew what we wanted, and why we came here," McCay said. "We just want to try to help Kansas football."