After a couple rough seasons of limited snaps, special teams play and even a position change, Kansas wide receiver Daylon Charlot is right again, and his coaches believe they know why.
“He has his confidence back,” said KU running backs coach Tony Hull, who, like Charlot, is a native of Louisiana.
Hull, now in his fourth season with the program, is the only coach on KU’s current staff who has been able to get inside of Charlot’s head during these past three years, spending time building him up, breaking things down and analyzing his struggles from all angles.
“We’ve had many talks, many long nights, many counseling sessions, man-to-man sessions,” Hull recalled recently. “We’ve had our fair share of those — a lot, honestly. But it wasn’t I’m just going to sit on the sideline and watch. I actually worked with him through it and (it was good) to know that he didn’t just give up. He didn’t just throw in the towel. He was willing to work through whatever he was working through to get where he is now.”
That was away from the field and football facility. And their bond as Louisiana natives helped Charlot feel comfortable around Hull almost immediately.
On the field, though, Hull has seen another coach serve as a positive influence on Charlot’s mindset and the gains were evident almost immediately.
His name is Emmett Jones, he’s in his first season as KU’s wide receivers coach and his style and passion have been a perfect fit for Charlot, who has just 13 receptions in two full seasons with the Jayhawks.
“Coach Jones has been great for him,” Hull said. “Coach Jones has worked with him and been tremendous in (Charlot’s) growth and his development. Honestly, I think that’s the reason why Daylon’s confidence has come back.”
Rather than take credit for Charlot’s resurgence, Jones chose to give all the praise to the player who put in the time and showed the dedication necessary to turn things around.
“My first job, that first week I was here, I was trying to break him,” Jones recalled. “But he never folded. I came in and it was 200 miles and running and I didn’t know nothing about what went on with him in the past. Everybody has a clean slate with me. But the one thing I like about Daylon is he’s a gritty football player. He does a lot of the dirty work for you.”
While that last comment brings to mind images of a hard-hitting, nasty-blocking, fast-flying football player, Charlot talked all offseason about becoming a leader in KU’s wide receivers room and using that role as a way to keep himself focused and accountable.
Jones, who said Charlot has the look of a player who once suited up at Alabama, believes anything that keeps Charlot engaged is a good thing.
“You have to challenge him every day,” Jones said. “Don’t let nothing slip by. I try to find something to motivate him every day to be better than he was the previous day. And he needs that.”
Asked if finding new and fresh ways to do that was easy, Jones laughed.
“Very easy,” he said. “And it just comes natural. Nothing is premeditated. If I get an itch about something, I may nitpick on it and wake him up. I just want to keep him on his edge, every play, every day. Keep him on his tip-toes and just unleash him on the football field.”
There was a time, not long ago, when pushing those kinds of buttons might not have been the best plan for coaching Charlot.
But those days are gone now and both Jones and Hull believe big things are ahead for the lone senior in KU’s receiving corps.
“I hope so,” Hull said. “I do know he’s having a great camp and he’s doing some great things for Coach Jones. It’s not just one of those years in the past where you just say great things and you never see it once the game comes. It’s not one of those deals.”
Added Jones: “My style is kind of aggressive. I like to see who’s going to stand strong with me and I like to apply a lot of pressure. I try to break guys and if I can’t break them that lets me know that we can go to war with you. He’s a very physical guy. He likes to abuse defensive backs. And he’s so confident right now I’m expecting him to break out this year.”