New coach brings optimism to Kansas football program

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After three years at Notre Dame, senior quarterback Dayne Crist joins Kansas this season and has asserted himself as a team leader. The Jayhawks eye improvement after winning only three Big 12 games since 2009.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has had a busy past three years.

In 2009 Weis was let go by Notre Dame after five years and a 35-27 overall record with the Fighting Irish. From there Weis made the move back to the NFL, where he served as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator for the 2010 season. Then in 2011 he was offered the offensive coordinator position at the University of Florida where he spent just one season as well.

Now Weis finds himself at Kansas, worlds away from the constant media attention he received during his time at Notre Dame, but still eager to grow the Kansas football brand.

“Not so long ago in 2007 and 2008 this team was playing in the Orange Bowl and Insight Bowl and winning,” Weis said. “When I took the job this year I said, ‘Let’s go hit the state hard and let the people get a little touch of the Jayhawk football program as it currently stands.’ And I think it’s paid good dividends so far.”

Although he hasn’t served as a head coach for the past two seasons, Weis sees the Kansas job as a great opportunity to guide a struggling program in the right direction.

“To be honest with you I think it’s a very challenging situation, one that we thought would be a good challenge for us as a family but also very rewarding,” Weis said. “I really enjoyed my time with the Chiefs, it’s one of the reasons I took this job.”

It won’t be an easy task, and Weis is well aware of this. In the past three seasons the Jayhawks have won just three conference games and have been among the worst teams in the nation in terms of team defense.

“Looking back, you can see a handful of games that they could have, or maybe should have won but the bottom line is that there were too many games where they got the crap kicked out of them,” Weis said.

Those bowl victories are distant memories now after how badly the Jayhawks have performed in recent years, but that hasn’t altered expectations for the team in 2012.

“You could tell that there was a definite desire and eagerness to win from these guys,” senior quarterback Dayne Crist said. “No one was happy with how they finished last year.”

Crist joins the Jayhawks by way of transfer from Notre Dame, where he played under Weis in 2009. Crist saw limited action in four games last year but feels comfortable enough in Weis’s offense to make an impact for the Jayhawks in 2012.

“I know that my experience within this system and my overall familiarity and comfort level will help me bring other guys along and allow them to do less thinking,” Crist said. “I can do a lot more of the thinking for the guys on offense and help put us in the best place by being a leader.”

Weis and Crist won’t be the only new faces in Lawrence this year.

Dave Campo, former Dallas Cowboys head coach and defensive coordinator, was hired by Weis to serve as the Jayhawks’ defensive coordinator and secondary coach. Campo took his first coaching job as a 24-year-old assistant at Central Connecticut State in 1971 and has since held various positions both at the collegiate level as well as the NFL.

“Two qualities I’ve always admired about Dave Campo, beside the fact that I like the man, he’s a great teacher and he’s very well respected by the players,” Weis said.

Campo will take over a defensive unit that gave up an average of nearly 44 points per contest, including 70 points in a game against Oklahoma State last October.

Joining Crist in the Jayhawks’ backfield is junior tailback James Sims, who rushed for 727 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Sims’ sophomore statistics were very similar to the numbers he put up as a freshman when he ran for nine scores as well. He provides a solid rushing option and is also a threat to catch balls out of the backfield, evidenced by his 33 career receptions.

The Jayhawks’ top receiver from last season, D.J. Beshears, will return as well. The senior from Denton nabbed 40 catches to the tune of 437 yards and three touchdowns in 2011 and should remain their top option as receiver in 2012.

Weis has a lot on his plate in his first year as coach at Kansas, but he remains confident he can pique and create interest in Kansas football.

“I think that the first thing you better do is get your team to be more competitive on a weekly basis,” Weis said. “Once you do that, more wins will naturally follow. But, if we go and stink it up against South Dakota State in our first game all that momentum that we’ve gained you’ll watch evaporate in a hurry.”