Column: Juco quick fix is neither

KU defensive tackle Marquel Combs runs through a pass-rush drill during preseason practice.

KU defensive tackle Marquel Combs runs through a pass-rush drill during preseason practice.

Friday, September 19, 2014

This was supposed to be the year that it all came together at Kansas University for third-year football coach Charlie Weis, who puts in such long hours on the job he sometimes sleeps in his office.

We all pictured Brigham Young transfer Jake Heaps at quarterback, throwing touchdowns for the second year in a row to fellow senior Justin McCay, the Oklahoma transfer. Heaps and McCay routinely shredded the first-team KU defense in 2012 practices, Weis said at the time.

This also was going to be the senior year for the #DreamTeam juco recruiting class, headed by Tweeter extraordinaire Marquel Combs, the No. 1-ranked juco of the Class of 2013, according to ESPN. Combs and Chris Martin were going to team to give Kansas a defensive line that would make quarterbacks panic so badly they would be tempted to take a knee on every down.

Marcus Jenkins-Moore would be blitzing from his outside-linebacker position, too. Injured last season, he left the program two months ago. Like Combs and Martin, he never played a down for Kansas.

Combs, so lazy in practice he was told to red-shirt, didn’t feel like doing that and transferred to Southeast Louisiana, where he has seven tackles three games into this season. Martin was sentenced to three years’ probation for felony robbery.

Wide receiver Mark Thomas originally was suspended indefinitely after an arrest. He no longer is in the program for which he never played a snap.

Offensive tackle Pearce Slater was a late addition to that recruiting class, and it generated much excitement because Oklahoma had recruited him. Slater participated in a few summer practices, returned to junior college and is now at San Diego State.

Kevin Short and Dexter McDonald were going to form the best cornerback tandem in the Big 12. McDonald’s off to a good start. All Short, a mega-talent, had to do was attend all his classes, tutoring sessions and team meetings to have a major impact on the program and his chances of playing in the NFL. He was dismissed from the team before the start of this season. Last season, he practiced for KU and was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA to play in games. Again, zero snaps.

Offensive tackle Zach Fondal spent one full season with Kansas, linebacker Samson Faifili part of a season. Both gone.

Nine of the 17 juco recruits from the Class of 2013 remain on the roster, and five of them, plus punter Trevor Pardula, are starters, seemingly solid citizens well worth recruiting.

Therein lies the key to juco recruiting. When evaluating junior-college talent, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder decides which athletes have enough potential to play for him, and then instead of going after the ones among those candidates with the most talent, he recruits the ones with the best character and trusts himself and his coaches to make them better football players.

KU’s quick-fix approach, so heavy on junior-college talent and Div. I transfers, has backfired. It usually does.

It will be interesting to see whether Kansas has enough talent and healthy bodies to get as much out of spring football as most schools. Just 51 players who originally joined the KU program as scholarship athletes will practice, barring injuries and additional transfers.

No light is visible at the end of a tunnel that makes the world’s largest, the Delaware Aqueduct, seem like a brass pipe nipple by comparison.