As Kansas football coach Charlie Weis indicated at Monday’s Big 12 Media Day session, Kansas was picked where he expected to be picked and went further as to say that the Jayhawks will be picked last until they can prove doubters wrong by winning more games, especially within the league.
While Weis is taking some heat from critics for other remarks made during his time with the media, it was clear that the Jayhawks will have to fight their way back beginning with the 2013 season and cannot afford another season like 2012, where they finished 1-11 and failed to record a conference win.
“We're 1 11 and picked by everybody to finish last in the league, and that's justifiable. If I were you, I'd pick us in the same spot. We've given you no evidence or no reason to be picked anywhere other than that,” Weis said. “I told our players and told our coaching staff that, until they start winning some games in the conference, that's just the way it's going to be.”
Though there is still concern that some of the heavily junior college transfer filled recruiting class may not make it on to the field, there’s a still a big numbers of quality players, Weis is banking on to lead the program resurgence this season, led by two transfers in quarterback Jake Heaps and wide receiver Justin McCay, who after sitting out 2012 after transferring from BYU and Oklahoma respectively are ready to get to work.
“I was very fortunate last year for them, while they were going through a transfer year where they were ineligible, where they could establish a rapport, where they could be on that practice field every day throwing and catching, and I think that everyone who it's been well documented that anyone who watched us play last year, that although we had a pretty solid running game, we couldn't pass the ball, and we couldn't score points, and I think that that's what I'm counting on this year for us to be a more balanced team on offense,” Weis said. “I think Jake and Justin are two of the people that can help provide that for us.”
Another positive for Weis will be his backfield, which will feature the return of James Sims, who is back for his senior season after rushing for a little over 1,000 yards in just nine games of action in 2012. Fellow back Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon will add some punch and then there is the return of Darrian Miller, who returns to the program after leaving for the 2012 season. His contribution could be huge after a solid freshman campaign in 2011.
Aside from Sims, all eyes will be focused on explosive hybrid back/wide receiver Tony Pierson who could turn many heads in the Big 12 this season.
“I think it's definitely an advantage and also better utilizing the players that we have. Last year, even though we weren't a very good football team, we had some quality players at the running back position. That might be the only position that we had quality players as a group, but we've actually gotten stronger at that position than we were last year,” Weis said.
“What that's allowed me to do is try to make Tony Pierson a more versatile player. As I sat there and watched the last four or five games of that (Tavon) Austin guy at West Virginia just tearing it up as both a wide receiver and a running back, I think that football sometime doesn't have to be as cerebral as some people try to make it, and I think that it's a copycat business. When you can have a talent that you feel is similar to a guy that's being utilized properly, I think that, if we can get Tony more involved in space, that will open up a lot of things for the rest of our running backs and our receivers in general.”
Still, Weis knows his team is and will continue getting no respect from anyone until things start to change on the field and on the scoreboard. When talking about Sims not making any of the preseason Big 12 teams at the running back position, Weis was brutally honest and could set the tone for his team to come out to prove people wrong in 2013.
“Once again, it comes down to winning and losing football teams. I think, when you're a losing football team, which at 1 11, we definitely are ahead of the pack, I think you have to earn respect. I think that, if you have a player from a team that's been winning and a player from the team that's been losing, you're going to go with the team that's been winning because they've helped them win.”
For Weis and Kansas, it’s the hope that the constant negativity being flung their way can start to generate a chip on their shoulders, yielding positive results, as they move into a new year, knowing that to gain respect, the only way to do it, is to earn it.
“Obviously, inside closed walls or inside our walls and closed doors, our expectations are much higher than everyone else, but the proof's in the pudding,” Weis said. “Until we start beating some teams in the Big 12, which is quite a challenge with the ability and talent throughout the league, we're going to be put in the same spot every year.”