The Kansas football program’s heavy emphasis on junior-college recruiting in the Class of 2013 left little room for high school recruits from the state of Kansas or anywhere else.
Eight prep players received scholarships from that class, just one from the state of Texas.
Ishmael Hyman spent his first season as a red-shirt and then transferred.
A look at how the other seven shape up, listed in order of their chances of developing into significant contributors:
1 - Ben Johnson, 6-5, 235, tight end, Basehor-Linwood High, Kansas: Athletic, big target has a nice pair of hands, knows how to run routes and has a frame that can take on more weight, which will help him to improve as a blocker. He’ll compete next season for the starting job with Florida transfer Kent Taylor and Olathe North High’s Josh Moore, who decommitted Thursday from Ohio State and committed to KU, citing Clint Bowen as the reason.
2 - Montell Cozart, 6-2, 200, quarterback, Bishop Miege High, Kansas: Fast and strong-armed, Cozart displayed such poor instincts for the position it’s worth wondering whether his best chance at a meaningful college career will come at wide receiver.
3 - Colin Spencer, 5-10, 185, cornerback, Woodrow Wilson HIgh, Dallas: The lone Texas high school recruit in the class — that sentence never, ever should have been typed about a KU recruiting class — Spencer was tried as a running back and receiver in practice before being shifted to defense. He’s a combine phenom and will be given a shot to prove he can turn terrific athleticism into making winning football plays.
4 - Kellen Ash, 6-3, 240, Buck, Parkway South High, Missouri: Has not yet shown potential to develop into a player who will work his way onto the depth chart as a defensive end or outside linebacker at any point during his career.
5 - Colton Goeas, 6-2, 245, linebacker, St. Louis High, Hawaii: Doesn’t have the speed to project as a player who has much of a chance to work his way onto the two-deep during his career.
6 - Jordan Darling, 6-4, 230, quarterback, Shawnee Mission East High, Kansas: Strong-armed quarterback does not have the mobility to project as a player who ever will work his way onto the two-deep.
7 - Joey Bloomfield, 6-6, 295, offensive lineman, Ballard High, Louisville: Lacks the strength, quickness and football instincts to convince anyone he will work his way into the mix.
Sadly, it’s possible Johnson is the only high school recruit from the Class of 2013 who will help Kansas.
Once Olathe North High three-star tight end Josh Moore switched his school of choice Thursday from Ohio State to Kansas, it proved that as a recruiter, an assistant coach is only as a good as the head coach is popular.
Moore, who wasn’t considering Kansas when Charlie Weis was the coach, cited interim head coach Clint Bowen as a big reason he committed to KU.
For whatever reasons, Kansas high school coaches never warmed to Weis, who didn’t appear to put a huge premium on in-state prospects.
Just six Kansans on KU’s roster were signed to scholarships as part of Weis’ three recruiting classes. Class of 2012: Offensive lineman Brian Beckmann and receiver Tre Parmalee; Class of 2013: Quarterbacks Montell Cozart and Jordan Darling and tight end Ben Johnson; Class of 2014: running back/safety Joe Dineen.
Johnson and Dineen shape up as the best prospects of that bunch. Starting center Joe Gibson, defensive lineman T.J. Semke and reserve linebacker Beau Bell came to Kansas as a walk-ons and earned scholarships.
Moore’s commitment gives KU a second pledge from a highly rated football in-state recruit. The first came from Ryan Willis, a 6-foot-4, three-star quarterback from Bishop Miege High, ranked No. 3 in the preseason.
Keep in mind, non-binding verbal commitments shift more in football than basketball, so it's worth mentioning three local offensive linemen who made verbals to BCS schools. Blue Valley High’s four-star prospect A.J. Harris, ranked No. 1 in the state, committed to Missouri. Baldwin High’s Christian Gaylord, No. 2 in the state, committed to Nebraska. Free State's Scott Frantz, No. 6 in the state, and Mill Valley High’s Evan Applegate, No. 7, both pledged to Kansas State.
There are no signs that the three prospects would consider switching, but signing day is nearly four months away. (Harris is excited about playing for Missouri offensive line coach A.J. Ricker, who was at Illinois when he started recruiting Harris.)
Ohio State reportedly had been cooling on Moore of late, but it remains a big commitment for KU and for Bowen’s chances of landing the job on a permanent basis, especially if it emboldens others to switch their commitments to the closest Div. 1 school, which now has a man in charge who has a healthy respect for in-state talent, a man who has the respect of Kansas high school coaches.
Regardless of whether it's Bowen, KU's next coach must be able to recruit high school talent from Texas and Kansas.
The multiple defections, dismissals and non-qualifiers during Charlie Weis’ short time as head coach of the Kansas University football program left the Jayhawks competing with a team that quantitatively is more like one from the Football Championship Division (1-AA) than the Football Bowl Subdivsion.
Although KU has encountered good fortune on the injury front compared to most teams, it still is practicing with only 63 healthy players who originally came to KU on scholarship.
Interestingly, 63 is the scholarship limit for FCS schools. The NCAA maximum for scholarship players on a roster is 85. Unlike in the FBS, the scholarships can’t be spread out with the use of partial rides. Every scholarship must be a full one. No more than 25 scholarships can be awarded in one year in the FBS.
How did it happen?
First, Weis ran off so many bad students and discipline problems that he couldn’t get the roster back to full size in one year.
Second, he tried to retool via the junior-college path and banked his hopes heavily on the so-called Dream Team of junior-college recruits, 16 of them members of the Class of 2013, Weis' second of three recruiting classes. Only eight of the 16 remain in the program. Six jucos from that class — Marquel Combs (pictured above, via his instagram), Marcus Jenkins-Moore, Chris Martin, Kevin Short, Pearce Slater and Mark Thomas — never played a down. Samson Faifilli and Zach Fondal played, but left the program before exhausting their eligibility.
That’s far too many wasted scholarships.
Looking ahead to spring football, KU will have 50 players who arrived on scholarship, plus four walk-ons who earned scholarships (starters Joe Gibson, a center, and T.J. Semke, a defensive lineman, and reserve linebackers Beau Bell and Michael Zunica), plus any Class of 2015 recruit who graduates a semester early, if there is such a player, and enrolls at KU for the start of next semester.
Kansas can bring in 24 more players on scholarship. (Nigel King counted toward the Class of 2015 because of when he enrolled at Kansas). That brings the number of players on scholarship to 78, including the four original walk-ons. That figure assumes no players will transfer, not a likely outcome because a number of them must realize by now they don’t have the talent to fit make it onto the field at KU.
Most FBS teams have about 82 scholarship players at any given time and have more than 75 healthy players on a free ride practicing daily.
As lacking in ready-for-prime time players as this year's team is, next season's will be worse.
Most figured that cornerbacks coach Dave Campo would be the one called in from the bullpen when Sheahon Zenger fired Charlie Weis as Kansas University’s head football coach, but Campo never even took his jacket off to stretch, much less warm up.
“No,” Campo said. “No. No. This is a young man’s game. Really. This is a young man’s game.”
Campo still enjoys being a position coach and brings a great deal of energy to teaching cornerbacks, but he said Zenger absolutely made the right choice to replace Weis.
“They made the right decision for the long term in my opinion,” Campo said. “Now, my opinion’s not going to make a difference at the end of this thing. Clint’s ready. He understands what to do. He understands this community. He understands the culture of the University of Kansas and the people in this community.”
Campo called Bowen, “one of the best young coaches I’ve been around.”
He expressed similar sentiments about Bowen when the former Kansas defensive back was working for him.
Campo was working for the Dallas Cowboys when Bowen was on Dan McCarney’s staff at North Texas in 2011 and had heard about him from a friend of his on the UNT staff. Campo quickly became a fan his coaching abilities when Bowen handled safeties for him and Campo was defensive coordinator in 2012.
“The thing that struck me, more than anything else, is he’s a very, very competitive, no-nonsense guy,” Campo said. “But he understands players and to me, those are the best coaches, the guys who understand players and are very disciplined.”
Campo referenced words he had heard from a recent Ned Yost press conference in which the Royals manager said that once he stopped trying to make all the players all adhere in the same way to his rules and let their personalities flow was when things turned around.
“I think Clint has that ability to be able to, when something’s funny, you laugh at it, but when it’s business, it’s business,” Campo said. “To me, that’s the only way you can really get it done. if you’ve got guys who enjoy themselves while they’re doing something, you know, if you like what you’re doing, you’re going to do it better.”
Campo has worked for some big-time winners, including Jimmie Johnson and Barry Switzer with the Cowboys. He knows winning qualities when he sees them.
“He loves the game of football,” Campo said of Bowen. “He’ll stay here until 4, 5 in the morning if he has to to get the job done.”
It will take long, efficient days for years and years to turn it around and Campo thinks Bowen's the guy to do it.
If it were a case of the Kansas University football team’s sluggish offense lacking speed and playmakers, scoring a combined three points against Duke and Texas would be easier to understand.
But that’s not the case. Running backs De’Andre Mann and Corey Avery hit holes quickly and make sharp cuts. Receivers Nick Harwell, Nigel King, Justin McCay and tight end Jimmay Mundine know how to get open.
And of course, the team’s fastest and most dynamic player is a human TNT stick. The problem is Tony Pierson has had the ball in his hands just 19 times in four games.
So many seniors envisioned bigger roles on a better team than how it has played out for the first third of the schedule. Pierson said he expected about “700 receiving yards and 500 rushing,” for the year.
“It’s not looking good so far,” he said. “I’m going to keep working hard every week to reach that goal.”
The problem is he’s not the reason he has fallen far off the goal pace. He gets open, but either quarterback Montell Cozart’s protection breaks down or the QB doesn’t see Pierson. He has caught 12 passes and rushed the ball seven times.
Getting the ball to Pierson more often ranks high on offensive coordinator John Reagan’s list of priorities. Pierson’s concussion history prohibits him from playing running back on a full-time basis, but he’s so good at it that he needs to average more than 1.75 rushing attempts per game. It’s the best way to ensure the ball ends up in Pierson’s hands far more often than the current rate of 6.33 percent of the plays.
KU’s offense has had 300 snaps. Pierson’s 19 plays (seven runs, 12 catches) have gone for an average of 14.7 yards. The other 281 plays have averaged 4.1 yards.
“Me, Harwell, both of the running backs, Justin and Nigel, there are a lot of playmakers on the field,” Pierson said. “We just need the ball in our hands. At running back, it’s nothing to get a hand-off. But at receiver, that’s based on the line and the quarterback trying to get you the ball.”
He sounded like a guy who missed his original position.
“If I’m not getting the ball a lot, sometimes I want to go back and get a hand-off,” Pierson said. “Miss all the hitting? Not at all. The contact I don’t miss. I don’t miss it.”
Pierson described the first week of practices under Clint Bowen as “more energized and laid-back.” In order for that to translate to an energized offense, the laid-back burner from East St. Louis needs the ball.
Two difficult game-day juggling acts, one a new one, another a holdover from the Charlie Weis staff with a new wrinkle, will go into effect Saturday in Morgantown, West Virginia.
John Reagan wears the headphones of an offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. That’s an unusual combination since the OC more often coaches either quarterbacks, running backs or wide receivers, in that order. Reagan worked for Weis on the sidelines. Most offensive coordinators prefer the view from the press box. Reagan will return to the booth under Bowen’s leadership.
Bowen will continue as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach and handle head-coaching duties.
Bowen was asked Monday morning on the Big 12 conference call about whether he will put some of his DC duties on assistants.
“That’s a great question,” Bowen said, “something I gave a lot of thought to last night. You’re right in my mind with that question. How do you handle those additional responsibilities.”
A great question elicited a great response.
“Where I’m at right now, I feel like I have the best grasp on this defense and how it adjusts when we need to make adjustments and where we need to go next when teams are doing certain things,” Bowen said. “I feel at this point in time, I need to continue to control the defense.”
Which means the additional game duties that assistants will help him with are the ones new to Bowen.
“We kind of started some plans on how I’m going to get other people to assist on game day for game management, clock management, down-and-distance situations, where someone is really in my ear controlling that the whole time so that they’ve constantly got the operation, the next step planned where we want to go with it, a contingency plan, so that when I’m busy with other things, they have all the information I need right at the flash of a second,” Bowen said.
Former KU center Ryan Cantrell, who worked under Reagan at Rice, holds the title “assistant director of operations.” He will continue to serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for Reagan on game day with the offensive line.
Watch this video from Time Warner Cable News in Austin, Texas, and then ask yourself this question: If you were a football coach anywhere from Pop Warner to high school to college, would you show this interview to your team? If not, why not?
His name is Apollos Hester. He plays wide receiver and outside linebacker for East View High in Georgetown, Texas. The interview took place after East View defeated Vandergrift, 42-41.
Hester doesn't have any stars next to his name on his Rivals.com profile, but the guess here is he will inspire football players across America to play football harder and enjoy life more. In a world with too much focus on negativity, Apollos Hester practically jumps out of your computer telling everybody watching that everything's going to be OK.
With one interview, Apollos Hester has transformed from anonymous high school football player to inspirational superhero.
If the Kansas football team can’t snap out of its funk this weekend with a victory against a Central Michigan squad coming off a 37-point loss and likely coming to town without its best player, it’s quite possible today was Charlie Weis’ final Tuesday presser.
If that’s the case, I’ll miss the candid, entertaining sessions.
Even coming off a 41-3 loss at Duke and doing his best to check his sarcastic tongue, Weis didn’t give boring answers to the questions sent his way.
Some of his statements understandably don’t sit well with administrators and athletes, but for reporters, Weis’ candor is a dream come true.
My seven favorite answers from what could be his final Tuesday presser:
1 — Question: “What was the Duke defense doing that shut down (Nick) Harwell?”
Answer: “Montell (Cozart) shut down Harwell. Duke’s defense didn’t shut down Harwell.”
That’s 100 percent accurate. KU’s vastly improved receiving corps doesn’t have the numbers to show it because, in order, a) Cozart isn’t finding open receivers; b) He often misses them when he finds them; c) He’s too entrapped by rushing defenders to see them.
Not many coaches would respond in such a colorful way and would be too fearful of hurting the quarterback’s confidence.
2 — Question: “This may be kind of a simple, dumb question, but ...”
Answer: “Go ahead. Dumb is right up my alley.”
That’s not ersatz humor so often uttered by coaches. You know, C material that gets A laughs. Instead, it was genuinely funny, especially coming off a 41-3 loss to Duke, a game in advance of which he had sounded “confident, bordering on cocky,” to use a phrase he recently used on another topic.
3 — Question: “You already mentioned (running back Corey) Avery, but first road game for a bunch of your freshmen and obviously a lot of them got out there, too. Just the whole experience, what do you think of how those guys handled the road trip?”
Answer: “Well, Avery doesn’t act like a freshman, so it’s tough for me to look at him like a freshman. I think there are different guys you look at different ways. There are a couple guys that looked like they were more looking at the opposing stadium, and really it wasn’t a very intimidating place now. There were about 25,000 people there. They’re far away from you. It wasn’t loud. So there really was nothing to be intimidated about.
“I mean, you’re playing against a nice, solid team. They’re not great, but they’re a nice, solid team that’s turned the corner and they’re winning, so you’re going to have to play well, so really there should have been — field was in great condition, weather didn’t turn out to be an issue, but I mean, really you could look for reasons. There really isn’t one. We’ve gone to places where a freshman walks in and says, ‘My God.’ You walk in and there are 88,000 people there or 100,000 people there, and some of them get overwhelmed, but that game, that should not have been the case.”
It would be difficult to find another coach who just lost to a team by a 41-3 score refer to the victor as, “a nice, solid team. They’re not great, but they’re a nice, solid team.”
What does that make Weis’ team? Well, at least 38 points worse than “nice” or “solid.”
4 — Question: “We saw how well your team played in the first quarter with the emotion against Southeast Missouri. Is that a big key for you guys, just playing with that emotion in a home game coming up?”
Answer (second half of it): “The problem really started between the quarterback and the center, okay, and before you know it, you’re punting and you never even gave your team a chance.
“Put it like this: I’m glad there are lights out there because when the practice is over, the quarterback and center are going to hang out together for quite some time. I don’t know what time tutoring starts, but hopefully they’ll be in in time for tutoring. We (coaches) can’t be out there because that would exceed the four‑hour day.”
Weis paints a nice picture with words and in this case what I pictured was being forced to stay after school to pound chalkboard erasers to clean them, scraping used gum off the bottom of desktops, etc.
5 — Question: “How much did having (suspended running back Thomas) Rawls and not having Rawls have to do with the two different outcomes (a decisive victory against Purdue; a blowout loss to Syracuse).”
Answer: “I mean, he’s a 100‑plus yard rusher every single game, and looking at, following the issues that are going on, I’d be kind of surprised if he played this week. Sign me up for that.
“But I’ve got my own guys’ issues on and off the field. I don’t wish bad on anyone else, but I think that the kid is a legitimately front‑line player. I think he’s really good. So would it have affected them, yeah, it probably would have affected them.”
Regardless of whether it was his intention, Weis pretty much let it be known he thinks it wouldn’t be right to play Rawls, given his off-the-field issue. In fairness, all he said was that he didn’t think he would play, so I’m taking a little bit of a leap there.
Rawls was scheduled for a Tuesday court appearance on larceny and credit-card fraud charges, dating to an April 8th incident at a casino. Rawls, who rushed for 155 yards in a 38-17 victory against Purdue on Sept. 8, is accused of stealing a woman’s purse and using her credit cards.
Rawls, the Chippewas’ best player, was arrested by Saginaw Chppewa Tribal Police the day after his big game. Who would have ever guessed casinos employ video surveillance. I mean, with all that money changing hands, what a shock!
6 — Question: “The problems on third down, is that just another example of the passing game needing to be more efficient, or is there anything more to that?”
Answer: “Well, it really was the passing game on every down. Third down gets magnified. If you’re not throwing and catching, if you’re not throwing and catching, third down gets magnified because now you’re punting. It wasn’t like every third down was third and 12. We had third and and 4s, we had plenty of manageable situations right there, but our efficiency in the pass game was not good, and it’s definitely magnified on third down.”
7 — Question: “Referencing what you said earlier about some guys playing a pretty good game, was Michael Reynolds one of those guys?”
Answer: “No, I would not put him in that group of people that played really well. ... I think when Michael Reynolds was rushing the passer, he looked good. When he wasn’t, he didn’t look very good. You’re not going to get me to say, ‘Yeah’ on very many players you could bring up right now.”
Given the final score, that’s appropriate.
Durham, N.C. — The last 27 times Kansas has played a football game outside of Lawrence, it has lost. Upsetting Duke today could do more than make for a pleasant flight home for the players.
“I think coming back here it would change a lot for us,” right tackle Damon Martin said.
For one thing, the concrete proof that would come with a victory on the road against a team coming off a big season would convince every Jayhawk that he is playing for a better team.
It also would convince a fan base starving for a positive sign that this is a team worth watching for four quarters.
To pull off the upset, the KU O-Line in general and Martin specifically must deliver a better four-quarter performance than in the 34-28 victory against Southeast Missouri State last Saturday.
Offensive coordinator/line coach John Reagan gave his line a better grade in the first half than the second.
“I think that’s fair,” said Martin, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound junior from Arlington, Texas. “We stopped executing in the second half.”
Martin, who in the spring made the move from guard to right tackle, had a particularly rough game.
“I still feel like I think like a guard sometimes, which could be a bad thing, but might not be that bad,” Martin said.
And then there was the play that was just plain bad. Near the end of the first half, Martin stood over a loose ball for a brief eternity and belatedly fell on it.
“I don’t know,” Martin said. “Just a brain (freeze, but smellier), I guess. At least I got on it.”
Seeing him standing over the loose ball was one of the stranger things you’ll ever see in a football game.
“It was a weird play for me, too,” Martin said. “People were yelling from the sideline, and I realized people were running at me, so I made sure I got on it really quick. I don’t know what was going through my mind. It was weird. It won’t ever happen again.”
Martin said the ribbing he received for the play during a film session, “wasn’t too bad, but everyone made sure I knew to get on the ball: ‘If you see the ball, get on it.’ So from now on, that’s what will happen.”
Larry Mazyck, a 6-8, 360-pound junior-college transfer from Washington, D.C., played some at right tackle and could ultimately take the position from Martin if the former guard doesn’t upgrade his performance from last week.
Seven things that must improve significantly from Week 1 to Week 2 to give Kansas any shot at pulling off the upset against Duke, which opened as a 20-point favorite:
The pass rush has to force Duke quarterback Anthony Boone to hurry. In victories against Elon and Troy, Boone has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for an average of 6.96 yards per pass with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He rushed for 47 yards in a 34-17 victory against Troy. Boone threw as many interceptions (13) as touchdowns last season, so he can be rushed into mistakes. Southeast Missouri State quarterback Kyle Snyder had way too much time to pick out receivers in KU’s shaky 34-28 victory.
The secondary has to do a better job. Dexter McDonald played so well that he earned Big 12 defensive player of the week honors with two interceptions and two pass breakups. He was such a force that SEMO quarterback Kyle Snyder stopped throwing anywhere near him. Smart move. Safety Isaiah Johnson and cornerback JaCorey Shepherd didn’t have their best games and Snyder’s fourth-quarter shredding of the defense was extremely unsettling.
KU’s four-man pass rush must improve significantly. If the Jayhawks can’t apply pressure against an FCS offensive line, when can they? Sure, blitzing can cause panic in the pocket, but that also leaves holes in the coverage. It has to start up front and it didn't against Duke.
Quarterback Montell Cozart will need to put a better touch on longer passes to reward Harwell for busting open so often. Harwell gives a defense a huge headache, but if Cozart can’t hit him consistently when he breaks open for potential big gains, the defense can pack it in to take away runs and short passes.
The offensive line needs to do a better job of providing Cozart time to scan the field. Snyder had more time to throw than Cozart did. Typcially, in the trenches is where FBS schools have the biggest advantage against FCS teams. That wasn’t the case Saturday, which is a huge concern. De’Andre Mann praised the run-blocking, so that hasn’t been a problem so far.
Obviously, KU needs to finish better. In its past three games, including at Iowa State and at home vs. Kansas State at the end of last season, Kansas has been outscored, 62-10. What’s going on? Is it a stamina issue, a lack of in-game adjustments, a shortage of the mental toughness needed to bounce back when things start going the other way? Every area needs to be examined to find the answer or answers.
Cozart showed significant improvement, which makes it all the more important to keep him healthy. Even so, Cozart could stand to put a little more pressure on the defense as a running threat. There were a couple of plays that he could have turned it up field for potential first downs and did not. The quality of the opponent takes a huge leap forward Saturday, so KU will need to use every means possible to keep pace.