• Kansas' Charlie Weis calls Jayhawks 'pile of crap' as part of recruiting pitch

    DALLAS – Charlie Weis, whether you like it or not, is a straight shooter. No matter the topic, even and especially his football team, he won’t sugarcoat anything.

    “We were 1-11 and picked by everybody to finish last in the league,” the Kansas head coach said. “If I were you, I’d pick us in the same spot. We’ve given you no evidence or no reason to be picked anywhere other than that.”

    While maintaining that his expectations for the Jayhawks are higher than most people’s expectations for them, Weis had yet to provide his most candid comments. They came after being asked a general question about his recruiting sales pitch.

    “There’s no one that wants to not play,” Weis said. “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.”

    Since quarterback Todd Reesing and former coach Mark Mangino led Kansas to an Orange Bowl victory in 2007, the Kansas program has been in steady decline, going from 12 wins that season to an 8-5 mark in 2008, 5-7 in 2009, 3-9 in 2010, 2-10 in 2011 and 1-11 in 2012.

    “I’m a very straightforward person and these players either really like you or they can’t stand you. It’s one or the other,” Weis said. “I told our players and told our coaching staff that, until they start winning some games in the conference. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”

    The majority of the 24 players that signed to play with Kansas this year are junior college transfers, including defensive back Cassius Sendish, who was one of the three players representing the Jayhawks at Big 12 Media Days this week. The group of junior college transfers are expected to contribute early and often this year.

    “I took a team that already wasn’t very good and I made them worse,” Weis said. “You go through a transition coming in and you dismiss 29 scholarship players, which I did for a variety of off-the-field issues – not one of those players did I get rid of because they weren’t any good.”

  • TCU's Casey Pachall out of rehab, on road to redemption

    DALLAS – This time last year, Casey Pachall was coming off a record-setting sophomore season in his first year as TCU’s starting quarterback and preparing for a promising junior year.

    He and Trevone Boykin combined to complete all 17 of the Horned Frogs’ in a 56-0 blowout of Grambling State – an FBS record for most completions without an incompletion – while Gary Patterson became the program’s all-time winningest coach.

    Pachall threw for more than 300 yards in each of the next two games and helped TCU improve to 4-0 in their first year as a member of the Big 12 following a 24-16 win over SMU.

    The fall from grace was quick and unforgiving.

    Pachall de-enrolled from the school and entered a rehab facility after being suspended by Patterson. Boykin, who had began working out with the team’s running backs the previous week, was back under center. The Horned Frogs fell to Iowa State, 37-24, in their Big 12 home opener the next weekend, ending their FBS-best 12-game winning streak.

    “It was a hard decision,” Patterson said. “I knew it was going to affect our wins and losses. You had to take a guy we moved to running back and move him back to quarterback. But as far as what we’re doing for a young man’s life, I think it was an easy decision.”

    Boykin, a redshirt freshman in 2012, improved as the season progressed, but TCU finished 7-6, its worst season in eight years. Patterson has yet to name a starting quarterback for this year, but Pachall is widely expected to beat out Boykin for the job. His teammates spoke to the changes they’ve seen in Pachall since his return.

    “I lived with him,” senior running back Waymon James said. “When he was down with rehab, he was miserable. He couldn’t stand it. He was miserable every day. The only people he talked to was his mom, family and his girlfriend. He couldn’t take it anymore. You could tell on his face. He was excited to get back out there. He’s growing up. He’s maturing. He’s ready to take us to a championship.”

    Pachall, who was picked by the media as the preseason All-Big 12 quarterback, was not among the four players representing TCU at Big 12 Media Days on Monday. This was at his request, according to his head coach.

    “A lot of people asked me why I didn’t bring him to media days,” Patterson said. “Number one, we don’t know who our starting quarterback is. Two, it doesn’t have anything to do with what my intentions were… I’m letting him do his thing, keeping the pressure off him.”

    Patterson could have easily dismissed Pachall, a repeat offender, from his team. But he gave him time away from the squad, left the door open for him to return, and welcomed him back with open arms. Time will tell if the move will pay off.

    “He’s not just about winning. He’s about changing lives,” safety Sam Carter said. “He understands football is temporary. He understands we’re young. We’re 19 to 23 and we’re going to make mistakes. He was young before. Sometimes people need a second and third chance. We all make mistakes. Football is important but it’s about helping him become a better person.”

  • After winning Big 12 title, Kansas State picked to finish sixth in conference again

    DALLAS – Two years ago, Kansas State was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. The Wildcats finished second. Last season, they were picked to finish sixth and ended up winning the conference.

    This year, Kansas State checked in at No. 6 in the Big 12 preseason poll. The Wildcats are looking to prove their doubters wrong again this season.

    “To win a conference championship and people still pick you down in the rankings, that puts a little fire in your system,” Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re ranked or how you recruit, it matters what you do on Saturday.”

    Collin Klein became the program’s second-ever Heisman Trophy finalist last year while helping Kansas State win their first 10 games of the season. He accounted for nearly 70 percent of the Wildcats’ total offense over the last two years but must be replaced, either by junior college transfer Jake Waters or sophomore Daniel Sams.

    “If I were given the opportunity, I would have picked us 99th,” head coach Bill Snyder said. “I know it has to be done, but it’s an awfully difficult task to make those kinds of decisions. I certainly couldn’t do it.”

    Snyder has turned overachieving into an art form during his tenure at Kansas State. He consistently brings in overlooked high school prospects and utilizes junior college transfers arguably better than anyone in the business. The Wildcats have won 21 games over the past two seasons. 

    “The people that predict it aren’t in our locker room, they’re not behind our doors, they’re not at our practices,” center B.J. Finney, one of five returning starters on the Wildcats’ offensive line, said. “We don’t pull in the four- or five-star recruits like Texas and Oklahoma do. We have guys that don’t have the opportunity, the two- and three-star guys that fit Coach Snyder’s mold. We work hard to improve our game every day. It’s just one thing that’s demanded of us in Coach Snyder’s program and that’s why he’s successful as a coach.”

  • TCU, Oklahoma State have chance to bolster Big 12 image with tough season openers

    DALLAS – As much as they’ve failed to live up to their standards recently, Texas can still lay claim to the last non-SEC national title.

    The Longhorns beat USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl to win their first national championship in more than three decades but the SEC has won each of the seven national titles since, with Alabama winning three of the last four.

    “It’s impossible to call yourself the best league in college football unless you can win a national championship,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “I don’t think you can be the best without playing the best.”

    The Big 12 obviously has a long way to go to catch the SEC as the superior conference in college football but a pair of season openers this year could help close the gap. Oklahoma State starts the year against Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium on Aug. 31 and TCU begins the season against LSU at Cowboys Stadium the same day.

    “It changes our approach as a coaching staff in what we do in preseason practice,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said. “My concern is whether it affects us in November because we really need to be strong [late in the season]… There are some adjustments we have to make when you play an opponent like Mississippi State.”

    Perennial powerhouse LSU, who went 10-3 last season, will face a TCU team that won just seven games last season after winning at least 11 in six of the previous seven seasons. The Horned Frogs, who scheduled the game with the Tigers while still members of the Mountain West Conference, return 16 starters from last year’s squad.

    “One of the only things you worry about is the physicalness of it and losing players,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “When this game was set, it was actually a home and home. We got smart about it and said that’s not good for TCU overall. In one ballgame, you still get the expectation level of playing a quality opponent.”

    Both Oklahoma State and TCU should have much different experiences in their season opener this season than they did last year. The Cowboys crushed Savannah State, 84-0, in their first game in 2012 while the Horned Frogs opened last season by romping Grambling State, 56-0.

    “Everybody is more focused on this first game,” TCU running back Waymon James said. “It’s going to set the tone for the season. With Grambling, everybody’s like, ‘Whatever, it’s Grambling. We’re probably going to win.’ Now we’re excited.”

    Neither team has yet to name a starting quarterback, although senior Casey Pachall is expected to beat out sophomore Trevone Boykin for TCU’s starting quarterback gig after returning from substance abuse rehabilitation. Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh are battling for the starting quarterback job at Oklahoma State.

    “Our hunger to get better and to be the best we can be, I don’t think it can get any higher,” Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett said. “[Playing Mississippi State] helps. It gives us motivation when you think about not just playing Savannah State. We’ve got Mississippi State. We’ve got to keep going.”

  • Big 12 facing lack of household names at quarterback

    DALLAS Among the quarterbacks in the Big 12 last year were the conference’s all-time leading passer in Landry Jones, a Heisman Trophy finalist in Collin Klein, someone currently battling for a starting job in the NFL in Geno Smith, the nation’s leader in total offense in Nick Florence and a gunslinger in Lubbock that turned in his second straight 4,000-yard season.

    They’re all gone, leaving behind a group of talented but inexperienced signal-callers to fill the void.

    “In these offenses, it seems like the next guy plugged in has done a great job,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “That always goes in cycles, where everyone is growing them up or they’re older. I think it bodes well for everybody if they’re always growing them up at the same time, at least for defensive guys.”

    Only two quarterbacks are representing their team at Big 12 Media Days this week Texas’ David Ash and Kansas’ Jake Heaps, who has yet to take snap for the Jayhawks since transferring from BYU. The majority of teams in the conference have yet to name a starter behind center, although Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf, Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer, TCU’s Casey Pachall and Kansas State’s Jake Waters are the odds-on favorites to win their respective jobs.

    “It’s an unusual year in that we don’t have a really dominant quarterback, somebody that everybody looks at and says that team can ride on that player's back and have a great year,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.

    The Big 12 may once again have several of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks but, this year, they will have to make a name for themselves as they go.