Kansas travels to Manhattan this weekend to take on eight ranked Kansas State so naturally, the topic of conversation turned to the Wildcats during Charlie Weis' weekly press conference on Tuesday.
KU's new head coach had plenty of interesting things to say about the way K-State has gone about their business under Bill Snyder, most notably that the K-State program is one Kansas is trying to model as the Jaywhawks to rebuild a program of their own.
He was first asked if his job is tougher coming to Kansas at a time when the KSU program is on an upswing
"I don't want every Kansas fan to be mad at me, but it's a pretty good role model. Everyone wants to look at it differently than that, but from my perspective, they're doing a lot of things right."
"Let's try to get to that level first. If we can get there in the not too distant future, that would be a good place to get too."
"I'm not going to be dumb enough to sit there and say I'm going to wave a magic wand and it's going to happen overnight, but that's where we have to go to first. Hey, here's them, here's you, why is that? Both from Kansas, right? Both in the same conference, right? Both have the same recruiting base to go off of if you want to, right? Why are they this and why are you that? I think it's a good role model to be perfectly honest with you."
On the surface, it seems to make perfect sense. All his points are legitimate. But they way Kansas State has built their program is not exactly the way most successful programs go about it. That doesn't mean it's wrong (it's obviously worked for them) or that it couldn't work at Kansas.
Take a look at the top 20 teams in this week's coaches poll right now? I wouldn't say there's one team in it that has followed the blueprint in building a program that Kansas State has used. Why? Mainly because they don't have too. Nearly every team is either a household name (Notre Dame) or located in recruiting area where football players grow on trees.
So has he pinpointed anything yet as to why there are currently vast differences between the two programs?
"Yeah, they're coach is winning a lot more game than our coach is. It's a good place to start."
While nobody expects Weis to turn a program around in four games, the point is that's why Bill Snyder is considered one of the best coaches in the country, not only currently, but ever. Think back to when the Big 12 was formed in 1996. Between then and 2003, Kansas State won at least nine games every season but one, and won 11 games six different times during that eight year span.
He's also done it with recruiting classes that have ranked at the bottom, or very close to the bottom, in the Big 12 almost every season. Weis isn't buying that bit, entirely.
"They get misconstrued (recruiting rankings) though because of junior college players. We haven't been taking junior college players, but we are now. And we're going to take a bunch of them. It's not going to be a few, it's going to be a bunch."
(Quick side note: Ron Prince took this route prior to his last season at KSU in 2008 bringing in 20 JC players in one class. It was obviously a move made in panic, but it goes to show Snyder's method isn't all that easy and just another reason why he is the master of his own domain.
Trying to mold a group of junior college recruits into your current roster is skill Snyder has mastered over the years. It's also a method many believe won't lead to success in the long term which is why most schools are so selective in taking junior college players. Prince's last class did produce Daniel Thomas, however, so it wasn't a total bust).
"Ok, so when you see those ratings, everyone wants the four star, the five star, they want to see the high school kid coming out. I want a blend of high school players that want to come to Kansas and junior college kids who want to play now. I want a blend of those."
"So when you get those ratings, they're not factoring in a whole bunch of guys who are ready to play right now. Look at that secondary (at KSU), look at those two corners. Two years ago, they were both junior college players. Now they're the starting corners on a very solid secondary (Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman).
"I think those classes are way better than the recruiting gurus would give you ratings for."
So how many want to come to come to Kansas. According to Weis, they're practically beating down his door.
"A whole bunch want to come here, and they will. These guys that are junior college want to go somewhere where they have an opportunity to play against good competition and play now. You'd have to think, we definitely play against good competition, there's no misnomer there. Everyone understands that. And they'd have to look at us and say, hey there are a bunch good coaches than need some good players. I'm a good player and I have a good opportunity to play now. There's a lot of interest."
Yes, recruiting junior college players is always a tricky proposition, but at least Weis seems to be taking the right approach before he officially brings them on campus.
"As long as kids care about education and come here with the intent to graduate and aren't just coming here to make a one year stop to get to the NFL - I mean as long as they want to come here and get a KU degree - and help us win and are good citizens, bring them on. The more the merrier so hop on that bus."
Will the philosophy Snyder has used at Kansas State work down the road at Kansas? Who knows. What Snyder has down at Kansas State happened over a long period of time and he has plenty of experience doing it.
At the same time, however, it's worth a shot. Kansas for a myriad of reasons has never been able to get the football program to a top level on a consistent basis. The Jayhawks haven't been to three straight bowl games in the school's history. (Mark Mangino's 12-1 season, although impressive, doesn't count as consistent). It's not like the program is going to take a step backwards by giving something new a try.
If there is one benefit to being at the bottom of the college football totem pole, it's that any risk is worth taking. Or put another way, is it really a risk when there isn't much too lose? There's only one way the program can go from here. It will either work and if it doesn't, KU will continue spinning its wheels, stuck in neutral, the same way it's always been.