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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Juco standouts: Signing with KU football signals start of a dream

Standout defensive linemen Marquel Combs, left, and Chris Martin, right, are on their way from the junior-college ranks to Kansas University’s football team after signing and faxing in letters of intent on Wednesday.

Standout defensive linemen Marquel Combs, left, and Chris Martin, right, are on their way from the junior-college ranks to Kansas University’s football team after signing and faxing in letters of intent on Wednesday.

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For a college football team not playing in a bowl game, the Kansas University football program sure generated a lot of December hype on Wednesday.

Led by Pierce Community College defensive tackle Marquel Combs, the No. 1 rated junior-college player in the country according to ESPN, and City College of San Francisco defensive end Chris Martin, nine future Jayhawks signed and faxed their letters of intent to Lawrence on Wednesday.

Combs, the leader of his recruiting class’ self-dubbed “Dream Team 2013” movement, signed mid-morning and faxed his letter to KU after a ceremony at Pierce with friends and teammates.

For the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Combs, signing on the dotted line wasn’t just a formality at the end of a long recruitment.

“Other than the day I was born, this was the biggest day of my life,” Combs said a few minutes after signing. “I got to sign with a few of my teammates that I’ve been doing this with for a long time, and I was just like, ‘I made it.’ It’s a dream come true, going to play Div. I football, and I get the opportunity to do it.”

Later in the day, KU’s class gained another defensive standout when Martin, a former Notre Dame commitment who played at Florida during the spring of 2011, made his commitment official.

Martin, 6-4, 260, orally committed to KU last Saturday and said Wednesday that making up his mind took very little encouragement from KU coach Charlie Weis.

“It wasn’t too much recruiting, honestly,” Martin said. “He knew that I would take it at any jump, and that it was just a matter of coming out and seeing Kansas and putting some validity behind what they were preaching to me in California.”

Since arriving at Florida, Martin has played for three schools — two junior colleges — and bounced around because of some negativity surrounding his commitment. But the player who described himself as “an intelligent but nasty football player,” said he was looking forward to setting the record straight at KU under Weis.

“We talked about some old stuff that we both have a chip on our shoulders because of,” Martin said. “We both feel the same way. He doesn’t want to have a repeat of everything that happened before. We want to win.”

As for his own personal goals at KU, Martin said he hoped to show people that he can be a positive and productive part of any team.

“I want to prove everyone wrong,” he said. “That I can show solidarity in a program, that I can buy into a program and I can be successful within that program. Those three things loom around as baggage for me and I’d like to change that.”

Combs and Martin were the headliners of Wednesday’s signees, but far from the only players with potential to make an impact in 2013.

In all, the Jayhawks added six defensive players, two offensive linemen and one punter/kickoff specialist, all of whom will arrive in time for the start of the spring semester and be eligible for spring football in March.

“For a 1-11 football team to be fighting in the top half of the Big 12 in recruiting at this stage is very impressive,” Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, told JayhawkSlant.com's Jon Kirby while pointing to KU’s fifth-place spot in the site’s latest Class of 2013 Big 12 rankings. “And the schools Charlie Weis has beaten, teams like Kansas State, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and others, shows how well he can recruit. Many of these junior-college players will have an instant impact, and I think they will make the team more competitive next season and possibly help a bowl push the year after.”

That’s the goal, according to both Combs and Martin, who have not been shy about setting the bar high for their class and the 2013 team.

“We’re all saying it’s a bowl game next year,” Martin said. “It’s just which one are we gonna be in. And all our hype’s on ‘BCS or bigger.’ That’s just how it has to be, and if you’re not thinking that then you’re not thinking in the right direction for any program.”

Combs and Martin were not the only defensive linemen to sign with the Jayhawks on Wednesday. Tedarian Johnson (6-3, 260, Hinds C.C.) and the familiar Ty McKinney (6-3, 310, Trinity Valley C.C.) also made their commitments official, joining defensive backs Dexter McDonald (6-1, 205, Butler) and Cassius Sendish (6-2, 185, Arizona Western) as well as offensive linemen Ngalu Fusimalohi (6-3, 300, City College of San Francisco) and Mike Smithburg (6-3, 300, Iowa Western). Punter and kickoff specialist, Trevor Pardula (6-5, 210, De Anza College) also sent his letter of intent to Lawrence and, summed it up well for the entire class after the fax went through.

“It felt great just to finally have it be official,” Pardula said. “I feel like the coaches are putting together a great group of guys. And just like so many of the other guys who have signed today, I just can’t wait to get to work.”

The players were far from the only ones overjoyed by the haul. Weis, who will hold a news conference today to answer questions about his newest players, let his excitement leak out on Twitter.

“Time to take a breath,” Weis wrote. “I’m a happy man! All midyear NLI’s signed, sealed, and delivered!”

Added defensive coordinator Dave Campo, rarely one to overhype things: “Jayhawk Nation, our time is coming!”

Comments

Randy Maxwell 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe horrible KU football fans will actually be excited, I AM

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

You're a horrible KU football fan? Or excited?

Ian Ballinger 1 year, 11 months ago

what do you mean "horrible KU football fans"? If anything, KU football fans are the most loyal KU fans for sticking with the team this long.

Ron Prichard 1 year, 11 months ago

As a KU fan who has had season football tickets--and actually gone to games and stayed until the end for most games--even I have to say you can't possibly be serious. KU football fans are as fickle as they come. Most people I know would rather go and tailgate than go into the game. The ones that do go in tend to leave at half and never come back. I don't know if that is any different at other schools that are struggling, but I know it's not any better. I hope that changes, and the team definitely needs to do its part and win to create a positive atmosphere for the fans, but "most loyal" is not how I would describe current KU football fans in general.

Micky Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

It's the ones that kept saying, "This is no different that Gill", when we lost to Texas by 4, for example.

Sam Constance 1 year, 11 months ago

I have a problem with labeling fans "horrible" because they only show a casual interest in a team that has gone 6-30 over the past 3 seasons with no signs of improvement until this year.

But if that's how it is, I guess I'm one of the "horrible" ones.

Whatever. I will always root for and support my Jayhawks, but my level of effort in watching/attending games is definitely related to their level of competitiveness. Note that I didn't say it depended on them winning--just being competitive.

For what it's worth: I am excited by this class.

Micky Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

I don't have a problem when some say "I'm done until next year", 4 games into the season and then come back 6 games letter saying "I told you so", even when they didn't see us lose by 4 to Texas or in double OT to Texas Tech or lose by 6 to Oklahoma State, all teams that beat us handily the year before.

Sam Constance 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, those fans are (I think) in the minority, and they exist even when things are going well. Some people are just born to hate.

Or as Kayne West would say it [edited for appropriateness[]: They'll always be haters that's just the way it is. Hater [gentlemen] grow up and marry hater [ladies] and have hater kids.

I just think you have to be careful about trotting out the "bad fans" label in a time when the team/program has given fans very little to be excited about.

Micky Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

The chip on their shoulder is big motivational factor. This is not a bad thing. They have something to prove. It will probably resonate throughout the entire roster as well.

Dillon Davis 1 year, 11 months ago

MJK Moore didn't sign, what's up with that? Plus is says on rivals that he has only given us a "soft verbal". I hope he's not having second thoughts.

Kman_blue 1 year, 11 months ago

Marcus Jenkins-Moore is a not a mid-year transfer so he won't be at KU until June next year, and he can't sign until the regular signing period (Feb.6 through April 1).

Also, there's nothing at all soft about his verbal commitment to KU. He's the 1st of the 2013DreamTeam to have committed and he was very active in recruiting several of these early signees, including his best friend, Combs.

Casey Gee 1 year, 11 months ago

Don't worry, he's a good friend of Combs and according to Combs has been working to recruit other players to KU. That sounds like commitment to me.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 11 months ago

From Tait's blog

Marcus Jenkin-Moore. Isnt he signing today??????

Matt Tait - I think he's a summer arrival. I may have mixed that up somewhere in the past week or so... Sorry!

Kman_blue 1 year, 11 months ago

Matt,

You left out offensive lineman Zach Fondal (6-5, 295, Navarro).

I've heard he signed and faxed in his LOI to KU at about 1pm today. Did he not sign today or is something up with his paperwork or was this just an oversight??

Matt Tait 1 year, 11 months ago

I heard the same thing and assume that's true. For some reason, though, KU did not officially release his name as one of the guys they received a letter of intent from so it's not yet official.

Hoping to find out what's up today. Fondal's not a great phone/Facebook communicator so I'll have to ask around. Most likely it's something small and there's not much need to panic because he officially has until Jan. 15 to sign and still be able to report for the spring semester.

Kman_blue 1 year, 11 months ago

Matt,

I'm now hearing that Fondal's paper work was given final clearance this morning.

Is that true and has the University now officially released his name also?

Mike Barnhart 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm still rooting for Ty McKinney. To go through what he went through, that guy really wanted to be a Jayhawk!

Casey Gee 1 year, 11 months ago

Ya, and I feel like he was one of our higher end recruits from last year. If so, or defense took a major overhaul and upgrade yesterday. No wonder Campo is so excited.

Jason Keller 1 year, 11 months ago

Defense - CHECK

Offense - I still think we are looking for next year's replacements for those 3 on the offensive line that we lost. I know we have a couple pieces but no one in my opinion who could produce like those guys did. Hopefully we get QB play out of Heaps and he has some chemistry with an improved receiving group.

Joe Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

Gotta protect Heaps to make the plays

texashawk10 1 year, 11 months ago

Riley Spencer and Dylan Admire are pretty good players who should adequately replace Hawkinson and Marongelli. LG may be a little bit of a concern, but I think KU has enough with their recruits and guys already there to where the OLine shouldn't be a major concern next year.

Blake Post 1 year, 11 months ago

Hope these guys are crushers. After 4 years of losing, often getting stomped, would be great to once again have something before basketball. And my favorite memories are stomping Nu, Mu and ksu. Two are gone so cats are the Target. Lot of tough teams in big 12, so it will be intriguing to see what can be achieved.

Jeffery Barrett 1 year, 11 months ago

Agreed, hawkman. I am getting tired of my purple-wearing family members rubbing it in EVERY week! Go 'Hawks!!!

bigtex 1 year, 11 months ago

Heaps will definitely make KU better!! Great arm, accurate, excellent timing and class individual. All the receivers will benefit from this guy. I hope O-line can give him time. Defensive lineman that can be productive will allow our linebackers to run freely to the ball and allow are defensive backs to play more aggressively in coverage. Go Jayhawks !!!

Robert Brock 1 year, 11 months ago

"All the receivers...". Well, I hope that we find some. The worst mistake our QBs made this past season was to throw the ball right into the receivers hands.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

I don't want to be my usual, downer self.

So I'll say I'm excited about these guys' potential. Emphasis on potential.

Lucas Town 1 year, 11 months ago

Cam Newton only won the Heisman and took Auburn to win a National Title. So they NEVER work out. Snyder at K-State has made many Juco kids All-Americans. So your right they NEVER work out.

Boouk 1 year, 11 months ago

I advise all fellow KU fans to completely ignore this idiotic post from this KSU troll.

Luke Kay 1 year, 11 months ago

I love the excitement these guys are showing in regards to coming to KU. Change the mental perception and the physical will follow. With the right players we could be a 6 win team next season, which would be a HUGE improvement. Welcome to Lawrence gentlemen!

Jim Jackson 1 year, 11 months ago

Incorrect. JUCO guys are what brought this program back to respectability from '02-'07

Mat Davis 1 year, 11 months ago

I like that the JUCO guys have big goals. Especially in a rebuilding situation, it's imperative that you have guys that are dreaming bigger than just mediocrity. Sometimes having only guys for 2 years creates a sense of urgency and for this ballclub, that's a great thing. I love that Chris Martin said he's a "nasty football" player. As a defensive coach, that's the kind of guy you want on your side of the ball. Hopefully our players will enjoy having him, and opponents will despise him.

Ron Prichard 1 year, 11 months ago

The International Champions Bowl?

The Universe Bowl?

escaped_labrat 1 year, 11 months ago

Pretty sure he was referring to BCS or National Championship Game

kujayhox 1 year, 10 months ago

i don't know, the universe bowl sounds pretty intriguing.

Steve Corder 1 year, 11 months ago

Winning starts on the O-Line and D-Line, in the pits.

Encouraging.

Lucas Town 1 year, 11 months ago

I am not sure I like the use of the phrase "Dream Team" Its like our phrase "History Awaits" which is accurate because our program is history at the moment. If for some chance these guys don't pan out, we will get more flack from others about this. The "Dream Team" is a tall order to fill. I guess we have to start somewhere because "The Calvary" never made it to Lawrence.

Chris1955 1 year, 11 months ago

The calvary must have taken a detour through the Little Big Horn. this would explain why they never got here.

Eric Dawson 1 year, 11 months ago

Pet peeve warning --

Calvary is the hill outside Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. Cavalry is a highly mobile army unit, originally on horseback, today in armored ground transports or helicopters.

And in the history of the West, the cavalry was frequently too little, too late, even when they did make it where they were needed. Unfortunately our biggest headache wasn't the cavalry (who were an improvement), but the fact that the artillery we thought we had was defective, and no replacements were readily available.

Joe Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross."

We definitely have the cavalry coming to KU next year.

The weapons are are ready.

Kman_blue 1 year, 11 months ago

The big difference between "History Awaits" or "The Cavalry" is that 2013DreamTeam was coined by the recruits themselves. Marquel Combs actually is the one who came up with it. It's not a marketing gimmick come up with by KU Athletics.

I've got no problems with it since it was from the recruits themselves and it's something they all believe in which makes it more personal to them and their motivation for next year.

On a personal note, it's got me more excited about next year knowing this is the mindset of our new recruits.

texashawk10 1 year, 11 months ago

I love it! I love seeing the incoming players setting the bar very high for themselves. Are they going to go BCS or bigger? Doubtful, but it's great that the players themselves are setting the goals without needing the motivation from the coaching staff. That's going to drive offseason workouts and spring practice and make everyone on the team better players.

bville_hawk 1 year, 11 months ago

What are you looking for? Why should anybody associated with KU Athletics comment on something like that? What could they possibly say to put a positive spin on it?

Kyle Cornish 1 year, 11 months ago

I believe they just responded yesterday... Look at that JuCo recruiting class.

whitechocolate 1 year, 11 months ago

The article also lists KU as the worst program for the money. He doesn't seem to mind talking about State anyways. When an outlet notes that you spent the most money with the smallest return, I think it should at least be acknowledged.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

And by "worst" I mean winning 6 games in the past 3 years, and setting historically abyssmal records while doing it.

I know you're all going to jump on me for that comment, but please consider it contextually.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

But we're also one of the worst programs in the country. So regardless of how much money we designate, that's going to be the case.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah...don't know where you goin with that, pal.

The only, and I stress only, reason K-State can keep that happening is because of Bill Snyder. If they were struggling with another coach...say a Turner Gill or Charlie Weis....they would have to pump a lot more money into the program.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

The point is, it's not worth Weis' time. He's got bigger fish to fry.

Casey Gee 1 year, 11 months ago

It is ridiculous to compare KU to KSU. KU is in the investment phase right now which is notoriously high dollar and low yield. KSU is in the payoff phase which is lower dollar and very high yield. Of course we're one of the worst teams for the money we spend, but we have to spend a lot of money on coaches to attract the ones we need to turn this around, it just hasn't turned into wins... yet.

Joe Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

I was really hoping to get St John. I knew OU would get him the second I read they were being considered. I wonder if St John was the only one OU recruited?

Joe Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

I guess my gripe is since when does OU tap the likes of jucos for their talent? They usually get the 4-5 star high school studs. They must be losing out to the SEC on recruits. OU is also in the hunt for Laremy Tunsil, OT, high school 5-star, but this kid is being recruited by the entire SEC. OU must not think they have much of a chance.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

I guess their view in this case is 4-5 stars is 4-5 stars....regardless of high school of JUCO.

Boouk 1 year, 11 months ago

Getting the 6'8 330 pound JUCO OT Matt Finnin would make up for the miss on Josiah St. John. I'm not saying Finnin will be better than St. John, but Finnin's list of offers is every bit as impressive as St. John's, and Finnin obviously has way better size. I think we have a good chance at landing Finnin because Combs has been recruiting him for a while, he's already visited KU and he probably won't go to OU now because of St. John's commitment yesterday.

JayHok 1 year, 11 months ago

Type

#2013DreamTeam

into your search bar. Lots of posts from fans, players, recruits, coaches, journalists. This should be a pretty fun to follow for the next 6 months.

kranny 1 year, 11 months ago

The recruiting news is great but I remain cautiously optimistic. I heard similar things about Crist and it didn't pan out. We need athletes and it sounds like these guys help take care of that. But, until it translates to wins, the jury is still out. I hope that if Heaps or any other position doesn't pan out, we go to another QB or player before mid-season. One thing in our favor is that with maybe the exception of Texas, many Big 12 teams lose their main guns and may have to rebuild/reload. We maybe on a more level playing field.

JayHok 1 year, 11 months ago

As for that search, click on the twitter #2013DreamTeam

Interesting to see a couple KSU fans using #2013DreamTeam to feed the fire with some pretty rude comments. We need to stay classy but it shows legitimate fear on their part to be worried about us with two weeks before their bowl game.

I hope our recruits are taking note. It also makes me think the KSU fanbase is pretty certain Snyder is back for one more year. 74 year old birthday upcoming. How he cheats any and all illnesses during the bitter cold within a flu-ridden college campus year after year at his age is something for all of us to admire.

JayHok 1 year, 11 months ago

Kranny,

I certainly get your point. All fans ask for is a desire to be the best, play with passion with well designed plays, and this staff asks the same. This coaching staff is a perfect fit for our fanbase. Keep in mind Weis and all had perhaps a few weeks of actual practice time before the season started last year. He had been with the program 6 months but on the field, practicing, not all that much.

Simple logic of practice time alone, a year and a half, we should look so much better to start next season. At some point our fans will get back to the pyschology we had in 2007 and 2008. We didn't predict anything in terms of a final record. We just wanted to win the next game and thoroughly enjoy watching it. That's the same approach a school like Alabama's fans naturally takes in football, only because that is truly the natural way to look at a situation. The thought would be, "We know we "can" win every game. However these games are only won if the focus is one game at a time."

Our 12-1 season, not all that far from being 14-0, happened because the fans, coaches and players all came together understanding that simple mission. The fundamentals were obviously huge as we're the JUCO players we had. Well we have both of those elements again, finally, after disappearing from the radar for three years.

Next year will be a fun season. A huge difference between getting 4 star recruits who have played two years of college ball already compared to 4 star high school players.

A major difference. We need to open up a could more options during the games to keep the opposing defenses guessing and we'll really be a sharp team next year. We might need a couple more ready OL players. Maybe a TE.

If Heaps and his receivers are at the gym every day running routes we have the biggest missing piece from our offense already half-way fixed.

2013DreamTeam

Should be a lot of fun next year!

Ben Kliewer 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm satisfied... now, put the crimson stripe back on the helmets!

rockchalker5 1 year, 11 months ago

Chris Martin looks like an over-sized Nelly. But I would not be too eager to line up across from the guy...

Joseph Kuebel 1 year, 11 months ago

Sorry Combs didn't go to Kstate... I'm sure you'd like to line up against him. Looking forward to KU continue their history of beating your Kstate team. Be prepared for a loss next year!

PSM 1 year, 11 months ago

KU generated a lot of buzz? like, in the tri-county area? Dream Team is so stupid. 3-9, 2-10, 1-11. We are laughably bad. Remember these guys are in Juco because they weren't good enough for D-1 out of high school, had academic issues or generally did not have their stuff together. Probs going 0-12 next year.

escaped_labrat 1 year, 11 months ago

Sure your name wasn't a dyslexic typo on the last two letters?

BringBackMark 1 year, 11 months ago

If this Juco experiment doesn't work we're in real trouble two years from now. Keep in mind that this years team should have been 5-7 rather than 1-11. I hang those additional 4 losses on Weis for a) not benching Crist after about 3 quarters of the first game and b) not being able to coach in the last 5 minutes of a game.

I appreciate everyones enthusiasm regarding these players and I certainly hope it puts us back to a competitive level. My guess is these kids will need one year of strength and conditioning just to get them to a Big 12 level. Then they'll be seniors and we'll have one quality year. Everyone keeps saying how Snyder did it with Juco's. He actually did more recruiting the unwanted player out of North Central Kansas and developing them in to NFL talent. He missed on as many juco players as he hit on.

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