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Weis gets first look at KU football as spring practice begins

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 11:33 p.m.

— In the three and a half months since he accepted the job as head football coach at Kansas, Charlie Weis has refused to watch a minute of game film from this past season. The 66-24 debacle at Georgia Tech? Pass. The 59-21 nightmare at home against Kansas State? No thanks. The season-opening victories before the eventual 10-game slide that cost former coach Turner Gill his job? No need.

“And I won’t,” Weis said.

This is not totally accurate, of course. Weis does have plans to watch film and evaluate some of the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opponents. If the old version of the Kansas program shows up during those film sessions, so be it.

“And I’m sure,” Weis said, “when I’m evaluating our opponents, I’ll say “What the hell were we doing?”

Welcome to spring football in the Weis era. Beginning on Tuesday afternoon, Weis was finally able to get a first look at his new team as KU took the field for its first helmets-only spring practice.

During 15 practices during the next month, including the first full-pads practice on Saturday, Weis will make his first evaluations of a program in transition. And in and around the Anderson Family Football Complex, everything feels new.

On Tuesday, senior quarterback Dayne Crist, a highly touted transfer from Notre Dame, participated in his first spring practice with his new program. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo got his first opportunity to rebuild a mangled defense. And Weis got another chance to see if all the winter conditioning — courtesy of new strength coach Scott Holsopple — would pay dividends.

It will all culminate in the program’s spring football game at 1 p.m. on April 28. But first, Weis spent nearly 40 minutes Tuesday delivering a blunt and honest assessment of his new program.

“At the end of the day,” Weis said, “What are the two things that people really want to see: Can the defense stop anybody and what’s going on with Crist?”

Still, Weis also has specific goals for what the offense and defense can accomplish during the next month. The defense, Weis said, will be kept simple while coaches evaluate who can play assignment-sound football. The offense, meanwhile, will spend the next month installing Weis’ new offense. And the presence of Crist should aid in the process.

Crist, who Weis recruited to Notre Dame, is already familiar with the system.

“That is an unusual situation when you are coming in new to a program,” Weis said. “We are going to put in as much as the offensive players can handle.”

So it was no big shock that Crist already topped the first depth chart on Tuesday. But it was a minor surprise that junior quarterback Jake Heaps, another talented transfer from BYU, held the backup position behind Crist. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Heaps must sit out this season.

Weis said he will use Heaps this spring as if he were getting ready to play in the fall. That will change in the summer, when the Jayhawks are preparing for the season. But for now, Weis foresees Heaps as the potential starter in 2013 — and he wants to plan accordingly.

“Heaps is leaps and bounds ahead of the other quarterbacks in the program,” Weis said. “It’s not close. So with that being said, how am I going to get him ready to play here in the program knowing that he can’t play in the games next year?”

Weis also plans to rely on a core of senior transfers that will be eligible to play right away under the NCAA rule that allows graduated players with eligibility remaining to transfer to a new school and begin graduate coursework.

“We could use our reinforcements that are coming,” Weis said. “I’m looking forward to them getting here. But the best part about it, is without them here, it’s a great opportunity for a limited number of guys to get more reps.”

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