Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Weis' juco revolution borne from necessity
By David Ubben
Coach Charlie Weis says he's counting on juco transfers to bolster the Jayhawks in 2013.
DALLAS -- Charlie Weis remembers his wife's first response when he told her the school's athletic director had called and he was considering packing his bags and becoming the head coach in Lawrence.
That's the same reaction most high schoolers get when they tell folks they're considering the Jayhawks, unless a family member is an alum or they live inside state lines.
Weis' idea to revitalize Kansas' program isn't some crazy Hail Mary scheme he's hoping will be a magic fix to the problems that ail the Jayhawks, losers of 21 consecutive Big 12 games and 32 of their last 33 conference games.
It's the path to success that makes the most sense. For now, at least.
Since taking over at Kansas, Weis has removed 29 players from his program, and he says not one got a bus ticket home because he wasn't good enough. Problems in the classroom, dorm or "not buying in" were more common reasons for dismissals.
"I figure if we’re going to be 1-11, I can be 1-11 with you and me playing," Weis told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "So let’s go ahead and gut the program."
The idea was to re-stock the program with guys well aware of the kind of culture the program would be operating under.
"You got this roster that’s talent deficient, and now you get rid of 29 players," Weis said. "Well, you’ve got holes everywhere. There isn’t a position you don’t have a hole at."
As for talent upgrades, the source was obvious for Weis. Going the junior-college route was labeled by some a "quick fix." Weis saw it as the only path to success for a program that's floundered since an Orange Bowl win to cap the 2007 season.
"You’re a high school kid, unless you’re from Kansas or a legacy, why is Kansas going to intrigue you?" Weis said. " It’s different for junior college kids."
Players looking to make the jump from junior college to the FBS level want three things, Weis argues: A degree, immediate playing time and a chance to reach the NFL.
"This is much more of a business decision than when they were in high school," Weis said.
When Weis goes recruiting, he pitches all three. A number of nationally renown degrees are available at Kansas, but Weis and his assistant head coach Dave Campo have almost four decades of NFL experience and a combined six Super Bowl rings as assistants.
"The two of us know everybody in that league and have been involved with winning championships and are respected," Weis said. "They know that if I call somebody, they’re going to take the phone call and listen to what I have to say about a guy, good or bad."
Then, Weis can show them a game at Kansas or game film of the struggling Jayhawks.
"You can say to a guy, you look out there? You don’t think you can play here? Because if you can’t play here, where can you play?” he said.
It's a tailor-made pitch to a junior-college prospect and until the wins arrive, reaching out-of-state talent from high schools seems like a fruitless pursuit. Call it a quick fix, but for Weis, it looks like the only fix.
"If you look at that mentality, why wouldn’t you want to come? Not why would you want to come?" he said.
So far, it's working. Kansas landed five of the nation's top 100 junior college players this offseason, as well as a handful of other highly recruited juco stars.
Changing high schoolers' minds outside of KU's immediate recruiting territory can only come with wins, but KU will have to try and mesh almost 20 junior college players on next year's team. In fall camp alone, the Jayhawks will start with seven juco defenders on the depth chart who haven't participated in a practice yet.
"This year could be a really big year for us. Let’s say we have at least moderate success and it’s obviously going to be spearheaded by a couple transfers on offense (QB Jake Heaps and WR Justin McCay), and then all these juco kids. And you’re a juco kid sitting out there now trying to decide where you want to go, going, well, Kansas just took all these guys and they were crummy and all the sudden they start winning games," Weis said. "If we sit there and spit the bit and go 2-10 and get the crap kicked out of us five times, it’s going to be, well it’d be the same thing if you took high school kids. These guys have to have a chip on their shoulder knowing it’s not just Charlie Weis and Kansas, it’s their reputations, too. Are they good or are they not any good? They’ve got something to prove, too."