DALLAS - Whether graded empirically or statistically, Kansas football is inarguably a pile of crap at the moment. But it's notable that, on the opening day of Big 12 Media Days, declaring it so would trump conference favorite Oklahoma State, the debut of Texas Tech babycoach Kliff Kingsbury, or commissioner Bob Bowlsby's aggressive comments against the NCAA.
Everyone wants to play. There's no one that wants to not play. I said, have you looked at that pile of crap out there? Have you taken a look at that? So if you don't think you can play here, where do you think you can play? It's a pretty simple approach. And that's not a sales pitch. That's practical. You've seen it, right? Unfortunately, so have I.
It's Weis' pile of crap: A program that finished 1-11 in his KU debut and didn't beat a FBS team, ranking 113th nationally in total defense and 115th in scoring offense, with a roster that suffered the dismissal of 29 players and a 24-man recruiting class this February that featured a whopping 18 JUCO signees.
"My honesty works both ways [in recruiting]," Weis said on Monday afternoon, after his comment made waves both inside the Omni Hotel ballroom and nationally. "Sarcasm is part of who I am. I'm not trying to be funny when I use it; it's just part of who you are."
"When I say these things it's not to show how witty I can be. I'm going to be sarcastic five years from now. Hey, newsflash: I'm gonna be sarcastic in five years. When kids know you're going to treat them honest they're going to respect you."
Kansas is bad. Kansas might only be marginally better this season. This is understood and accepted. But that Weis would be so blunt in his assessment felt like news when he said it.
Was that because it was a head football coach passing such an unappealing evaluation on his players? It's the antithesis of the family-centric jargon most big time recruiters love to use. After all, across the same room was Mike Gundy, world-famous defender of the student-athlete. Or was it, as the man himself intoned, because it was Weis specifically delivering the blunt blows?
"If people just listen to what you're saying, they usually don't misconstrue it. Too many times -- and let's not get into the Charlie Weis story, let's talk about Kansas, but let's be clear -- too many times people have an impression without ever having met you. Never talk to you once in your life. I used that comment -- 'Have you seen this pile of crap?' -- and then someone out there has already written that I've given up on my team for this year. They've already put that out there. I mean, were you paying attention to a word I said? Why would you say something like that if you were paying attention at all?"
Kansas brought four players to Dallas. None expressed any resentment. James Sims led the conference in rushing last season (1,013 yards) and is a Doak Walker watch-listee.
"Yeah. Coach is right, we need to work harder," said Sims, who later complimented Weis' recruiting effort.
"They wouldn't be shocked to hear it; they'd expect to hear it," Weis said in regard to his current players. "Let me get one thing straight. I'm talking about what you saw last year. We've yet to play this year. We have 12 games at least for them to change that impression for that next set of recruits coming in. Hopefully when a guy comes in this year, I can't say the same thing."
Lawrence's tolerance for Weis' blunt-force honesty is in part due to Jake Heaps, the former BYU quarterback who was once the top national QB prospect in the 2010 recruiting class before a record-breaking freshman season (2,316 yards and 15 TDs) gave way to a bizarre implosion in '11.
"I don't know what happened [at BYU], I don't care, I'm just happy it happened. That's the answer. Whatever happened, great," Weis said.
Weis recruited Heaps out of high school to play for Notre Dame. Heaps would later tell Weis that the coach's unstable and ultimately abrupt future at Notre Dame was the reason he chose BYU over the Irish, not his Mormon faith (according to Weis). Weis wouldn't elaborate on what might have gone wrong for Heaps under Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
"I've been coaching the guy for a year now. I'm pretty happy with him."
For his part, Heaps said the transition to Weis' system hasn't centered on a change in mechanics or approach, but has been therapeutic, at least mentally.
"Fundamentally there hasn't been a huge thing," said Heaps. "I just feel so confident in this offense. Coach Weis is such a great teacher. He can reach people and help them understand things that someone else might struggle to explain. And he's also a great quarterback mentor. There's a lot of mental things that go into it."
There might not be a greater dichotomy in demeanor between a head coach and his quarterback this season. Think Steve Spurrier/Danny Wuerffel on a Jersey Turnpike. Weis might not need it, but Heaps, the soft-spoken, exceedingly friendly Mormon, does more to absolve his head coach's blunt assessment with his own testimonial.
"I think when I left BYU, my confidence was at an all-time low. I mean, how do you not have that? You totally expect one thing and it ends up turning another way. But Coach Weis loved me for me, loved the kid that came from Skyline High School that was passionate about football. Every day that I've been here has been a process to get back to that point.
"He's always had faith in me," Heaps said of the man running the crap pile.