Thursday, February 7, 2013

Charlie Weis: Recruiting class permits ‘dramatic’ overhaul

Kansas football coach Charlie Weis meets with media reps on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, to talk about his latest recruiting class.

Kansas football coach Charlie Weis meets with media reps on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, to talk about his latest recruiting class.


The official signing-day release from Kansas University’s football program says the 2013 Jayhawks return 35 letter-winners and 12 starters from last season’s 1-11 team.

Those who earned letters will get to keep them, but not everyone will be keeping his job.

That much was made abundantly clear by Charlie Weis on Wednesday afternoon when KU’s second-year head coach talked for the first time about the incoming recruiting class that has been one of the most anticipated groups in recent memory.

“We’ve been putting a lot of tread on our tires and went a lot of places and have reaped the benefits of having several fine young men to bring into our program,” Weis said. “I’m very pleased with how things turned out.”

The bulk of this year’s class (18 of 25) is made up of junior-college prospects Weis believes are ready to play right away. Although Weis is still relatively new to juco recruiting, he seems to have figured out that there’s a difference between slowly integrating high school athletes into a program and throwing more mature and experienced players onto the field immediately. If things go the way Weis believes they can, several members of the Class of 2013 will hold down key roles this fall.

“Personnel-wise, the overhaul on defense is going to be dramatic,” Weis said. “I don’t think it’s going to be slight. I think it’s going to be dramatic. And the best part is, I think it’s going to be solid for years.”

With all four starting spots open in the secondary and the Jayhawks coming off three straight seasons of sub-par play on the defensive line, KU’s latest class was formed, at least in part, to address those glaring weaknesses.

“If you look at the volume of front-line junior-college guys on the defensive side of the ball, we could have a whole bunch of starters coming out of that group,” Weis said. “I don’t want to downplay anyone because they’re all in the mix.”

Weis is convinced a juco player’s experience, advanced age and burning desire to prove he can play Div. I football are traits that will lead to winning.

How soon?

“You’d like to think that things could happen in a hurry,” Weis said.

Now that this class is signed, sealed and almost fully delivered, Weis said he and his staff could begin thinking that way a little more.

“Today, as you can start plugging different players into that vision, things became a lot easier,” he said.

Upgrading the talent and adding depth was not the only reason the Jayhawks went after so many junior-college prospects this offseason. There also was the idea of motivating the returning players. So far, that seems to be working, as well.

“They run on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons,” Weis said. “And watching that (on Tuesday) versus the first time I watched these guys last year was actually comical. It was actually funny to watch. I (was) thinking about what I was looking at versus what I am looking at, and it lifted my spirits tremendously.”

Jackson out of football

Weis announced Wednesday that junior-to-be Marquis Jackson, a fullback, would no longer be playing football because of an undisclosed health reason.

In light of losing a running back, Weis also revealed that he had decided to move incoming freshman Colin Spencer from defensive back to running back in time for spring ball.

“I didn’t want us to get thin at running back,” Weis said. “And I thought (Spencer was) too good of a prospect to get buried walking in the door. One of my plans that we’re gonna do on offense … he might be useful for what we’re gonna do, whether that’s this year or next year.”

Midyear transfer update

Ten of KU’s 25-member recruiting class signed letters of intent in December, but only eight of those players have made it to campus. Wednesday, Weis addressed the academic hold-up that has kept defensive lineman Marquel Combs and offensive lineman Zach Fondal off campus.

“No, Combs isn’t on campus yet. No, Fondal’s not on campus yet, and do I know exactly when they’re gonna be here? No, I don’t know that either,” he said. “But welcome to the world of junior-college recruiting. They will be here. You will see them on the field when we play in September, but I can’t tell you exactly when they’re gonna be here.”

Walk-on news

While evaluating this year’s class, Weis included Hutchinson Community College place kicker Michael Mesh, a preferred walk-on who will join the team this summer and compete for a starting role.

Although Mesh was the only walk-on Weis could identify, several others have emerged during the past week, some from KU’s walk-on tryouts and others via commitments. Two such players became public Wednesday, as Marian High running back Michael Whitfield, of Mishawaka, Ind., and John Wirtel, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound long snapper from Chicago, both announced they would be coming to KU as preferred walk-ons.

Wirtel is one of the top-rated long snappers in the country, and Whitfield, a 5-11, 190-pound back who recorded more than 1,800 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior, comes from the same high school as current KU long snapper Reilly Jeffers.

What’s next?

With three spots still available in the current class, Weis said he still had “some action going on,” but added that no future additions were imminent. Last year, KU picked up a couple of players after signing day, and the same could happen this year. According to Weis, one thing that won’t happen is KU adding a player just to fill a roster spot.

“With those three that are left, if we were going to take a college graduate, we’re bringing in a guy we think can start,” Weis said. “I mean, a guy who can be a difference-maker. Other than that, I’m not really listening.”


Jim Erickson 7 years, 9 months ago

Haha... "Welcome to the world of junior-college recruiting"... So much packed into one sentence. They get the reputation for bad grades and behavior problems (often times rightfully so) but they also have the ability to bring in a new mentality and help the team win immediately. Wish we had more than 7 high school kids, but if we have a "dramatic" improvement as Weis says, I'll quickly forget about the lack of high school kids.


jhox 7 years, 9 months ago

Maybe we can use the remaining scholarships on Alabama over signs? They always commit more scholarships than they have and leave 3 or 4 guys without one on signing day. Actually most SEC powers do that. I'd gladly take their table scraps.

April13 7 years, 9 months ago

Sad to hear about Jackson...he had shown some real promise last year in the spring game. So is that where the extra scholarship came from? I thought that we had two to offer?

swunruh 7 years, 9 months ago

Great news. Can't wait for the spring game.

kellerman411 7 years, 9 months ago

I can't believe some of you fools still want Charlie to recruit high school players. You hear "junior college" and think the kid must be smaller than everyone else. You'll change your mind real quick when you see KU's defense next year. By mid season, I bet we're the 2nd best defense in the league. Let's face it, the Big 12 isn't known for defense.

Displayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Football team is getting better, and the basketball team is getting worse!

Robert Brock 7 years, 9 months ago

When was the last time KU won a football game?

sokanhawk 7 years, 9 months ago


With Marquis Jackson quitting the team, do you think HCCW is looking at bringing in any more fifth-year transfers, either from Notre Dame or another BCS school?

Matt Tait 7 years, 9 months ago

He said he'd only do it if it was a guy who would be a starter and make an immediate impact.

At the same time, he said he had "some action" going on, so it appears that he's out there trying to convince at least one or two guys to join. Like with any recruit, Weis is obviously competing with others for those players.

We'll see what happens.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 7 years, 9 months ago

I want to post on this thread.

I can't look at the basketball articles right now.

So...uh...good job, Charlie.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 9 months ago

Why was Weis able to comment on Mesh and not on the other walk-ons? Since none of the walk-ons sign an LOI, is there some other paper-work hurdle that they have to cross before the staff can comment on them?

Matt Tait 7 years, 9 months ago

Yep. I'm working on a quick story to explain that, but it basically boils down to paperwork and compliance. Mesh already has taken care of those things.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 9 months ago

Thanks Matt, you're on the ball! I think that the two specialist walk-ons will both have a good chance to contribute in the next couple years, but I'd like to hear what Weis has to say about the Whitfield kid. The eye test says that he doesn't add much, so I wonder if Weis sees potential there or maybe Marian HS has a connection in the Athletics Dept, or maybe he's a kid who just really wanted to come to KU.

Michael Sillman 7 years, 9 months ago

I count 8 freshman on the commit list from earlier in the week. This column says 7.

Did one of the freshman not sign yesterday?

Displayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Colin Spencer is already on campus, so he didn't sign a LOI. Matt Tait went over this yesterday.

justanotherfan 7 years, 9 months ago

Next year is a huge year for KU football. If there's not a significant step forward, we could be in a real mess. I think Weis made the correct decision to go heavy with JC guys to avoid another ugly season, but the rub is that if you have another ugly season anyway, not only did you not move forward, but you sacrificed some of your future by not recruiting 4 year guys. I think he's gotten enough Juco talent in to challenge for a bowl bid next season, though.

Next year, I think we have to sign at least 60% HS kids, though. Going Juco heavy two straight years will leave us with no real base in the program, and that's really not a model for sustained success.

Brian Skelly 7 years, 9 months ago

With the 85 scholarship limit you can hamstring yourself if you go to heavy into juco to long. There are pluses obviously, but you dont want to be caught short on #'s because you have half your team graduating after a season.

April13 7 years, 9 months ago

Given the state of our program, I wouldn't mind seeing 50% of every recruiting class go to JUCO kids. There are fewer "misses" with JUCO's and though you may not get the all-stars, you can build depth.

Our program needs consistency more than anything over the next 5 to 10 years. JUCO's are the best way to get there.

justanotherfan 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't know that you can go 50% juco for more than a couple of years without really running thin on depth. I think it's a good way to jumpstart the program, given where we are right now, but I don't think its a long term plan. I'm not sure Weis thinks of it as a long term plan, either, but if he can plug a few holes the next couple of seasons while some of the HS players develop, that's a step forward.

Brian Skelly 7 years, 9 months ago

Look obviously yesterday was a good day for KU. And lets be honest, Charlie Weis can sell it. He's great in pressers and can sell ideas of where he thinks this can go -- both to us as fans/alums as well as prospective recruits. Huge upside there.

But on a more practical level, I do wonder how good of gameday coach he is. Im not trying to @#$$ on the campfire, but his past history at least warrants the question... doesnt it. Im not saying this to demean him either, I guess it just gives me pause on what we really will see next year, thats all.

Especially after all the hype with him coming in and last years actual performance.

offline 7 years, 9 months ago

Yesterday ESPN said the Weis missed out on the recruiting trail by not getting good players or 4*s. Looks like KU is going backwards and Weis may not make it 3 years as coach at KU.

jeff jarred 7 years, 9 months ago

ESPN says a lot of things. Three stars is a good player. Except for a couple of kids, most were three stars, and two were four-stars (Rivals, 247). The trick is to bring in athletes that are coach-able, teach-able, and have a chip on their shoulder. I except vast improvement in the D this year. Four stars or not.

Kyle Sybesma 7 years, 9 months ago

I wouldn't take that seriously. Look at Kevin Young. He was barely a D1 recruit. He's not a star but he is a starter (except for last night). Christian Moody. Tyrell Reed, Brady Morningstar. Good coaches turn 3 stars into 4 stars which will help us recruit 4 stars and turn them to 5 stars. See also Aquib Talib.I think he was a 2 star.

ohjayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

That's funny, considering we signed the JC recruit they had rated #1 in the class (labeling him a 4* in the process). Either we didn't sign any good players, or they are admitting the people compiling their recruiting rankings have no idea what they are talking about.

idabeak 7 years, 9 months ago

Hey offline, The Kitties top recruit is going to jail instead of college, and the Tiggies class is dead last in the SEC.....which one are you?

Tony Bandle 7 years, 9 months ago

Reading between the lines, the defense just got, AT LEAST, two new starting linebackers, a starting defensive end and a starting cornerback...minimum. That's already a 35% upgrade with possiblu more changes to come.

I would guess, based on Charlie's comments the number of new starters on defense will end up out numbering the incumbent starters.

Boouk 7 years, 9 months ago

Combs and Isaiah Johnson won't start?

CrystalJones 7 years, 9 months ago

I love the enthusiasm I'm seeing from Charlie as well as many of the posters in this thread. It's nice to finally be able to enjoy some unbridled optimism about football among the KU faithful:

Charlie: “Personnel-wise, the overhaul on defense is going to be dramatic...And the best part is, I think it’s going to be solid for years.”

Love it. HCCW is one big bundle of positivity.

Also happy to see the following supportive comments as well:

"Hard not to be at least cautiously optimistic about this year's class."

"Can't wait for the spring game."

"By mid season, I bet we're the 2nd best defense in the league."

This ship is going to get turned around quickly.

(And offline, go back to whatever hole you crawled out of.)

HAWKS1 7 years, 9 months ago

Our history of JUCO recruits has been spotty at best - with an occasional success. Overall, however, I would say we have been on the losing end of the crap-shoot that is JUCO recruiting. It does appear though that this class is much better than some of Mason's and Mangino's classes. 9 from the top 100 is pretty impressive. Many of these were probably 4 and 5 star recruits out of high school. I hope Coach Weis and his staff can coach them into contributors and team players quickly. Lord knows we need them for our team to succeed at this time.

Kirk 7 years, 9 months ago

Charlie looks like he could use a major overhaul himself. The low-stress job should help.....

theboehr 7 years, 9 months ago

If Wirtel is one of the top-rated long snappers in the country, why is he coming as a walk on rather than a scholarship player? Are long snappers just not that valuable or something?

Ray Winger 7 years, 9 months ago

I think that this(JUCO/CC) is a wonderful recourse for football talent. I am not an avid football fan, but I saw Don Goode (KU defensive end) run down Jack Mildren (OU wishbone quarterback) in a footrace. Don Goode, was from Fort Scott CC, and went on to have good NFL Career. OJ Simpson, played for San Francisco CC, before going on to play USC/NFL.

The talent is there, I love this approach. I am thankful for Dr. Zenger's staff for doing all the work to find and go the the investigation/qualifying work for each candidate. It has to be expensive and tedious. I would like the LJW to do an interview with some persons in the support office as to how the process works and how difficult it is, but not to give away trade secrets to other schools. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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