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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

D-line coach: KU newcomer Bolton rusty, but star talent

Kansas University defensive lineman Andrew Bolton stretches during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at the Jayhawks’ fall camp. Bolton, a juco newcomer, has star potential once he knocks off some rust, according to his coach on the KU defensive line, Buddy Wyatt.

Kansas University defensive lineman Andrew Bolton stretches during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at the Jayhawks’ fall camp. Bolton, a juco newcomer, has star potential once he knocks off some rust, according to his coach on the KU defensive line, Buddy Wyatt.

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When former five-star defensive end Chris Martin was dismissed from the Kansas University football program this offseason after a run-in with the law, KU fans started to utter the name Andrew Bolton more than just about any other.

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Kansas University defensive lineman Andrew Bolton stretches during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at the Jayhawks’ fall camp. Bolton, a juco newcomer, has star potential once he knocks off some rust, according to his coach on the KU defensive line, Buddy Wyatt.

Because of his elite blend of power and speed, Bolton, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive end from Hinds (Miss.) Community College, developed quite a reputation during the recruiting process for being the type of player who could make a major difference in a short time.

While his potential to do that remains intact, defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt cautioned about expecting too much too soon from the former three-star prospect who chose Kansas over offers from Iowa, LSU and Mississippi State.

“I think those are fair expectations,” said defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt of the excitement surrounding Bolton. “But, obviously, you can’t expect too much of a young man who hasn’t played in so long that’s coming off of a knee injury, as well. It may not be the first half of the season when his true colors show up, but I think eventually they will show up.”

Bolton suffered the injury early on in the 2012 season, which gave him a chance to rehab the knee throughout his final year at Hinds. Although his entire world has changed in the past couple of months — from juco to Division I, a new address, new teammates — Bolton said he felt he had adjusted well to Lawrence.

“It is a long way from home,” he said with his thick Mississippi accent. “But it’s been a good experience, meeting all of the players that have been here and spending time with ’em. I’m comfortable.”

Wednesday, during his chance to speak with the media, Wyatt said he had seen improvement throughout fall camp from nearly every player in his group, including Bolton.

“His biggest strength is his size and his athleticism,” Wyatt said. “He’s got a little rust we need to knock off because he hasn’t played ball in a while. But once he gets it, I think we’re gonna be really, really impressed with what he can do.”

Buck wild

At least a couple of KU’s interior defensive linemen have been impressed by the blur they’ve seen on the edge of the line from their outside pass rushers, known as Bucks.

During Wednesday’s media session, nose tackles Ty McKinney and Keon Stowers praised Buck trio Ben Goodman, Michael Reynolds and Darius Willis for a strong camp thus far, with Stowers even going as far as to say the three had played well enough to make up for the loss of Martin.

“I don’t think the talent level has dropped there,” Stowers said.

Veterans shine

When asked to identify the defensive linemen who had looked the best during the opening week of camp, Wyatt did not hesitate to single out a couple of veterans.

Wyatt said seniors Keba Agostinho (6-2, 277, first-string RE/T) and Kevin Young (6-3, 287, second-string nose tackle) had been among the most productive and confident players through the first seven days of camp.

“I think we have a lot of guys who are playing the best that they have since I’ve been here,” Wyatt said. “Keba probably stands out the most. He’s really playing hard and working hard and running to the football. He’s been very productive this camp.”

Asked for his guess about why the upperclassmen had done so well, Wyatt pointed to two factors.

“No. 1, they’re tired of people saying they’re no good,” he said. “So they have a little chip on their shoulder. And, No. 2, they know there’s new blood, new competition, and that’s gone a long way toward making the whole group better.”

Combs coming along

He came in as the No. 1-ranked juco player in the country and was one of the better-known Jayhawks before ever arriving on campus. But even his big personality did not make junior defensive tackle Marquel Combs immune to the difficulties of making the transition to Div. I football.

“He started off slow,” Wyatt said of Combs. “He’s adjusting to a new system, new techniques and playing against Div. I competition, but I see him getting better and better as we go through practices.”

Combs’ slow start did not discourage Wyatt because the 6-3, 290-pound pocket-pusher maintained a good attitude throughout the transition period.

“As we go, I think he’s understanding that just because he’s got some skills and he’s been rated No. 1, he’s still gotta put in the work,” Wyatt said. “He wasn’t here in the spring, so he’s gotta kind of catch up on the mental part of it. He’s realizing that, ‘Hey, I can’t just go out there and play and be as successful as I have been in the past.’ But he’s a smart guy. He knows when he plays good and he knows when he plays bad. And you can talk to him.”

Comments

mikehawk 1 year, 2 months ago

It's a long way from juco ball to D-1, Big 12. It is get real, get sober time. A few guys from juco land will star, and some will get a lot of special teams work. We desperately need 4 wins to bring some excitement back and be able to draw some high school D-1 talent to KU. Anything less than 4 wins will get the natives restless again, crying out for Coach's head so we can get some big name coach who has not intention whatsoever of ever coming to coach at Kansas.

Jim Erickson 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm in agreement with mikehawk... I am as optimistic and excited about the new strategy as anyone, but building your team off of Juco kids is generally a formula that doesn't work. KState is the exception here and not the rule. We get excited this time of year and reality soon sets it. If Weis can pull this off then I'll be pumped, but a team of Juco guys is ANYTHING but a sure bet.

Steve Reigle 1 year, 2 months ago

It's been said before that having so many juco guys is a short term bandaid to get us some wins and get us moving in the right direction. HCCW said he plans to taper off on the number of juco guys once we get rolling and blend in more high school guys. I'm in agreement with his approach. I think he knows what he's doing. Juco guys are a way to quickly fill in our holes with guys who have proven they can play after high school. That doesn't guarantee they can play in the Big12 but it's less risk than all high school guys. I think the approach HCCW is taking is the best one for this particular situation.

CrystalJones 1 year, 2 months ago

KSU has had a lot of juco guys, but a lot of their star players have been high school kids that developed once they got on campus. Klein, Sproles, Simoneau, Locketts (all 3 of them) were all high schoolers. They never had as large a juco class as we have this year.

Still, I think our juco guys can certainly come in and contribute right away. And we really had no choice. We simply had to get some experience on this squad immediately.

Randy Bombardier 1 year, 2 months ago

What exactly are you talking about? Who does build their program off of JUCO kids? Answer: No one. A lot of programs though will use high-caliber Juco kids to fill in some gaps. Hell, even Bama recruits JUCO.

jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

I believe we're likely to win 4 or 5 this year. If Heaps turns out to be all world we may even win 6 or 7. The QB is so important in college football. We were a QB and a couple of receivers away from winning several games against top 25 type teams.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 2 months ago

Because of his "failure" at Notre Dame, I don't think Coach Weis will be in high demand as a college head coach anywhere else anytime soon.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 2 months ago

A little disappointed in the comments regarding Combs, though I am encouraged by the last statement: you can talk to him. This means he is listening and can improve.

These guys also have another 3 weeks to improve before the opener. And the bottom line is this, they'll be better than 80% of the incoming freshmen in the country, which is why you go this route in the first place.

Jim Erickson 1 year, 2 months ago

Weis brought a strategy to Lawrence and I'm thrilled about that. By going after top high school talent to rebuild your program, you're essentially competing with the best teams around. Texas, OU, and the rest of the elite have the history, the reputation, the stadiums, and other draws for recruits. It's incredibly difficult to beat them at their own game. Smaller programs like us need to have different strategies, and Weis has basically said he would build this team off of Juco talent. It is a strategy that usually doesn't work outside of Manhattan, but it is a strategy nonetheless. For that, I am happy.

This should be done with the understanding that it is still a long shot strategy. Kansas is not ready to win by recruiting a team fill of top 150 recruits, but instead needs to get creative by doing things like this. Mangino won by finding enough diamonds in the rough like Reesing and Gordon. Here's to hoping a big gamble pays off.

ohjayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Cairo - I believe Coach Weis has said a few times he realizes that bringing in JUCO talent every year wasn't the plan long-term. However, to try to turn things around relatively quickly, with the talent level he inherited, he didn't have much choice but to go the JUCO route. He has stated something to the effect that hopefully the JUCO guys will help KU turn the corner, which will open the doors to higher level H.S. recruits. So, I wouldn't get too concerned just yet. And, to reiterate what plasticJHawk said below, be careful! Things are looking a bit scary over there right now!

Jim Erickson 1 year, 2 months ago

Appreciate the concern! As always, the violence is pretty isolated. We love it here and Egypt has a lot of great things going for it, but the last month has been pretty depressing. We have a 7pm curfew (courtesy of the "State of Emergency" declaration) at the moment so we really can't get into too much trouble.

Jim Erickson 1 year, 2 months ago

Along the lines of my previous comment... Last year we got pretty hyped about the 5th year transfers and convinced ourselves that they would lead us to victory. I was definitely among the optimists. That strategy didn't work out well and is along the same lines as a Juco brigade. The second year of the system, a decent QB/set of receivers, and some competent special teams could go a long ways to mask some of last years deficiencies but the long term success of the program hinging on Juco kids is a risk. I'm skeptically excited.

PS: Anyone find a donor willing to throw $50 million at the stadium yet? I'm looking in Cairo, but so far no takers!

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 2 months ago

don't look around too much, we don't want to lose you.

Jim Erickson 1 year, 2 months ago

At the moment, we can't really leave the apartment to do much looking. "State of Emergency" has us inside at 7pm!

Jason Keller 1 year, 2 months ago

This is troubling news. Most of the new comers have been outplayed by the players we already have. My heart wants to chalk it up to spring ball and conditioning but my head knows better. Of course, I'm glad the older guys are improving but I just don't think the overall talent has been upgraded as much as we all hoped.

The good news is that, hey, our defense played some good ball last year and it sounds like our secondary will have more speed.

If the offensive line can come together and Heaps can play solid with out upgraded receivers, I think KU football can take a real step forward this year.

Jason Keller 1 year, 2 months ago

Also, I think we will have a team that truly improves all year long. I think by the end, we will be playing some good ball.

alittlecurious 1 year, 2 months ago

and, hopefully, our improved kicking game will be worth at least two more wins.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 2 months ago

As for Combs, he did not get here in the Spring and neither did Bolton. They will take awhile. It was noted when Combs was recruited, he was not one who had the greatest work ethic. He will produce as competition makes him. Eventually he will be fine.

Also, our jucos have been very successful at each level they have played. The 5th year seniors we brought in last year were mostly backups where they had played before. Big difference I believe.

Brad Farha 1 year, 2 months ago

One positive out of all this is that we'll have depth. If HCCW has a lot of guys that can play, he'll be able to rotate enough to keep them fresh through 4 quarters. That would have helped a lot last year.

danno1313 1 year, 2 months ago

IF the offense can get 40 a game we ll have a chance to win a few.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Cairo, I'm assuming you're going to ignore this and regurgitate the stadium thing in every football article you comment on since it's already been pointed out to you dozens of times that NOTHING WILL HAPPEN WITH MEMORIAL STADIUM UNTIL THE ROCK CHALK PARK IS FINISHED BECAUSE THEY NEED A NEW TRACK FACILITY BEFORE THE TRACK INSIDE MEMORIAL STADIUM CAN BE REMOVED.

Also in regards to football recruiting, Charlie Weis has said multiple times that he will not recruit as many JuCo players again as he did last year. Because of how many players he had to kick off the team or left the team when Weis got here, a JuCo heavy recruiting class got KU back on schedule with scholarship numbers so KU didn't end up with a class where they could only sign 10-15 players instead of a full 25 man class. In the coming years, starting with this season, the ratio of HS to JuCo players will start to swing in closer to a 2:1 ratio of HS to JuCo players.

Jim Erickson 1 year, 2 months ago

texashawk10... Thanks for the capitalization! It's not that I'm disregarding your comments, it is that I disagree with them!

Look, if the stadium was a $10 million dollar facelift away from respectability, then I might be on board with your comment. The reality is that the stadium is closer to $50-100 million away from moderate respectability. Say what you want about how it is pleasant, but in the eyes of recruits visiting other Big 12 programs our stadium is an eyesore. Until the athletic department acknowledges that they will put a major effort into upgrading Memorial Stadium, fans should continue to express displeasure. Also, it's not just the track... We have a D1 stadium with a chain link fence as a boundary! The stadium stinks!

I'm fairly certain ahperse got Turner Gill fired. In time, Cairo_Jayhawk will be remembered for forcing a $100 million Memorial Stadium upgrade!

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

I have never once said that Memorial Stadium doesn't need major renovations, but major renovations don't happen overnight. You say the athletic department doesn't realize the stadium needs a major upgrade and that simply isn't true. Take a step back and look at the realistic steps that have to happen before any significant renovations can happen to Memorial Stadium however. Most people's biggest gripe about the stadium is the track and you also mention the chain link fence, and I 100% agree that both need to go (you can go find any article discussing the matter and confirm this).

Before the track is removed, the track and field team needs a new facility. The Rock Chalk Park accomplishes this step and is the single biggest obstacle between a Memorial Stadium with a track and a Memorial Stadium with a track. When the Rock Chalk Park is near completion, you will start to hear a lot more about plans for Memorial Stadium.

Now let's talk about the chain link fence. I, and 99% of KU fans agree that it looks awful and with the new scoreboard put up in 2010, there is no longer a legitimate reason to keep it. That said, put something permanent up now would be foolish because when construction does start on the stadium, the machinery will need room to move in and out of the stadium and the south end is the logical place for the equipment to go. When renovations are complete, there absolutely needs to be something that looks better aesthetically than a chain link fence along the south endzone. Because there are renovation plans on the way, it would be foolish to put up anything permanent at this point that would have to torn down in a couple of years because that's just a waste of money.

texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Waiting for the team to win before committing to renovations is a huge mistake that KU administrators have been making for a long time because KU hasn't been consistently good in most our life times (definitely not mine). That's why those suites on the east side of the stadium never got built. Lew waited to see how 2008 went, KU under performed to expectations and funding fell short so Lew abandoned the project. In order for KU to hope to take the next step towards becoming a consistently good football program, they have to commit to improving the facilities regardless of the on field results at the time.

jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree, Cairo. When the time comes to do the upgrades, it needs to be more than a face lift. We need to think big or our football program will continue to disappoint. A great coach can make a difference, but there aren't many Bill Snyders out there. If we want to be consistently challenging for Big 12 titles and BCS bids, serious upgrades have to be made, not just face lifts. In the mean time, to get donors excited about funding such a project, we need to start winning more than losing, and start going to bowl games every year.

rtwngr 1 year, 2 months ago

Until Kansas can put 5 or 6 winning, bowl bound, seasons together they will never get the blue chip stock from the high school ranks. KU just doesn't have the football tradition that even K-State can point to, over the last 40 years. Even when Mangino was winning, he wasn't necessarily winning at the recruiting competition. I point to his last season as an example.

Jim Jackson 1 year, 2 months ago

After Mangino's first season in which we were 2-10; he brought in about the same number of JUCO guys and we went bowling his second year.

Have faith.

Furthermore, I would point out that JUCO guys are not like the 5th years that we got; the 5th years were riding the bench, these guys did not have the grades to play D1 ball.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Maybe they should change Bolton's number to WD-40.

jaymar74 1 year, 2 months ago

This team does have a few solid freshmen and sophomores. The recruits for next year are all High School so far. We are making too much of a deal out of the class make-up. We need talent, strength, speed and passion. We are better in that today than August 15, 2012.

Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

Getting a bunch of juco players are for the short term. If half of then pan out we've got about 10 starters this year and next. This class we can get more high school players with a sprinkle of about 10 juco players. We are better, and Weis seems to know what he's doing so far to improve this team.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

MY HALF FULL GLASS TAKE ON KU FOOTBALL. Each season must stand on it's own, but it is valid to review a season for overall team trends and KU is "trending' up.

1] Kansas lost four..maybe five games last season that this current squad could possibly win.

2] IMPROVED QB PLAY.Heaps has had a redshirt year to prepare as well as two years of previous experience. Also, it appears he may be more talented than our previous QB.

2] A LEGIT GROUP OF RUNNING BACKS. no question this will be, barring injuries, the strength of the Jayhawks this year. A good running game means ball control..ball control means field position..field position means defensive opportunities against a limited offense...defensive opportunities mean turnovers...etc., etc.

3] A KICKING GAME. No direction but up in this category from last season. At least two, maybe three games could have ended in W's with even an average kicking game.

4] IMPROVED LINE SIZE AND STRENGTH ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL. No doubt this year's team will be bigger on both lines. There is no guarantee this will translate into improved play but not getting bigger certainly gaurantees we wouldn't.

5] IMPROVED OVERALL SPEED. It appears this is showing up at the two critical areas, defensive back and wide receiver. As Maverick and Goose would say, "I FEEL THE NEED FOR SPEED!!"

6] IMPROVED DEPTH. Still a ways to go, but the team will be deeper this year and will translate into fresher play and mitigate injury impact.

Four wins is certainly a legitimate expectation and "IF" everything breaks our way, there are no major injuries and the football gods smile a lirttle on Memorial Field, dare I say 6 - 6 at least has a longshot chance.

I truly am expecting 2014 to be the breakout season, but if Charlie proves me wrong, well..I guess I can live with it!!! :)

Dave Roberts 1 year, 2 months ago

No need to be so negative JayHawk fans, this is going to be a turnaround season. One item that gives me great encouragement is that Coach Weis and co have successfully landed every single Juco recruit in Lawrence. Not one missed. Yes, Chris Martin failed, but only after he arrived.

That remarkable success tells me that Weis knows exactly what he is doing. We do have a few late arriving recruits who we very much need to play well for the team to perform at it's highest potential; Combs, Bolton and Short. But give them a chance - they still have three weeks of two-a-days to work into acceptable or better form.

And don't forget the benefit of Coach Holsopple's S&C training on the entire team .... a full year on the veterans has no doubt radically improved them, and that could be a reason why they're standing out so well in practice.

Dave

Jim Jackson 1 year, 2 months ago

I would also say that Weis & Co are better talent evaluators than Mangino and his staff were 10 years ago; evident by how we battled numerous BCS programs for every JUCO we got this year.

We are going bowling, Rock Chalk!

Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

6-6 is a long shot, but steady play, improved passing game, better pass rush, and the kicking game being consistent has to be good for at least 4 wins. Like anyone, we need some breaks to go our way. Sometimes, its better to be lucky than good. If anything the overall team attitude is so much improved compared to last year and that's saying something.

jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

I would handicap it as maybe a 30% chance we win 6 games this year. Certainly not a long shot, but far from a slam dunk. I believe we have a shot at having a pretty good season, especially if Heaps comes to play.

Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

Hmm, maybe we need a percentage wheel on how many wins we are going to get this season....

troutsee 1 year, 2 months ago

Get ready for a surprising and special year in KU football.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 2 months ago

For what it's worth, I was listening to CBS Sports Radio a few nights ago, and they were saying that Kansas would prove to be the surprise team of the Big 12.

CrystalJones 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree. For reasons I've listed before, stars at the skill positions and an unsurpassed NFL-caliber coaching staff, I'm expecting 8 wins this year, and more in 2014.

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