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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Keegan

Column: Changing coaches, revolving roster

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The massive overhaul of personnel on the Kansas University football team that has taken place this offseason highlights the danger in universities making coaching changes so frequently.

An athlete who fits what one coaching staff is trying to accomplish might be a poor fit for the next staff. Plus, athletes who want to play for the staff that recruited them don’t necessarily want to play for the next.

The biggest loss revealed last week was guard Junior Visinia, an anticipated starter. One reason we included him as one of the 25 keys to the season was that it was no easy call that he would fit the quick-strike offense of Rob Likens, which puts a premium on mobile offensive linemen. In keeping with that goal, strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson makes conditioning a priority, which means he believes in making players do a lot of running, as did current Kansas State strength coach Chris Dawson when Jackson worked for him at KU.

That approach meant that for mountain men such as Visinia and right tackle Larry Mazyck to survive the summer they were going to have to run more than they ever had. Coming off a tough spring and a challenge from the staff to turn on the light switch and turn it on now, Mazyck responded. Potential was the word always used with Mazyck. Now he can respond to the word “tough,” as well. Kudos to Mazyck for a strong summer. Visinia will find a school for which he considers himself a better fit.

As for the newcomers whose names came out Wednesday, kudos to the staff for being organized and determined enough to bring in so many new bodies, some of whom could help immediately, provided they earn it with strong fall camps.

Still, it pays to keep in mind that the best predictor for future performance is past performance as a college football player. That was driven home during the Charlie Weis era. Transfers with history of injury or injury-diminished performance (linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone of Notre Dame) brought more of the same. Five-star quarterbacks (Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps) who were given chances to start but were benched at previous schools, followed the same pattern at Kansas. Players who stood out and then transferred (Nick Harwell and Nigel King) remained productive at KU.

A look at a few of the more interesting names to join the program recently:

Joshua Stanford, wide receiver: Virginia Tech transfer has size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), speed and a killer play on YouTube in which he breaks three tackles en route to a 32-yard touchdown.

He has two seasons of remaining eligibility because of a medical-redshirt season, his first. In three years at Virginia Tech, most of his productive play came in three consecutive halves on the road in ACC play during his sophomore season: the second half of a loss at Boston College and both halves in a victory vs. Miami the next week. In those three halves, Stanford combined for 13-278, one TD, and a non-scoring catch of 69 yards. During the rest of his career, he totaled 32 catches for 435 yards and no touchdowns. Given that the only others eligible to play this season to have any receptions in a Div. I game while lined up at wide receiver are Tre’ Parmalee and Quincy Perdue, Stanford will get every chance to earn his way onto the field. In those three halves, he amassed more reception yardage than Parmalee (174) and Perdue (82) combined for in four combined seasons.

As a junior, Stanford took a four-game leave of absence to address off-field issues, returned, didn’t play much, and left the program days before last Christmas.

Marcquis Roberts, linebacker: Started nine games two seasons ago and five a year ago for South Carolina after missing first two seasons with injuries. If the injuries haven’t worn down his body, he definitely has the talent to help at linebacker. Roberts wears No. 5, the same digit safety Isaiah Johnson wore before he took advantage of the same graduate-transfer rule to go to South Carolina from Kansas. College football’s first trade?

Perdue, wide receiver: Caught just two passes, one for a 75-yard touchdown, for Alabama-Birmingham as a freshman. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he stands out among KU receivers. His speed looked plenty good enough on YouTube when he raced behind the Mississippi State defense for the touchdown, but something kept him from getting much time and he finished the season with two catches.

Deondre Ford, quarterback: The 6-2, 200-pound junior out of Dodge City Community College, threw 18 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions for Dodge City as a sophomore. He also rushed for 173 yards and four touchdowns, but described himself in an interview with JCFootball.com as a, “pocket passer that runs when he has to. I prefer throwing from the pocket though.” Whether throwing from the pocket or on the run, 22 interceptions in one juco season is not a good number.

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