I remember being fascinated by magic as a child. It blew my mind how magician David Copperfield put 20 numbers on the television screen and told me to pick one. After a series of strategic moves, up-down and side-side, he slowly whittled away at the numbers leaving only mine left on the screen.
Now that I’m older I realize it was just a series of schematic moves all directed toward the same number— but my obsession with magic still remains.
Before Kansas Athletic Director Sheahon Zinger announced the hiring of Charlie Weis, most thought it would take some conjuring of spirits to overturn years of losing football history.
Short of a miracle run with Mark Mangino that culminated in a now very distant Orange Bowl victory, Kansas does not have a lot of history with winning. Tons of history for sure just not a lot to show for it.
But Coach Weis was going to change all that. The guy has 4 Super Bowl rings and a decided schematic advantage. Regardless of how bad it was for the Jayhawks under Turner Gill, Weis was going to change all that with the touch of his magic wand.
And like magic it started to work instantly.
Right off the bat Weis brought in another NFL socialite, Dave Campo, to run his defense and shortly after brought in Kansas’ first ever 5-star quarterback from Notre Dame, Dayne Crist. Overnight Weis bestowed credibility and recognition to Kansas.
But it didn’t stop there.
Weis got to work on his coaching staff bringing in former Jayhawk’s defensive back, and later defensive coordinator Clint Bowen (a big part of that Orange Bowl team), and former Kansas City Chief and successful local high school coach Tim Grunhard. With both these moves Weis bedazzled Kansas Alumni with local ties that brought optimism and intrigue back to the program.
Then Weis got to work on bringing in talent. But he wasn’t going to wait four years for his talent to develop either, Weis was going to win now.
Weis conjured up several talented upperclassmen from around the country like defensive lineman Josh Williams, Keon Stowers, and Jordan Tavai, TE’s Mike Ragone and Charles Brooks, and RB Taylor Cox.
Once he got to work in the Spring, and then Fall, Weis sprinkled his magic dust on the Jayhawks already on the roster. Weis found players like Ben Heeney and Lubbick Smith, two players barely seeing playing time in 2011, and turned them into starters. All of a sudden the defense that was unanimously the worst in the country last season was now full of NFL talent like Toben Opurum and Bradley McDougald.
It was like Weis signed his name on the contract, said “Alakazam!”, and Walla! Kansas Football was a force to be reckoned with.
There are a lot of positive things going on at Kansas. Running backs Taylor Cox and Tony Pierson might be the best one-two backs in the Big 12. Both the offensive and defensive lines have real talent that should be able to compete with the elites of the conference. The whole attitude and appearance of the program has been completely transformed—but it’s not magic.
We saw Saturday that there may be a reason Dayne Crist pulled a disappearing act at Notre Dame. Crist has very obvious potential but as of yet we just haven’t seen it on the field.
This defense is much improved as well but the reality is no team goes from worst to first over night regardless of whose casting spells.
Is this Kansas team better than they have been in years? Yes.
Does Kansas have the most talented QB they’ve probably ever seen on campus? Yes.
Has this defense improved exponentially from 2011? Absolutely.
Is this Kansas team in a position to expect to win each week? Probably not.
Coach Weis has his players believing that they are changing the culture of Kansas Football and although they very may well be it hasn’t happened yet. The reality is this 2012 team is going to have ups and downs. At times we as fans will get a look behind the curtain and not like what we find. We will see that this team has top tier talent but we’ll also see many of the players just don’t come into fruition.
As we’ve seen in waves through these first two games, Kansas has the ability to both compete against, and get beat, by any team in the Big 12. Kansas has the potential to rebound from the demoralizing loss against a tough Rice team next week as they attempt to knock of an unsuspecting #20 ranked TCU team.
This Kansas team will be fun to watch, and should never be given up on, but you must understand it will be a lot of smoke and mirrors; never as good or bad as they look. Weis is no miracle worker but he does have a savvy football mind and an eye for talent. And though Weis’ magic skills will never come into question, much like Copperfield, he has already created something out of nothing.