Ten years ago, Mark Mangino was preparing for his first season as KU's coach. Mangino would ultimately go 2-10 in his first year in Lawrence; however he was able to lay the groundwork for a future winning program. Kansas would make a bowl game in two of the three years following Mangino's first season, and won the Orange Bowl in 2007 and followed that up with another bowl victory in 2008. Unfortunately, Turner Gill's reign of horror destroyed almost everything Mangino built, and the Jayhawks find themselves back where they started - coming off a 2-10 season and hoping to crawl back to respectability.
What Mangino did isn't easy, and sometimes the magnitude of the turnaround he led gets lost in the shuffle of both his career high point (an Orange Bowl title) and low point (his train wreck of a final season). There are three key factors that contributed to Mangino's success that Charlie Weis must emulate if he is to find the same success Mangino enjoyed. We will take a look at them after the break.
Find a QB
Mangino was able to lure Bill Whittemore out of the JUCO ranks when he arrived in Lawrence, and the addition paid off big time for the Jayhawks. Whittemore was extremely efficient under center, and was a huge factor in KU's bowl berth in Mangino's second season. In 2004 and 2005, Kansas' offense stalled until Jason Swanson got healthy and emerged as a viable option at QB. And we all know what happened once Mangino inserted Todd Reesing into the starting lineup.
This is an area where Charlie Weis has made some big strides for Kansas. The addition of Dayne Crist, Jake Heapes and others has loaded the QB position now and into the future. Poor play at QB cost KU dearly over the past two seasons, much like it hampered Mangino's 2004 campaign. You need a good QB to win games, it's as simple as that.
Find a Defensive Coordinator
Mangino and Weis are both offensive-minded coaches, which makes the importance of a strong defensive coordinator even greater. Fortunately for Mangino, he had that in Bill Young from 2002-2007. In 2005 and 2007, Kansas' defense was one of the best in the nation, and the Jayhawks never got anywhere near that level again once Young departed. Young and his staff did a fantastic job of both developing talent and having solid X's and O's, and the Jayhawks' defense always looked organized and well coached.
We still don't know how Dave Campo will fare as KU's DC, but if the Jayhawks want to get out of college football's cellar, he and his staff will have to do as good a job as Young did.
Fix Special Teams
Kansas football fans know that this area of the game has been an absolute nightmare for the Jayhawks over the past couple of seasons. Mangino's best teams were good to great on special teams, and it was a big factor in the program's turnaround. The Jayhawks found consistent kicking and punting, developed a knack for blocking punts, and were able to find weapons to return kicks.
Just getting this unit back to average would be an accomplishment for Weis and his staff.
There isn't one area on Kansas' roster that couldn't use a significant improvement. However, these three areas must be improved for the Jayhawks to get back to respectability.