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Charlie Weis says he wants to reclaim Wichita for Kansas football

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, May 22, 2014, at 8:53 p.m.

It was perhaps, out of the mouth of babes, that third-year Kansas football coach Charlie Weis was most on the hotseat during Thursday’s packed, Kansas Football Preview Party at Larry Bud’s.

“You won one game your first season, then tripled that last season,” said Kansas fan Devin Catlin, 12 years old. “Think you can triple it again?”

Weis, incredulous, waited for the laughter to die down before answering.

“You some kind of wiseguy?” Weis responded, smiling. “The important thing is that we win at least six games, so we can go to a bowl. Then we build from there.”

Weis, entering his third season after going 1-11 in 2012 and 3-9, spoke, along with Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger on the final stop of a four-city tour that included Topeka, Kansas City and Dodge City.

Weis spoke with reporters for about 20 minutes before meeting with fans and was quick to point out the importance of coming to Wichita, tied back to a recruiting trip he took while the coach at Notre Dame in 2007.

“I have very vivid memories of being here, of flying into the airport and visiting one of the high schools,” Weis said. “I was here to recruit a linebacker by the name of Arthur Brown. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.”

Brown, who plays linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, is a Wichita East product who played football at Kansas State and was the top-rated prep linebacker in the country when he graduated from East in 2008.

“One of the reasons, specifically, I like coming to Wichita so much is I get the feeling that it’s become much more of an Oklahoma State or Kansas State-type area,” Weis said. “If we’re serious about recruiting the state of Kansas, which we are, we need to get KU out to the forefront in this area, which hasn’t paid huge dividends for us in recruiting.”

Zenger addressed the crowd first, then Weis gave a 20-minute “state of the union” address about the program before launching into almost an hour-long question-and-answer session with fans.

Weis praised his defense, specifically the secondary and linebackers, and called linebacker Ben Heeney, a Hutchinson product, the “best defensive player in the Big 12.”

He also took one fan to task for phrasing a question in a manner that implied Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart wasn’t a very accurate passer.

In a limited role, Cozart went 23 of 63 passing last season for 227 yards, two interceptions and zero touchdowns.

“Maybe he wasn’t very accurate last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not accurate now,” Weis said. “Last year, yeah, some of the throws he missed I probably could’ve made, but he’s improving.”

The Jayhawks open the season on Sept. 6 against Southeast Missouri State in Lawrence.

“This was as fun and engaged an audience as we’ve had in three years,” Zenger said. “This is why we love coming to Wichita.”

Reach Tony Adame at 316-268-6284 or tadame@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @t_adame.

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