A major goal for Weis this season: Fix the wide receiver unit.
To help, Weis is calling on, well, Weis.
As part of a staff "readjustment," Weis will oversee the wide receivers directly. Rob Ianello, who was the team's receivers coach, will move to a new position as director of research.
"I have decided to adjust our staff," said Weis in a statement from KU. "Rob Ianello will move to an off-field position as director of research, spending most of his time on recruiting. [Offensive coordinator] Coach [John] Reagan and I discussed several alternatives and have decided to have me handle the wide receiver position at this time."
Coaching the receivers isn't as demanding as acting as offensive coordinator, which Weis did the past two seasons. Still, he is showing a willingness to be involved with day-to-day coaching.
It's a bold move. It could be that Weis wanted a new receivers coach, but for whatever reason, things didn't work out. But by appointing himself, Weis is essentially saying that he is taking responsibility for a unit that hasn't produced lately. As a position coach, Weis will be directly accountable for how much or how little that group improves—and there's a lot of room to improve.
Kansas' passing game has been practically nonexistent over the past two years. To say the receivers underperformed doesn't quite do the situation justice, either. Tony Pierson—technically a running back, though he often splits out as a receiver—led Kansas with 333 receiving yards in 2013. Pierson's 24 receptions were second on the team to fellow running back James Sims, who had 25 receptions.
The leading wide receiver for the Jayhawks in '13? Rodriguez Coleman, with eight receptions for 208 yards and a score.
That was technically an improvement, too. In '12, not a single Kansas receiver caught a touchdown.
The term "overhaul" may be a bit much, but Kansas' wide receiver unit should have a new look in '14. Weis began putting his fingerprints on the receiver group late last season, which according to Matt Tait of KUSports.com yielded some noticeable, albeit minor, results:
As for Weis taking over wide receiver duties, the third-year KU coach worked very closely with KU's receivers toward the end of the 2013 season in an effort to pull some production out of a group that struggled mightily with drops, getting open and making plays in the passing game. Although the statistics did not show dramatic improvement following Weis' more hands-on approach with the position, several KU receivers said Weis' presence made them better receivers and added that he taught them a lot about how to play the position, particularly about running proper routes.
Expect some new faces at receiver, too. With so little production, Weis won't be afraid to hold an open competition. That should give incoming freshmen like Corey Avery, Derrick Neal and Tyler Patrick a chance to see the field early. Miami (OH) transfer Nick Harwell, who redshirted last season, projects to be in the rotation as well.
"I’ve got some special plans here for the wide receiver position," Weis said on signing day, via Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. "I like the good young talent and depth that we have here."
In a way, coaching up that young talent will reflect whether Weis can really get it done at Kansas. For the first time in quite a few years, there's real potential at receiver. Can Weis get the most out of that potential?
Weis' future doesn't specifically ride on it, but an improvement in the passing game is a must if the Jayhawks want to think about making the next step toward bowl eligibility.
And that is what could save Weis' job.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.