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Why former Alabama wideout Daylon Charlot switched to safety at KU

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Kansas special teams player Daylon Charlot (2) is pursued by TCU special teams player Garret Wallow (30) during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.

Kansas special teams player Daylon Charlot (2) is pursued by TCU special teams player Garret Wallow (30) during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. by Nick Krug

The “Where’s Daylon Charlot?” game — a popular pastime these past several months for those who follow Kansas football — took an interesting turn this past weekend when the former Alabama wide receiver wore a No. 7 KU football uniform against Kansas State, instead of his former No. 2 jersey.

Most observers entered the 2017 season expecting Charlot, a four-star high school recruit out of Patterson, La., talented enough to sign with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, to become a playmaker within KU’s Air Raid offense in his first year of eligibility with the Big 12 program. Or at least have a chance to make a positive impact.

However, Charlot only caught one pass (for no yardage) in the first Kansas loss of the season, to Central Michigan. In the weeks that followed, he fell even deeper down the depth chart and never made his way onto the field unless he was back deep for a kickoff return (the 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore has three returns on the season and averages 18.7 yards per special teams touch).

But wearing a completely different number, one shared by KU quarterback Peyton Bender, signaled another twist in the Charlot saga. A receiver can’t have the same number on his jersey as a quarterback, so either the newly-benched Bender had moved to defense or the seldom-used Charlot had a new position.

The latter, of course, was true. Although Charlot is too new to the defensive backfield to be trusted with game reps, he is now playing safety for the Jayhawks (1-7 overall, 0-5 Big 12).

Why didn’t it work out for Charlot at receiver, where everyone from expected top target Steven Sims Jr., to true freshman Quan Hampton, to junior college transfer Kerr Johnson Jr. made much more of a difference for the offense? That’s a topic offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham didn’t want to fully dive into.

“I don’t know. I think we just really needed some safeties. And he’s not really playing much for us, so … that’s probably all I can say on that one,” Meacham responded Thursday during his weekly session with media. “He kind of wanted to, also. I think it was like ‘I’m not really getting a whole lot over here. I know there’s a need for safety.’”

Indeed, KU defensive coordinator and safeties coach Clint Bowen said Charlot sought out the switch, initiating that discussion with head coach David Beaty.

“It’s just a situation where he wasn’t getting reps over there,” Bowen said, “so you just take a look to see if he has a skill set to play on our side of the ball.”

It’s too early to tell, Bowen added, just what kind of defensive back Charlot could become for Kansas.

“Yeah, that takes time. It does, unfortunately, at safety in this league,” Bowen said. “It takes reps and time and a feel. There’s just a lot of things that you have to see over and over and over to create your reactions the way they need to be, because you can get fooled in this league.”

So don’t expect to see Charlot on the field for Bowen’s defense anytime soon, unless KU is in the late stages of a blowout or a rash of injuries severely attacks the team’s safety depth.

Perhaps we will learn more down the road about why Charlot didn’t fit as a receiver. For the time being, give credit to the young player for taking himself out of his comfort zone and trying something different.

“These kids, they want to play,” Bowen said. “They came here to play in games and succeed. My take on the kid is he just wants to get on the field and do what he can to help the team. He seems to be that type of guy, that he just wants to get on the field and play.”

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Comments

Phil Leister 2 weeks ago

Just really weird situation overall. Either Saban and company didn't properly evaluate his talent and he actually just isn't very good, or our coaches don't know how to get the most out of him.

Dirk Medema 2 weeks ago

It isn't necessarily a question of his talent as much as his talent being raw/underdeveloped. Read Saban's comments when he left. He knew he was a project player that would need to develop to contribute. He's got decent size and ball skills so would seem like a nice possibility at DB. Maybe our next Jacorey Shepherd.

John Fitzgerald 2 weeks ago

I find this all way too weird. If we end up getting a new coach and Charlot sticks around and switches back to WR, I'm sure then we'll know the true story about what went on. But to be honest I think there's more evidence in the last 3 years that suggests the coaching staff just isn't good at evaluating or improving the players on the roster. I'm hoping they prove me wrong next year.

Brett McCabe 2 weeks ago

By the way, Beaty has moved up to number two on the Coaches Hot Seat rating, right behind Butch Jones. Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska and others will all be in the hunt for coaches. The most frightened people in America right now are Cyclones fans, but I hope that Campbell stays.

For us, there are some changes.

Fritz will need to win some games to stay in the mix, though there is a lot of logic to hiring him.

Bohl has proven himself, so far, though he might hold out for a better job.

Calhoun would be an excellent hire. Lord only knows how much further along we would be right now if Zenger wasn't afraid of the option and chose to go with a "more exciting" offense - now ranked last in the league.

Leavitt has the Oregon defense coming around, so he's still in the mix.

Pellini might be out of our reach. I could see a better job opening up for him, but if we hired the right AD, maybe we could sway him.

It's so frustrating to think that these types of coaches are out there and available, while we continue to stumble, mumble and fumble our way along - acting as if building a competitive football program is the hardest thing in the world.

Tim Orel 2 weeks ago

I have watched Jim McElwaine for a few years at Colorado State. He jumped to Florida after making CSU relevant and getting them to several bowls and getting them a new stadium (I mean, nobody blames him) and he was somewhat successful in FL with divisional titles, but they're used to competing for championships so they let him go. I think he'd actually do a good job here at KU and he might still bring in some good recruits and coaches. He's also not likely to jump right back out the way some other coach might because he's done it and knows it's not all roses at the top of the heap. He has the experience of building up a downtrodden, undersupported program, as well as experience at the top.

Brett McCabe 2 weeks ago

I think McElwaine would be a good candidate, for all the reasons that you mentioned. Definitely should be added to the list.

Andy Tweedy 2 weeks ago

I know you worried in a previous post about jobs opening up before we moved on a new coach (if we do). But do you really think the same guys that are being looked at by NU, UF and UT are going to be terribly interested in KU? I'd be shocked if that were the case. I totally agree about Campbell, how in the world does ISU keep him?

Brett McCabe 2 weeks ago

Andy, I've never worried about losing out on the hottest names. Those guys aren't coming. But we have to be ahead of the second wave, where the guys who leave get replaced. And, unless Zenger/Girod, come up with a plan to hire a coach without Zenger running the search, Zenger has to go and be replaced. This is why time is of the essence. As Keegan pointed out, this is why Nebraska got it done several weeks ago.

Chris Spangenburg 2 weeks ago

Zenger will be never have anything to do with another football hire here, he'll be gone before Beaty ever is.

Jim Stauffer 2 weeks ago

Anyone thinking Pelini would be a good fit here is out of their guord.

John Brazelton 2 weeks ago

Matt Campbell will be an SEC coach, if not this season, then next season. Why would anyone, but desperate football want to come and coach at KU. If Beaty is fired this season, that would mean that three HC in a row lasted 3 years or less at KU. Only an idiot or really desperate football coach would willingly accept that job unless he was guaranteed 5 or more years with a hugh buyout like Charlie Weis.

Andy Tweedy 2 weeks ago

I'm not so sure about that. He's an OH/PA guy, I would think, without any firsthand knowledge, that he's bound for the Big X at some point.

Aaron Paisley 2 weeks ago

Nebraska will be the only high profile Big 10 job open and that's going to be Scott Frost's job if he wants it. Campbell isn't going to the Big 10 next year.

Brett McCabe 2 weeks ago

The fear-mongering by the Beaty clan is ridiculous. There are a number of quality coaches who would take this job, including everyone I listed plus Tim's addition of McElwain.

Why? Completely refurbished training facilities. New stadium plan. High number of returning players.

It's pretty pathetic when the reason people give for keeping the worst coach in the conference is because you don't think that we can do better. We can.

Robert Brock 2 weeks ago

Who wants to work for a gifted loser like Sheahon Zenger?

David Robinett 2 weeks ago

If we beat Baylor, Beaty stats.

Just a hunch, and probably would be the right move.

Chris Bailey 2 weeks ago

"So don’t expect to see Charlot on the field for Bowen’s defense anytime soon, unless KU is in the late stages of a blowout."

LMBO!!! Like this is EVER gonna happen!

Aaron Paisley 2 weeks ago

Have you not watched any games this year. KU has been involved in several blow outs this year where they emptied the bench at the end of the game.

Drew Matthews 2 weeks ago

“I don’t know. I think we just really needed some safeties. And he’s not really playing much for us, so … that’s probably all I can say on that one,” Meacham responded

This response is so concerning. You don't know why you made a change of position? Is there any strategy or are they just running around trying to put out fires?

Aaron Paisley 2 weeks ago

They know exactly why the change was made. They're just not going to publicly throw the kid under the bus about why the switch was agreed to.

Bryson Stricker 2 weeks ago

This is one move I can't quite get an answer on. Daylon loves it here at KU, he really does. But from my insight within the camp, this is Beaty/Meacham not being a big fan of the kid which I don't understand how.

He is without a doubt, THE best player on our team.

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