Signs of life: Former Alabama WR Daylon Charlot as good as advertised for KU
In 2016, a rebuilding Kansas football team put a far more sound defense on the field than it did the year before, in head coach David Beaty’s first season. Still, KU’s offense couldn’t produce enough first downs or scoring drives to keep the Jayhawks competitive for much of the season. This coming fall, the Kansas offense will look a lot different. And it should be far more productive.
Over the next several days at KUsports.com, we will highlight some of the spring indications that signal better days ahead for the KU offense.
If you watched the Kansas football spring game, you could see it. Sure, KU’s coaches had downplayed his standing within the offense, citing new receiver Daylon Charlot’s lack of repetitions in an Air Raid offense or describing his ability as raw because the former Alabama skill player has yet to prove anything on Saturdays in the fall.
But even in a scrimmage designed to spread the ball around and only showcase the blandest play calls, Charlot’s ability was undeniable.
The 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore who sat out as a transfer this past fall at KU looked the part of an impact receiver — even if his coaches rightfully will hold off on showering him with their praises, because it’s their job to keep complacency out of their players’ systems.
During the T.V. broadcast of the spring game, Charlot drew comparisons to former South Carolina and current Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. While Jeffery has four inches on Charlot, the idea that KU’s newest passing-game weapon could go up and make plays in the air like a larger target proved true.
A four-star prospect out of Patterson, La., who had offers from Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and others in 2015, Charlot made his unofficial debut as a Jayhawk at the spring game and announced his presence in spectacular fashion.
Early in the second quarter, with the offense approaching midfield, KU football fans at Memorial Stadium experienced their first “wow” play from the receiver. Of course, Charlot couldn’t have made it happen without the help of his teammates. Offensive linemen Hakeem Adeniji, Malik Clark, Hunter Saulsbury, Larry Hughes and Charles Baldwin provided great protection for another touted newcomer, junior quarterback Peyton Bender, who had roughly five seconds to survey the field before pressure came and he looked down the right sideline for the deep threat wearing a No. 2 jersey.
Charlot parked near the 29-yard line as corner Julian Chandler broke toward him and the approaching throw. Then the athletic receiver exploded up, met the ball high with two hands and got his right foot down in bounds as Chandler shoved him out of play. Charlot's strength showed up on the play, too, as he maintained possession through a backward summersault on the turf, finishing a 28-yard completion.
Two snaps later, Charlot was back at it, picking up 12 more yards and another first down. This time, Bender had to backpedal away from the pressure of junior defensive tackle J.J. Holmes, leading to a hurried throw. No problem for Charlot. He reached low and to his right to bring in the pass and extended his arms outward for extra yardage before being tackled.
The third and final reception for KU’s newest play-maker won the spring game for his team, with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
On second-and-goal at the 5-yard line, with the ball placed on the left hash, Charlot flanked out to the right side. With running back Khalil Herbert lined up behind Bender in a pistol formation, a play-fake up the middle set up a one-on-one for Charlot as he made a break toward the goal line, getting inside position on Chandler.
When Bender’s pass met Charlot’s hands, the sophomore receiver out-muscled his defender to come away with the score on a slant.
A year ago, Kansas finished ninth in the Big 12 in passing offense (240 yards a game) in large part because of its quarterback troubles. But having only Steven Sims Jr. (72 receptions, 859 yards) and LaQuvionte Gonzalez (62 catches, 729 yards) as consistent targets played a role, too. Sims’ overall talent and Gonzalez’s speed in space only could do so much when defenses keyed on them as the obvious top choices within the passing attack.
This fall, opposing defensive backs won’t be able to load up on Sims, Gonzalez or Charlot without leaving one of them or some other capable KU receiver in a favorable situation.
Spring games are only games in name. Had offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and company actually been out there at the glorified practice with the full offense at their disposal and playing in an actual game with a regular-season victory on the line, we would have seen even more of Charlot.
Instead, we will have to wait until September to get a true sense of just how substantial an impact the former Alabama receiver will make. At least we also know, thanks to spring ball, we can anticipate Charlot living up to his hype and his own expectations.