On Sunday, 15 members of Kansas University’s 2012 football team made the traditional walk down Campanile Hill and became college graduates.
While many will move on — for some it’s the NFL and for others it’s the job search — more than half will return to the football program in 2013 to play out their eligibility.
Six of the eight returning graduates — offensive linemen Randall Dent and Gavin Howard, safety Dexter Linton, wide receiver Christian Matthews, linebacker Prinz Kande and defensive lineman Kevin Young — showed up on KU’s two-deep depth chart before the start of spring drills, and many of them have logged significant playing time during their careers.
The other Sunday grads who will compete for playing time as fifth-year seniors in 2013 are wideout Chris Omigie and tight end Nick Sizemore.
Because of the increased popularity of players using red-shirt seasons early in their careers — sometimes because of injuries and just as often to promote individual development — as well as the senior transfer rule, which grants immediate eligibility at other schools to graduates who have a year or more left to play — think Dayne Crist, Mike Ragone, Josh Williams and Anthony McDonald — it has become more common for seniors in all sports to play their final seasons with diplomas already in hand.
However, just because these players have completed their requirements for graduation does not mean they get to enjoy homework-free final seasons.
“Generally speaking, they have the choice of enrolling in a graduate program and going that route or they could enroll in another degree program and get a second undergraduate degree,” said Jim Marchiony, KU’s associate AD for public affairs. “The idea is you have to be a full-time student.”
At KU, that means being enrolled in nine hours of graduate course work or 12 hours of undergrad classes.
With 21 players in the upcoming senior class, KU has room, both in terms of scholarships and in the class, to add a senior or two who has graduated from another school this month and is looking to play out his final season of eligibility.
KU coach Charlie Weis already has shown he’s willing to take on those players as long as they can help the team immediately. And Weis has said in the past that he will not pick up players just to add numbers.
The NCAA allows a maximum of 25 recruits per class, and there were just 21 athletes in the recruiting class of 2012, which leaves room for a couple of players from the incoming class to be counted back into that class.
Take defensive tackle Ty Mckinney, for example. Technically, McKinney will be counted as a member of the 2012 class even though he did not arrive on campus until this spring. Had KU filled up its 2012 class, McKinney would have counted toward this year’s group. It’s simply a case of being creative with the numbers and spots, and schools throughout the country do it every year.
It remains to be seen if Weis will add a recent graduate to this year’s roster, but if he were to do so it likely would come at one of four positions: tight end, defensive back, offensive line or wide receiver.
McDonald and Ragone, along with Williams, senior transfers from Notre Dame and Nebraska, respectively, who joined the Jayhawks last season, did not officially become a part of the KU program until graduating from their previous schools.
Ex-Jayhawk found dead
College teammates of former Jayhawk David McMillan took to social media Sunday to mourn the passing of the defensive end who played at KU from 2001-04. According to reports, McMillan was found dead this weekend in Atlanta, the apparent victim of a fatal shooting.
McMillan, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft, played in Cleveland through the 2008 season and started the final 36 games of his Kansas career. On the field, he was known for being an athletic and disruptive force off the edge.
Those who played with him knew him for more.
“David was a great guy with a great attitude,” former KU offensive lineman Joe Vaughn (2003-04) told the Journal-World on Sunday. “He had the gift of making people laugh. He was my first workout partner at KU, and he made the workout easier for me because he danced and laughed through the grueling exercises. D-Mac will be missed for not only being a great athlete but more importantly for being a better person.”