Big 12: Dave Campo

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.”

Video: Kansas Jayhawks X factor

June, 13, 2013

David Ubben says a defense that could be all over the map is the biggest X factor for Kansas in 2013.
Thanks for the e-mails this week, everybody. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Jonathan in San Antonio writes: What are your thoughts on OSU not adding Boise State to the list of Lunt's banned options? After all, wasn't the entire motivation for the ban to ensure he doesn't go to a future opponent?

DU: I honestly hadn't thought about this until a couple of you e-mailed. It's a valid question, I'd say. Boise State's obviously a bigger danger to knock off OSU in nonconference play than Central Michigan would be, even though the games are a couple years away. Oklahoma State and Lunt's relative silence on the issue will end eventually, but I can't think of a compelling reason why Boise State would be left out of OSU's transfer restrictions. At some point in the future, Gundy will be asked about this incident. Surely, it'll be the next time he's made available to the media. He's turned down numerous interview requests about the issue, including one from me.

Boise should be asked about, though I wouldn't count on getting much of an answer.

John in Greensboro, N.C. writes: Wouldn't it be nice to see an AD or University President saying that (s)he will limit the places where a HC can move if (s)he breaks the contract?

DU: Or how about, instead of two wrongs predictably not making a right, we prevent transfer restrictions in the future? I'm fine with the rule of losing a year of eligibility if you transfer within the conference, but I'm not one of those folks who thinks players should be allowed to transfer without sitting out a year.

This isn't a Gundy issue, ultimately. It's an NCAA issue. The NCAA requires players to get a release from their university to be eligible for a scholarship at their new school. That's where the issue lies. Gundy is operating within the rules. You're welcome to say what you'd like about Gundy, but he's not explicitly breaking any rules. The problem is those rules are stupid. More restrictions on head coaches isn't the answer.

Josh in Topeka, Kan. writes: How did KU pick up Kyron Watson, the number four linebacker in the country? What do you think that Weis is selling that lured him away from big schools such as TCU and Michigan?

DU: Every player is different. I don't know if you're insinuating it, but people don't start wondering if everything is legal until you see a wave of players like that going to a historically less successful school. Look no further than Hugh Freeze defending his program at Ole Miss earlier this offseason. Coaches have to be ambitious and even if you don't know if you've got a show, you owe it to the program to explore elite prospects.

Watson will obviously be able to play immediately, has an alum from his high school (RB Tony Pierson) on the team, and he's only going about 4-5 hours away from his home. You never know what each player wants. Weis surely convinced Watson that he wasn't going to sit through four one-win seasons at KU during his time. The NFL experience of himself and DC Dave Campo probably helped. It's a solid pickup for the Jayhawks and different guys want different things. Watson bought what KU was selling.

Kit Sanders in Martinsburg, W.Va. writes: WVU WR Kevin WhiteWILL top 1,000 yards next season. Big and fast with agility and in Holg's O. You can literally take this to the bank!

DU: It's definitely possible. WVU's got a lot of guys I see being productive, but I don't see top-tier guy on the roster just yet. Connor Arlia and Jordan Thompson should rack up quite a few catches. So should newcomer Shelton Gibson. WVU will be throwing it around plenty, but with the depth at running back, they'll be running it a lot more and I see a more balanced attack with a lot of different guys catching balls, instead of a focus on two guys like we saw last year.

I'm picking WVU to have a couple 700-900 yard seasons, but not have a 1,000-yard receiver. I won't be very shocked if I'm wrong.

Steven in Weatherford, Texas writes: Granted Lache Seastrunk and Bryce Pettyare getting all the attention for Baylor's offense for this upcoming season, but what their defense? The defense lead Baylor to victories over K-State, pulling out against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and ended up destroying UCLA in the bowl game. If the defense can keep up the pressure from the end of the 2012 season, do you see Baylor as a potential dark horse Big 12 champ?

DU: Oh, most definitely. I believe in this defense this time around, and it's a combination of having more speed, more experience and more athletes all over the field. The defensive line should be as good as it's been from top to bottom under Briles. Love the addition of Shawn Oakman and Chris McAllister is a stud who should progress this year. Same with the linebackers with Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey. Demetri Goodson, Joe Williams and Tyler Stephenson should be solid at corner and Ahmad Dixon's an impact player in the back at safety. That's a defense capable of doing some good things, and the Bears are my bet for the Big 12's best offense this year. That's a recipe for success. Outside of my four favorites (OU, Texas, TCU, OSU), the Bears are the most likely team to be in the mix for a Big 12 title.

D.J. in Morgantown, W.Va. writes: How many wins for West Virginia this season?

DU: Six.
DALLAS -- Charlie Weis has seen leadership.

He's also seen what he refers to as "real leadership."

"There’s a difference," the Kansas coach told in a recent interview.

Kansas has drawn plenty of attention this offseason for welcoming a parade of almost 20 junior college players, but the Jayhawks are getting more than just a talent upgrade in the new additions to the roster. After spending a spring with many of those players enrolling early and participating in practice, he's seeing that real leadership in two new members of his defense.

It starts with a mature cornerback in Cassius Sendish, who showed up with a commanding presence and impressed Weis immediately. The 6-foot, 187-pounder was one of the nation's top juco prospects a year ago at Arizona Western and may be one of four new starters in the secondary.

"I wouldn’t say he’s been a surprise, but he is a natural leader and I think that one of our biggest problems with our defense is we were void of real leadership," Weis said. "Cassius is a very intelligent, physical player and I think in the secondary, he’ll be one of the key leaders of our defense. You don’t find those guys very often. They grow into it, but he kind of walked in the door with that."

Don't be surprised if all four new starters in Kansas' secondary are new players, Weis said. He brought in another player in the ESPN Juco 100, Chris Martin, because of his history recruiting him to Notre Dame. Martin originally committed to Weis and the Irish before transferring to Florida, where Weis coincidentally ended up for the 2011 season. He's had issues in the past and attended three different high schools, but the 6-foot-4, 250-pound pass rusher gives an immediate upgrade up front physically that's been long absent in Lawrence.

"The whole team feeds off of him. We haven’t had a guy that looks like an NFL outside linebacker/defensive end," said Weis, who added that he's also one of the team's fastest players. "He's like what I'm used to looking at in the NFL."

Kansas' defense centered around linebacker Ben Heeney last season, and may again in 2013, but the talent upgrades around him should help Kansas' defense improve and allow Heeney to improve, even if his stats take a dip after he finished fourth in the Big 12 with 112 stops in 2012.

"He shouldn’t have to make 100 or whatever tackles," Weis said. "That tells you you’re not making any tackles up front."

Martin and fellow newcomers like Ty McKinney, who also impressed Weis and DC Dave Campo this spring, and summer enrollee Marquel Combs could help change that.
The Kansas Jayhawks' narrow losses to Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State showed they made some progress in 2012. But the Jayhawks suffered a 49-point drubbing to West Virginia and the Big 12's co-champions -- Kansas State and Oklahoma -- both beat KU by at least 40 points.

Iowa State and Baylor handed the Jayhawks a pair of losses by four touchdowns, too. There was progress throughout the parade of lowlights in the midst of a 21-game losing streak in Big 12 play, and additions following Charlie Weis' first season in charge should help Kansas finally end the infamous slide.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
John Rieger/US PresswireCharlie Weis has brought in nearly 20 junior-college transfers in hopes of invigorating his program.
"I think we’re going to be much more representative of a Big 12 football team," defensive coordinator Dave Campo said of the Jayhawks' 2013 team. "I didn’t feel like that was the case a year ago. I felt that we were playing with a bad hand, and I think the addition of the junior college players give us at least a chance to be more competitive."

Kansas is adding almost 20 junior college players -- most often used as quick fixes for smaller deficiencies -- to a program that needs to compensate for a talent gap that's hounded the Jayhawks since Turner Gill took over for Mark Mangino following the 2009 season.

"We weren’t talented enough as a football team to really compete," Campo said. "I feel good with the guys we’ve got, and with the addition of the quarterback, I think that’s a tremendous addition."

"The quarterback" is BYU transfer Jake Heaps, but the Jayhawks signed five of the nation's top 100 junior college prospects, including former Jayhawk Dexter McDonald, who left the team before the 2012 season and returned this spring. Cornerback Cassius Sendish stood out this spring, too, and fellow newcomer Ty McKinney, a defensive tackle, made an early impact for the defense.

"One of the advantages we had this year, in my opinion, is with Charlie’s background and my background in the NFL, we were able to sign some guys that we might not have been involved in without NFL experience," Campo said. "Those guys are looking at the next level, and that gave us a chance to bring in some guys that we feel like were a little bit farther along and we could get them on the field."

That's a big advantage, but it comes with its own set of challenges, which Weis and Campo began tackling in the spring and will have to continue overcoming in the fall.

"They have had a number of different coaches in their career and you have to get them acclimated to what you’re doing, but in all honesty, we’re so young in our system right now, that it’s a little easier for guys to jump in and get going because we’re not complicated at this point," Campo said. "Our whole thrust is to get the guys on the field, get them playing, don’t give them too much, and if we have to play with two or three defenses rather than 20 defenses or coverages or whatever, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to give our guys a chance, athletically, to compete."

Moreso than last year, Campo says, he's excited to take his new defense on the field. The Jayhawks need Heaps to provide the biggest impact at quarterback, but a fresh-looking depth chart and a big boost in athleticism could help the Jayhawks finally get over the hump and turn those close losses into wins.

The risks of fixing the program with an army of junior college transfers is obvious and has been well-chronicled, but that's the road Kansas has taken. This fall, we'll finally see if it works.

"I thought we made some progress last year, some progress in the attitude of the football team and the way our guys went about their business, but we weren’t talented enough as a football team to really compete," Campo said. "I feel good about the guys that we got."
Kansas defensive coordinator Dave Campo sat down with Charlie Weis last January to talk about the possibility of joining the Jayhawks staff, but had one big question among many, even as a defensive coach?

What's the deal with the quarterbacks?

[+] EnlargeJake Heaps
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsKansas' coaches have been encouraged by Jake Heaps' leadership and accuracy.
Weis explained that a pair of transfers -- Dayne Crist from Notre Dame and Jake Heaps from BYU -- were in the fold, and Campo took notice. He knew Heaps from the passer's days in Washington as the nation's No. 7 quarterback in the 2010 recruiting class, where he originally signed to be a Cougar and won playing time immediately.

"I felt, hey, the program has a good chance to be in good hands," Campo said.

After a year turning heads on the scout team, Heaps has emerged as the Jayhawks' starting quarterback this spring, but the big question awaits: Will Heaps' experience be any different than Crist's?

Crist came to Lawrence with plenty of fanfare, but finished the season on the bench in favor of freshman Michael Cummings. Crist struggled, completing just 47.7 percent of his passes and throwing nine interceptions to just four touchdowns -- none to wide receivers. Two of those costly turnovers came in come-from-ahead losses in nonconference play to Rice and Northern Illinois that could have helped KU surpass its two wins from 2012, too.

"There are two things that stick out to me. No. 1, he is very, very accurate," Campo said of Heaps. "I think that’s the thing that hurt Dayne the most this past year, was getting the ball to people when it really counted. Jake is very accurate."

Crist completed just 59 percent of his 294 attempts at Notre Dame in 2010, his only other season as a full-time starter, but Heaps hovered just above 57 percent in his two seasons as the Cougars' starter. In Kansas' spring game, he completed 10 consecutive passes at one point, tossing four touchdowns and racking up 257 yards on 20-of-28 passing. Campo saw plenty of that in practice this spring, and expects more in the fall.

"He’s a tremendous competitor. I like the quarterbacks who are going to take the bull by the horns and get out there and get after it," Campo said. "As a defensive coach looking at it, that’s what sticks out most to me, a guy that when the chips are down, a guy who can make plays. Obviously he has not been in a game here in the Big 12 yet, but I think you’re going to see that this guy is a winner and a leader, and those are the things that we really need back there."

Breaking down spring camp: Kansas

March, 5, 2013
Kansas will be the next Big 12 team to take the field for spring practice later today. Time for a closer look.

Schedule: The first of KU's 15 NCAA-allowed practices will be today, leading up to a spring game in Lawrence on April 13.

What's new: Kansas made some minor shifts in its coaching staff, but the real attraction in Lawrence this spring is the influx of junior college talent. We'll get to that a bit later. The biggest staff change is Clint Bowen stepping up to coach the linebackers, replacing DeMontie Cross, who left for TCU this offseason.

New faces: This list is about to get serious, so buckle up. That's what you have to expect when about three-fourths of your class is junior college transfers. Kansas is bringing in 11 players early this spring.
  • CB Colin Spencer
  • DT Marquel Combs
  • OT Zach Fondal
  • OG Ngalu Fusimalohi
  • DT Tedarian Johnson
  • DE Chris Martin
  • CB Dexter McDonald
  • DT Ty McKinney
  • P/KOS Trevor Pardula
  • CB Cassius Sendish
  • OL Mike Smithburg

That's obviously a big haul, and KU's focusing on grabbing an immediate talent upgrade. Whether they have one in reality will show up this spring.

All eyes on: Quarterback Jake Heaps. KU seemed like it was set at the position after Heaps and Dayne Crist transferred from major programs following Charlie Weis' hire. Last year's campaign with Crist went poorly and he was benched midway through the season. Heaps would like better results and has already entrenched himself as a leader like Crist did. Will it lead to better results on the field? We may get a feel for that this spring.

Question marks: Kansas needs receiver help and needs it badly. But I like the defense's chances to make some further strides after some improvements last season under Dave Campo. The receiving unit having no touchdown catches last season is inexcusable, though. It just has to be better. Juco transfer Rodriguez Coleman won't be there in the spring, but guys like Chris Omigie, Tre Parmalee and Andrew Turzilli need to show progress this spring and fill in for the losses of Daymond Patterson and Kale Pick.

Breaking out: Defensive tackle Jordan Tavai. There will be a lot of attention paid to Marquel Combs this spring, but Tavai showed up midway through fall camp last season and earned a starting spot by season's end. After going through the offseason program and having a season under his belt, he could be a new man next fall for the Jayhawks. The senior juco transfer could show off some of that progress this spring.

Season report card: Kansas Jayhawks

January, 11, 2013
We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The Kansas Jayhawks.

OFFENSE: The Dayne Crist Era at Kansas had inauspicious beginnings, when the Notre Dame transfer completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for just 169 yards in his first game as a Jayhawk. Still, KU won that game over FCS South Dakota State. It wouldn't get any better. Crist didn't do much for his NFL stock at KU, completing 47 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and nine interceptions before being benched for a freshman, Michael Cummings. He didn't have much help at receiver, but the Jayhawks likely would have began the year 2-0 if they'd had James Sims, who burst out with a huge season after being suspended for the season's first three games with 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns on just 218 carries. He led the Big 12 in rushing yards per game, though KU rode him hard once he returned, giving him at least 27 carries in five of the first six games in Big 12 play. Sims earns KU's offense some points for respectability, but the lack of balance was glaring and forced KU to go winless in Big 12 play yet again. GRADE: D

DEFENSE: It felt like this unit was better when the year began, and in some ways, it was under new coordinator Dave Campo. It wasn't the complete disaster it was in 2011 when it finished dead last in total defense and gave up 50+ points on the regular. The defense kept the Jayhawks in games against Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech, but the offense couldn't make enough plays to get a win. Ultimately though, KU still finished 116th nationally in total defense and 112th in scoring defense, though that was ahead of two Big 12 teams. Bradley McDougald had a solid year at safety, and the unit forced tons of turnovers early in the season, but looking at the season in its entirety, there wasn't much to be truly impressed with, besides being a little bit better than last year's defense, which was one of the worst in college football history. GRADE: D

OVERALL: You can't talk about KU's 2012 season without also noting that it lost to Rice, a team that had never beaten a Big 12 team in 20+ attempts since the breakup of the Southwest Conference. The Jayhawks lost late leads to the Owls and Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois, which easily could have landed KU at 3-9 and a marked improvement over last year's 2-10 campaign. It's tough to grade this team. It really was better than 2011's squad. The games showed that, even though the 1-11 record did not. There were tons of close games this year, even though KU never could get over the hump and crack a Big 12 losing streak that now stands at 21 games. That improvement saves the Jayhawks from drawing an F from yours truly. GRADE: D-

More Big 12 report cards:

Friday Q&A: Kansas DE/LB Toben Opurum

October, 19, 2012
Toben Opurum is one of the bright spots for a Kansas team that's struggled to a 1-5 start under new head coach Charlie Weis this season. The former running back led the Jayhawks in rushing in 2009 before becoming a force at the line of scrimmage for KU under Turner Gill and again this season.

He's got four tackles for loss this season and 29 total tackles. He's also forced two fumbles, broken up three passes and has a sack.

This week, he took some time out to talk to

How would you describe your play so far this season?

Toben Opurum: I feel like I've improved drastically from last year. I'd like to continue to improve and make a couple more plays on the quarterback, but I think I've been distruptive a lot in the run game and passing game in different ways without the sack number being up there.

What are you most proud of from this season?

TO: I think from me and the defense overall, we've done a really good job of tightening up as teams get closer to our end zone and kind of protecting our home as we call it, and not letting people get in. That's one thing we've improved on. For myself, I think I've done a much better job just understanding the whole defense that we're running and understanding my role, from bouncing around multiple positions to kind of finally understanding what's expected.

This season obviously hasn't started like you guys had hoped, but how would you describe the attitude of this team right now?

[+] EnlargeToben Opurum
AP Photo/ David DurochikToben Opurum said he's finally getting comfortable on defense after starting his Kansas career at running back.
TO: You would think that with our record we'd be down in the tank and dreading coming to practice, but guys are still coming in every day and enjoying practice and just doing everything we can to make sure we can turn this program around. Obviously, we're not in the position we want to be in right now, but I've got to play for these last couple games and also for the players who are coming after me.

You talked a little bit about it earlier, but where do you think this defense has improved the most from last year?

TO: I would definitely say in the red zone again. I feel like we've done a good job of tightening up there. Teams have been able to move the ball a little better than we'd want them to between the 20-yard lines, but as soon as they get in there, the whole mentality changes and guys step up to the challenge of keeping people out of the end zone.

What's the biggest difference between the staff that was coaching you last year versus the staff you've got this year?

TO: There's multiple differences. I really feel like the biggest change is the players more so than the coaches, though. Obviously, they've got coach Weis and coach (defensive coordinator Dave) Campo, who have got a lot of history in the NFL and coaching in the NFL and in college, so they bring a lot of experience and a big variety in their playbooks and they're able to adapt to multiple things, and that's not something we've always had available to us.

So, I think they've done a good job of being able to adjust to different offenses and defenses that we see in the Big 12.

That NFL experience you mentioned, for you as players, where does it come into play the most? Where do you see it?

TO: They recognize talent when they see it. A lot of coaches get stuck on kind of putting players in based just off your reputation of what you can and can't do, and I think they did a good job of evaluating talent for themselves and putting players where they believe can have an impact and help us in the best way.

What has to happen for you guys to end this Big 12 losing streak?

TO: For us to end this streak, it's going to have to start with us winning a game that no one believes we have a chance in. We've been in position to end it multiple times, against teams like TCU and even just last week against Oklahoma State. We've had opportunities to do so, but it's just something that we're not over that hump yet because we weren't able to finish.

I feel like if we were able to capitalize and do so, people would be talking about us in a different light than they are now, but it just shows that we've got a little further to go. I don't think the gap is as big as our record would indicate.

So how close is it, and what has to happen to get this team over that hump?

TO: Hopefully, it's just a matter of days. Like I said, it's going to take us winning a game that no one believes we can win and obviously people have us losing to Oklahoma by 1,000 points, so this will be a good opportunity for us to get over that hump and it's going to take everything in our power to do so.

What has coach Weis done to change the attitude of this team and the mindset going into the season?

TO: Well, you know he doesn't have a magic wand. He's still searching for the right way to change the attitude of every player. It's worked on a majority, but it takes everybody and you've got to have everyone with a winning attitude and guys trying to learn how to win, and not waiting for bad things to happen because that's what they're used to. You've got to get past it and be ready to step up and make the plays, rather than the guys sitting back and waiting for somebody else to do it.

Midseason report: Kansas

October, 16, 2012

Record: 1-5, 0-3 Big 12

Second verse, same as the first. In a lot of ways, Kansas is better than it was under Turner Gill. The defense looks more sound. The offense has something of an identity.

The record, though? There's no getting around that. Kansas is sitting at 1-5 and the hope of grabbing a second win to equal last year's win total seems like one in which the odds do not favor. Kansas' 1-5 record came courtesy of a pair of blown fourth-quarter leads to Rice and Northern Illinois. The Huskies are a good team with just one loss (by one point) to Iowa, but even Memphis (winners of six games in the past three seasons) beat Rice, a feat the Jayhawks couldn't duplicate, even at home. No Big 12 team had ever lost to the Owls, too.

Dayne Crist doesn't look any better than he did at Notre Dame, and after completing just 49 percent of his passes, might lose his job to Michael Cummings. That's natural, considering every other Big 12 starting quarterback is completing at least 60 percent of his passes.

Dave Campo has the defense looking much more sound, but even that growth looked a bit like a mirage in a 40-point loss to Kansas State. Last week's 20-14 loss to Oklahoma State offered a little hope, but the weather and a hurt quarterback had a lot to do with the Cowboys' struggles, and late mistakes undid the Jayhawks late.

The Charlie Weis Reclamation Project in Lawrence is off to a rough start, and the second half of the season will require a whole lot of improvement if anything's going to change.

Offensive MVP: Anthony Pierson, RB. Nobody on Kansas' team has really stood out this season, but Pierson is the biggest home-run hitter on the team and offers a threat in the passing and running game. He's down with an elbow injury for a bit, but it doesn't sound like a major injury. He's turned his 59 carries into 319 yards and two touchdowns, the highest yards per carry on the team. He's also second on the team with 15 catches and third on the team with 198 yards and a touchdown.

Defensive MVP: Bradley McDougald, S. This one's pretty easy. McDougald is the team's best player and could start for a number of other Big 12 teams. The former receiver is making plays all over the field and is tied with Ben Heeney for the team lead with 50 tackles. He's picked off two passes and has three tackles for loss with a sack. He's also forced a pair of fumbles and broken up a pass.

McDougald a bright spot for Jayhawks

October, 4, 2012
The rebooting process at Kansas has come with a few bumps and bruises already. It's included a couple blown fourth-quarter leads and a 1-3 start under Charlie Weis after winning just five games and one Big 12 game in two seasons under Turner Gill.

It's been far from all bad, though. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo has the Jayhawks -- the nation's worst defense a year ago in both yardage and points -- looking a whole lot better.

"There’s a lot more urgency on the field. There’s a lot more hunger, and of course we have a couple better players in different positions, but guys have just honed in on their responsibility," safety Bradley McDougald said. "Guys are still making mistakes and doing things wrong, but we’re playing at a much higher level than last year."

[+] EnlargeKansas' Bradley McDougald
Mike DiNovo/US PRESSWIREKansas has found a playmaker on defense in safety Bradley McDougald.
Kansas has ascended from 120th in scoring defense to 54th, but the biggest change has been a ballhawking defense tied for fifth nationally with 13 forced turnovers a year after forcing just 18 for the season.

McDougald has helped produce a handful of them, ranking second in the Big 12 with two interceptions and second with a pair of forced fumbles.

"Bradley is one of the few guys on defense that you can count on to make plays," Weis said. "He’s one of those athletic types that wants to come up to the line of scrimmage and make plays, but he’s also made some in the secondary and in pass coverage, as far as pass breakups and a couple interceptions, so he’s kind of been invaluable to our group."

The former wide receiver caught 33 passes for 318 yards as a true freshman in 2009 before moving to safety under Turner Gill and staying there once Weis arrived, retaining his starting spot.

"I wasn’t really sure what to think, because athletically, from the day I saw him, he looked special," Weis said. "But when I watched on tape, I didn’t see that same verified thing from what I saw in person."

So far this season, that's all changed.

"He’s certainly backed up what I’ve seen since I’ve been here," Weis said. "He looks like a heck of a player."

McDougald leads the team with 34 tackles (27 solo). He's got three tackles for loss and has broken up a pass, too.

"I feel like I’m playing well, but like Coach has said, on film, I think I’ve left a couple plays out there," McDougald said. "Each week I just want to focus in on a different area of my game and improve it slowly but surely and by the time we get to the last couple games, just play as flawless as I can."

Said Weis: "He’s playing with a lot more confidence and he’s not afraid to pull the trigger, both going after a ball and going up to the line of scrimmage to make a tackle. You have to be willing to pull the trigger, because if not, you’ll end up a little late to the rodeo."

This week, McDougald will take the Jayhawks on the road to face a Kansas State team that's hung 59 points on KU's defense in each of the past two seasons.

"It’s of course a rivalry game, and since we no longer have Missouri, this is the rivalry game," McDougald said. "Everybody comes to watch rivalry games, and they’re times to do something special."

He'll get his chance on Saturday.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 6

October, 1, 2012
Whole lot of fun this past weekend in the Big 12, with three of the four games coming down to the final possession. That's more like it.

Here's how I slot the league after five weeks.

1. Kansas State (4-0, 1-0, last week: 1) The Wildcats were off, but next week should be interesting. I'd argue Bill Snyder enjoys beating no team more than rival Kansas, and the Sunflower Showdown will be on in Manhattan this weekend.

2. West Virginia (4-0, 1-0, last week: 2) Geno Smith broke records and the hearts of Baylor's defensive backs on Saturday, but you have to be concerned a bit about the defense. Smith is out in front of the rest of the Heisman field by about a miles after throwing 20 touchdowns without his first interception. A much tougher Texas secondary and defensive line awaits in Austin this week.

3. Texas (4-0, 1-0, last week: 3) The Longhorns logged a huge win, but there's nowhere for them to go in these power rankings. WVU has looked pretty great every week, and hasn't allowed any room for the Longhorns to pass. We'll settle this on the field in a mammoth showdown between top-11 teams in Austin this week. Texas has tackling issues and didn't run the ball well until the final quarter at Texas, but can Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Brown getting healthy change that?

4. Oklahoma (2-1, 0-1, last week: 4) The Sooners were off this week, but a big test awaits in Lubbock. Oklahoma hasn't won there since 2003 and Texas Tech infamously ended OU's "Chase for 8" title run a year ago -- beginning the Sooners' gradual descent to the Insight Bowl. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, are undefeated and have a lot to prove. The Sooners do too, but this should be a great matchup that perhaps gets overlooked on the national scene with WVU-Texas and Georgia-South Carolina on the slate.

5. TCU (4-0, 1-0, last week: 5) I'm starting to wonder if TCU is in this spot on reputation alone. There's something to be said for winning despite playing sloppy, but TCU has been really, really sloppy. The rain was a factor, and SMU is a huge rivalry game, but the Frogs managed only 156 yards on offense. At West Virginia or Baylor, they call that a first quarter. The Frogs get a hungry, talented Iowa State team in Fort Worth this week.

6. Baylor (3-1, 0-1, last week: 6) You're kidding me if you think the Bears deserve to drop for going on the road and losing by seven to a top-10 team. Would any of the three teams below them have done any better? Doubtful at best. It's a tough loss for the Bears, but they're resilient, and dropping out of the top 25 for that seems a little unfair to me. The defense has a lot to work on, and the coverage was awful at times, but you can't ignore the offense. In that environment, it's really hard to score 63 points. I don't really care what the defense does.

7. Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0, last week: 8) Texas Tech got a huge road win on Saturday night, but let's still have a little perspective: The Red Raiders beat the No. 9 team in the league by 11 points in a game that was probably a touch closer than that. The defense is vastly improved and looked good on Saturday night. How much improved? We'll get a better idea this week when the Red Raiders host Oklahoma. Plenty of upward mobility is possible in both the polls -- Tech debuted at No. 24 in the coaches poll -- but the media remains unconvinced.

8. Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1, last week: 7) Oklahoma State's two losses aren't that bad really, but two losses is a lot more than zero losses. OSU looks likely to rebound, but for now, you've got to slot them below Texas Tech. The Red Raiders haven't been tested like Oklahoma State has, but though it's unfair to say OSU failed its tests, they certainly didn't pass them. The Cowboys didn't have much of a dropoff with J.W. Walsh, who might be the league's best backup quarterback. The Cowboys are off this week before traveling to Kansas. Will Wes Lunt be back by then? My guess is yes, but OSU will be fine if he's not.

9. Iowa State (3-1, 0-1, last week: 9) The Cyclones couldn't make it three in a row against Texas Tech, but Iowa State may quietly have a case as the Big 12's best defense. We'll find out if that's the case as the season goes along, but they slowed a healthy, productive Tech offense in a big way. TCU this week in Fort Worth presents a different challenge, but Iowa State will have a chance to impress against a top-15 team it's definitely capable of beating.

10. Kansas (1-3, 0-1, last week: 10) KU was off this week, but the Jayhawks get back in action with a trip to Manhattan against K-State. The Wildcats have lit up the Jayhawks for 59 points in blowout wins in each of the past two seasons. How much better is Dave Campo's defense? This week will be a good measuring stick.

Fresh faces: Kansas Jayhawks

August, 20, 2012
Today we continue our look across the league at few players from each team who had low profiles last year, but you'd better get to know before 2012. They just might be household names by season's end.

More fresh faces:

Next up: Kansas.

Josh Williams, DE: Williams transferred to Kansas from Nebraska this spring and is already making a big impact on the defensive line, where the Jayhawks badly need reinforcements. He started two games for the Huskers last season and made 15 tackles, as well as blocking a kick. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder has coach Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Dave Campo raving, and Williams has already earned a starting spot entering the season. He's a fifth-year senior who just may find his way into the NFL with a big year in 2012 after starting over in Lawrence.

Kale Pick, WR: Quarterback Dayne Crist needs weapons in the passing game, and Pick's proving to be one of the best. Coaches pegged Pick as the player who's been most impressive during fall camp, and he could be a big beneficiary of some much more solid play at quarterback with Crist in town. Pick is an instinctive former quarterback who knows both ends of the passing game, and came on strong late last season. He caught six balls against Kansas State, and 15 of his 34 catches came in the final four games. The 6-1, 205-pound senior could make good on much of his promise this fall.

Mike Ragone, TE: Ragone's another player who could be a big beneficiary in the Notre Dame exodus. Weis and Crist got all the headlines this offseason, but Ragone made his way to Lawrence, too, along with Anthony McDonald, who will likely start at middle linebacker. Knee injuries limited Ragone's production in South Bend, but if he can stay healthy this year, there's plenty of room for him to haul in passes in KU's offense. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, and chose to transfer to Kansas. Look for the 6-4, 255-pounder to make it count. He's plenty confident, but he says he's grown and learned from having to deal with the knee trouble. He's also got the added advantage of knowing Weis' offense, as Crist does, and knowing what to expect once the season begins.

Lunch links: Big 12 Olympic ties

August, 3, 2012
Four more weeks and a day.

Lunch links: Forecasting TCU/WVU future

July, 11, 2012
"When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not." -- Mark Twain