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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Keegan

Column: No. 1 choice: Defensive end Mosby could make impact for Jayhawks

Kansas defensive end Damani Mosby comes off a block as he and other members of the special teams unit work on punt blocking during practice on Monday, April 7, 2015.

Kansas defensive end Damani Mosby comes off a block as he and other members of the special teams unit work on punt blocking during practice on Monday, April 7, 2015.

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The question, posed in various word combinations, is often asked and almost always followed by a long pause and then a long list of possible answers, not one stated with much conviction.

The question: Best guess, who will be the best player on the Kansas University football team this coming season?

It’s time to make a guess: Junior defensive end Damani Mosby.

Recruited by former tight ends coach Jeff Blasko to KU, Mosby played for Jeremy Hathcock at Desert Ridge High in Arizona and then for Ryan Felker at Mesa County Community College. Even before interviewing both coaches over the phone, Mosby was one of the names I would rattle as possible answers to the best-player questions. I would do so partly because of how quick he looked in spring drills for a man who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 239 pounds. Mostly though, I would list him because of the tone of the voice, the look in the eye and the bite marks on the tongues of KU coaches who tried to downplay his talent but couldn’t entirely mask their enthusiasm when talking about him.

Blasko, an energetic yet inexperienced by Div. I standards assistant coach under Charlie Weis, recruited the junior college ranks tirelessly. Too often, the players he landed either fell short academically or couldn’t stay out of trouble. Thanks to Blasko’s efforts, those of KU’s academic-support staff, and ultimately Mosby himself making the necessary commitment to get himself on track toward a degree, Kansas has a keeper.

Mosby redshirted at Kansas last season, giving him three school years and two summers to spread out classes toward a degree.

Soon, he will have the opportunity to see how well he makes the adjustment to his first taste of big-time college football in games.

Don’t count Felker, his juco coach, among those curious to see how well he can perform against one of the nation’s toughest schedules.

“I’m gonna tell you what, I already know what it’s going to look like,” Felker said. “I can tell you right now, Damani Mosby’s going to be just fine at that level. We put a lot of guys in at that level. Trust me, Damani’s going to do some special things.”

Such as?

“His quickness off the ball. He’s definitely that edge pass rusher. He can get to the quarterback,” Felker said. “You don’t get a kid at his height and weight that can run like he does. He could have gone anywhere in the country. He had to grow up needed some things academically to make things happen.”

Established football powerhouses don’t need to take risks on athletes that might not qualify. Kansas took too many risks in recent seasons and it left the program with such bad depth numbers. But Mosby was a risk well worth taking.

“Coach Blasko was a huge part of Damani’s recruitment,” Felker said. “Damani had a lot of work to do academically and coach Blasko went to the wall with him, wouldn’t quit on him.”

Felker and Hathcock painted a similar picture of an upbeat personality.

“The kid’s so much fun to be around,” Felker said. “He’s a great teammate, a big, smiley, happy kid, soft-spoken, but an animal on field. You don’t have to worry about him getting in any trouble. You’re going to love him.”

Perfect.

Hathcock said that Mosby was “an honor student,” as a youth, but with one parent living in Atlanta and another’s time limited by work, he didn’t have much oversight academically and got off track.

“In high school, he and my my older son got along and Damani was always at our house spending a lot of time,” Hathcock said. “We were kind of like surrogate parents.”

The coach said Mosby called him early in his time at Kansas and said he was thinking about coming home.

“I told him, ‘Look man, you’re there, you’re staying and that’s how it’s going to be.’ He had a lot of other people telling him the same thing. That redshirt year helped him grow some roots. And then the new coach (David Beaty) said something about everybody being all in. Damani called me said, ‘This is it. This is where I want to be.’ He changed his tune. He’s matured so much in six months.”

Hathcock explained what made Pac-12 coaches want Mosby until he didn’t pass a math class in the summer after high school.

“He’s just a freak,” Hathcock said. “Really fast for his size. He always said he ran a 4.5. I never got him better than 4.68. He’s really explosive on his first step. That’s what makes him different. His first step is absurd.”

It’s the first reason to believe Mosby is as good a guess as any to the question of who is KU’s best player. If anyone has a better one, I would love to hear it.

Comments

Pete Hatcher 4 years ago

Kinner or Schadler if you ask me. Both quick, explosive and have the potential to be huge playmakers in an air raid offense. Nothing against Mosby though, because if you are correct he will be critical in disrupting Big 12 offenses.

Dirk Medema 4 years ago

Isn't there another WR transfer that is eligible this year and Barbel had a good spring game, tho Kinner is my first choice.

Any WR would be a good first guess due to the vacuum that exists at the position following last year, but I'm not optimistic about our ability to effectively get the ball to any of them - Air Raid or not.

I don't know that any D in our league is fearing our OL, but it still is a relative strength of the team, which is a lot like saying there are some returning players. Is it the only position group that returns a majority of the 2 deep? That experience should help our RB's, and I expect Kinner to be the feature back.

Dale Rogers 4 years ago

It will be nice when we have so many really good players we have a tough time figuring out which is going to be best.

Micky Baker 4 years ago

If Mosby ends up being the best player, then it will mean that he ends up being pretty good this year. This guy wasn't even on my radar for this kind of talk this year, but of course we have seen very little of him since signing. This might also mean that the defense will end up being better than I think it will be this coming season, not to disrespect Mosby. We have some big shoes to fill in the secondary and at linebacker.

As far as the best player on the 2015 team, I would have to say I think that's going to be Kinner.

John Randall 4 years ago

Being well short of the 85 scholarship players allowed for Div I teams, there is no sense talking about team depth the next couple of years. The few experienced players need some remarkable support from guys like Mosby. Even one or two we shouldn't have to, but will be forced to throw into the cauldron turning into regular or just occasional contributors will make the painful reality easier to cope with as we all join the team and staff to find encouragement where it happens.

The fact that Mosby has a lot to prove (primarily in his academics) makes all his successes on the field and in the classroom a source of pride for all of us who bought into the Beatty/Bowen/et al, determination to do it the right way – build our program from the ground up, with no short cuts.

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