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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Record aside, senior transfers still proud of KU football experience

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has a talk with quarterback Dayne Crist and tight end Mike Ragone in the second quarter, Saturday, September 1, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has a talk with quarterback Dayne Crist and tight end Mike Ragone in the second quarter, Saturday, September 1, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

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When Notre Dame graduates Dayne Crist, Anthony McDonald and Mike Ragone decided to team together for one more season of college football, they envisioned a scenario that played out much differently than the one the senior transfers have experienced this season at Kansas University.

Back playing for the man who recruited them to Notre Dame, Crist, McDonald and Ragone expected to work hard, play harder and pick up a few victories and fond memories along the way.

The memories were created and the work put in, but the victories never came.

Now, as the twice-highly touted trio prepares to enter its final week of college football, each guy is facing mixed emotions about the disappointing season and the end of their college careers.

“This isn’t what we expected,” said McDonald, who plans to step away from football for good following KU’s Dec. 1 game at West Virginia. “We obviously expected to win some more games, and we could’ve; we were right there with a bunch of teams. But this has been a great experience, so no bad thoughts. I’ve had a great time, regardless of the record. I’ve made great relationships with guys on the team who I just met and we’re good friends and a bunch of us will probably keep in touch for a long while after I’m gone.”

While that sums up the experience for all three Notre Dame transfers, who, along with Nebraska transfer Josh Williams, made a combined 23 starts for the rebuilding Jayhawks this season, the benefits to the program they’re leaving have shown up in more places than the field of play.

From understanding how to play for first-year KU coach Charlie Weis to better habits in the weight room, classroom and dorm room, the four guys who chose to become one-and-done players on the back end of their careers helped KU move past the new lows it experienced during the Turner Gill era.

“I just think we tried to change the attitude,” explained Ragone, who said the personal triumph of proving he still could compete after three ACL tears was a huge source of pride. “I think that’s key. You want to buy in to coach Weis, you want to buy in to winning and how to prepare yourself and compete on a daily basis and how to go to work every day. I see these guys working their butts off every day and it’s tough. When you’re 1-9. ... You see teams out there that are 1-9 and they throw the white flag out there and there’s not a guy on this team that’s done that.”

There are plenty of people who deserve credit for that, from the coaching staff, which raised the program’s expectations and restored accountability, to the players themselves and the dozens of unnamed members of the KU football support staff. But, from where Weis sat, it was his transfers and KU’s more experienced holdovers who played the most important roles in his first season at KU.

“It’s tough to create leadership,” he said. “People are either leaders or they’re not. You can’t fake leadership. People will see right through it.”

Nowhere was leadership more on display than at quarterback, where, just a few months after arriving on campus, Crist was voted a co-captain by his teammates. Although he eventually surrendered his starting job after struggling on the field, Crist never coughed up his leadership role, as he continued to prepare as if he were the starter each week.

“You remember, as a young guy, the guys that helped you out and mentored you and you remember what that does for you and, in turn, you pass it on,” Crist said. “I just hope that I was able to help the guys that wanted help and needed help, and I will continue to do so as long as I’m here.”

At one point in their lives, all four of these guys were highly recruited prospects with a ton of talent and unlimited potential. After battling through plenty of adversity and overcoming a number of physical and psychological obstacles, their paths led them to Kansas, where they were given one final shot to be remembered.

Although the Jayhawks (1-10 overall, 0-8 in Big 12 play) will finish 2012 with a record equal to or worse than what the program stumbled to in 2011, there exist plenty of people — both within and outside of the program — who claim significant progress was made during Weis’ first season in charge.

“The goal was to come in and make as many steps in the right direction as possible, get the program to a level to where it’s competitive in this league and where it’s respected,” Williams said. “We obviously haven’t won as many games as we wanted, but I think we made strides. I think it was a great start.”

The fact that the start was actually the end for these guys was tough for each to swallow.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Williams said. “But, at the end of the day, it feels good to know you were a part of that start.”

Added McDonald: “It’ll be nice to say that we were the ones who kind of got it going and picking up steam.”

Like his players, Weis, too, hoped for more of a storybook ending for these four guys. But even though it did not pan out that way, Weis is not shedding any tears.

“I think that all four of those guys will always have a warm place in their hearts for this school,” Weis said. “I don’t think any of them regret coming here, and I think all four of them will always look at themselves as, ‘I’m glad that I spent that year there.’”

Sounds like it.

“Yeah, man. I’m gonna be a Jayhawk to the day I die,” Williams said. “I took it to heart.”

Added Ragone: “I’ll never forget this the rest of my life. I did not regret this one bit. It’s awesome. It’s been an honor to be on the same field as these guys.”

Comments

troutsee 1 year, 4 months ago

We just picked up a committment from a JC wide receiver from New York. I am glad to see Charlie recruiting the nation. When we concentrated only on Texas, we were getting only the left overs. Bill Snyder realized that a long time ago. Way to go Charlie and staff.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 4 months ago

Sorry, folks. Table Rock and HouTexHawk are correct.

We can speculate all we want on how improved we are in little facets of the game. But at the end of the day, we will will be 1-11, on the nation's longest conference losing streak, and close to the longest road-game losing streak.

Until we prove anything on the field and improve the W-L record, all of our analysis and optimistic outlooks mean nothing.

Especially at QB. Reputation, potential, and expectation mean nothing. I don't care if it's Andrew Luck or Adam Barmann that takes the field for us next year...if they don't deliver, they are worthless.

And speaking of worthless...it's the best way to describe the words coming from this coaching staff. I hate to point it out, but unfortunately, the only improvement that matters is the win column. I don't want to hear about how better fundamentals and team spirit are than under Gill, or even Mangino.

If you don't win, it's all for nothing. Ask every coach who was popular with his players, but fired for failing to win.

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BringBackMark 1 year, 4 months ago

Interesting posts all the way around. First, thanks to the transfers for believing in KU and coach Weis. I wish all of you the best. Having said that I'll give my perspective on the program now that the season is nearing the end:

1) Fifth year transfers pretty much waste a scholarship. That is not a reflection on the these players but just a comment in general. This is especially true in a re-building period. That, unfortunately, is what KU has found itself in again. We need to bring in young, quality, talent and just bite the bullet for a few years. There are no quick fixes to building a real program.

2) The reason that almost all of the teams that we've played are bowl eligible is, in large part, due to the fact they had KU on their schedule. This team made almost every quarterback and placekicker look like an All American this year. However, Campo has brought some heart to the defense which is fun to watch.

3) Don't give up on Michael Cummings. He was heads and shoulders better than Crist and he'd never played in a D-I game before in his life. CW needs to get an Offensive Coordinator and relinquish those duties. Had we tailored more of the offense around Cummings' abilities and started him in about game three, I think we'd still be thinking Bowl game. It appears that Heaps has already been annointed QB for next year by Weis. I hope this doesn't turn out to be as much of a debacle as Crist was.

4) The most exciting part of our team wasn't our outstanding running backs but the young linebackers. These kids are going to be fun to watch. They play full speed every play. If we had a couple of defensive linemen, and D-backs that didn't get turned around on almost every play we'd have a very solid defense.

I came in to this season with high expectations as did many KU fans. It was very hard to look at the Big-12 standings today and see KSU at 10-1 and KU at 1-10. Prior to Snyder everyone would have laughed if that were even thought about. Now its become expected. As I've posted before, and been called and idiot or worse, KU has got to find a home for this football program where it can be competitive. If that's in the Big 12 then its got to happen within the next 3 or 4 years. Otherwise we've got to find a lesser conference where we can be competitive and at least keep a football program. If we continue at 1-11 or 2-10 for may more years there will come a time, just like with KSU prior to hiring Snyder, where we're going to have to consider giving up football.

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Robert Brown 1 year, 4 months ago

I have to agree with Tablerock. While I want to believe progress is being made, I look at the record and I don't see any. While I would like to believe we are more competitive based on games with Tech and UT, my elation is brought back to earth with a performance like we had against Iowa State.

It is clear that the offense is not very good despite some talent at running back. I'm disappointed that our offensive minded coach who is so quick to remind everyone he coached Tom Brady cannot get this team to score more than 20 points in a conference that plays little or no defense.

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Micky Baker 1 year, 4 months ago

I will also say this, KU will not have the toughest schedule next season. The Big 12 will not have Jones, Klein, Terrence Williams, Doege, or Geno Smith next year.

I also think Clint Bowen will fix the special teams issues over the off season, with new personnel.

Our D-Line will need to improve immensely and there are a couple of solid recruits coming in. We'll know more soon enough.

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Micky Baker 1 year, 4 months ago

My expectations going forward.

First, I do expect this team to win between 4 and 7 games next season because of the work that they have put in and the work I am now confident they will put in during the off-season.

We have 13 spots to fill for the class of 2013. I do expect that we will see another wide receiver or two with good size and at least decent if not good speed like this kid Thomas.

Defensively, it will be the Linebackers who will be the strength a year from now, and I think we will have better size and speed in the secondary, particularly at CB even though Greg Brown is leaving. I doubt Pattmon will be number 1 on the depth chart coming out of spring either. I like Allen and this kid coming from Butler and I think that having a guy that big to go against the Big 12's best receivers is a plus.

At QB, I think both number 1 and 2 will be quality and I also believe that both Matthews and Cummings still have a spot on the team in certain situations. I would like to see Cummings get some more reps though, because he could be a legit threat out of the Jayhawk if he works on his initial quickness. Once he gets loose he is a better player, but he's not that quick on his feet initially yet. It could be just about confidence there but they say Heaps is by far the quickest on his feet right now.

McKay, Ford, Turzilli, and Parmalee will be the 4 WRs on the depth chart, but Omigie will still get his chances, but they need to him to work on his hands and catch the ball. If he can get his hand skills improved during the off season he could be a legit weapon with a couple of TE's that can take the Linebackers out from the middle for a guy like Parmalee to thrive with them short crossing routes over the middle. Mundine I think will be a lot better a year from now but they are going to have to have that threat to take a linebacker or two out of the middle on those kinds of plays.

Overall, the offense looks as if it's going to be better and there are some redshirts coming up plus the kid from Cali that just committed and I think we'll be fine there.

Where we need the most help as depth in the secondary and speed rushers on the D-line to get some sacks and to limit the options for opponents in the Big 12. We have 13 spots to fill and I think Weis will use them wisely, but next year, we're going to have to recruit running backs and WRs heavily again along. But, if we get the passing game going on offense, then 4 to 7 wins next year.

We can win these games:

Iowa State Baylor Texas Tech Texas(even in Austin) all three non-conference games West Virginia (Geno won't be there)

Klein will be gone from K-State, and if our Linebackers improve enough, and it's in Lawrence, definitely won't be a blow out if we do lose. It took until Mangino's 3rd season to beat K-State, and yes, Bill Snyder was still coach then. That is 9 games, but I'm still going to cap it at 7. 7 games is a real possibility next year.

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kay_you 1 year, 4 months ago

25 points away from a 6 win season.

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troutsee 1 year, 4 months ago

Class act, these four. The improvement in the team is there. Unfortunately, we don't match up will against WVU, but if we can play keep away, who knows. It almost worked against some pretty darn good offenses, TT, TU, and OSU. Here's hoping. To all the players and coaches thanks for the effort. I look forward to this Saturday's game and next season.

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pepper_bar 1 year, 4 months ago

Matt, I realize you hated Turner Gill, but respectfully, it's time for you (and Tom) to let go of the grudge.

"The new lows [KU] experienced during the Turner Gill era" -- how would you support this if someone asked you to back it up? Isn't 0-11 against D-IA competition the program's "new low"? Has KU ever gone 0-11 against big-boy teams before?

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Doug Cramer 1 year, 4 months ago

First of all...I must say thank you to these guys that decided to transfer to KU.

I also thank Coach Weis and Campo for their coaching. Thought they did a decent job of coaching for our talent level. Also...it improved after we realized Crist wasn't our QB...which should of happened sooner than it did.

Here's my question to KUsports.com. How the hell have we moved beyond Gill's new lows as a program ? We're 1-9 ? Not that I'm a Gill supporter...but I can tell you that the national media have a much different perspective on KU's football program than what KUsports.com has had the entire time since Weis was hired.

You might want to take a look at the 2012 recruiting class...along with our upcoming 2013 recruiting class. It's not looking good for our program folks. Yes...it's getting late in the game...and 2013 recruiting class is not looking good.

So again...knowing that we probably go 1-10...and we extremely lack talent from our 2012 group of freshman...and we extremely lack talent from our 2013 group of freshman...worse than several MAC and Conference USA schools....how the hell have we moved beyond Turner Gill's new lows?

Not buying it yet. Wished I could...but I can't until we start getting some young talent in here...particularly in the trenches.

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W Keith Swinehart II 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks, Matt, for keeping KU football alive on this next-to-last, pre-bowl football weekend with our team an off weekend with nowhere to go after our last game next Saturday (take a breath).

It was sad watching all the football games yesterday with our guys sitting idle. The Notre Dame Saturday night game finished it all off finishing with a No. 1 ranking and a sure-fire Championship BCS Bowl game after New Years. Ironically, during the game, Brent Musberger making an offhand comment about KU's Charlie Weis recruiting some of the night's outstanding Notre Dame players. After hearing Musberger's comment and watching Notre Dame win I was reminded that tradition-rich Notre Dame is what Coach Weis really wants to do at KU.

So I am giddy and hopeful that, during the Bowl Games and after they are over, you (Matt) will continue to write about KU Football, the recruits, coaches and players to keep us pumped for next Fall as we build a KU Football tradition at KU.

As far as this year, all we have to do is finish our season off next weekend with a strong effort and, hopefully, a victory against WV. Regardless of next week and our win/loss record I am proud of the accomplishments of the season. And I am thankful for the help and effort that the Senior transfers brought to the table. We didn't get the victories we expected, but Weis and the transfers brought a new start, enthusiasm and hope for the coming years as Coach Weis builds a program. I can't wait to see new progress.

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kureader 1 year, 4 months ago

Tait, another nice article. Thanks.

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WindmillGIANT 1 year, 4 months ago

I hadn't noticed before that Northern Illinois had moved into the top 25. They are 11-1; their only loss was their first game of the year, a 1 point loss against Iowa, otherwise, KU was their closest game (along with Toledo). Rice finished the year 6-6; South Dakota State is 9-3; every team in the Big 12, except KU, is bowl eligible. This means every team KU played this season has a winning (or at least .500) record and is bowl eligible. The combined record of KU's opponents is 92-45. In other words, every game KU played was essentially a bowl game and the majority of those games were competitive (despite being handicapped with a non-existent passing and kicking game).

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Charlotte_Jhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

I apologize, this is off the subject. I took a class in about 1971. I believe it was called "Physical Fitness Through Weight Lifting" I can't remember the prof's name. I think it was his last class before retirement. I believe he used to train shot put. He was a fine gentleman and changed my life. Does anyone remember this guys name? Thanks and sorry for the diversion.

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BainDread 1 year, 4 months ago

As we reflect on progress made this season, let us not forget the significant improvement in academics that the new coaching staff brought to the program. Only a small percentage of college football players will make a living playing the game. The rest (and society) will benefit greatly from the education they received. Thanks players and staff for all the hard work.

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VaJay 1 year, 4 months ago

I echo all the above positive comments. If we can get a few 5th year seniors as good as these guys, I'll be happy. I bet they contributed considerably to our positive nature each week and the 100% effort we saw (for the most part!).

Thank you guys!

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Keith Hummel 1 year, 4 months ago

I have to echo what everyone else said above. I couldn't be prouder of these guys, and the way they conducted themselves, and what they did for the program. Best of luck, and Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 4 months ago

From an architect's standpoint, Charlie has cleared the site and poured the foundation...remember, rarely do you see any of the foundation, but it is there. Now it's time to start building the house!! My prediction is watch out for us in Jake Heaps Senior year.

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Eric Dawson 1 year, 4 months ago

Anthony, Dayne, Josh and Mike -- thank you, and best of luck, Jayhawks!

Salute!

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Boouk 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks to Crist for recruiting Jake Heaps too.

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oldalum 1 year, 4 months ago

You must have missed this paragraph. “You remember, as a young guy, the guys that helped you out and mentored you and you remember what that does for you and, in turn, you pass it on,” Crist said. “I just hope that I was able to help the guys that wanted help and needed help, and I will continue to do so as long as I’m here.”

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iamakufan 1 year, 4 months ago

Wasn't Crist interviewed? I'd be interested in his comments.

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duanep5ku 1 year, 4 months ago

I whole heartedly agree with all the posters on here. I'm very proud of you guys for coming to Kansas. So thank you guys for coming to KU and good luck in what ever you do in life from here on out.

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Steve Corder 1 year, 4 months ago

Quality kids that competed is what we have. It's a step in the right direction. They will do well beyond the gridiron.

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KU79 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm a crusty old Jayhawk fan and I hoped for a bowl game, but knew that wasn't realistic. So, I hoped for a few wins and to see an improved program this year. I definitely saw the improvement, and look forward to next year. It was a lot to overcome the job Perkins did in imploding the program at the end of Mangino's run and the debacle that was the hiring of Gill, but I truly believe that Charlie has righted the ship and we'll sail to more victories soon. Thanks guys.

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MoralVictory 1 year, 4 months ago

All due respect to Brian Kelly at Notre Dame for his accomplishments but it was comforting to hear that many of the players on the field last night were Weis recruits.

I'm not looking for us to score a bunch of 5-Star athletes, but if Weis can win recruiting battles against mid-level teams, we can get back to respectability in football very quickly. He recruits quality people and that will make a big difference over time.

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jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

It has to be especially tough for them watching Notre Dame playing in the BCS title game.

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Phil Leister 1 year, 4 months ago

Absolutely love the quote by Williams at the end of the article.

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Bill Kackley 1 year, 4 months ago

I have been a KU football fan since 1947 and I have never been more proud of a KU football team. If heart were gold, you all would be extremely wealthy. To the beginning.

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JHWKDW 1 year, 5 months ago

Thank you guys for playing your hardest out there. I never saw you guys quit, and you made Jayhawk Nation proud. You played your hardest out there that is all we can ask for.

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actorman 1 year, 5 months ago

You guys are all class, and represent the best of college sports. I'm proud to call you Jayhawks, and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Thank you for making the commitment to be a part of Jayhawk nation.

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stm62 1 year, 5 months ago

I saw good effort most of the season and that in itself is a good sign. Were all tired of the losing. Hopefully there will be more wins next year.

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Jack Jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Thanks to each one of you - regardless of this season's record, you can always be proud of the fact that you were an important part of a Kansas University football team that competed with a dedication toward turning around a program in a difficult state, and played with a toughness and skill level not seen for several years. While those games lost despite a terrific effort by everyone who played were painful, not only to Jayhawk fans - but even more so for you players - we (the fans) came away with a respect for the entire team and for the effort and fight displayed during this season - something that will always be your legacy to those players who return next season, and for seasons to follow. My best wishes to each of the members of the 2012 Kansas University football team and coaches.

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