Originally published July 22, 2013 at 05:09p.m., updated July 22, 2013 at 11:19p.m.
Dallas It may have been unexpected, but the Kansas University football program captured the media’s attention on Monday, the opening day of Big 12 media days at the Omni Hotel.
Despite his team being picked to finish last in the Big 12 preseason media poll yet again, second-year KU coach Charlie Weis had the room buzzing during his 20 minutes on the podium that kicked off KU’s question-and-answer sessions.
Weis was the fourth Big 12 coach to speak Monday morning and the first to get any type of measurable reaction from the 200 media members who packed the ballroom.
Asked how he was able to sell so many talented junior-college prospects on a place like Kansas, Weis flashed his brutal honesty and reiterated something local media members heard months ago.
“Everyone wants to play,” he said. “There’s no one that wants to not play. I said, ‘Have you looked at that pile of crap out there? If you don’t think you can play here, where do you think you can play?’ It’s a pretty simple approach.”
The comment sent the room into fits of laughter and Twitter into a frenzy.
Later, when asked to clarify his remarks, Weis did not back down and said the declaration was nothing new to his players.
“They wouldn’t be shocked,” Weis said. “They’d expect it. Let me just get one thing straight. I’m talking about what they saw last year. We have yet to play this year. And we have 12 games, at least, for them to change that impression. Hopefully I can’t use that this year.”
Added junior quarterback Jake Heaps: “That’s what we love as players; we love how candid he is. We know exactly where we stand with him. We don’t have to worry about him sugar-coating it and him playing mind games with us. It’s all about honesty. And it pushes you to get better. At least you know where you stand.”
A summer’s worth of speculation gained clarity Monday afternoon when Weis confirmed that junior-college linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore had “tweaked a knee” and has since had surgery on the injured knee.
Weis said he did not know how long Jenkins-Moore would be sidelined but also did not rule him out for the entire season. The fact that Jenkins-Moore has three years to play out his two remaining seasons of eligibility helped Weis and Jenkins-Moore decide that surgery was the best option.
No news on Harwell
Asked for the latest update on Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell, a wide receiver who, if eligible, would almost certainly be pencilled into the starting lineup, Weis referenced a once-popular soap opera.
“As the world turns,” he said with a laugh. “It’s really nothing that we can control. It’s between him and his former university. Here’s the one thing I do know: He’ll be coming to us in August and he’s got two years to play one. If he comes here and can’t play this year, it’ll be the best red-shirt year that anyone could ever have because there’s some things that I can help him with off the field if he wants to play on Sundays.”
Weis on team fashion
Earlier this summer, KU unveiled new-look helmets and said new uniforms were on the way. Weis talked about the new duds for the first time Monday.
“Let me first say we’re not Oregon,” he said, referencing the Ducks’ seemingly endless supply of Nike uniform combinations. “Sometime this year, there’ll be a combination of uniform that we put out there that people will complain more about the uniform than the game. I don’t know what game that’ll be, but mark it down now, it’ll happen.”
As for why KU decided to go with new uniforms, Weis did not shy away from the answer.
“I think it’s great for recruiting,” he said. “Because the recruits love that stuff. So if it gives you an opportunity to get more players and could help you win, that’s what you want to do. On the flip side, you don’t want to get all of the loyal supporters of Kansas for decades, you don’t want to get them upset with you at the same time.”
Slater on schedule?
One of the bigger surprises of KU’s 2013 recruiting class came earlier this summer when Pearce Slater, a 6-foot-7, 340-pound offensive tackle from El Camino Community College, joined the program a year earlier than anyone expected.
“If he’s 340, I’m 150,” Weis said. “I think he’s a big, big man and I think one thing we’ll have to have him do is not be as big.”
Slater, who was believed to be in the Class of 2014 but jumped to 2013 after being cleared academically, has signed a financial-aid agreement with KU and is expected to arrive in Lawrence the second week of August. However, a report surfaced this week that Slater recently made a visit to Oklahoma.
Slater confirmed to the Jon Kirby of JayhawkSlant.com on Monday afternoon that he took the visit to OU but did not say anything about a change of plans.
“His last exam is like Aug. 8, and we report on the 7th, so we’re talking a matter of days,” Weis said.