A new head coach and new starting quarterback have the Kansas Jayhawks confident they can improve from last year's 2-10 season and move forward in trying to restore a program that is only five years removed from a 12-1 season and a victory in the Orange Bowl.
Charlie Weis, who takes over after spending last season as the offensive coordinator at Florida, said rebuilding the football program at KU will not be easy, but that it can be done.
"I think that I have two different issues," Weis said. "One issue, the one that everyone sees, is the fact that we're 2-10 and 3-9 over the last two years, having won one conference game in that time frame. The other one, which I think is maybe even more important, were not the losses last year, but how badly they lost so often."
Weis said the key to restoring the winning ways of the past is to take small steps and first concentrate on keeping opponents within striking range throughout the course of each game.
"I think that the first thing you better do is get your team to be more competitive on a weekly basis," he said. "Because once you get your team more competitive on a weekly basis, more wins will naturally follow. I think what we have to permeate all the way down to our players is that we expect them to know what to do and go out and do it hard for 60 minutes."
One aspect of the Jayhawks' roster that is expected to see vast improvement from last year is the quarterback position, thanks to senior transfer Dayne Crist. He was recruited by Weis out of high school and played under him at Notre Dame.
Crist will try to boost a team that ranked last in total offense and scoring offense, and ninth in passing offense in the Big 12 last season. Last year's quarterback, Jordan Webb, threw for only 157 yards per game, ranking seventh in the Big 12 among starters.
"This system is the same one I ran at Notre Dame," Crist said. "I just know that my experience within this system and just the overall familiarity and comfort level will really help me bring other guys along and allow them to do less thinking."
Crist, who graduated with a management degree from Notre Dame in December 2011, was allowed to transfer to KU as a graduate student and play out his final year of eligibility. He quickly gained the respect of his new teammates in the spring and was named a captain.
"I just try to be myself at all times and lead by example," he said. "I tried to really go out of my way to get to know everybody and show everyone that I was fully invested and that I wasn't just here for selfish reasons. I'm a team guy, and this team is very important to me."