Ten straight losses have a way of sapping the fight out of even the most resilient football team.
It didn't take Charlie Weis long upon his arrival in Lawrence, Kan. in early December to see that - much like a disease - losing had infected his new team. Their confidence was in shambles, and even worse they didn't seem to care.
Three months and change later, and it's safe to say a major attitude change is underway with the Kansas Jayhawks.
"I think they're much more confident, and they certainly care," Weis said Tuesday. "And I think any time you have a hard-working team that cares, you have a chance. But it doesn't do any good if they don't' have any belief they have a chance."
During the off-season, the Jayhawks underwent a grueling conditioning regimen at the hands of new strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple. With spring football officially dawning on Mount Oread, Weis is generally pleased with the results.
Even more impressive, however, has been the re-dedication of his charges in the classroom. Weis made it clear during his introductory press conference that academics were to be his primary focus. To be more precise, discipline would be his primary focus - in the classroom first and foremost.
Tuesday, Weis reported there have been less than five absences from class - in total - from his team since he arrived. His motivational tools were simple. Those who missed were subject to what one can assume was rather intense "peer pressure," as he put it.
Peer pressure and a private, Saturday workout with Holsopple at 6 a.m.
"I don't want to be around Holsopple any time," Weis joked. "But 6 a.m. Saturday morning, when he doesn't have to be here, it's really not good."
For the spring, Weis has set his sights on a number of specific goals; one of which the process of achieving has long been underway.
In general, he explained, it's the job of a new coaching staff to break the team down before building them back up. The off-season has been a part of that process. Spring football will be another step. If all goes according to plan, by the time the season arrives the team will be brimming with newfound confidence - but that comes later.
"Now is not the time I'm worrying about their confidence," Weis said. "I'm worrying about them doing things the right way. Learning how to practice the way we want them to practice. I'm worrying about them being fundamentally sound. There are so many things that are football cliches that come into play."
As to immediate goals, he enters spring practice with separate expectations for the offense and the defense.
With the defense, it's about getting back to fundamentals. In a league with as many athletes operating in space as the Big 12 features, any defense that isn't solid fundamentally is already dead in the water.
"You can just cash it in because you have no chance," Weis said. "You're going to have people running free all over the place. So I think the most important thing is get them lined up right and then let them play so you can evaluate if they're good enough or not."
On offense, the presence of senior transfer Dayne Crist gives them a leg up.
"Remember, now I have a quarterback who knows the system very, very well," he said. "It's an unusual situation when you're coming in new to have a quarterback who knows it that well. So we're going to put in as much as the offensive players can handle."
Many new coaching staffs will evaluate film from the previous season in an effort to help them formulate an early depth chart - to get an idea of the raw material with which they have to work.
How much film has Weis watched from the 2011 season?
"None," he said, simply. "And I won't. I don't care what they did. I'm going by what I see."
It's a fresh start for the University of Kansas, in more ways than one.