Evaluating College Football’s First-Year Head Coaches: Charlie Weis

How could this go wrong? (Photo: USA Today Sports.)

The Charlie Weis era at Kansas didn't start off with the same kind of bluster heard when he was introduced as the head coach at Notre Dame eight years ago. Remember all that bravado about the Fighting Irish's "decided schematic advantage" in every game?

The big talk was missing, but that didn't stop Weis from making his outsized presense felt in Lawrence right off the bat. He immediately went to work trying to clean up the mess left by predecessor Turner Gill, who was given the axe after just two years leading the Jayhawks. That included enlisting longtime NFL coordinator Dave Campo to oversee the KU defense.

Ever the quarterback guru, Weis even managed to entice Dayne Crist, a recruit from his days at Notre Dame, to serve as a stopgap under center in year one.

Whatever hopes KU fans may have harbored for a quick turnaround were dashed pretty quickly once the season began. After a win to start the year against South Dakota State, KU dropped the remaining 11 games on its schedule.

So Weis' debut season was a bust. Did he lay a foundation for the future of the program?

What went right?: When a team goes 1-11, it feels disingenuous to say anything other than "nothing" went right. How about some signs of hope?

Although the Jayhawks caught more than their share of brutal beatdowns in 2012, they were competitive in a handful of Big 12 contests. Those included a close shave against Oklahoma State, a loss in double overtime to Texas Tech and a loss to Texas in a photo finish orchestrated by second-string QB Case McCoy.

While the KU passing game was truly pathetic, Weis did get his players to establish a productive power running game. Junior tailback James Sims led the league in rushing with 112.6 yards per game.

Crist was supposed to be keeping the chair warm for Jake Heaps, a transfer from BYU who was one of the most heralded QBs in his recruiting class. Freshman Michael Cummings took over around the middle of the season and seemed to give the offense some life. It sets up an intriguing QB derby heading into the fall.

What went wrong?: When a team goes 1-11, it feels disingenuous to say anything other than "everything" went wrong. A few aspects of the season stand out as particularly egregious.

For starters, Weis' pro-style passing game lacked any semblance of pop. The Jayhawks' collective passer rating of 94.23 ranked next to last in the country. KU averaged a paltry 5.7 yards per completion, 118th out of 124 in the nation.

Additionally, the D frequently put up little resistance against the Big 12's high-powered offenses. The Jayhawks gave up 5.22 yards per rushing attempt (114th overall) and ranked 120th in passer rating.

Where do things go from here?: KU may have been the worst AQ-conference team in the country a year ago. It would be easy to chalk the season up as a throw-away year for a coach taking over a struggling program. Weis' previous stint as a head coach at ND makes it much harder to give him the benefit of the doubt, though. Irish fans may still curse Tyrone Willingham's name, but he clearly left plenty of talent on hand for Weis in South Bend. In that case, it took a few years for Weis' incompetence to shine through.

Turner Gill did Weis no such favors this time around. Kansas' coach has now loaded his team up with junior college transfers hoping for a quick fix. However, given his track record, there's very little reason to believe Weis understands how to get KU back on track.

The only thing saving Weis from a failing grade is his predecessor's incompetence, which certainly increased the degree of difficulty for a coach who may have been in over his head before he even started.

Charlie Weis' First-Year Coaching Grade: D

Previous Evaluations

Bill O'Brien, Penn State

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Jim Mora, UCLA