For the first time since being introduced as the new Kansas University football coach on Dec. 9, Charlie Weis spoke with the media Monday, partly to offer a state-of-the-program address and partly to introduce quarterbacks Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps and wide receiver Justin McCay.
Before getting to the meat of the news conference, Weis answered the one question that has captivated KU fans since learning of Turner Gill’s firing.
“Let’s get the biggest question answered right off the bat,” Weis said. “Yes, we’re gonna put the names on the back of the jerseys. Can we put that one to bed now?”
Weis’ request to move past the uniform issue became easier with each sentence he uttered. During the 35-minute question-and-answer session, Weis delivered hard news, a few philosophical beliefs and a healthy dose of comic relief. In short, he nearly gave up as much information in a half hour than Gill gave during his entire time in charge of the Jayhawks.
Weis announced 10 former players, many of whom played significant snaps during the 2011 season, had been dismissed from the program. Those players were dismissed for everything from academic and behavioral issues to a desire to continue their careers elsewhere. Weis said he could not go into great detail about the dismissals.
Six — JaQwaylin Arps, Dexter McDonald, Darrian Miller, Adonis Saunders, Brock Berglund and Keeston Terry — simply were released by the program. Three others — Jordan Webb, Tyrone Sellers and Tom Mabry — will no longer be a part of the program but will remain enrolled at KU for the spring semester and may consider playing elsewhere in the future.
“They’re in school,” Weis said. “But they’re not part of our football team, mutually decided.”
And Travis Bodenstein informed Weis that he would transfer to another school.
“In addition to that, there are several guys on walk-on status that have been dismissed from the team,” Weis said. “And all of those guys have been dismissed academically. I think that walk-ons should be treated the same as scholarship players.”
By announcing the moves, Weis made clear to the media what he already had made clear to his team — this will be a no-nonsense program.
“I don’t care who they are,” said Weis when asked for his reaction to the prominence of several of the names. “I don’t care if they were all starters; it doesn’t make a difference. There’s a right and a wrong way of doing things, and we’re gonna do it the right way. That’s all there is to it.”
He continued: “You can’t make decisions, especially coming into a program, based on how good (players) are. You have to make decisions based on them doing the right thing. Because if you don’t, as a coach, you’re a hypocrite.”
Miller, Terry and Webb all were starters during 2011. Berglund drew more ink than any of them.
Berglund, whose highly publicized legal battle in Colorado kept him away from the program for nearly all of the 2011 season, called the Journal-World on Monday evening and said he learned of his dismissal via Twitter. The freshman quarterback who said he will pursue playing options at other schools said he planned to return to Kansas as recently as a week ago but had softened on the idea after learning that his request to contact others to discuss his future had been denied. KU officials said Berglund sent an email to several people in the KU athletic department at 3:08 p.m. Sunday. In the email, officials said Berglund requested his transfer release and informed them that he would not be at a mandatory 5 p.m. Sunday team meeting. The fact he missed it was enough for Weis to make the decision for him.
“He was considered dismissed from the team for not attending the mandatory team meeting,” a KU spokesperson said of Berglund.
The departure of these 10 players opens the door for Weis to sign up to the maximum allowance of 25 players in this year’s recruiting class. He may come close.
“I know exactly where the number’s sitting right now, and I know where I can go to,” Weis said. “We’ll be in the 20s. Originally when I got here, we were around 14 or so, and I told you the number would be higher. Well, it’s higher.”
KU has 12 players in the Class of 2012 committed, plus Crist, Heaps and McCay already on campus.
“All three of these guys I recruited when I was previously a head coach at another institution,” said Weis, referring to his five years at Notre Dame. “I tried to get all three of them. I got one of ’em, and now I’m fortunate enough to have all three of them as part of my team.”
In addition to the transfers and high school players, Weis emphasized he would continue to look to the junior-college ranks to help bolster KU’s roster.
“There’s three different avenues that we’re exhausting to try to get together the strongest recruiting class we possibly can,” he said. “And I think things are moving in the right direction. I have a bunch of guys that know what they’re doing in recruiting. We have a good plan, and I think by Feb. 1 things are going to fall into place fairly nicely for us.”
McCay’s status uncertain
Weis said the eligibility of McCay, who came to KU from Oklahoma, was still up in the air. Normally, a player who transfers is forced to sit out a season before playing — that will be the case with Heaps — but McCay could be eligible immediately because of a hardship waiver he and KU are applying for with the NCAA.
“We are going to file a letter to the NCAA because he was released by Oklahoma on a hardship to Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri,” Weis said. “We will try to get that this year, where he’s alive and ready to go. Usually, with the NCAA, if you have a viable case, they’re not afraid to be open-minded on something like this.”
Asked how the uncertainty had affected him, McCay did not seem too bothered.
“It was hard going into it,” McCay said. “But being close to home makes it a little bit easier. Hopefully I can play right away. It’s not finalized yet, so we don’t know, but hopefully I can.”
Weis talks Dave Campo
Asked how long new defensive coordinator Dave Campo had been on his radar, Weis talked about the process having to play out before everything fell into place.
Campo, hired by KU last Friday, was released by the Dallas Cowboys a few days earlier. That’s when Weis put on the hard sell that ultimately led to Campo saying yes to the job.
“I was really concerned to make sure that I did things the right way,” Weis said. “I was very slow and meticulous to make sure I got a defensive coordinator that fit what I described the last time we talked.”
Asked what that was, Weis said, “Somebody who talks the same language as me, and (Campo) certainly talks the same language as me.”
Hip, hip, hooray
Though nobody took the time to ask, Weis, who seemed to move around much better than he did the day he was introduced, gave a quick update on his recovery from the hip replacement surgery he had in mid-December.
“I feel wonderful, thanks for asking,” he joked. “First time since I got wiped out on the sideline in 2008, in September, that I feel good. First time. It’s unbelievable. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about that. By the way, hips are a lot easier than knees.”
Spring dates announced
Weis said Monday that spring practices would begin on March 27 and that the spring game would take place on Saturday, April 28. No time was announced.
Crist the student
Because he already has graduated from Notre Dame, Crist must enroll in nine hours of graduate school classes at KU to be eligible.
He said Monday he was looking into sports management.
“I’m excited to start my classes and go from there,” he said. “It’s something that was very interesting to me, and I didn’t want to just blow off academics. I took them very seriously at Notre Dame, (and) I wanted to be able to take something away from here as well.”
Heaps eager to learn
The fact that he’ll have to sit out his first season at Kansas has done nothing to Heaps’ excitement level.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m just going to be a sponge soaking up all of this stuff. I have the opportunity to learn from Coach Weis and (quarterbacks) coach (Ron) Powlus, and also take advantage of the time I have with Dayne here. I’ll be learning from all of these guys and watching how it’s supposed to be done.”