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Weis starts recruiting at Kansas
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LAWRENCE (AP) — Charlie Weis leans forward in his chair behind a wide desk inside the Kansas football facility, reaches out to shake hands and then tries to stifle a yawn.
The long hours Weis has spent trying to get up to speed are already evident in his eyes. And he’s just getting started.
It has been little more than a week since Weis was contacted about becoming the Jayhawks’ head coach. He has already hired three members of his coaching staff, started on the recruiting trail, met with most of the players who will return next season, attended a basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse and shaken hands with donors and fans too numerous to count.
Before hopping on a plane Tuesday afternoon to start a four-day, multi-state recruiting swing, Weis took the time to discuss his new job during an interview with The Associated Press in his corner office overlooking Memorial Stadium.
“I think it is very important to not look back, sit there and be condescending and demeaning to the players from last year or the coaches,” Weis said. “That does not do anyone any good. My job right now is to figure out what the issues are and how we are going to go about fixing them.”
Weis makes it clear that it all starts with recruiting.
Not just players, either.
The former Notre Dame coach and longtime NFL assistant made it clear during his introductory news conference that running backs coach Reggie Mitchell would have a job on his staff. But he’s been quick to start filling other positions, starting with two appointments that Weis announced on Tuesday.
Ron Powlus, who served as his director of player development and later quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame, will take over the same role at Kansas. The former Fighting Irish quarterback has spent the past two seasons coaching quarterbacks and running the passing game at Akron.
The other hire was Tim Grunhard, who played for Notre Dame before an 11-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Grunhard, who will coach the offensive line, has been head coach at Bishop Miege High School in suburban Kansas City.
Weis said he has a pretty good feel for the rest of his staff, which should be announced soon.
“I’m hoping to have most if not all of it done by the weekend, so I’m in pretty good shape there,” Weis said. “Then on top of that, I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating our team, seeing where the holes are, looking for the numbers in recruiting.”
Weis said he’ll take advantage of the rich tradition of junior colleges in Kansas as a “stop-gap” measure, but his priority will be to bring in players he can develop over time.
The Jayhawks were just 2-10 last season, and 5-19 in two seasons under Turner Gill.
“All these guys want two things. No. 1, they want an opportunity to play early, and No. 2, they want an opportunity to play on Sunday,” Weis said. “My whole thing is, ‘We’re 2-10. If you can’t play here, where can you play?’ That’s this year’s presentation.”
“Hopefully that’s not the one I’m using next year,” he added with a chuckle.
Recruiting was never much of a problem for Weis at Notre Dame. The fact that he has a bunch of Super Bowl rings to flash from his days with the New England Patriots helped the sell, as did the fact that the Fighting Irish have one of the most tradition-rich programs in college football.
That’s not the case at Kansas, which has struggled to put together winning seasons on a regular basis, never mind compete for conference or national championships.
Weis doesn’t see that an excuse, though. He doesn’t see much of anything as an excuse.
“I’d been here before and I remember the facilities being good,” Weis said. “These are as good as anybody’s. These are top-10, top-20 facilities for sure. If you walk in here, it’s not like you’re hurting for facilities. Good school academically, you’re given the resources. What else do you want?”
Weis said he has already contacted a number of prospects that he recruited while he was offensive coordinator at Florida, many of whom were not offered scholarships. He said that was the best way for him to get up to speed quickly, and although NCAA rules prevent him from speaking about specific players, Weis said several have been receptive to his sales pitch.
Weis understands that he’s working in a condensed timeframe.
The dead period, in which coaches must be off the recruiting trail, begins Saturday. That’s when he’ll set about studying his returning players in greater detail.
Weis also will have surgery to replace his hip. He hurt it in a collision several years ago while standing on the sideline at Notre Dame. He’s already had both knees replaced as a result of the fall, and the bone-on-bone grinding makes it difficult for him to move.
The surgery will hardly slow him down, though. Weis knows that there is a long way to go if the Jayhawks want to achieve respectability, and there’s little time to waste.
“I have made a lot of mistakes, but I have learned how to show humility but I have never lost my passion and drive to win,” he said. “I want to win — I am a bad loser. I am sometimes a bad winner, according to my family, but I am certainly a bad loser. I would expect anyone else to be the same.”