I talked earlier this year about how Kansas football coach Charlie Weis should embrace risk with this year's football team. If you remember, one high-risk, potentially high-reward tactic was loading his latest recruiting class with 19 junior-college scholarship players.
So is the gamble paying off? Because we now have the Week 1 depth chart, let's look at where each of those 19 players are now.
• Ngalu Fusimalohi (LG)
• Mike Smithburg (RG)
• Zach Fondal (RT)
• Dexter McDonald (RC)
• Isaiah Johnson (SS)
• Samson Faifili (WLB)
• Cassius Sendish (FS)
• Trevor Pardula (KO, P)
• Kevin Short (RC)
KU had significant offseason losses at offensive line and in the secondary, so it's not too surprising that six of the nine starters above fit into those two position groups. Looking at it now, Weis most likely identified those two spots as his team's biggest needs coming into the year, and so far, the new guys have produced enough in practice to give themselves the first shots at playing time.
Second team (5)
• Darrian Miller (H)
• Rodriguez Coleman (Z)
• Tedarian Johnson (LE/T)
• Brandon Hollomon (LC)
• Marquel Combs (N)
The surprise on this list — so far — is Marquel Combs, who was ranked the No. 1 junior-college player in the nation last year by ESPN.com. Though he still should get playing time as part of the defensive line rotation, it's at least a bit surprising he hasn't performed well enough to step into a starting role. If Combs turns out to be a better player in games than in practices, as Matt Tait suggests, then there's obviously a possibility he could move his way up the rotation in the coming weeks.
Injured/Will take red shirt (1)
• Marcus Jenkins-Moore (LB)
An offseason knee injury kept Jeninks-Moore — a juco teammate of Combs' — from competing for a starting spot at linebacker.
Likely red shirts (2)
• Andrew Bolton (DE)
• Mark Thomas (WR)
Bolton is recovering from a knee injury, so Weis said his preference was to red-shirt him this year. If he was fully healthy, he appeared to be a guy that could have helped the Jayhawks' D-line immediately.
No longer on roster (2)
• Chris Martin (Buck)
• Pearce Slater (OL)
Martin would most likely have been KU's best pass-rusher this season had off-field issues not led to his dismissal from the team. Slater, meanwhile, is listed on the roster of his old junior college (El Camino College) after spending a few days this fall practicing with the Jayhawks. Had he stuck around, he would have competed for a starting spot at tackle.
Here's the full breakdown of KU's 2013 juco scholarship players:
Almost half of the junior-college guys have earned starting spots, while nearly three-fourths are expected to contribute Week 1 against South Dakota.
Though not all of the juco guys have been success stories, you'd have to think this kind of roster overhaul is what Weis envisioned — and hoped for — when he inked so many experienced players a year ago.
Today's Sideline Report is with Kansas junior linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, who will sit out the 2013 season after suffering a knee injury in the summer.
Jesse Newell: Who’s the funniest teammate you have?
Marcus Jenkins-Moore: Marquel (Combs).
JN: Is he even funnier in person?
MJM: In person? He’s funny anywhere. I’m with him 24/7, so my jaw is hurting from laughing so much. Real talk.
JN: What do you guys do together?
MJM: We just hang out. Play games. I haven’t beat him in 2K. He’s a really good 2K player.
JN: Do you play as a bad team?
MJM: He’s just been getting lucky. (smiles)
JN: What do you remember about the first time you met Charlie Weis in person?
MJM: The first time I met coach was when I came on my visit. I went up to his office, saw him. I was like, ‘OK, it’s real. It’s real.’ After seeing him on TV every Saturday on NBC, to finally get to meet him … the guy offered me a scholarship. It was a blessing.
JN: Kind of a crazy moment, then?
MJM: Exactly. The man’s a legend. He’s a legend.
JN: Who’s a person you admire?
MJM: My mom. She’s strong. After she heard what I’ve been through (with a season-ending knee injury), she didn’t cry. I did, but she didn’t. She just encouraged me to keep moving, stay strong, do what I’ve got to do to get back. All the stuff she’s been through, being a single parent, dealing with me … I admire her the most.
JN: Were you tough to deal with growing up?
MJM: I was. I was a little hard-headed, but she got through to me, told me what I had to do.
JN: What makes her so strong?
MJM: She’s been working at one job for 36 years. She had a tough time growing up. She told me some things she’s been through, and I was like, ‘Man.’ I didn’t know until she told me. I just see her as one of those parents that doesn’t ever give up on their kids.
JN: What’s a food you can’t live without?
MJM: Chicken. If I don’t have chicken, I’m not living. (laughs)
JN: Is there any restaurant that does that best?
MJM: Back home (in Memphis), we’ve got this place called 'Big Momma’s.'
JN: That sounds like a good place.
MJM: Sweetest cornbread you’ll ever eat.
JN: Are they popular?
MJM: It’s popular in the city. If you come, you’ll see.
JN: What’s something that not many people know about you?
MJM: I’m a very good bowler. I’ll beat anybody.
JN: What scores are we talking here?
MJM: My high score was 289. … I’m 250s, 260s. But 289 was my high score.
JN: What was the toughest part about the injury for you?
MJM: Thinking about it. Just thinking about my whole situation: what I’ve been through to get here. It was really hard for me.
JN: When you called your mom, how did that conversation go?
MJM: Man. I started crying. I didn’t want to tell her. She asked me, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Something bad happened to my knee.’ She was just encouraging me the whole time. She was like, ‘I don’t care what happened. Everything’s going to be all right. Just keep praying.’ And that was it.
JN: Your favorite Disney character?
MJM: Goofy. He’s goofy. Goofy is funny.
JN: Was he your favorite growing up?
MJM: Yeah. I used to watch him and Donald Duck. Him, Donald, Bugs (Bunny). I’m a Mickey Mouse fan, too.
JN: If I walked into your room, what’s something that would stand out to me?
MJM: My shoes. I’m an Air Force Jordans guy. People are like, ‘Dang, why do you have so many shoes?’ And I don’t even wear them all.
JN: How many you have?
MJM: Right now, I’ve probably got like 15. Well, you know, I couldn’t take everything from Cali.
JN: What’s an embarrassing TV show you watch?
MJM: The Parkers.
JN: What do you like about it?
MJM: Man, they are cracking up. Professor Oglevee (laughs), he’ll be dissing Nikki. But it’s funny, though. It makes me laugh.
JN: What’s something unexpected about Lawrence that you didn’t know until you got here?
MJM: Man, the people. I thought it was just going to be just land, land and then a couple people. There’s people out here, and they’re really cool. I really like the city. They like the team. They support the team. I met a couple people that are really expecting us to do good things this year. So they’re really exciting me.
JN: Is there anything interesting or unexpected that I’d find in your refrigerator?
MJM: Unexpected … I’m not a yogurt guy, but I just started eating it. Interesting would probably be Kool-Aid.
JN: Man, I love Kool-Aid.
MJM: Kool-Aid’s the thing, man. Kool-Aid will take you as far as you want it, but you’ve got to have sugar. You can’t drink Kool-Aid without sugar.
JN: What’s your favorite flavor or color?
MJM: See, the trick is, you’ve got to get Tropical Punch, Grape, Orange, but you’ve got to have a Lemon to mix it with. Always mix a strong flavor with a Lemon, so it tastes like lemonade, but it’s really Tropical Punch.
JN: But that makes it look kind of brown, doesn’t it?
MJM: Nah. If it’s green, it’s going to be green, because it’s yellow.
JN: Oh, the yellow mixes into it.
JN: What do you hope to accomplish before your career is over at KU?
MJM: Just to build this program back up.
Just to get all the people off coach Weis’ back. Everybody’s doubting him, so I want to be a part of the team that helped him accomplish something big — (when) people weren’t planning on us to even be a talked-about team in the nation. I just want to help him have that story from what he did with this team a year ago to what we’re going to be.
And, you know, I want to be a cool guy. I like people. As long as they’re nice, it’s cool.