Trimmer, peppier Charles Baldwin stands out first day of spring football
Charles Baldwin's fit-and-trim look grabbed my attention as soon as I walked into into Anschutz Pavilion to catch a glimpse of the first Kansas football spring practice. Baldwin, a big talent with a big question mark next to his name because he was dismissed from Alabama after spending a spring football season with the Crimson Tide, shapes up as a big X-factor for Kansas in head coach David Beaty's third season.
The next thing to grab my attention was how much Baldwin appeared to be enjoying himself as he smiled and interacted with teammates and coaches. A thought occurred: Might Kansas actually have not just one but two ‘Bama transfers who will make big contributions to turning around a football program seemingly cursed since Mark Mangino was shown the door just two seasons after coaching the Jayhawks to a 12-1 season and Orange Bowl championship?
Dayton Charlot, universally praised for his attitude and talent as a wide receiver and punt returner, disappointed Nick Saban when he left the program after his freshman season. It’s a given that he’ll make a difference.
Baldwin, on the other hand, didn’t have a choice but to find another school. And sometimes what coaches don't say about a prospect reveals as much or more than what they do say. In the case of Baldwin, the coaches didn’t seem to say much about Baldwin during his redshirt season.
Beaty had plenty to say Monday about the 6-foot-5, 305-pound native of Windsor, Conn.
“He is actually really nice and slim. He’s s not a big, fat guy,” Beaty said. “He’s done a good job with his weight. He’s gotten serious about that. I think the prospect of playing and it really meaning something has helped him. I know it’s hard on any kid who knows he’s going to have to sit and not get to play.”
Beaty made it sound as if a different player from the one who a year ago didn’t stand out during practice as much as his physical ability suggested he might is ready to get after it this spring.
“You can see a whole different dynamic from him,” Beaty said. “He really cares. Every single play he wants to know how he can get better, which is good. You love to see that attitude that he has, because he’s got some nastiness to him, but he’s also got a lot of want to do well for you, as well.”
A big season from Baldwin would make a huge difference for an offensive line that will be a year older and stronger than last season, when it was the youngest in the Big 12.
I asked left tackle Hakeem Adeniji about where he would rank himself in a sprint and in the weight room compared to the rest of the Kansas offensive linemen.
“I’d probably beat everybody except for Antoine (Frazier) and maybe Charles in a sprint,” Adeniji said. “Weight room? I can lift with pretty much everybody, squat-wise, lifting-wise. Charles and (Jacob) Bragg are probably the only ones ahead of me.”
Adeniji said Baldwin “can be a really special player. He’s incredibly strong, athletic. He’s long. He has all the tools. The sky’s the limit for him."
If Baldwin maintains his get-after-it attitude throughout spring camp, summer conditioning and fall camp, he will make Adeniji look wise for saying, "I think you’re going to see a huge jump in our offensive line.”