- David Ubben, College Football
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Kansas coach Charlie Weis wasn't looking to make friends the first time he addressed his new football team.
Christmas break is approaching after a week of finals tests, and Weis warned his Jayhawks. They'd better enjoy it. When they returned to campus, the mood wouldn't be quite so jolly.
"It’s not going to be pleasant," he told them. "I can’t promise you much, but I can promise you that."
If he was going to rebuild a program, he was going to start it with a grueling offseason conditioning program, and the least he could do was offer his new team a fair warning.
"Honestly, some guys, their ears perked up when they heard him say that," said senior offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson. "But hey, I’m all for working hard. That’s what builds a team, ultimately. Knowing you’re playing with guys to your right and left that went through those grueling workouts with you in the offseason."
Hawkinson has been through coaching changes before. He signed with Mark Mangino in 2008 and stuck around for the transition to Turner Gill after earning All-Big 12 and Freshman All-American honors in 2009.
Players like Hawkinson will be charged with the oft-mentioned "senior leadership" in smoothing over the transition this time around.
"There’s just a lot of excitement and anxiousness. Some guys are ready to get other coaches in place so we can get the ball rolling. Everyone’s excited," he said. "There was quite a bit of surprise on the team when he was named head coach because, following the search this past week and a half or so, his name never really came in the conversation."
Hawkinson followed the search closely like many of his teammates, waiting to hear who would coach his final season of college football.
Weis brought with him a reputation and respect earned in the NFL and at Notre Dame and Florida, where other candidates with less experience may have had to build up.
"He’s really easy-going, really personable," Hawkinson said. "He’s cracking jokes every now and then, but he’s also getting his point across about how he’s wanting to build this program back on top."
He added: "You hear him, but never would I have thought he’d be the coach at Kansas while I was here."
The Jayhawks have a long, long way to go to reach the top after a 2-10 season that features six losses by 30 points or more. Weis' focus for now is taking down the "other program in the state" that finished the year 10-2 and worrying about the rest of college football once that score is settled.
Kansas State has beaten Kansas in all three seasons since coach Bill Snyder took over, including 52 and 38-point losses in each of the last two meetings.
"He told us as well, from what he’s seen, it all goes back to those little things, making sure you do the little things right, even making it to class on time. All that kind of starts in the weight room," Hawkinson said.
The hard part is waiting to hear who the new man would be, but the hardest part will arrive next month.
"You worry about the future and who’s coming in, but we’ve got coach Weis in place. We don’t have to worry about that anymore. We’ve just got to worry about these workouts coming up."
7hDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman