Today marks the beginning of football season and the first step in turning the page for Kansas after the struggles experienced over the last two years. Today the players report to camp, Charlie Weis will meet with the media, we'll get our first look at a depth chart and the team will hunker down for intense preparation as we're now just one month away from South Dakota State.
Much has been made regarding what exactly fans are looking for in terms of this teams productivity in 2012. After a 2-10 season it's hard to dream big and think winning season or bowl bid and while the players and coaches will certainly point to that as the goal, what will ultimately define success in the eyes of fans as Charlie Weis and this team churn through an always brutal Big 12 season?
This isn't really a tangible thing. Competitiveness is a feeling you get about your team on a Saturday afternoon regardless of whether or not they win or loss. It is a feeling that doesn't really have a statistical measure or a definitive evaluation process, it's just a gut feeling you get when watching your team throughout the course of the season.
The past two seasons, Kansas rarely had it. In 2006 when Kansas missed out on a bowl bid despite going 6-6, fans could feel it. While 2007 was a surprise in a lot of ways, the team was coming off a year where they flirted with a much better record and the pieces just didn't quite fall into place. Looking back, that was a competitive team that Kansas could be proud of even though they came up a bit short.
If this Jayhawk group can show up every Saturday, fight for 60 minutes and give fans a reason to hope, that will go along way toward helping fans view Charlie Weis year one as a success.
Is it sad that the bar was set so low that we're talking about basic fundamentals when we talk about what we're looking for in 2012? That's how bad it was last year. Turner Gill had this program at a point where every time you felt like the team hit bottom, a new low would develop. Much of that just seemed to be general coaching competency.
Charlie Weis and Dave Campo shouldn't have that problem. All we're looking for here is a coach and a team that knows how to manage 60 minutes of clock and a 4th and 20 situation without having to use a timeout in the 1st quarter. Some things should look routine, here's hoping we see a competent program in that respect.
It is easier to say that you're ok with whatever happens in the win/loss department as long as we show improvement. That is true to a large extent with this Kansas team and the Kansas fan base this year, but what if they do get to that 4-6 win mark? What if they hit 7? Those different benchmarks would certainly paint things in an even more positive light. Looking at the schedule it feels like 5 is as optimistic as we can get without seeing anything. That said, this is a team that has experienced quite a bit of retooling from a personnel standpoint and a physical standpoint so that could be adjusted after the first few weeks.
If this team wins one game but shows improvement in all other areas it will be a positive, but if this team gets to 4, 5, 6 wins then we're really talking about positive momentum in the fan belief department.
Everything ties back to this. Unfortunately Kansas had to part ways with one of the most successful coaches they've ever had. Mark Mangino had faults, but he was a control freak and had an intense attention to detail. It resulted in a well run, organized, disciplined program that overachieved at times. Kansas tried a different approach, it failed miserably just as some predicted it would.
Now Kansas brings back an old school coach in Charlie Weis. He probably isn't going to take the same approach that landed Mangino in hot water, but he certainly is going to lean further toward the Mangino style of holding players accountable as compared to the Gill style that led a program with very little accountability.
We're back to the days when our head coach spends more time at the office during the season then at home. Charlie Weis even sleeps at the stadium on occasion. For all the flack and grief that has been given from outsiders regarding the Weis hire, it will be a huge measure of success if his coaching and management of this program can be viewed as a positive after one year. That would be a big step in the right direction for everyone involved.