Weis discusses Jayhawks 2014 recruiting class

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis observing practice as the Jayhawks begin two-a-days in preparation for the 2013 season
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis observing practice as the Jayhawks begin two-a-days in preparation for the 2013 season

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis commented on each member of the 2014 signing class and fielded questions from the media during an hour-long press conference Thursday, a day after the majority of the class sent in their National Letters of Intent (NLIs) on National Signing Day. Weis met with members of the media inside Mrkonic Auditorium at the Anderson Family Football Complex for the press conference that can be seen by subscribers of Jayhawk Digital Passport. Weis’ opening statement and selected questions are also available below.

Kansas Head Coach Charlie Weis
Opening Statement:
“I’m happy to talk about this class, just like every coach in America right now. Going in there for all you recruiting gurus who really follow the count, we are sitting on a maximum of 26 players we could bring in. That includes transfers, mid-years and anyone you put on scholarship. When you put a walk-on on scholarship and they are in their junior year and have been on residence at least one year you don’t have to count them. So I will have a few spots under 85 which will allow me to go ahead and scholarship a couple of walk-ons. They count towards the 85, but they don’t count towards the initial 26. So when I start to talk about these guys, I will include T.J. Millweard in this class because one of those 26 spots goes to T.J. That being said we still have one scholarship we could do something with and in the end we had several candidates for the one scholarship, but I felt none of those guys were the right ones to fill the holes that we had. I think when you have it you need to take the best player available, but not be in a rush because you don’t know what may become available to you down the road come May.

“Obviously we hit Texas real hard and after we took the heavy load of junior college guys (last year) it lead to a cause and effect of recruiting. Those JuCo guys were a direct result to the number of people I let go my first year here. I threw off 29 guys on scholarship and took a roster that was fairly depleted and depleted it even more. Once I got through year one, which was a scramble, year two was to fill as many holes as we could with guys who were game ready, hence the influx of junior college players. This year we got back to the more normal pattern that a program would like to see. We brought in eight junior college players this year who we think can bring some immediate help. If you have a couple of transfer guys that you can bring in you always take them even if you have to wait a year for them to play. The rest of the time you want to bring in the best high school players that you possibly can and develop them. That is how you build a program for the long haul and not just the short term. When we got going in recruiting we built a foundation of how we would like to move forward.”

On the incoming wide receivers:
“I have some special plans here for the wide receiver position. I like the good young talent and depth we have here. I thought seriously about using that one spot left to bring in a JuCo-type wide receiver, but I felt unless there was a guy, a Nick Harwell-type of guy, that I’d rather have these high school guys we’re bringing in. I’m really happy that all of them are different and aren’t the same player. They bring different things to the table. I would argue that equally, our defensive line depth just took a huge turn in a positive direction. I couldn’t take enough big guys. We took an extra BUCK. We loaded up in a couple positions, because not every year do you have a chance to get these guys. I think, definitely, the wide receiver position took a positive turn.”

On if recruiting heavily in Texas was by design:
“I think we hit it hard last year, but last year we had a different mentality. We were looking for guys that could play right now, walking in the door so – I think the corridor from Chicago to Houston has to be your niche. Obviously the closer you are, the easier it is to entice them. But in the state of Texas, the one good thing you have going for you is you’re going to have to play several times in the state of Texas every year. So if they come here, they know they’re still playing at home. They never have to worry about A – if they’re going to be seen on TV, they don’t have to worry about that already, and B – it makes it a little easier for the families to actually see them in person.”

On if Reggie Mitchell is a closer when it comes to recruiting:
“Reggie and I have had a bunch of talks when we’re on the road that we can’t be spread too thin because I want to get him more involved locally, too. So we’ve already gone over where the best place is to settle down because we’re going to tweak some of the areas in about a week. We already talked about it. We know where we’re going to go with this. But when we’re tweaking these areas, we thinking about which places make the most sense to invest our manpower in. Where are we getting production from? Where are we wasting our time financially? If you’re going somewhere, and you’re not bringing any players in, then you’re wasting time, effort and money. So that’s a research project we’re starting here Monday and I think in Reggie’s case, if we can keep him within St. Louis and Chicago and here, and not have to be full-time in Texas. You only have one Reggie. He’s a top-flight guy.”

On what his ‘sales pitch’ was this year:
“I try not to think of it as a sales pitch, but because the analogy is apropos, I think what we said to them this year, if it were a junior college kid, it’s that we’re not taking 20 Junior College kids, but we want you. And the reason that we want you is because you could fill a need and get into the mix right now. The high school kids, which is where we want to go, we say look, now that we’ve gotten into this third recruiting class, this is the way we want to do it around here. In every one of their cases, they all want the opportunity to play, but I think that when we get the kids on campus – and I feel this very, very strongly – I think that Kansas is a wonderful school once we get them on campus. Because once we get them here and they see what we have to offer, about 75 percent of the time we end up getting them. Our batting average is pretty high. So I think with the high school kids we think this is the way want to do it, because the high school kids want to know, “Well you take all these JC guys.” And that’s a fair question. But that was a year ago when we had all those holes we wanted to fill. This is really the way you want to do it. With the JC guys, all they want to know is why you want them, because it’s a totally different mentality between the guys. The JC guys want to go play now, the high school guys want to know what the long-range plan is. Because if you don’t give them a long-range plan, they’re not interested in coming.”

On if it was hard to get recruits on campus this year:
“I think that the staff showed much more patience this year. Remember last year we had that rush of all those JuCos in December? It was like Christmas, you wake up and there were two more kids committed. That wasn’t the way we were going. So I think that they showed more patience and in the end, they ended up getting who they wanted to get but they had to wait it out but you had to make sure you weren’t taking just any commitment from anyone and go offer any guys who were lesser than you were on. I think that they showed very good perseverance. I think that hard work sometimes in relationships ends up paying off and I give the staff a lot of credit for that.”

On what the recruits will bring to the running back position:
“They’re going to be standing in a line because that depth chart looks totally different now. There’s a lot of things that look different now. Now if you go look at our board now and you really take all the players on our team, and you try to lay it out now, now all of a sudden you’re going to see numbers. Like how’s he even going to get on the field? That’s what you’re going to end up seeing and you’re going to be seeing it at a lot of different positions. There’s very few positions where you’re not going to see it. Let’s say (Corey) Avery and Tony (Pierson) are a lot alike. Well there are guys between Tony and Avery. The first thing he’s going to have to do is get by them before he gets to Tony. Then it’s going to take some work.”

On the addition of De’Andre Mann at running back:
“Brandon being the only one that was healthy, Taylor basically going through a medical redshirt year, and Darrian having his personal issues. I think when you line up in the spring, Brandon’s first. You’ll have plenty of time between Brandon and Darrian and Taylor to battle it out in the spring. Then the reinforcements arrive, and that’s not even including Tony if you put him in there but he will start more at Wide Receiver and we’ll work him into Running back because right now we have to fix this WR position, that’s what we have to do.”

On his first memory of Traevohn Wrench:
“Watching his first tape he went for about 400 yards, in a high school game. He touches the ball goes for 20, 50, 70, 9 yards. Nine yards is a bad run for him. When you watch a game and a guy is rushing for 300, 400 yards a game-I mean how do you do that? I don’t know how many touchdowns he scored, but it was about a zillion. He’s got big, big numbers. It’s not like the team’s he’s playing against aren’t any good, you see them on film. He’s still a kid, weighs about 190. He’ll be 210, and that’s usually about the size of the guys who play on that next level. That’s usually about how big they are.”

On the role of student hosts in the recruiting process:
“I think we spend a lot of time trying to match personalities. When some guys come in, they want to go to Mass Street; other guys want to come in and play video games. You don’t want to stick a guy who wants to play video games with a guy who wants to go to Mass Street. You have to know your recruits, and you especially have to know your own players. You can lose a kid very easily by matching him with the wrong host. If they don’t see eye-to-eye, there is a good chance that kid won’t end up coming.”

On who is the best recruiter of the current players:
Victor Simmons is a very good host. They (recruits) like him, he is local and he will do it any time you ask him. Every time he is with someone, there is a good chance they are coming to Kansas. He is a very good host and has done a great job in helping us recruit.”

On Coach Reagan’s role upon being hired:
“It was a scramble because I had a schedule setup for him from the day we hired him. He went from Nacogdoches, Texas, to the entire country, and it was not a lot of fun. The first week was a week from hell for him. It was not easy because he went from Texas, to Lawrence, then California, Florida, to Baltimore and back to Lawrence, all within a few days. It was hectic. These linemen had a good relationship with Tim (Grunhard). As soon as Tim left, all these schools came after our guys. It was important for John (Reagan) to meet with them first. He also had the opportunity to see every offensive player we recruited. It was full-speed ahead to make sure we got all the offensive linemen locked up first.”

On the emphasis of faster players over bigger players:
“I think size is important, but speed and athleticism is more important, in this league especially. You can’t have enough athletic guys. Every coach in America is telling you how much they love their class, but we needed this class. That is what coaches do. We needed this class. This class fills so many different needs. This is like finishing the draft, and then saying you are really happy with the draft. You don’t come out of a draft filling every need; it just doesn’t work that way. We filled most of our needs and we are happy about that.”

On if Corey Avery is an athlete who can play various positions or if he doesn’t truly have a position:
“You could pick any position and he could be good at any of them. We could say, ‘you are a running back,’ and he would be a damn good one. We could say, ‘you are a slot-receiver,’ and he would be good at that too. We could move him over to defense and he would be good at that as well. It’s different when you are a really good athlete, you could get stereotyped like that, but this kid is a good football player. He is not just a good athlete, he is a good football player. I’m a big fan.”

On the difference between this year’s recruiting class compared to last year’s class:
“Last year we had holes. This year we had needs. We had so many holes last year that we didn’t even have a first guy at some positions. There are some guys in here that will end up playing significant time walking in the door, but there are more guys on here that will set up the success in the future of the program. We have to set the program up for success, and I think that’s what we did with this class. Last year’s class was filling a bunch of holes. Going forward, this class is the way we want to recruit. Getting a handful of JUCO players that can play right away, and bring in a bunch of high school kids and whenever they are ready to play, you play them. If they are ready to play as freshmen, you play them. If not, you go ahead and develop them and get them ready for the future.”

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