Kansas Wasn't a Quick Fix, but Passing Game Is Unacceptable Under Charlie Weis

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Kansas Wasn't a Quick Fix, but Passing Game Is Unacceptable Under Charlie Weis
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It's been practically three years to the day since Kansas won a Big 12 game (against Colorado, 52-45, in 2010). That hapless streak should continue for another week as the Jayhawks travel to Oklahoma State. 

The turnaround of Kansas football, which hasn't had a winning season since 2008 under former coach Mark Mangino, was going to take time. That much was known when Charlie Weis was hired to replace Turner Gill in 2011. 

Weis knew the cupboard was empty too, evident by his "pile of crap" comment, so he relied on a JUCO-heavy recruiting class to provide an immediate boost in 2013. That route is working in some areas. The Jayhawks defense is improved and a few new faces, including defensive back Isaiah Johnson, have made an immediate impact.

But the offense is still lagging behind, basically to the point of hindrance. 

"We've been fairly efficient in running the football," Weis said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "We've hurt ourselves more than anything else in the passing game, even though I think the passing game is finally starting to improve."

Weis may believe that—or want us to believe it—but that's a hard sell. 

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Kansas quarterback and BYU transfer Jake Heaps

The Jayhawks hit an all-time low in 2012 when no wide receivers caught a touchdown pass. Technically, stats alone would say KU is improving in the passing game this year. Quarterbacks Jake Heaps and Michael Cummings have thrown for eight touchdowns (Cummings and Dayne Crist combined for seven all of last year), three of which have gone to wide receivers. 

But significant improvement in the passing game? It feels like that's been as hard to come by in Lawrence as a conference victory. 

There are myriad answers for the question of why KU's passing game has been so lackluster under Weis. Part of it is as simple as playing to your strength, and Kansas' (relative) strength is running the ball. 

Another reason is offensive line chemistry. 

"It all starts up front," Weis said. "We try to establish some chemistry, get the same guys playing together all the time.

"We haven’t made personnel changes in quite some time but this week we will change that and adjust some people around.”

And then there's performance. Heaps has improved his accuracy over the past couple of weeks, according to Weis, but he's still only completing about 50 percent of his passes. Receiver Rodriguez Coleman, one of Weis' JUCO recruits, has made a couple big catches over the past two games, but Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay only has one catch since the first game of the year. 

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Rodriguez Coleman has stepped up the past couple of weeks.

These are Weis' players, brought in to boost the offense. And Weis' identity as a coach is that of an offensive guru from his time as the offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, and, briefly, as the head coach of Notre Dame. His bio page on the Notre Dame athletics website lauded him as the "architect in '05 and '06 of the two most prolific passing seasons in Notre Dame football history..." 

Weis obviously doesn't have Tom Brady at Kansas, or even Brady Quinn, but 15 passing touchdowns in nearly two seasons to go along with zero conference wins in 14 attempts probably isn't exactly what KU had in mind when it hired Weis.  

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Yet, Florida's offense wasn't statistically great either when Weis served as the Gators' OC for one season in 2011, just before taking over the Jayhawks program. Florida ranked 89th in passing offense and 105th in total offense that year. 

Changes in coaching staffs and playbooks take time and can have a lot of bumps along the way. What's happening at Kansas, though, shouldn't be considered acceptable by any program that doesn't run the triple option. 

Weis may not get the offense turned around this year. Winning even a single conference game would alleviate some of that pressure, however. 2014 will be different, though. It has to change under Weis, who will be in his third season. The offense has to get better, the wins have to come. 

Otherwise, what was he brought in to do?

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval

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