Bob Lutz: With season over, now becomes most important time for KU’s Weis

11/30/2013 3:50 PM

11/30/2013 3:51 PM

Charlie Weis talked a lot about recruiting after Kansas’ 31-10 loss to Kansas State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. He’s leaving Sunday and will be back for the Jayhawks’ team banquet in a couple of weeks.

And it’s what happens in these next few days, really, that will have a significant impact on Weis, Kansas football and whether or not there’s a long-term marriage between the two.

Right now, let’s just say the relationship is on the rocks.

KU concluded a 3-9 season Saturday. After beating West Virginia two weeks ago to break a 27-game Big 12 losing streak, the Jayhawks followed up by getting outscored 65-10 in losses to Iowa State and K-State.

If you want to make the case that Kansas was an improved team in 2013, you can find evidence. The defense was better (at times). The running game was solid (most of the time).

But KU ranks last among Big 12 schools in scoring offense and total offense. The Jayhawks are ninth in scoring defense and eighth in total defense. They were ninth against the rush and eighth against the pass.

Were the Jayhawks a better team after 12 games than before the first? Yes, but only because teams normally improve as they play games. Relatively, though, Kansas is not taking the steps toward respectability that were expected when Weis came aboard in 2012 after two seasons of Turner Gill.

The to-do list is a mile long, more than another recruiting class can resolve.

KU is still searching for a quarterback. Both Jake Heaps, a junior, and freshman Montell Cozart are expected back in 2014, but neither has been able to instill confidence in a fan base that probably can’t remember what confidence feels like.

It’s not like K-State, which finished the regular season 7-5 and awaits its bowl assignment, was lights-out good Saturday. The Wildcats were the beneficiaries of six Kansas turnovers. There was a time in the game — even after K-State jumped ahead 21-0 — that it appeared KU might be on the verge of making it close.

Except that six-shooter in the Jayhawks’ holster kept going off intermittently, shooting them in the feet.

“I never felt like the game was getting away from us,” Weis said. “Last year, the second half became wide open for them. It felt like there was nothing we could do about it.”

When you’re coaching a team that has nine wins in four seasons, you look for positives where you find them. For Weis, not getting beat 56-16, 59-21 or 59-7 — the scores of KU’s losses to K-State the previous three years — qualifies.

Kansas, though, needs help.

This was supposed to be a season in which the passing game evolved thanks to Heaps and some new receivers. But Heaps’ immobility was a hindrance. He ultimately lost his starting job to Cozart, who just a year ago was leading Bishop Miege to the Class 5A championship game.

Cozart, though, wasn’t ready to be the starter. It showed again early in Saturday’s game, when he was asked to roll to his left a couple of times on pass plays. He threw the first pass out of bounds but tossed the second into a crowd. It was intercepted, the first of KU’s turnover parade.

I was surprised KU called those rollouts to the short side of the field for Cozart. There are veteran quarterbacks who have trouble throwing the ball across their body while running left and Cozart just isn’t ready for that kind of challenge.

Weis said he wishes Cozart had also thrown the second pass out of bounds. Better yet, the play shouldn’t have been called. There was nothing good to come from it.

Weis wouldn’t address questions about KU’s future. He wasn’t belligerent about it; he just didn’t think the timing was right. He said he would address futuristic questions the next time he meets with the media on Dec. 19.

“Right now, we just lost a football game to Kansas State,’’ Weis said. “So I’m not looking at the future very favorably. Right now that Governor’s Cup is sitting over in their locker room and their guys are celebrating. And we’re in our locker room sulking.”

Kansas fans are sulking, too. After two seasons, it’s difficult to say how many of them remain optimistic Weis can turn around the Jayhawks’ fortunes, if they ever were.

Weis did say he was excited that so many veteran players will be back. He believes the presence of third- and fourth-year players can’t help but make Kansas more competitive. Nine defensive starters return, but Weis has to find playmakers on offense. That’s his area — offense. He’s the guy who coached Tom Brady, after all.

“If you need me for the next couple of weeks,” Weis said, “I’ll be on the road recruiting.”

It needs to be a bountiful hunt.

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