When Leo Etienne and Greg Cole would talk through the thin wall that separated their rooms at Hutchinson Community College last season, they probably didn't discuss playing football together at Kansas University.
Now the two junior transfers are on their way to becoming the talk of the team.
"They're very critical for us," KU coach Terry Allen said following practice Friday. "They'll play a lot in the scheme of the defense and also on all of our special teams."
In addition to the base defense and special teams, Etienne, a 6-foot, 205-pound speedy outside linebacker, and Cole, a 6-2, 235-pound lightning-quick defensive end, both were playing on the No. 1 nickel defense Friday.
Regardless of whether they're starting Etienne is in the running with Glenn Robinson for the starting weakside linebacker spot while Cole currently is a backup as both a down lineman and an outside linebacker their speed ensures that they'll see the field.
"Depending on how we line up with the linebackers, we'll have more total speed at the linebacker position and we're faster at the end position," Allen said. "If we go with Etienne, he's got great quickness. But we can do some things with Cole in different packages that puts him at the defensive end and moves some people around.
"Believe me when I tell you we're faster across the board at 11 positions, but it just depends on how we make it work."
Etienne stole the show on the final play of 11-on-11 drills Friday, stepping in front of a Zach Dyer pass and scampering 35 yards for a touchdown. Etienne credited linebackers coach Johnny Barr and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Tom Hayes for his being in the right place at the right time.
"It's fun. It's always fun," Etienne said of his interception. "The guys, they get hyped up and everybody realizes everything is paying off, everything is working, everything that coach Hayes is putting in, everything is coming together now."
When he first arrived in Lawrence, one of the things Etienne missed from his junior college days was the feeling of family the players shared in Hutchinson. Of course, he realized some of that was being in a smaller town.
Now the Jayhawks seem to be coming together in the same way.
"This two-a-days camp has brought us together a lot," Etienne said. "The coaches having everybody stay in the (Jayhawker) Towers and pair up, that's just brought everybody closer. We eat together. We do everything as a family now. Right now I'm getting that vibe I had in Hutch."
While in Hutchinson, Etienne had a team-leading 118 total tackles and nine sacks, earning him first-team all-Jayhawk Junior College Conference honors. That's also where he first met Cole.
"He didn't like me at first," Cole quipped. "I was like, 'If he doesn't like me, I'm not going to kiss his behind to make him like me.' I don't even know how it happened. At Hutch, everybody started getting closer and closer. We moved in next door to each other and next thing you know we became best friends."
Cole, who's nickname is Hollywood, might have come across a little strong when he introduced himself as Hollywood while wearing sunglasses. He certainly lived up to the moniker, which was started because of his flashy celebrations as a kid in Pop Warner football, in junior college.
Cole recorded 91 total tackles, including 14 stops for a loss last season. The year before, he had 14 receptions and three touchdowns as a tight end.
Etienne and Cole talk on the phone when they return home to Winter Haven, Fla., and Miami respectively. They took college visits together, decided to transfer to KU together and now are roommates.
"It was a mutual decision," Cole said. "I said, 'What do you think?' And he said, 'I think we should go to Kansas.' I said, 'Let's go to Kansas.' We came here and we like it and we've been best friends ever since.
"He's like another brother to me."
Injury update: No decision has been reached yet about the future of freshman running back Marshell Chiles, who has been held out of non-contact drills because of a narrowing of his spinal column.
"The latest is it's still pending," Allen said. "They're doing some more additional tests that they are sending to a specialist who's looked at him in Los Angeles and he's requesting additional tests that we're in the process of getting done."
Upcoming: The Jayhawks will scrimmage starting at 9:15 this morning at Memorial Stadium. Allen said it likely would consist of 55-60 plays, with the No. 1 offense taking about 22 snaps and the No. 1 defense getting about 28 snaps.