While the overall feeling of the fanbase on Charlie Weis' hire seems to be positive, there is a contingent of Jayhawk fans who are understandably concerned about the move. I say "understandably" because KU's last football hire was viewed as a bit of a reach, and we all know where that took us.
Should we have the same concerns about this coaching move? Obviously, Gill and Weis are two very different people with very different approaches and resumes. Given that, I think there is very little chance we see the same kind of issues that plagued the team the last two years.
Weis is experienced at both the college and professional level and has head coaching experience at perhaps the most high-profile job in the game. Still, the concern about Weis isn't that his teams will be a carbon copy of Turner Gill's offerings. And while some have made a case against Charlies Weis, there is reason for optimism among those that are pro-Charlie Weis.First, I'd like to point out that Kansas has a very good chance at landing Dane Crist for next year. Yes, I know Crist didn't work out at Notre Dame as hasn't lived up to all the hype he had coming out of high school. Still, there is a very real possibility that we could have a 5 star Notre Dame transfer as our signal caller next year. Which sounds better, the 5 star QB who didn't live up to expectations in South Bend, or the 3 star QB who didn't live up to expectations at Kansas? And it's not as though Crist is terrible. His other rumored destination is Wisconsin, this year's Big Ten Champs.
Regardless of how good Crist may be, the bigger picture here is that Kansas just doesn't get in on players like this. I mean, we're Kansas. We get our one or two requisite 4 star players per year, and they're usually busts. That could all change with Weis. At Notre Dame, Weis had three Top 10 recruiting classes. Sure, without the Notre dame brand, no one expects Weis to land the #2 class in the country at KU, but we know that top level recruits are willing to commit to Weis. That means access to a level of player Lawrence doesn't usually get to see.
One of the major criticisms of Gill was that he didn't get the most out of his players, and they didn't seem to improve. At Notre Dame, Weis took over a football team that had gone 5-7 and 6-6 in the two preceding years. Weis, with basically that same group, would go 29-6 over his first two seasons, which included two BCS bowl games. Based on that, we know that Weis can get players to achieve their full potential.
The obvious counter-argument there is that he went 3-9 the following year. He went 7-6 and 6-6 the next two seasons, and was fired in 2009. For this reason, I don't consider Weis a slam dunk hire. Clearly, he made mistakes at Notre Dame. But it would be foolish of us to assume that Weis went through the indignity of being fired by his Alma Mater and learned nothing. Or to assume that he left his OC job in Florida with every intention of making the same mistakes all over again. Clearly, he had not prepared for the massive turnover due to graduation Notre Dame encountered in 2007, when his team won only three games. And based on his seven and six win seasons afterward, we conclude that he may have made some mistakes either in the system he was running, or his recruiting to the system.
Charlie Weis does not want the synopsis of his final head coaching job to read "fired from Kansas." The criticism of Weis seems to lie largely in the assumption that he will only replicate the low points of his tenure at Notre Dame. Outside of pure pessimism, there's no reason to believe that's all he has to offer. He's still the same coach who took a bunch of underachieving players to consecutive BCS games. The only difference is, now he has the benefit of having a few mistakes to learn from.
Some may say that the reason for Weis' lack of sustained success was that Weis is a poor recruiter. Fortunately, Reggie Mitchell, the man behind Darrian Miller, Tony Pierson and JaCorey Sheperd's commitments to KU after a 2-10 season, will be back for the new regime. Even if Weis isn't a stud on the recruiting trail, he's already taken a big step on shoring up that weakness by retaining Mitchell.
Again, I don't believe that Weis' hire guarantees incredible things for KU football, but the naysayers have little reason for believing he'll be a trainwreck. Again, he took over a struggling team and won 29 games in his first two years. Anyone who chooses to ignore that and point only to the struggles of his team afterward is trying to sell you half the picture. Even if Weis turns the football program around and leaves, that will mean we'll end up in much better shape than where we are now.
The bottom line is, we've hired a coach who won 3 Super Bowl rings as OC in New England, and has had success at arguably the most prestigious job in all of college football. Sure, there are shortcomings as well, but at the end of the day there is no reason not be at least a little excited right now as a Kansas football fan.