Big 12: Charlie Weis.

Now that we're entering the first full week of Big 12 conference games, we got to thinking: Have there really been that many surprises so far?

No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor are both undefeated and rolling just as expected. The tier of teams below them is a bit of an uncertain jumble, which we could've predicted in August. A few programs that might've seem poised to take a small step back in 2014 -- Oklahoma State and West Virginia -- have been better than advertised. So is still-unbeaten TCU.

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What has been the biggest early-season surprise in the Big 12?

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Discuss (Total votes: 6,113)

But the on-field results, to this point, haven't provided many shocks. Kansas State, WVU and OSU played Auburn, Alabama and Florida State admirably close, for sure, but all three came up short of a season-changing upset. OU and Baylor handled their first conference road trips just fine, too.

But there are a few developments, some on the field and some off of it, that provide a nice dose of surprise.

Maybe the biggest one came last Sunday, when Kansas fired coach Charlie Weis four games into his third season in Lawrence. There was also the abrupt departure of Texas Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt last month and the ESPN.com report that he'd been suspended of being under the influence of a substance on campus.

Charlie Strong's debut year at Texas, with losses to BYU and UCLA and potentially to Baylor and Oklahoma up next, also hasn't gone as planned. But we have been pleasantly surprised by the prolific start for West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett and receiver Kevin White, as well as the sharp play of quarterback Daxx Garman at OSU after J.W. Walsh went down.

So which of those takes the cake? Let us know what you think by voting in today's poll.

What are we forgetting here? Oklahoma going 0-for-3 on Baker Mayfield, Dorial Green-Beckham and Frank Shannon playing in 2014? The nine Texas dismissals? Has there been a truly surprising game result we've overlooked? After you vote, please let us know in the comments below.

Big 12 viewer’s guide: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
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In Week 4 of Big 12 action, most of the conference will have the day off to watch Oklahoma and West Virginia square off in a key early season clash; while Kansas will attempt to bounce back after getting steamrolled at Duke last week.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to follow today in the Big 12:

Central Michigan at Kansas, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): The pressure is already on Kansas coach Charlie Weis, whose Jayhawks were overwhelmed in a 41-3 loss to Duke last week. Kansas desperately needs a better performance from sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart, who against the Blue Devils struggled mightily, completing just 41 percent of his passes while throwing a pair of interceptions. A bounce-back performance won’t come easy. Central Michigan returns 19 starters, and hammered Purdue by three touchdowns on the road two weeks ago. The Jayhawks, though, will catch a break, with Chippewas star running back Thomas Rawls, who rushed for 155 yards against the Boilermakers, still facing suspension after being accused of stealing a woman’s purse.

No. 4 Oklahoma at West Virginia, 7:30 p.m. ET (Fox): The last time these two teams met in Morgantown, they staged a classic -- and this showdown has the makings of the same. The key matchup figures to be West Virginia’s big-play wide receivers against Oklahoma’s big-play defensive backs. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Mountaineers are averaging 247 yards after the catch a game, which is third most of any Power 5 conference offense. The Sooners, however, are giving up just 4.4 yards after the catch per reception, which is tops among Big 12 defenses. The Oklahoma secondary also forced three turnovers last weekend against Tennessee, including Julian Wilson's 100-yard touchdown interception return. Both teams will be missing key players. Oklahoma running Keith Ford is out with a leg injury, while West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley has been suspended indefinitely after being accused of assaulting a female last weekend. The Sooners still have Samaje Perine (177 yards) and Alex Ross (132 yards) to shoulder the rushing load, while the Mountaineers will get back 2013 starting cornerback Ishmael Banks from an academic suspension, which should help ease the loss of Worley.

Ties run deep between Cutcliffe, Weis

September, 10, 2014
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David Cutcliffe can't help but think sometimes at how he ended up where he is now. Duke's head coach -- the reigning winner of numerous national coach of the year awards -- had been hired by Charlie Weis at Notre Dame just nine short years ago, but never got to coach a down with the Fighting Irish.

He suffered chest pains. He underwent open-heart surgery. He had numerous other complications, and he eventually had to walk away from a potential dream opportunity.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Peter Casey/USA TODAY SportsDavid Cutcliffe agreed to join Charlie Weis' staff at Notre Dame before health problems prevented that.
"It was an emotional time for me and I knew that at that point, and I told Charlie Weis, 'I can’t earn my paycheck there,' " Cutcliffe said. "No way that I can get myself back and ready to benefit Notre Dame’s football program. I was very appreciative of the opportunity he had given me there."

Cutcliffe and Weis will meet again Saturday when Duke hosts Kansas, and it's hard not to look at how each's career has played out since initially agreeing to hook up in South Bend. Adding to the layer is the fact that Cutcliffe's current boss, Blue Devils athletic director Kevin White, was in charge of Weis back when both were with the Irish.

Weis couldn't overlook the connections this week, opening his Tuesday press conference by thanking White for the opportunity that the AD allowed the first-time head coach less than a decade ago.

"Probably one of the finest men that I've ever met in my entire life," Weis said of White. "He taught me a lot about college football. He taught me patience."

The parallels between Weis and Cutcliffe run a little bit deeper. Weis had initially hired the ex-Ole Miss head coach because of his reputation working with quarterbacks and calling plays. With eventual Heisman Trophy finalist Brady Quinn waiting in the wings, the pairing seemed perfect.

There are also the ties that linger in the NFL -- Cutcliffe from his well-publicized work with the Manning brothers, Weis with his three Super Bowl rings as Tom Brady's offensive coordinator. Weis said this week that he's never debated with Cutcliffe whose pro pupils are better, joking that he's too biased about Brady to even bother with an argument.

"I’m telling you, he’s the most knowledgeable, smartest football coach I’ve been around," Cutcliffe said of Weis. "He was like a machine, just the system. It was pretty amazing to watch him work and watch how his mind worked, and not only his football knowledge, but his motivational skills and his energy."

The little time Cutcliffe and Weis did spend together came on the heels of what Cutcliffe said was an unusual time in his life. He was unceremoniously fired from Ole Miss after his only losing season. Upon Weis hiring him, Cutcliffe lived with then-Irish and current Duke offensive line coach John Latina in South Bend before the health scare forced him out of coaching for a year.

Weis, meanwhile, made consecutive BCS bowls in his first two years at Notre Dame before getting fired after going 16-21 during his final three years. Assistant stops with the Kansas City Chiefs and Florida gave way to his hiring as the Jayhawks' head coach, where he's now 5-20 in his third season. During that time, Cutcliffe moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where his two sons attended college. He eventually became Tennessee's offensive coordinator from 2006-07 before landing the head job at Duke, where his work in getting the Blue Devils to the ACC title game in six years has further cemented his respect within the profession.

"What he's done there is what I would expect him to do anywhere," Weis said. "Just about anywhere he's gone in an ample amount of time he gets things going the right way, especially offensively. He's a very, very good coach."

How would things look today had the two quarterback gurus gotten the chance to collaborate with the Irish? That's for others to debate. Cutcliffe, for one, is content with how things turned out, as strange as the path that led him there might have been.

"I’d never been without a job in my life," Cutcliffe said. "We lived (in Knoxville) that spring, summer and fall. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I’d coach again, but I always think there’s purpose to things that happen if we do what we should do with them. I believe the couple years I spent back at Tennessee were rewarding, but I think I found my right place here.

"Not to be eerie and now to be, 'Oh this is all destiny.' I’m not saying that. I was able to find my right place, and that’s Duke University."
While some college coaches are playing possum about their starting quarterbacks with the season just around the corner, Kansas coach Charlie Weis took a different approach.

Weis named sophomore Montell Cozart the Jayhawks' starting quarterback in mid-April, leaving opponents no doubt who would be the man under center this fall. But Weis’ early choice also left no doubt in the minds of Cozart’s teammates.

The result of the pre-summer decision has paid off.

[+] EnlargeMontell Cozart
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerKansas QB Montell Cozart is reaching for more success as a sophomore.
When the Jayhawks announced their captains and leadership committee last week, linebacker Ben Heeney, safety Cassius Sendish and receiver Nick Harwell were named captains after garnering the majority of the votes, while Cozart, offensive lineman Pat Lewandowski and defensive lineman Keon Stowers earned enough votes to separate themselves from the rest of the squad and join the captains on the leadership committee. Cozart is the only non-senior on the six-player committee which was voted on by the players.

“That’s what you’re hoping for,” Weis said. “By putting him in that position in May you’re hoping by the time you’re ready to play the players are looking at him as a guy they can rally around.”

For Weis it was more important to put Cozart in a position to emerge as a leader and difference-maker on KU’s offense before the summer so everyone knew who would be the triggerman in John Reagan's new offense.

“He’s more mature than a lot of sophomores I’ve seen,” Harwell said. “He’s soft-spoken but he’s a leader.”

Cozart earned the starting role during the spring after an roller-coaster freshman season. He appeared poised for a redshirt year, watching the first five games from the sidelines, until his redshirt was removed before the Jayhawks’ home game with Oklahoma. He played in KU’s final seven games (three starts), finishing 23 of 63 passing for 227 yards and two interceptions. He added 66 carries for 214 yards and one touchdown.

Yet his emergence as a leader didn’t begin until after his first season in the program.

“He’s done his part as a quarterback and leader to push us,” tight end Jimmay Mundine said of Cozart’s impact on the Jayhawks’ summer workouts.

His leadership traits were largely unseen during his true freshman campaign, but they were among the traits that intrigued Weis when he visited Cozart at Kansas City (Missouri) Bishop Miege High School during the recruiting process.

“I went to his high school and he couldn’t go anywhere without everyone following behind him,” Weis said. “They all gravitated to him. He was obviously, not just the quarterback, but the leader. I knew we would eventually see that from him. I’m happy it’s happening sooner rather than later.”

Now, as a sophomore, the future—and present— of the Jayhawks' offense is in the hands of Cozart. When the Jayhawks become the last Big 12 team to open its season when Southwest Missouri State visits Memorial Stadium on Sept. 6, it will be a different Cozart taking the snaps for KU.

“He’s a young guy who has grown a lot since last season,” Harwell said. “I feel like he’s ready for the big stage.”

It’s a stage he didn’t shy away from when thrown into the fire against Oklahoma in his first collegiate game. And the players’ vote completely validated Weis’ decision to name Cozart the starter before the summer and revealed Cozart’s emerging leadership skills.

“The statement was made by [the players], not by me, by their votes, they can see that [rallying around Cozart] happening,” Weis said. “They’ve set it up for him to be the leader of the team as you move forward into the future.”
He has to deal with them every Saturday, so TCU safety Sam Carter would know better than most.

"The Big 12 is a quarterback league," the Horned Frogs senior said. "When the game is on the line, the ball will be in the air."

Yet the Big 12 seemed to lose its way a year ago.

Outside of the exploits of Baylor’s Bryce Petty or Texas Tech’s true freshman duo of Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, quarterbacking in the conference took a clear step backward.

The Bears and Red Raiders were the only Big 12 teams that finished in the top 25 in the FBS in passing yards or averaged more than 300 passing yards per game. Two seasons ago, in 2012, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia joined Baylor and Tech in the top 10 in that category and averaged at least 330 passing yards per contest.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight is one of several unproven Big 12 quarterbacks who have flashed plenty of potential.
But conference coaches don’t expect the downward trend to continue indefinitely.

"I think time will take care of that," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "There were so many years with top-notch guys that got drafted. It’s the same schools, recruiting the same kids, being coached by the same guys and playing the same type of ball in the Big 12 for the last decade and a half. Time will tell."

Petty is the unquestioned face of Big 12 quarterbacks heading into 2014, the guy every team in the conference would love to call its own. He’s an ultraproductive, experienced leader who still has room to grow as a senior. Alongside Petty, the league features young talents led by Tech’s Webb and OU’s Trevor Knight. Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Kansas’ Montell Cozart and West Virginia’s Clint Trickett are other Big 12 quarterbacks who entered preseason camp as clear starters at their respective schools and still have room to grow as quarterbacks.

"I just think they have to get older," Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the Big 12’s return to prominence at quarterback. "I don’t think it’s anything other than that. You have some stars that are younger guys getting broken in in this league. They’re a year older, year wiser. You had such a good run of three or four years, now it’s these guys’ chance."

That run is well-documented. No league supplied the NFL with more first- or second-round picks in the past five NFL drafts then the Big 12. Six quarterbacks who played in the conference have been drafted in the first two rounds since 2010, including a No. 1 overall pick in Oklahoma's Sam Bradford. The SEC and Pac-12 are tied for second with three apiece during that span.

The trend slowed a bit in recent years, as former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is the lone quarterback who played in the Big 12 to be drafted in the first two rounds in the past two drafts. But Petty, who enters the season as Mel Kiper's top-ranked senior quarterback, could hear his name called in Round 1 or 2 of the 2015 NFL draft, while Knight or Webb could find themselves in a similar position if their development continues during the rest of their careers.

Petty's proactive nature has helped cement his reputation as the Big 12's top quarterback, as he has refused to be satisfied with the accolades he earned a year ago. The Midlothian, Texas, native spent some of his offseason with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who has played a key role in Petty’s development. Petty says he would recommend time with Whitfield to any young quarterback looking to excel in the Big 12.

"When we have breaks, I want to work," Petty said. "A lot of times, because of NCAA regulations, I can’t do that with my coach [at Baylor], so Coach Whitfield is kind of my outlet to keep working."

It’s an approach Kansas coach Charlie Weis understands. The veteran coach believes the quarterback position has been in need of better coaching, be it individual quarterbacks coaches or more detailed coaching at their school, for years.

"I think the quarterback position used to be the most undercoached position, of all positions, even though it's the most important," Weis said. "Usually it’s because the title of quarterbacks coach almost always went to the offensive coordinator who has to worry about every single position. I think having a quarterbacks coach helps every offensive coordinator invaluably. It’s easily the most important position on your team."

Improved coaching is just one aspect. Simple game experience is another. The value of playing games in the conference is just as invaluable. At this time a year ago, none of Big 12’s top quarterbacks in 2013 were proven commodities.

"Each and every year, there have been guys emerge that were ‘no name’ guys because of youth or inexperience. Or they just hadn’t matured or developed yet," Holgorsen said. "We have some young guys that will make a name for themselves, probably starting this year."

Petty went from unproven to Heisman Trophy candidate and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Webb was a true freshman fighting for a job, and Knight was about to be named OU’s starting signal-caller. Twelve months later, that trio represents the Big 12’s biggest hope for a return to the forefront of the elite quarterback landscape in college football.

"I think our league has a reputation and commitment to throw the football," OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "And because of that, we develop quarterbacks in our league, and I think we’ll see a strong group this year."

Top 2 Kansas RBs out for season

August, 19, 2014
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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The top two running backs on the Kansas depth chart will each miss their senior season after Brandon Bourbon tore his ACL and Taylor Cox tore his Achilles tendon in separate incidents.

Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis announced the injuries in a statement Tuesday. He said that both of the players will remain in school and explore petitioning for a sixth year of eligibility.

To continue reading this story, click here.

Kansas Jayhawks season preview

August, 6, 2014
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» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Kansas Jayhawks:

Key returners: LB Ben Heeney, RB/WR Tony Pierson, QB Montell Cozart, S Isaiah Johnson

Key losses: HB James Sims

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 13 at Duke, Sept. 27 vs. Texas, Nov. 29 at Kansas State

[+] EnlargeBen Heeney
John Albright/Icon SMILinebacker Ben Heeney is one of the top returning players for a Kansas team looking to improve on last season's 1-8 Big 12 record.
Projected win percentage: 27.1 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: Three wins

Instant-impact newcomer: WR Nick Harwell. The Miami (Ohio) transfer is explosive and proven as a playmaker. Cozart's development should be helped by Harwell, who has the ability to take short passes and turn them into big gains. In addition, Harwell should open up opportunities for Pierson, tight end Jimmay Mundine and KU's other skill players.

Instant-impact newcomer, coaches' version: Charlie Weis essentially fired himself as offensive coordinator and brought in former Rice OC John Reagan to run the Jayhawks' attack. Weis will step back from the offense and take more of a "sounding board" role for KU while Reagan brings a higher-tempo style that will look to take advantage of Cozart's run-pass ability.

High point from 2013: The postgame reaction told the story for Weis’ Jayhawks after a 31-19 win over West Virginia, which snapped KU’s 27-game Big 12 losing streak. It was party time in Lawrence, Kansas, as the Jayhawks finally got to celebrate after years of disappointing conference defeats at home.

Low point from 2013: One week later, KU lost all the momentum it gained from the win over WVU thanks to a 34-0 loss to Iowa State on a frozen field at Jack Trice Stadium. It was a disappointing response to the excitement and momentum created by the win over the Mountaineers.

Biggest question mark: Even though KU is counting on Cozart, a sophomore, to take his game to another level, the Jayhawks' destiny will be decided in the trenches. The offensive and defensive lines must improve if KU hopes to surprise this fall. The Jayhawks' recruiting class featured several big bodies, including ESPN 300 center Jacob Bragg, but it remains to be seen if KU has made significant strides in that area.

Upset special: Several Big 12 teams have learned to be on their toes when visiting Lawrence, but Texas could be the latest team to learn that lesson. The Longhorns' Sept. 27 visit to Kansas is sandwiched between games with UCLA and Baylor, although UT does have a bye before playing KU. The Jayhawks, who suffered a close four-point loss during UT’s last trip in 2012, will see this as a chance to make an early statement.

They said it: “In this offense that we're running, I think athleticism at the quarterback position is a critical factor, and he definitely has athleticism. So besides being able to stand in the pocket and deliver, I think that that added element to either on called runs by quarterback or just scramble ability to bail you out of some trouble situations gives us a better chance to score more points.” -- Weis on naming Cozart KU’s starting quarterback
BRISTOL, Conn. – Kansas Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis is a little lighter in his fingers and at his waistline.

Weis, a former Notre Dame coach and NFL offensive coordinator, said he is about halfway through his weight-loss journey, which started in February with the help of a doctor in Overland Park, Kansas.

“Every time you see me this year, I’ll be smaller,” Weis said. “It’s not going to be a debate.”

Weis told the Chicago Tribune earlier this summer that he wanted to lose 100 pounds, and he looks much lighter than he has in the past. Weis said his weight problems go back to a failed gastric bypass surgery in 2002. He also suffered knee and hip injuries when a player was blocked into him on the sideline during a Notre Dame-Michigan game in 2008, in which he tore the ACL in his left knee.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
AP Photo/Eric GayKansas' Charlie Weis isn't flashing rings to recruits these days.
Weis had hip replacement surgery shortly after he was hired as Kansas’ coach in December 2011.

“The pain was just completely unbearable,” Weis said. “Getting my hip done was the greatest day of my life. I woke up pain-free for the first time since that hit.”

Weis, who has a 4-20 record in two seasons as head coach of the Jayhawks, said he hopes to coach for five more years. He said part of his desire to lose weight is so he can enjoy retirement.

“I’d like to enjoy my wife and my daughter and my son,” Weis said. “I don’t want to have worked for 120 hours a week for 30 years and then not enjoy them.”

There’s also something noticeably missing from Weis’ hands – three Super Bowl rings he won as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator.

Weis wore them to impress recruits as Notre Dame’s coach, and some media members criticized him as being arrogant. Now, Weis said he only wears his wedding ring during recruiting visits.

“When I was at Notre Dame, I’d wear one and got hammered for it,” Weis said. “Now they ask me if I have a ring, and I tell them I’m wearing the only one that matters – and that’s true.”

But Weis still points out to recruits that he helped the Patriots win multiple Super Bowl titles. In fact, Weis and Kansas defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Dave Campo combined to win six Super Bowl rings as NFL assistants.

When a recruit has reservations of playing at Kansas because of its recent record, Weis said he offers them this recruiting speech (he refuses to call it a pitch):

“What is your dream? It should be to graduate from college with a degree. About 98.4 percent of college players don’t play in the NFL; only 1.6 percent do.

“You want to play early, right? Where do you think you fit on their depth charts?

“When you get to that point, in four or five years, and if you’re lucky to have the God-given talent and progress to that point to play in the NFL, you’re questioning whether I can get you there?”

But what recruits won’t be able to see on Weis’ hand is a Super Bowl ring. He said they’re sitting in a box at his home.

“They belong to my son, to be honest,” Weis said. “He doesn’t know it, so be careful how you write it.”
DALLAS -- Winning football games holds top billing in most cases, but when discussing the most important objective to college football coaches, a great recruiting class is always high on the totem pole.

The Big 12 media days on Monday and Tuesday gave coaches a chance to share their opinions on their teams, their competitors and the future of college football. It also allowed each coach to talk about the positives and negatives of recruiting.

Schedule Analysis: Kansas

July, 9, 2014
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We are a month away from the beginning of fall camps, and two months from the start of the season. With the 2014 season arriving in the not-too-distant future, it’s time for us to break down every Big 12 team’s complete schedule.

Starting in reverse alphabetical order, we continue this series off with the Kansas Jayhawks:

Nonconference opponents (with 2013 record)

Sept. 6: Southeast Missouri State (3-9 in FCS)
Sept. 13: Duke (10-4)
Sept. 20: Central Michigan (6-6)

Big 12 home games

Sept. 27: Texas
Oct. 11: Oklahoma State
Nov. 8: Iowa State
Nov. 15: TCU

Big 12 road games

Oct. 4: at West Virginia
Oct. 18: at Texas Tech
Nov. 1: at Baylor
Nov. 22: at Oklahoma
Nov. 29: at Kansas State

Gut-check time: It’s important for the Jayhawks to get off to a good start. An upset win at Duke in their second game of the season would exceed all expectations. It’s an early season road test against a bowl opponent who won 10 games in 2013, so even a strong showing could create enough momentum to get KU heading in the right direction before conference play begins.

Trap game: Central Michigan comes to Lawrence, Kansas, in the week following KU’s trip to Duke and right before Texas visits KU to open Big 12 play. If Charlie Weis' team has any hope to exceed last year’s win total (3-9) or even battle for a bowl appearance, the Jayhawks will need to win this game.

Snoozer: People may not even notice the Jayhawks' season opener. The Sept. 6 game against SE Missouri St. comes one week after most teams kick off their season on Aug. 30 and features two teams that combined to win six games a year ago. It is Montell Cozart’s first opportunity to show Weis he made the right decision by naming Cozart the starter. The decision to go with Cozart gives the game some intrigue. But it’s safe to say few people will have this game on their priority list on Sept. 6.

Telltale stretch: It’s likely we will know everything we need to know about Kansas after its three-game stretch against Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. KU hosts UT and OSU and lost by a combined 10 points to the Longhorns and Cowboys the last time those two schools visited Lawrence in 2012. With unknowns at UT and OSU heading into the season, it’s not impossible for the Jayhawks to win at least one of those games, and the journey to West Virginia will begin with the confidence that KU beat WVU in 2013. If the Jayhawks win two of these three games, Weis’ squad could be in line for its best season under the veteran coach.

Final analysis: While KU faces a challenging schedule, it's a schedule full of opportunity as well. The road slate is extremely difficult with visits to Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia, but the home schedule doesn’t feature any games that aren’t winnable, particularly with significant questions about Texas, OSU and TCU heading into the season. A six-win season is attainable if the Jayhawks' offense takes a major step forward and the defense approaches or exceeds its 2013 performance.

Q&A: Kansas OL signee Jacob Bragg

July, 1, 2014
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Even though he was a four-star recruit and a rare ESPN 300 signee for Kansas, Jacob Bragg arrived in Lawrence this summer with a serious chip on his shoulder.

The Under Armour All-America center from Nacogdoches, Texas, didn't have a choice when it came to leaving his home state. None of the major programs in Texas offered him a scholarship. No doubt that will be on his mind whenever he first takes the field against Big 12 foes.

We complete our series of weekly Q&As with the Big 12's best incoming freshmen today with Bragg, the nation's No. 3 center prospect.

What were your goals this spring before you leave for Kansas?

JB: I'm trying to get to 10 percent body fat and trying to maintain 290 pounds. A year ago I was probably 330 pounds. Yeah, I was fat. It was bad.

Is this something the Kansas coaches requested or is it your personal goal?

JB: It's both. I'm trying to get more into college playing shape and just being healthier. If I'm lighter on my feet, I can make more plays and I can move better. I'm more agile and definitely stronger now. It's amazing. I got with a personal trainer and we're working every day. Everything I'm doing (in the weight room) has probably doubled.

What was it about Charlie Weis that you appreciated during your recruitment?

JB: Coach Weis has all the NFL experience. He's a winner, he's just trying to put it all together. Recruits aren't going to come to Kansas immediately. We're obviously not winning a bunch of games, it's not really attractive. But he's doing everything he can to get us in the right direction and get good recruits out here. I believe in Coach Weis and I can't wait to come play for him.

Have the coaches told you that they want you to be ready to play? How do they treat that?

JB: Charlie Weis came to my house and told me to expect to play early. Just come in and work hard. They're not going to give me a spot, I have to work for it. The offensive line coach has said the same thing. I'm just going to work as hard as I can.

Do you like playing for an offensive line coach, John Reagan, who's also the offensive coordinator?

JB: That's awesome. He's going to know how to play off our strengths and weaknesses. If we're not run dominant, we're going to pass. If we can't pass protect, we're going to run. If anyone should be able to run the offense, it's the offensive line coach. It all starts with us. It really helps.

Tell me about the Under Armour game experience and playing against the best in the country.

JB: It was definitely an eye-opener. It puts you in your place. I dropped weight before I went there and I thought I did very, very good. Nothing was too hard for me. But some of those guys are going to be starting in the SEC next year, so I'm doing pretty good if I'm handling my own out there. It was nice to finally get to go against people my size or bigger, just to see where I am. You're not going to meet people like that every day. They're humongous.

Who impressed you at that game? Who are we going to be talking about for the next few years?

JB: Braden Smith is No. 1, without a doubt. He'll probably start for Auburn. He's amazingly strong and fast. I don't think I've ever seen an athlete like that before in my life. You don't really hear about him a lot, but he is, to me, the best athlete I've ever seen.

Do you feel like schools in the state of Texas overlooked you? Why didn't they show you more attention?

JB: You know, I really don't know. That kind of hurt, knowing that I didn't have any Texas school offer me at all. That, personally, really kind of hurt. But now that I'm with Kansas, I'm fine. I'm just going to make sure I play twice as hard against them to stick it to them.

Nacogdoches has several big-time recruits on their way up, including Jaylon Lane and Brandon Jones. Are you seeing a jump in talent in that area?

JB: We have a bunch of talent. People don't expect us to do good, and I come from a high school team that's kind of like how Kansas is doing: not really winning that many games. It's very hard to turn that around, and this is the first year we made the playoffs in 40 years, our first winning season in 15 years. It's going to take a lot to turn that around. They've just got to believe it will happen. I watch them every day and it's amazing what they're doing.

What gives you optimism about where Kansas is going as a program?

JB: People are just going to keep doubting us. I could see it on my official visit: They're so hungry to win. You can feel it when you talk to them. We're going to turn things around. People are going to be really surprised this year, and if not this year, the next year. It's going to happen, it's just a matter of when.

Charlie Weis is easily impressed

June, 25, 2014
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A football camp put on by the University of Kansas usually doesn't generate headlines.

With one possibly serious/possibly sarcastic/possibly awesome tweet, KU coach Charlie Weis changed all of that Wednesday afternoon.

We're certain it was fun. And no doubt the boys were ready to compete. But about that huge turnout at Arrowhead...

We counted 47 people in the photo. In a stadium that seats 79,451. Was it a sarcastic dig at the organizer? Perhaps the wrong pic was posted? Maybe Charlie's cropping skills aren't in in-season form? Maybe this really was a big crowd for a typical Kansas football camp?

So many unanswered questions.

 

Best case, worst case: Kansas

June, 18, 2014
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On Monday, we started our series on the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each Big 12 team.

The premise of these fun posts is to examine what the season may look like if everything fell into place for each school -- the best-case scenario for 2014. Conversely, we’ll also show what might happen if everything goes wrong -- the worst-case scenario. The truth, as usual, should fall somewhere in the middle.

We continue the series today with Kansas.

BEST CASE

Seven wins. Kansas' first winning season since the Mark Mangino era. Let's see how we can make this work.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsAn 8-5 season would result in a lot of celebratory Gatorade baths for Kansas coach Charlie Weis.
Kansas whoops FCS Southeast Missouri State in the opener. That's easy enough. But it will have to be a real butt-whooping, a glorious display of the Jayhawks' potential, because they need a confidence booster before they go on the road to play reigning ACC Coastal Division champion Duke.

In this game, KU gets lucky. Montell Cozart runs around in the pocket enough to trigger some form of potent post-Manziel stress disorder in the Blue Devils that causes receivers to get bafflingly wide open. Cozart takes advantage, Kansas receivers actually catch touchdowns, and it's all so amazing.

The Jayhawks go to 3-0 after taking care of business against Central Michigan. They give Texas a scare akin to 2012 in their Big 12 opener, but come up just short. Good thing there's an easy rebound game the next week against West Virginia. But the game that puts Kansas on the national radar is a startling easy win over Oklahoma State, one that sends the Pokes to 3-3. Kansas, at 5-1, is the talk of the country.

And just as Charlie Weis is being hyped up for doing one of the nation's best coaching jobs, his annual check for $2,054,744 from Notre Dame -- the check he gets to not coach the Fighting Irish -- arrives in the mail. Life is so sweet.

Even road losses at Texas Tech and Baylor can't kill Weis' vibe. KU gets to six wins and bowl eligibility by knocking off Iowa State at home. Weis carries the goal posts out of the stadium himself and throws them into Potter Lake. He begins contract extension negotiations the following Monday.

Fans fear their beloved, revived Jayhawks have run out of magic when they lose to TCU and Oklahoma the next two weeks, but this ain't over. Kansas goes into Manhattan and hands Kansas State a 21-point beatdown as revenge for five straight losses in the rivalry.

The Jayhawks go to the Liberty Bowl and make a rebuilding SEC team (how about Missouri?) look like a "pile of crap" (Weis' words, not mine) to finish the year 8-5. Yes, that's right, 8-5. Weis gets a pay bump to $5 million a year, and the Jayhawks are well on their way to a new dynasty.

WORST CASE

Kansas exits nonconference play with an encouraging 2-1 record after squeaking out wins against Southeast Missouri State and CMU. The Duke game got ugly; let's just not talk about it.

But the offensive transition under new OC John Reagan is a rocky one, and Cozart can't keep up. He gets benched after four straight Big 12 losses in favor of Michael Cummings, who runs a little more but doesn't make much a difference. KU gets back in its rut of changing the game plan every week in a futile attempt to expose opponents' specific weaknesses.

Ben Heeney finishes with an admirable 146 tackles and earns second-team all-conference honors, but the rest of the defense is a work in progress that makes little progress. KU notches one Big 12 win, in overtime at home against Iowa State, but loses the rest to finish 3-9.

Charlie Weis resigns following another rough loss to Kansas State. The search committee moves quickly to replace him, overlooking the next Gus Malzahn and instead hiring former Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who desperately wanted the KU job in 2011.

Oh, and one more thing: The day after Barnett is introduced at Kansas, Miami quarterback Jake Heaps is runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Life is so cruel.

Previous posts

June 16: Baylor
June 17: Iowa State

Big 12 lunchtime links

May, 23, 2014
5/23/14
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If you're going to start talking about calling travels and calling charges, maybe you shouldn't watch mixtape tour basketball. Wouldn't you agree?

Big 12's lunch links

May, 22, 2014
5/22/14
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Hugh Jackman as a clown? That would have been a sight to see.

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