WVU football: Weis gets testy when motivation questioned
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The Big 12 Conference welcomed only one new coach in the offseason, but few others in the business have a profile as great as Kansas' Charlie Weis.
A Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots and then the decreasingly successful coach at Notre Dame, Weis used assistant coaching stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Florida Gators as a springboard back into a head coaching position this season.
"I was offered other jobs for a lot more money, just so you know that," he said, pushing back against the suggestion he was desperate to be in charge again, but declining to name the other opportunities.
"What's important is why I did take this job, and let's look at it from my perspective," he said. "You're coming into a team that was 3-9 two years ago and 2-10 last year. Not so long ago, it's 2007 and 2008, and they're playing in the Orange Bowl and the Insight Bowl and winning. It wasn't like it was 20 years ago now, OK? It was a short time frame ago that that football program was playing in bowl games and winning.
"So you say, 'OK, they were there, they're here, what happened? How did they get from here to here and then how do you get back up?' And to be honest with you, I think it's a very challenging situation."
The Jayhawks, who play West Virginia at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on ROOT Sports, started 11-0 for the first time in school history in 2007 and were closing in on the top spot in the BCS ratings. They lost to Missouri in the regular season finale, but beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Kansas was 8-5 a year later and then 5-7 with a 1-7 Big 12 mark in 2009. Coach Mark Mangino was fired after the '09 season for alleged mistreatment of players. The team turned to University of Buffalo Coach Turner Gill, but he went 5-19 and was fired after losing the final 10 games of the 2011 season.
The school then turned to Weis, who had worked nearby with the Chiefs as offensive coordinator in 2010 before returning to college as Florida's offensive coordinator a year later.
"You're sitting down in Gainesville. You get offered this job. So what do you do? You look at your two closest competitors - proximity-wise, your two closest competitors. So you look at Kansas State and you look at Missouri. How are they doing?" Weis said. "I'm saying, 'OK, the two schools that are in the closest proximity are both doing fairly well.'
"So then my job, once I took the job, was, 'Let's figure out why they're doing fairly well and see if we can't close the gap on them quicker than they would like us to.' And you look at what both those programs are doing, solid, winning programs, I think that that's one of the reasons that gave me reason for optimism, because there's no reason why you can't add a third one into the mix and become more competitive."
The Jayhawks are 1-10 and 0-9 in the Big 12. They've lost 21 consecutive conference games. The previous Big 12 win was Nov. 6, 2010, against Colorado, which is now in the Pac-12. The last conference win against a current Big 12 team was Oct. 10, 2009, against Iowa State.
"Time frame, I can't give you, but I can tell you there are already two teams doing it, which tells you that it obviously can be done," Weis said.
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His confidence is buoyed because of his trust in his coaches and the schemes. He hired former Dallas Cowboys Coach Dave Campo as the defensive coordinator and Weis maintains some control over the offense, which has no designated coordinator.
Yet Weis believe he'll be better this time because he'll learn from his first time.
"Anytime you've taken a job and you go through an experience and you end up getting let go from a job, what you do after you have some time away is you kind of reflect and look back and say, 'What things would I do different?'" Weis said. "I can't tell you the number of things that I looked at on that list and said, 'Weis, how stupid can you be?' There are so many things you did the first time around, you sit there and say, 'Why did you do that?'"
What many still remember about his time at Notre Dame was his immediate confidence and the proclamation the Fighting Irish would be at a "decided schematic advantage" with his offense. That's never left Weis.
It was WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen who on Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference said his team and coaches would be at a "major schematic disadvantage" against Weis and his coaches.
That, though, came after Weis seemingly simplified WVU's success on offense this season, particularly with regard to quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin. Weis spoke of the play where Austin comes in motion and Smith tips the shotgun snap forward to Smith and said "that counts as a completed pass, by the way."
Weis did marvel at Austin's ability and the way he ran away from Iowa State's defense on a the touch pass touchdown last week - a play Smith hailed afterward as the right call at the right time.
"He just outruns everyone," Weis said. "That's not coaching now. I'm sure everyone would like to sit there and stand in line and take credit for that, but that's just unusual talent, unusual speed."
Weis was nevertheless complimentary of the Mountaineers and said they have "as dynamic an offense as you could possibly go against."
Later in the conference call, Holgorsen would mention Smith and Austin before their final home game and say fans should want to see them because they're "two dynamic football players I really don't have to coach very much because they just make plays on their own."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.