When Charlie Weis entered his press conference as the new head football coach at the University of Kansas, in December 2011, he was walking with a cane. At the time it has hard to discern whose reputation was more hobbled: the coach's or the program's. For Weis, there was his humiliating flameout at Notre Dame, followed by one-year stints with mixed results as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs and Florida Gators. For Kansas, there were the team's previous three seasons — and much of its history before that — which had produced just two conference wins and an average margin of defeat greater than 20. "It's not gonna be pleasant here in the springtime," Weis said. "There aren't gonna be many things I can promise, but I can promise you that."
As it turned out, fall would be just as unpleasant. "Well, let's see," Weis said in Lawrence last month, offering a survey of his first season on the job before his second one was about to begin. "We blew the Rice game: They kicked a field goal at the end. Then TCU turns it over six [Editor's note: It was actually four] times but we still can't beat 'em. Then we go to Northern Illinois and blow that lead. And let's not talk about Texas Tech in double overtime. Or, while we're at it, blowing the Okie State game when we got it cut to six and the ball's on the 30-yard line. And how about giving up a touchdown pass to Texas with 11 seconds to go?" Kansas won just a single game, against South Dakota State. The program was so desperate for good news that the athletic department's website briefly listed Blue's win over White in the annual spring game as the team's second victory of the season.
It was 85 degrees in Lawrence during the year's first practice with full pads, and Weis walked onto the field without a cane but still with a noticeable limp. He wore a gray hoodie, not unlike his old boss. (Unlike Bill Belichick, Weis left the sleeves uncut.) "I feel like I'm living in San Diego," he said, walking over to one sideline to greet Aaron Glenn, a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback who played for the Jets in the '90s, when Weis was the team's offensive coordinator. Glenn is now a Jets scout, covering colleges from Texas to the Dakotas. "I'm not looking at anyone in particular," Glenn said, when I asked which Jayhawks he had his eyes on. He might have been keeping his cards close, but he might have simply been telling the truth: There are no Jayhawks on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board. Glenn did say that, based on his experience, Kansas was lucky to have Weis. "He's blunt, so you always know where you stand," Glenn said.
To read more of Reeves Wiedeman's story on Grantland, click here.