2011 Record: (2-10, 0-9 in Big 12)
Head Coach: Charlie Weis (35-27 at Notre Dame)
Last Bowl Game: 2008 Insight Bowl (beat Minnesota 42-21)
Swing Games: 11/3 at Baylor, 11/10 at Texas Tech, 11/17 vs Iowa State
Stat to Cheer: Ron Doherty was third in the league with 42.78 yards per punt (yes we are stretching)
Stat to Fear: offense converted the lowest percentage of third downs (38.83%) in the Big 12 while the defense gave up the highest percentage of conversions (51.3%).
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 7; Defense: 7; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Darius Willis (81 tackles), FS Bradley McDougald (89 tackles, 2 INT), DL Toben Opurum (45 tackles, 4 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB James Sims (suspended for three games), OL Duane Zlatnik, OL Tanner Hawkinson
CFBZ: What were your initial thoughts when Kansas hired Charlie Weis and do you think they made a good hire?
Fansided150: I love the Charlie Weis hire, because he has completely changed the culture around Lawrence and the Jayhawks, and this can mainly be seen when looking at the recruits he is able to get. Weis is more active in recruiting players on a national scale, and he is "winning" more recruits over. For instance, Weis has been able to nab two quarterback commitments in this 2013 class in Montell Cozart and Jordan Darling. Cozart was offered by rival Kansas State, and yet his commitment still remains solid with the Jayhawks. Darling was being heavily recruited by Bill Snyder and KSU, but Weis was able to land a commitment from him.
If you look at the drills, the effort, the practices, and the spring game, there is a new aura around Kansas football. We actually have a coach. Turner Gill was complacent, and he was an awful recruiter. He also didn't get the most out of his players during his time year. With Weis, we have a guy who has had success at the collegiate and NFL levels, and there is much hope surrounding him and the program.
One of the things I noticed is that more recruits want to play for Kansas, especially at the quarterback position. Some top QB recruits who are being courted by some huge programs have interest in KU because of Weis. I was a bit wary when the Jayhawks first hired him, but I then realized that this is what the program needs; a strict, active coach with a great track record.
CFBZ: How critical do you think the transfer of Dayne Crist to Kansas will be for Weis in year one?
Fansided150: Dayne Crist looks like "The Man" right now, and he has been playing with the type of swagger that I haven't seen in a QB here in a while. Crist has been nailing deep passes to Kale Pick and hitting Daymond Patterson on throws that Kansas's QBs could never make last year.
Some of Weis's momentum, if you will, comes from this big ND transfer. If he ends up being underwhelming, then that will be a shock and detrimental to Weis and the program early on. Crist is KU's top offensive player right now, and he has been working well with the teammates and knows the system. Not only has Dayne Crist been making the right plays on the practice field, but he is also working hard to get down the system.
CFBZ: To put it nicely, Kansas was flat-out awful on defense last year. Are there any signs that point to them improving on that side of the football this season?
Fansided150: Oh man, Kansas's D was absolutely horrible last season, there is no doubt about that. Michael Reynolds looks like a legitimate OLB, especially if he can become more consistent and not rely too much on his athleticism. He and Toben Opurum make up a great combo on D in the front seven, but the defensive tackles on the inside are a huge weakness for this team.
Anthony McDonald was a highly rated recruit and is an interesting transfer, and Ben Heeney has upside. But that's the thing, the linebackers are mostly unproven with everything on them based on potential. The best case scenario is that they end up fulfilling their potential and become a position of strength, but the worst case scenario is that they end up being a subpar bunch and get overrun. I'm more optimistic than pessimistic, so I see this as being about an average unit. However, the fact that the tackles are so poor hurt.
There are players that give hope for a better Kansas defense, and Dave Campo will help the team- especially the DBs- take a step forward. However, the defense will continue to be weak and expect improvements to be slow.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Fansided150: I honestly think Kansas ends up getting 3-5 wins, I highly doubt the Jayhawks win just two under Charlie Weis with Crist at the helm. Pick and Patterson are two quality wideouts, and Tony Pierson adds a new, speedy dimension to a very good stable of running backs; the James Sims suspension stings but doesn't hurt too badly. KU should be able to double their wins total in Weis's first year, and that's a successful season for KU to me. It's all about improving and building up.
From the outside, Turner Gill seemed like a decent hire. Two seasons and five wins later, Kansas had to part ways with him after he went just 1-16 in the Big 12 conference. Charlie Weis on the other hand, seems like a complete head scratcher of a hire. The offense he ran last year at Florida was borderline inept and he had two fantastic play-makers in Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to work with. Maybe, just maybe this works out for Kansas. Crazier things have happened.
From a personnel stand-point, Kansas just doesn't match up with the majority of the Big 12. The rest of the offenses in the league (except Iowa State) have proven play-makers that the Jayhawks don't have. The rest of the defenses in the league (except Baylor) have better pieces in place. Don't expect an immediate turnaround but they will be more competitive this year. Last year, the Jayhawks came close to beating Iowa State (three point loss) and Baylor (one point loss in OT) but they were also blown out on various occassions (Okie State- 42 points; OU- 30 points; K-State- 38 points; Texas- 43 points; Texas A&M- 54 points).
It will be interesting to see how improved the offense is under Weis. How successful will Dayne Crist be? His familiarity with Weis's system is big and if he can replicate what he did at Notre Dame in 2010 (15 TD, 7 INT) that will be better than anything Kansas has had since Todd Reesing left. Under Weis, Kansas will be more in line with the rest of the Big 12 in terms of offensive production then they have been in the last two years under Gill. Weis will be free to run the type of offense that he wants and we should see a solid improvement over what Kansas put on the field last year. The key to the season is the defense, which was last in the Big 12 in just about every category you can imagine. If the defense takes a big step forward then maybe Kansas can take a step out of the cellar but I don't think that happens for at least another year.
2012 Prediction: 3-9
Previous 2012 Previews:
Big East: Temple