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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

troutsee 8 months, 1 week ago

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

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Randy Maxwell 8 months, 1 week ago

6-6 is not a long shot, here's why. For the first time in my memory this league, Big 8 , Big 12 does not have a team that should be ranked legitimately in the top 20 in the country. This league is so down and so ripe for the taking its unbelievable. OU is average at best, UT ? yeah right. The best team is probably OSU and we had the ball down a td late in the 4th last year with a chance to win vs them.

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Mark Lindrud 8 months, 1 week 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.

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Jim Jackson 8 months, 1 week 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!

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Dave Roberts 8 months, 1 week 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

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Tony Bandle 8 months, 1 week 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!!! :)

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Randy Maxwell 8 months, 1 week ago

KSU started 9 juco guys on defense last year. Nuff said

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Mark Lindrud 8 months, 1 week 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.

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jaymar74 8 months, 1 week 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.

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nuleafjhawk 8 months, 1 week ago

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

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Jim Jackson 8 months, 1 week 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.

2

rtwngr 8 months, 1 week 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.

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texashawk10 8 months, 1 week 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.

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Jason Keller 8 months, 1 week 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.

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Jim Erickson 8 months, 1 week 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!

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Jim Erickson 8 months, 1 week 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.

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Brett McCabe 8 months, 1 week 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.

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mikehawk 8 months, 1 week 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.

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