What KU’s spring transfers can contribute right away

photo by: Madison Shapland/FHSU Athletic Media Relations

Fort Hays State tight end Leyton Cure runs forward against Missouri Southern on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Hays.

After a slow start, the spring transfer window heated up for Kansas football with three key commitments in the span of a week.

Each acquisition represents an assessment by the KU coaching staff that they needed more at a given position — but to what extent can the Jayhawks actually expect immediate contributions this season from players who didn’t participate in spring practice?

Here’s a look at the short- and longer-term prospects for Amir Herring, Bai Jobe and Leyton Cure.

photo by: U-M Photography

Michigan Wolverines lineman Amir Herring (50) during the Wolverines’ game against Purdue Boilermakers at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday, November 4, 2023.

Amir Herring

The KU offensive line, particularly in the interior, was probably the Jayhawks’ most enigmatic position group throughout spring practice. Shane Bumgardner, whose offseason acquisition from NCAA Division II Tiffin served as an apparent suggestion that guard Michael Ford Jr. wasn’t about to slide inside to center, ended up in a position battle with Ford for the center spot anyway, and offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa suggested it might be too early to say whether Bumgardner would get cross-trained at other positions.

Meanwhile, the prospect of Ford vacating the starting guard role opened an apparent opportunity for Iowa State transfer Darrell Simmons Jr., but instead it was longtime program guy Nolan Gorczyca who became one of the primary success stories of the spring and got first-team reps in the Spring Showcase.

Into that rich context (and that’s to say nothing of how Calvin Clements’ injury affects the tackle spot) steps Amir Herring, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman who spent his freshman season at Michigan before transferring to KU as part of the spring window. He joins his cousin and fellow Detroit-area recruit Isaiah Marshall, an early-enrolling freshman and the Jayhawks’ presumptive quarterback of the future, whom he may well end up blocking for in the years ahead.

Herring played in one game for the Wolverines as they went to the national championship. His ability to see more time than that for KU in 2024 will likely depend on his versatility. With the exception of the bowl game, in which Clements stepped in to start with Dominick Puni opting out, the Jayhawks basically used six linemen all season, in part because Ar’maj Reed-Adams moved from left guard to right tackle when Bryce Cabeldue was hurt.

This year’s group may be weaker, but Herring will have to work his way up the hierarchy to earn time. If Bumgardner starts at center (and if Herring’s primary position is guard) he will come in behind four guards in Ford, Kobe Baynes, Gorczyca and Simmons. Even if Ford earns that spot, Herring could find himself in a role similar to that of Spencer Lovell, who only ended up playing 26 snaps and then transferring.

Also of note is that the Jayhawks may not yet be done tinkering with this group. JayhawkSlant reported on Tuesday that they will get a visit from Bryce Foster, a former Texas A&M center who was a freshman All-American in 2021, who would have a good chance of stepping in right away as a power-conference starter (and whose arrival would not bode well for Bumgardner, a redshirt senior in his last year of eligibility).

Herring is much more of a long-term play than that. He could start as early as 2025, but this year, if all goes according to plan health-wise, he should play only a peripheral role.

photo by: Michigan State Athletics

Michigan State defensive end Bai Jobe (22) during a game against Washington on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich.

Bai Jobe

The Kansas fan base has already drummed up a lot of (quite justified) excitement for incoming freshman edge rusher Deshawn Warner, one of the Jayhawks’ highest-touted recruits in a longtime. He’s a player ranked by 247Sports as the No. 7 player at his position in the 2024 class, and one who may even have a chance to contribute as a freshman, along with teammate and classmate Dakyus Brinkley.

Now imagine how excited KU fans would be if Warner had already spent a year practicing with a Big Ten program and developing his body with a Big Ten strength and conditioning staff.

That is the reality of Bai Jobe, who comes to KU after one year at Michigan State, and who, as it happens, was the No. 7 edge rusher in the 2023 class.

Jobe, who is originally from Senegal but played high school ball in Norman, Oklahoma, had a dizzying array of powerhouse programs battling for his services out of high school. He is 6-foot-4 and, at least according to his trainer Sean Cooper, now 245 pounds. He arrives at KU’s thinnest position right when the Jayhawks need him.

Now, to pump the brakes for a moment, he has also played 11 career snaps in one college game for a team that was both mediocre and in turmoil. The explosiveness and quick-twitch reactions that define Jobe, as touted by Cooper, are primarily theoretical at this point until he shows them in a game.

However, for one thing, that was also the case with Austin Booker, who barely played at all at Minnesota before transferring to KU and turning into a Big 12 Conference award-winner and NFL draft pick. And in addition, as unproven as the Jayhawks’ pass-rush options may be, it’s not like Jobe will have to shoulder all of the weight. If Dean Miller can continue his own work with strength coach Matt Gildersleeve and the nutrition staff — who were also instrumental in Booker’s development — he should emerge as a perfectly viable option to rotate with Jobe and, if available, Dylan Brooks.

While Jobe has four years to play, and will likely make his greatest impact down the line, the KU coaching staff should give him every opportunity to carve out a significant role as soon as he arrives in Lawrence.

photo by: Madison Shapland/FHSU Athletic Media Relations

Fort Hays State tight end Leyton Cure during a game against Washburn on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Hays.

Leyton Cure

Much as with defensive-end production, the Kansas coaching staff has something of a track record when it comes to developing former Division II players, given that it just sent Puni to the NFL.

The Jayhawks went to the Division II ranks to add another pass-catching option for quarterback Jalon Daniels when they earned a commitment from Cure, a Goodland native who becomes the fifth Kansan in KU’s tight-end room.

It’s hard to imagine the Jayhawks would have sought to add at this position unless they were concerned about fellow transfer DeShawn Hanika’s leg injury (the exact severity of which is unknown) and the ability of incumbents Trevor Kardell and Jared Casey to replace his production.

Casey is an intriguing piece for offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes but is also built more like a fullback (a position he originally played). Kardell has an ideal frame at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, but has also caught just 16 passes for 220 yards in four seasons at KU and is trying to replace a player, Mason Fairchild, who averaged 25 catches across each of the last three years.

In comes the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Cure, who redshirted at Fort Hays State in 2021, had a semi-productive season with 281 yards and two touchdowns in 2022, then missed 2023 due to injury. Not quite a proven track record, but enough on film to impress Grimes in the portal.

It’s easy to envision a scenario in which, absent Hanika, Cure and Kardell become co-headliners of the tight end group, and then Cure stakes a claim for the top tight end spot in his next two years of eligibility, as KU’s wide receiver group becomes increasingly young and thin. It’s also easy to imagine that he could become buried on the depth chart in 2024 and even more so in 2025 depending on Hanika’s status and portal additions.

The former seems a little more likely at this juncture given how eager Grimes was to work him into the mix; Cure told Jon Kirby of JayhawkSlant.com, “He just liked the way I could move and run routes. He just liked that about my game, and he really thought that I could help them out. He told me that he takes tight ends in all sizes, and as long as you can scheme people to get open and use their skill set, and that’s what he likes to do.”


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