LAWRENCE — More than most coaches, Kansas Charlie Weis traffics in the art of manufactured motivation. The Jayhawks are playing in-state rival Kansas State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, and if Weis had his druthers, his players would view this game as their own personal bowl game.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
And so they will.
The team, Weis says, will hunker down over the Thanksgiving break, bonding over long hours and a game played on a holiday weekend. The ultimate goal for any college program, of course, is to play beyond the regular season. But since the Jayhawks, 3-8, will go bowl-less for a fifth straight season, the Sunflower Bowl will have to do.
We dont have a bowl game coming up, Weis said. This is it.
If you want to take the long view, Weis is still hopeful that more wins and possibly bowl games are in Kansas near future. And that makes the weeks after the K-State game just as important as Saturdays result.
Its a blitzkrieg for three weeks, Weis said. I gotta get through this game, and then the Sunday after Kansas State, I gotta get on a plane and go recruiting.
If theres a benefit in not playing a bowl game aside from the money KU will save by not paying to travel to a minor bowl its the gift of time. While half the country prepares for the final week of the regular season and its bowl game, Weis and his staff can devote their full attention to recruiting.
Sure, a victory over Bill Snyder and K-State would certainly help flip the perception of Weis first two seasons at Kansas, which include a 4-19 record heading into Saturday. But Weis also has a recruiting checklist to address, another chance to upgrade the overall depth and talent on his roster.
I gotta go recruit the hell out of players for the next two weeks, Weis said.
The top recruiting priority could be offensive tackle, where the Jayhawks will lose both starters. While seniors Riley Spencer and Aslam Sterling have played the majority of snaps this season at the tackle spot, the Jayhawks have still had quarterback protection issues. If Weis is looking for upgrades internally, the options could be thin.
Weis, once again, could also be looking for upgrades in the receiver corps, a position group that was underwhelming for the second straight year. The position probably will get a lift if junior Tony Pierson (24 receptions) can get back to 100 percent after a concussion derailed his 2013 season. Senior transfer Nick Harwell, a former Miami (Ohio) standout, will also be eligible after sitting out this year.
If theres a broad theme in Weis class so far, its the re-emphasis on high school recruits after going heavy on junior-college players in the 2013. The Jayhawks signed nearly 20 junior-college players last winter and the results ranged from excellent to disastrous to incomplete. Safety Isaiah Johnson and cornerback Dexter McDonald bolstered a depleted secondary; touted defensive linemen Chris Martin and Marquel Combs were both gone by October.
This year, eight of Kansas first nine commitments, according to Rivals, have been high school players. Three of those players are from Kansas or Kansas City. For the moment, the class ranks 80th in the country, according to Rivals. In two years, Weis says hes attempted to emulate Snyders success in junior-college recruiting. But with a roster that features a wealth of upperclassmen, Weis may also need to tap into the local reserves.
Im not saying how many Division I football players come out of the state of Kansas, but its not a big number, lets say that, Weis said. On top of that, youve got several of us competing for the same guys. One thing you have to be ready to do is that you better be able to go supplement your roster with junior-college guys that could walk in the door and play.
We just wont need as many of them as we had last year.