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LJWorld.com weblogs Tale of the Tait

Loss of Combs far from devastating for KU football

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So defensive tackle Marquel Combs is leaving the Kansas University football program after spending less than four months in Lawrence.

On the surface, the news certainly comes as a surprise, but, a closer look at all that has unfolded during his time at KU provides evidence that we should have seen this coming.

These are the moments that sports writers tend to regret. You spend months hyping up a player you've never seen play who has a big name, a shiny ranking given to him by somebody you don't know and a charming personality only to wind up looking bad when things go south.

The good news in this instance is I think Combs is the one who ends up looking bad here.

I have no issue with an athlete wanting to be and play somewhere he feels comfortable. Maybe, for whatever reason, KU just was not quite what Combs expected it would be. But, at least from where I sit, it sure looks more like that reason is tied strongly to the fact that the former No. 1 ranked juco player in the country according to ESPN.com got here, found out he was going to have to work for his spot and did not really want to do that.

Nearly everything that happened after Combs found that out led to this moment and, although the critics surely will use this as just another reason to laugh at KU coach Charlie Weis and Kansas football, it sure sounds like the program will be stronger and better with Combs playing elsewhere — wherever that may be.

See, Weis' program is not built on entitlement, favoritism and prima donnas. He's said that more than once and, better than that, he's proven it over and over. The best players play. Doesn't matter if you're a walk-on, a has-been or a never was. If you're better than the guy you're competing with, you're on the field. Players respect that. And such an environment tends to produce a locker room full of guys who work their butts off day in and day out because they understand that. No gray areas. No nonsense.

Combs never seemed to get that. Or, if he did, he never seemed to think it applied to him.

Where Combs goes from here is anyone's guess. People with knowledge of Combs' time at KU said the highly-touted defensive tackle was struggling to adjust to KU in more areas than just the playing field, where he dressed but did not play in the season opener and then did not suit up for KU's next two games, including not even traveling to Rice after being pencilled in as a second-stringer and then sent down the red-shirt path.

One national recruiting analyst I spoke to said many teams backed off Combs the first time around because of personality issues and Combs may have a tough time selling himself a second time around after arriving at KU with the hype of a heavyweight title fight and leaving with the sound of a whoopie cushion.

The only question that remains with Combs now is will he wind up becoming the next Brock Berglund, set free to ride off to greener pastures only to never be heard from again? Berglund, by the way, is a sophomore at North Texas — his second school since leaving KU — and has not thrown a pass in a game this season.

Don't be surprised if Combs follows a similar path.

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