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FANS AND MEDIA ALIKE WERE STUNNED WHEN KANSAS HIRED Charlie Weis last December. If Weis (most recently offensive coordinator at Florida) couldn't lead football-crazed Notre Dame to any prolonged success, how would he ever be able to turn the program around at a basketball-devout school such as Kansas?
The 56-year-old Weis, who signed a five-year, $12.5 million contract to coach the Jayhawks, has been trying to answer that question through a complete makeover. "Our way of doing things is different, and there will be some growing pains," he says. Even before the April 28 spring game he had banished several players and suspended another for violating team rules.
Difficult changes, but perhaps necessary ones if Kansas wants to return to its 12--1, Orange Bowl ways of 2007. Consider: Last year the Jayhawks gave up an FBS-worst 516.5 yards per game, and their offense ranked last in the Big 12 (22.3 points per game) on the way to losing 10 straight after starting 2--0.
Not surprisingly, expectations outside the program aren't high heading into the season, but inside the Anderson Family Football Complex the wheels appear to be turning in the right direction. New defensive coordinator Dave Campo arrives after coaching the Dallas Cowboys' secondary for three years. Thirteen new defensive players, many of them juco transfers, arrived on campus this summer, which should help shift some of the burden off senior end Toben Opurum. Weis says the influx of new faces will "change the whole complexion" of the defense, good news for a unit that gave up 45 points to KU's offense in the spring game.
That offense has a new look, too. Led by Notre Dame transfer and NFL prospect Dayne Crist at quarterback, the Jayhawks seem bound to improve on their 101st-ranked passing attack from 2011. Why? The receiving corps. Weis said few groups were a greater surprise this spring. "You've got guys seventh, eighth [on the depth chart] that you wouldn't be afraid to put out on the field," he says.
Weis's Jayhawks are probably still at least a year away from threatening the Big 12's powers. But there is optimism that in the foreseeable future, Kansas could return to being more than a basketball school.
COACH Charlie Weis (1st year)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Charlie Weis