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Here's how Charlie Weis' juco gamble is looking so far

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I talked earlier this year about how Kansas football coach Charlie Weis should embrace risk with this year's football team. If you remember, one high-risk, potentially high-reward tactic was loading his latest recruiting class with 19 junior-college scholarship players.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt confer during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt confer during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. by Nick Krug

So is the gamble paying off? Because we now have the Week 1 depth chart, let's look at where each of those 19 players are now.

Starters (8)
• Ngalu Fusimalohi (LG)
• Mike Smithburg (RG)
• Zach Fondal (RT)
• Dexter McDonald (RC)
• Isaiah Johnson (SS)
• Samson Faifili (WLB)
• Cassius Sendish (FS)
• Trevor Pardula (KO, P)

Offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi participates in practice Friday, August 16.

Offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi participates in practice Friday, August 16. by Mike Yoder

Co-starter (1)
• Kevin Short (RC)

KU had significant offseason losses at offensive line and in the secondary, so it's not too surprising that six of the nine starters above fit into those two position groups. Looking at it now, Weis most likely identified those two spots as his team's biggest needs coming into the year, and so far, the new guys have produced enough in practice to give themselves the first shots at playing time.

Second team (5)
• Darrian Miller (H)
• Rodriguez Coleman (Z)
• Tedarian Johnson (LE/T)
• Brandon Hollomon (LC)
• Marquel Combs (N)

The surprise on this list — so far — is Marquel Combs, who was ranked the No. 1 junior-college player in the nation last year by ESPN.com. Though he still should get playing time as part of the defensive line rotation, it's at least a bit surprising he hasn't performed well enough to step into a starting role. If Combs turns out to be a better player in games than in practices, as Matt Tait suggests, then there's obviously a possibility he could move his way up the rotation in the coming weeks.

Injured/Will take red shirt (1)
• Marcus Jenkins-Moore (LB)

An offseason knee injury kept Jeninks-Moore — a juco teammate of Combs' — from competing for a starting spot at linebacker.

Likely red shirts (2)
• Andrew Bolton (DE)
• Mark Thomas (WR)

Kansas University defensive lineman Andrew Bolton stretches during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at the Jayhawks’ fall camp. Bolton, a juco newcomer, has star potential once he knocks off some rust, according to his coach on the KU defensive line, Buddy Wyatt.

Kansas University defensive lineman Andrew Bolton stretches during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at the Jayhawks’ fall camp. Bolton, a juco newcomer, has star potential once he knocks off some rust, according to his coach on the KU defensive line, Buddy Wyatt. by Nick Krug

Bolton is recovering from a knee injury, so Weis said his preference was to red-shirt him this year. If he was fully healthy, he appeared to be a guy that could have helped the Jayhawks' D-line immediately.

No longer on roster (2)
• Chris Martin (Buck)
• Pearce Slater (OL)

Martin would most likely have been KU's best pass-rusher this season had off-field issues not led to his dismissal from the team. Slater, meanwhile, is listed on the roster of his old junior college (El Camino College) after spending a few days this fall practicing with the Jayhawks. Had he stuck around, he would have competed for a starting spot at tackle.

Here's the full breakdown of KU's 2013 juco scholarship players:

KU's 2013 scholarship juco players.

KU's 2013 scholarship juco players. by Jesse Newell

Almost half of the junior-college guys have earned starting spots, while nearly three-fourths are expected to contribute Week 1 against South Dakota.

Though not all of the juco guys have been success stories, you'd have to think this kind of roster overhaul is what Weis envisioned — and hoped for — when he inked so many experienced players a year ago.

Comments

kellerman411 6 years, 6 months ago

We know that they are better players for reasons such as Dent and others losing their starting jobs to the new comers. Same goes for the secondary like when Short stood up off the couch and was nearly a starter immediately. That at least tells us the talent has gotten better.

This ought to be a fun season to watch. I have KU whipping Dakota huge this weekend.

Brad Farha 6 years, 6 months ago

In the spirit of competition, my Jayhawk butt will be in the stands for SDakota, LaTech, TxTech, OU, Baylor, WVU and K-State! I'll be the one wearing Blue ; )

clevelandjayhawker 6 years, 6 months ago

I think when you are 1-11 you have to gamble. Plus coaches are on a short leash (2-3 years) to turn a program around.

I'm already looking forward to next year if the red shirts plays out as predicted + a year of experience.

Rock Chalk

David A. Smith 6 years, 6 months ago

Very high success rate so far. Well done, coach.

hawk316 6 years, 6 months ago

You really gotta like what Coach Weis has done thus far. The first year he worked on changing the environment and made significant progress. He was smart enough to know that he needed to heavily invest in the juco ranks to upgrade his talent for season number two. If the team captures even a few more wins than last year, everyone will be encouraged that we're moving in the right direction. Now, it all has to happen on the field, and it begins tomorrow night! Go Hawks!

CalBBaller 6 years, 6 months ago

Thus far I don't think using the phrase "success rate" is appropriate. To me, there has been no success as yet. Having 47% of the JUCO transfers become starters is not a big deal - - especially with a previously 1-11 team. I would have hoped more would have become starters. If they win some games, then this gamble can be considered a success. Lets wait for the game results before we believe there has been success. Just my thoughts from Napa Valley, aka "Paradise".

John Myers 6 years, 6 months ago

It's more of a success than if the entire depth chart was filled with guys that were already here and incoming freshmen, would you not agree?

JJHawq 6 years, 6 months ago

Agree with you frm San Clemente. And we have the paradise thing cornered. Not Napa ;)

Doug Cramer 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm with CalBBaller on this one. There was the exact same sentiment last year before the season started. Lets be patient...keep expectations in check...and allow the program to thoroughly improve with time. Sticking with 3-9...but concerned about the Rice and La Tech games. We might be able to sneak a victory in the Big 12 somewhere.

Steve Corder 6 years, 6 months ago

Nice job of breaking down the class thus far, but impossible to know impact (obviously) until the season is over. Keep this one stored away and use it next year to handicap the same pre season story line for 2014 team.

Titus Canby 6 years, 6 months ago

What about Ty McKinney? Or does he count as one of last year's recruits? Are there any others that are on the roster, but not first or second-teamers?

Dirk Medema 6 years, 6 months ago

The players that aren't 1st or 2nd team are the likely RS's (Thomas & Bolton).

Dirk Medema 6 years, 6 months ago

Jesse - Don't Holloman and Johnson both have 3 years left? Are there others that will defer the blow of so many JC's in one class?

Was it here that I read there were only 6 players left from the recruiting class 4 years ago? That would mean the next class will be really small and the one after that huge again. Do you have those sort of #'s? There were a few schollies given out in camp yes? Those would go back into the pot for next year yes?

Finding and old xls from a quiet off-season day. I'm seeing that this class will be 17 - 9 players that have been here 4-5 years, plus 8 JC/transfers. Next year is looking like 30 graduating seniors, plus the 3 RS's listed above. Soph is another small class with 13 + 3 above RS, and 16 Frosh. That is only 79, so there would be 6 schollies free to add to this next class = 23. That seems more reasonable for a class.

Each class seems to have a few walk-ons that I didn't count even tho I think some have received schollies for this year.

mikehawk 6 years, 6 months ago

The juco gambit was the only option to not have to wait to win in three years. That is how far the program was down. He had no choice, really. It is a good gamble, but I still think it gets you to only four wins at best, which would be major cause for celebration. Regardless of win/loss outcome, now he has to use it to demonstrate enough success to begin to attract some good quality 4 year guys. Not easy. But, it's not like anyone hasn't done it successfully. Just a short drive west on I-70 proves that. Today, and particularly in the coming weeks, we find out who can make the transition from juco ball to D-1 Big 12. That is one big jump. Honestly, I think the gamble has a great chance of paying off.

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