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Bob Lutz: Weis has a ways to go to make Jayhawks relevant

  • Published Friday, August 17, 2012, at 11:17 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, August 17, 2012, at 9:19 p.m.

I’m not exactly sure how Charlie Weis has retained so much, um, confidence after his failed stint at Notre Dame, but I’m sure glad he has.

Weis is the right guy to coach football at Kansas, if for no other reason than he so believes he’s the right guy to coach football at Kansas. Weis and his ego can barely fit into a room, but when they do manage to get in one they certainly take it over.

Weis tells it like it is. Or at least he tells it like he thinks it is, which can be pretty convincing. It’s the big coach’s bravado that has Jayhawk fans thinking maybe, just maybe, he’s not so full of it.

Yes, Weis hit Lawrence just in time, with the Big 12 undergoing huge changes and with state rival Kansas State beginning to create a lot of distance between the two programs.

In Manhattan sits a legendary coach, Bill Snyder, who has none of Weis’ bluster but every bit of the KU coach’s self-assuredness, gleaned from years of dizzying success.

Snyder has done it once at Kansas State and he’s doing it again. He’s creating the best sequel since “The Godfather: Part II.’’

Come to think of it, Snyder is a Godfather, minus the horse head and the rest of the blood and guts. Mark Mangino was able to briefly steal the football spotlight away from K-State a few years back, but that was after Snyder had retired and Ron Prince had taken over the Wildcats.

Since Snyder returned in 2009, he has bound and gagged that KU mini-uprising and stuffed it into the back of a trunk.

Snyder is 15-4 during his career against Kansas and three of those defeats came during his first four seasons after taking over a program that had no hope. K-State not only has regularly beaten the Jayhawks, but often by scores you wouldn’t show to your children. And let’s face it — Snyder coaching against Turner Gill the past couple of years was a complete mismatch.

Weis brings a new energy to the KU-KSU rivalry, which with Missouri off to get its brains beaten in down south is now the most important rivalry for both schools. And that’s as it should be.

Weis is gunning for Snyder and Kansas State and we’ll soon find out how good he can aim. Playing second fiddle, even to a coach with Snyder’s credentials, isn’t Weis’ style. He’s getting his sequel, too, after failing to produce much at Notre Dame. This is probably Weis’ last rodeo as a Division I coach if he doesn’t produce, so incentive is high.

Even Weis understands that getting to K-State’s level (the Wildcats were 10-3 last season and played in the Cotton Bowl) won’t happen overnight. At least I think he understands that.

Weis has rolled up his sleeves and gone to work to make KU respectable again. The bottom fell out of the program during Mangino’s final season in 2009 after he had gone to painstaking measures to make the Jayhawks a 12-1 Orange Bowl winner in 2007. And Gill, who was not ready for such an imposing stage, only made matters worse.

So you have K-State, with a proven coach and a bunch of returning starters and a quarterback, Collin Klein, who should be in the Heisman Trophy discussion but has so far evaded the daydreams of most of the big-time media.

And you have KU, with a coach who brushes off humility and trudges full steam ahead toward a place he promises will be satisfying to KU fans, who after that brief encounter with football glory have once again turned over their allegiances to basketball, where they are safe.

It’s a tremendous football dynamic in a state that has never been able to produce much KU-KSU angst. Many games between the two were played when neither had much of a chance of winning, except against one another.

Rare have been the times when Kansas and Kansas State were good at the same time and it is Weis’ mission to get the Jayhawks to K-State’s level and, he hopes, beyond.

That’s one of the great things about Weis — he tackles situations head-on. He knows and respects the job Snyder has done in Manhattan, yet he doesn’t seem fazed. He’s the kind of coach Kansas needed, one not entirely coherent about the challenges of the job he faces.

The timing might be perfect for Weis. I assume Snyder won’t coach forever, although I believe Las Vegas is laying down odds. And the tension for K-State fans is thick when it comes to imagining Wildcat football without Snyder. They tried that once, with Prince, and the results were not satisfying.

Weis hired what appears to be a top-notch staff of assistants and recruiting has taken an uptick, if you believe what the recruiting experts say and write. He brought in a quarterback, Dayne Crist, who gives the Jayhawks credibility. The former Notre Dame quarterback, a senior, will also have a lot to prove.

How many games can Kansas win in 2012? It would be hard to imagine the Jayhawks winning many. Really, all anybody wants to see out of the Jayhawks this season is improvement and a sense that Weis really doesn’t know how to build a winning college football program.

Someday, maybe Weis really will take on Snyder. For now, though, the goal should be much less boastful.

Reach Bob Lutz at blutz@wichitaeagle.com or at 316-268-6597.

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