Upbeat Weis has can-do attitude about KU

Dan Wetzel
New coach Charlie Weis believes he can turn around Kansas' football program. The Jayhawks went 2-10 in 2011

It's the confidence, the bravado, the "talking Jersey" as he sometimes calls it – that's probably why Charlie Weis keeps getting these head coaching jobs. Either that or the four Super Bowl rings.

It doesn't matter now because Weis is the coach at Kansas, a second shot after a high-profile fall at Notre Dame, a five-year span that felt like an endless circus, in part because of Big Charlie's big talk.

Now here he is, just days into the job, and he sounds no less confident, explaining why when Kansas called him he took a quick look at the Jayhawks' program and saw something almost no one else did.

A winner in waiting. This, a program that in 111 years has six bowl victories, is a sleeping success story.

"You're not chasing a job, so you just start talking," Weis said. "You look at it objectively. You know they have great facilities. You know it's a great school, really solid academically. On the other hand, you look at the record: 2-10. But there's another school in the state [Kansas State] that is 10-2.

"Obviously you can win in that state. There's already an answer to that question. They can. So you're coming into a place that's 2-10, but there's no reason for that. If one school in the state can be successful and you happen to be at the 'University of' … I saw it as a golden opportunity."

He could go on. He will, especially if you exist on the recruiting trail, which Weis already has begun hitting hard. He may not have spent his life dreaming of coaching in Lawrence, but it took just a couple of hours for him to have his counterpoints prepared.

Isn't this a basketball school?

"It's the greatest recruiting tool I have," he said. "Bringing them to a game at Allen Fieldhouse during a recruiting weekend? Are you kidding me? It's a great advantage bringing a recruit into a game and saying, 'This is what Kansas is about.' "

Why did the Florida offense struggle (102nd in total offense) during your one season as the Gators' coordinator?

"We're rocking and rolling through four games, 4-0," Weis said. "We're playing with a redshirt senior [quarterback John Brantley] that everyone said wasn't any good and he's playing great.

"We're playing Alabama at home and John is lighting them up. That vaunted secondary of Alabama, he's thrown for 190 yards in a quarter and a half. And then he gets a high-ankle sprain and we never recovered. We had two freshmen behind him. The wind got taken out of our sails."

This is Weis on a roll. Go ahead, address any topic and he has a response. He always has been a lightning rod for fans, but part of that comes from his willingness to attack any subject with a passionate response. He talks openly about pretty much anything – hate mail, his weight, terrible losses and so on.

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And not all of it is arguing the point away. He's the first to acknowledge he made huge mistakes at Notre Dame that inevitably doomed him. And, sure, he wishes he had been able to return for a sixth season, but he's not complaining about it.

"The problem is you don't win fast enough," he said. "The college deserves the right to change its mind. I hold no grudge. You don't win enough and you move on. I understand the business."

Can Weis legitimately succeed at Kansas?

Sure. College football is in a constant state of flux and almost no program is stuck in park – either on top or in the basement. If anything, the past few years have shown the rise of the so-called middle class, big seasons popping up in unexpected places as many traditional powers struggled.

Kansas State keeps winning. Texas doesn't.

And while Weis' point about success being predestined in the Sunflower State is a little much – Kansas still produces relatively little talent – he does have a point.

Kansas and Kansas State weren't much for decades and decades, but in the mid-1990s, Bill Snyder got things rolling in Manhattan and kept it rolling until he retired in 2005. That was followed by the rise of KU under Mark Mangino, who in 2007 got the Jayhawks 12 wins, including one in the Orange Bowl.

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Mangino soon was fired under controversy, Snyder returned and suddenly the Wildcats are back. So maybe it's just a see-saw – and the coach of the other program is 72 years old.

Weis isn't focused on K-State, though; he's focused on his job. He didn't do it well enough at Notre Dame. He can turn that into a positive, too.

He has spoken often with his former boss, New England Patriots icon Bill Belichick, about what Belichick learned during his first NFL head coaching stint, a five-year run in Cleveland that produced four losing seasons and a firing.

"Bill is one of my best friends," Weis said. "There's so many things you do the first time that later you say, 'Why did I do that? What a stupid way to do things.' When you critique yourself, when you suppress your ego and really critique yourself, you think, 'If a next time presents itself, I won't do that again.' "

Weis said there were a number of lessons learned – he tried to do too much, eventually grooming someone to handle the offense, being more efficient in recruiting, continuing to make time for family and so on.

His first order, though, is his staff. At Notre Dame, he tried to hire the people with the best résumés. Now he's focused on ability, but with a premium placed on building staff chemistry.

"Coming to college after 15 years in the NFL, I knew hardly any of the people I hired," Weis said. "I was hiring based on a concept rather than chemistry. If you don't have chemistry on the coaching staff, you're never going to have chemistry on the team. The most important fact in football, besides talent, is chemistry."

He already has hired folks he knew from Notre Dame, even if they didn't work with him, including former Irish quarterback Ron Powlus.

It all sounds good, and that's Weis' specialty. If nothing else, he has made Kansas football interesting. This could go in just about any direction.

There's no doubting he knows football and can groom talent. He'll work a million hours in recruiting, selling prospects not just on KU's academic strengths, life in Lawrence and the Big 12 but also a plan to play on Sunday. He'll take time to proselytize Kansas football like few have tried.

Charlie Weis is back, a second go-round as a college head coach. Smarter this time, he says. More experienced. And no less convinced he's right. Which is good; anything less wouldn't be him.

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