Crist tops Kansas depth chart as spring begins
By DAVE SKRETTA
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) No surprise here: Dayne Crist is listed atop the depth chart at Kansas.
The former Notre Dame quarterback transferred after the fall semester to play for new coach Charlie Weis, who recruited him to South Bend and now is attempting to rebuild a moribund program that finished 2-10 last season under Turner Gill.
Weis said that Crist, who is eligible to compete this fall because he's already graduated, has been instrumental in helping his new teammates adjust to the new regime.
"Having Dayne here gives us a big jumpstart," Weis said Tuesday in his first news conference of spring practice. "It isn't just having a new quarterback. It's a new quarterback that knows the system, knows you, was recruited by you, knows your wife, knows what you want.
"It's not just him as a player," Weis added. "Every one of them will tell you the same thing, and I'll tell you: You know when a kid is special? The day he walks in and the other guys look at him as a leader, and that kid hasn't done anything. Then you know he's special."
Crist was among the nation's most highly sought prospects when he chose Notre Dame, but he was hampered by injuries and Weis was eventually fired. He lost his starting job under new coach Brian Kelly, and ultimately decided that he would transfer for his final season.
He's not the only newcomer who appears on the depth chart.
Jake Heaps is listed as the No. 2 quarterback, even though the former BYU starter is not eligible to play this season because of transfer guidelines. Still, Weis said that Heaps is "far and away" the best player for the backup job, and that he wants to use spring practice as a chance to get the former five-star recruit acclimated to the program.
It's expected that Heaps will take over once Crist finishes his career.
The other well-known transfer is wide receiver Justin McCay, who decided to transfer closer to home after starting his career at Oklahoma. McCay would normally have to sit out this season but is appealing to the NCAA under personal hardship rules to play immediately.
Weis has been told that McCay's case could be decided sometime this week.
The rest of the depth chart that Weis released Tuesday was largely expected, though it should change dramatically when his first recruiting class finally arrives on campus.
The most intriguing elements - besides the new faces - are the new formations.
Weis is known as an offensive innovator whose complex pro-style offense features multiple sets and personnel groups. So the depth chart features players at several positions depending on the package, rather than simply listing a starting fullback or tight end.
"I have a quarterback who knows the system very, very well. It's an unusual situation when you come in to have a quarterback who knows it so well," Weis said. "So we're going to put in as much as the offensive players can handle. We're going to put in a whole bunch of stuff."
The defense, led by former Dallas Cowboys coach Dave Campo, is listed in a 4-3 fashion, though Weis was particular in pointing out that Kansas will line up in various ways.
The longtime NFL assistant coach said he was pleased with the way the offseason conditioning program has gone, and said that he made good on his promise that it would be a "grueling" program.
He also said that he identified what may have been the biggest hurdle to overcome if the Jayhawks are to return to the same level of success that they experienced under Mark Mangino.
"Their confidence was very low," Weis said. "When you do a 2-10, that's almost a rhetorical statement. But their confidence was low, and I think when your confidence is low, a lot of times your caring level goes down exponentially. I think those two things have risen exponentially.
"Any time you have a hard-working team that cares," he said, "you have a chance."
Updated March 27, 2012