Running back Pooka Williams and quarterback Miles Kendrick were the most celebrated signings recruited to spice up a sluggish offense, but unless Kansas significantly upgrades its offensive line, newcomers and holdovers alike at skill positions won’t have space to show their talent.
Khalil Herbert has enough talent that he ran for 291 yards against West Virginia last season and Peyton Bender throws a pretty pass when not hurried, but both players were victims of a shortage of blocking. They could benefit greatly, stay healthy and develop more confidence if aided by improved play on the offensive line.
That’s what makes three unofficial recruits whose additions bring to five the number of newcomers from the College of San Mateo as important as the official recruits from the school that finished as state runner-up among junior colleges in California.
Unofficial recruits? Blueshirts. Huh?
NCAA rules allow for student-ahtletes who were not officially recruited to go on scholarship once the first semester starts. They do not count toward the scholarship limit of 25 for the current year, but count for the following year.
Kendrick and defensive lineman Jelani Brown received scholarships from Kansas out of College of San Mateo.
Three of Kendrick’s four starting blockers who will be with Big 12 schools are blueshirts at Kansas. The fourth, left tackle Mike Grandy, is at Texas.
CSM’s right tackle (Adagio Lopeti, 6-5, 290), left guard (Api Mane, 6-3, 327) and right guard (Eddie Tatola, 6-3, 310) will compete for snaps with returning Jayhawks.
KU already has added one graduate transfer in offensive tackle Kevin Feder, kept off the field at Ohio State mostly by a foot injury. The coaching staff is hoping to add more beef up front via the graduate-transfer path.
Kansas coach David Beaty will count on the five players from the same juco to do more than perform on game day, according to what CSM coach Eddie Tulloch told the San Jose Mercury News in April.
“Those guys, they’re trying to change the culture,” Tulloch said. “Their head coach flew out and he said, ‘Coach, we want kids that know how to work, we need guys that are going to help us change the culture in the locker room, change the culture on the practice field and guys that know how to win.’ ”
Since Day 1, Beaty has talked a lot about changing the culture of KU football. Thirty-six games and 33 losses later, he’s counting on a handful of players from a winning juco program to accomplish what he hasn’t been able to in three years.
That’s probably asking a lot. We’ll settle for better blocking from the new O-linemen.
If Lopeti, Mane and Tatola, all listed as Kansas-bound by the Mercury News in a story detailing where 19 players from CSM are headed, can improve the toughness of KU’s offensive line, Herbert, Pooka and Dom Williams and whichever of three candidates wins the QB job (Kendrick, Bender, Carter Stanley) will have the time they need to show what sort of players they can become.