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December 2, 2013

Notebook: Weis, Zenger on football program

This morning the Kansas coaches are on the road recruiting. They will be without one coach in a key recruiting since Tim Grunhard resigned and coached his last game against Kansas State on Saturday. Grunhard recruited a key area in Kansas City.

"I think if you saw how passionate the players have been here in the last few days there is not one of those offensive linemen that didn't benefit from Tim being their coach," Weis said of Grunhard. "Tim and I have had a couple of chuckles over the last few days because when the story popped you have to go out and move our Sunday release up early, which is what we had to do."

Defensive backs coach Dave Campo is scheduled to be in Olathe North on Monday morning so different members of the staff will likely pick up parts of Kansas City until new recruiting territories are assigned.

Weis and his staff picked up eight high school commitments before the season started and will continue that trend mixed in with junior college players.

"I usually feel pretty good about our plan in recruiting," Weis said. "The only time when it was rough is when you first get here and you are scrambling. I think that we have a good plan in place and earmarked where we are deficient at, where we need a high school kid, where we need a junior college kid, and identify who they are. Now you have to go get them."

Zenger familiar with rebuilding process

Kansas athletics director Dr. Sheahon Zenger has been a part of different college football programs before he moved to the administration side. Zenger was with Bill Snyder when Kansas State started the early stages of its program.

His next stop was with Jim Leavitt at South Florida when their program started from scratch. After that Zenger was the assistant head coach at Wyoming. He had a chance to join other BCS staffs after that before deciding to pursue his Doctorate. Zenger has been involved with football programs and knows what it takes to get them going. There are few athletic directors in the country that have football coaching experience on their resume.

"This was much more of an overhaul then any one would imagine," Zenger told Jayhawk Slant. "The building blocks are in place. Football is unlike other sports. It is much more like turning an aircraft carrier than a battleship. This takes time and patience."

Zenger knows the program can find success and it wasn't too long ago the Jayhawks were preparing for an Orange Bowl. He has a good feel for how the Kansas fan base has gone through the last four years as they try to rebuild the program.

"I feel for the KU faithful we have been through cycles like this in the past," he said. "For them I am sure it feels like a long time since the Orange Bowl. Coach Weis has been searching for every answer he possibly can to put this program in the right place to move forward."

The Jayhawks went from one win to three this season and there were signs of improvement in different aspects of the program especially special teams and defense. The Kansas defense improved in every stat that is kept by the NCAA from the previous year. The defense gave up 50 yards less per game while the opponent had more possessions. The defense finished in the top 35 in national rankings in fumble recoveries, interceptions, and turnovers gained. They also moved up 40 spots in tackles for a loss.

On special teams punter Trevor Pardula finished 19th in the nation in punting and Connor Embree was 21st in the country in punt returns.

"I believe he has improved us in the classroom, the weight room, off the field, and our competitiveness," Zenger said. "He has improved us defensively and on special teams. The next piece that needs to fall in place is offensive production."

The 2014 season starts today for team

After the Kansas State loss Weis said the players would get Sunday off and then it was back to work on Monday morning with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple.

"I told them that they can have one day to sulk," Weis said. "I said Sunday they can sulk but Monday it is time to move forward. I'm going to hit the road recruiting so we will be scrambling just a touch."

Looking ahead to next season the Jayhawks will return several players from their two deep and will have a heavy senior class. Year three could be the season the program hopes to increase the win total with a large number of players going through the same system for a couple of years.

"We have a lot of older guys coming back that have been here a couple of years with us," Weis said. "It is a large number of redshirt juniors, and juniors that will be seniors, and fourth year players or more. There are a bunch of them. When you have a bunch of them that have been the same system for a couple of years, even though there are going to be tweaks in the system I think that that usually bodes well in the uptick for performance."

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