LAWRENCE — His phone was lit up with texts.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
Charlie Weis hadnt even made it back to the Kansas locker room yet, and already, the messages were starting to pour in. It was Dec. 1, a Saturday night in Morgantown, W.Va. The scoreboard read West Virginia 59, Kansas 10; and as John Denvers Take Me Home, Country Roads blared from the stadium loudspeaker, Weis wandered back to the locker room and found a stream of dispatches from back in Lawrence.
Jake Heaps wanted to check in with his coach.
More than three weeks later, as Weis sorted through the aftermath of a disappointing 1-11 debut season at Kansas, that story from Morgantown stands as a nice little beacon of hope. Heaps, a junior transfer quarterback from BYU, had spent the game taking notes and making observations. And now he wanted to meet with his head coach. The preparation for Weis second year would begin the next day.
Last week, after Weis wrapped up a few weeks of intense recruiting, he spelled out what Heaps could mean to the team next season. The Jayhawks, of course, were hamstrung by an anemic passing offense. Despite a breakout year from junior running back James Sims, who surpassed 1,000 yards in just nine games, KU finished 115th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging just more than 18 points per game.
Heaps is a former top recruit who set passing records as a BYU freshman, got benched as a sophomore, then transferred to Lawrence to resurrect his career under Weis. Hes now eligible to play.
Im not going to anoint him as the second coming, Weis said. Im just saying, thats where we are right now.
And after watching Heaps tear up KUs first-team defense during practice this past season, Weis believes that Heaps, at the very least, has the ability to add some competition to KUs quarterback position.
Its what we just witnessed for an entire year, Weis said. Most people, in that situation, would have wallowed away in anonymity; not Jake Heaps. He was grinding from the day he got here.
As Weis enters his second offseason in Lawrence, hes hopeful that attitude carries over to the rest of his roster. The Jayhawks have holes to fill on both sides of the ball. KU lost all four starters in the secondary, including junior Tyler Patmon, who elected to leave the program. Weis also lost three senior starters on the offensive line, three at the receiver position and two on the defensive line.
Weis does have a handful of impact players returning, including three at running back. Sims will be back, as will sophomore Tony Pierson and junior Taylor Cox. Kansas will also return three starters at linebacker, where sophomore Ben Heeney established himself as a stalwart in the middle.
Freshman Michael Cummings also projects to be in the mix at quarterback after replacing Dayne Crist and starting five games last season.
Weis, though, is mostly counting on improvement from two sources: an infusion of talent from the junior college ranks, and the continued development of his veterans, who will have the benefit of some rare program stability. The additional talent and therefore, competition will likely be a key theme during spring practice.
That should drive them, Weis said. Last year, they were driven because there was a change in coaches. Thats the only reason they were driven. Now theyre driven because the competition is totally different.
The competition now has changed. It doesnt make any difference what position you play, the competition has now changed. Its not the same. And, if you dont get better in a hurry, youll never play.
As the season wound down, Weis was continually upfront in his assessment of his team. The Jayhawks needed more talent, he would say, and he was determined to go out and find it.
For now, its too early to know if more speed and skill (and more development) will lead the way back to respectability. Maybe you can learn about work ethic during winter workouts. But you cant learn much about winning. And for Weis, that will be reality for the rest of the offseason.
I think theres only one way you measure success, and thats playing games, Weis said. Progress is different than success. I think you can measure progress how much progress youve made. But really, at the end of the day, success is when you win games.
To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to email@example.com