Breaking down KU football's latest recruiting class three at a time


All right, now that the signing day dust has settled and the most recent recruiting class has become an official part of Kansas football, let's take a quick look at what this all means for the Jayhawks in 2013.

I'll have plenty more reaction and analysis of this class and signing day itself throughout the day and in the coming days — including a probable podcast later this afternoon — but I wanted to get it all started with a fun and informal look at what I think this class can bring to KU.

So let's break it down into a handful of three-player categories and follow it up with a quick and crude look at what I think the first first-string might look this fall.

Here goes:

Three biggest impact players:
1. Marquel Combs, DT
2. Marcus Jenkins-Moore, LB
3. Isaiah Johnson, S

Three most needed players:
1. Andrew Bolton, DE
2. Chris Martin, DE
3. Cassius Sendish, CB

Three most electric players:
1. Ishmael Hyman, WR
2. Colin Spencer, RB
3. Kevin Short, DB

Three biggest dark horse contributors:
1. Mike Smithburg, OL
2. Dexter McDonald, DB
3. Ngalu Fusimalohi, OL

Three guys who need time:
1. Jordan Darling, QB
2. Montell Cozart, QB
3. Ben Johnson, TE

Three hardest hitters:
1. Samson Faifili, LB
2. Andrew Bolton, DE
3. Chris Martin, DE

Three fastest fliers:
1. Ishmael Hyman, WR
2. Rod Coleman, WR
3. Kellen Ash, LB

Three guys I liked more after Weis' presser
1. Mark Thomas, WR
2. Zach Fondal, OL
3. Tedarian Johnson, DL

Where this class ranks nationally:
25th – The Sporting News
45th – (7th in the Big 12)
50th – 24/7 (8th in the Big 12)
55th –

My way-too-early look at 2013 first-stringers:

QB – Jake Heaps
RB – James Sims
RB – Tony Pierson
WR – Justin McCay
WR – Rod Coleman
TE – Jimmay Mundine
LT – Zach Fondal
LG – Damon Martin
C – Mike Smithburg
RG – Ngalu Fusimalohi
RT – Aslam Sterling

DE – Andrew Bolton
DT – Ty McKinney
DT – Marquel Combs
DE – Chris Martin
LB – Marcus Jenkins-Moore
LB – Ben Heeney
LB – Samson Faifili
CB – Cassius Sendish
CB – JaCorey Shepherd
SS – Isaiah Johnson
FS – Kevin Short

Stay tuned for much, much more throughout the day and the rest of the week and check back a little later for a podcast with our impressions and reactions from signing day.


Kyle Coffey 8 years, 8 months ago

Matt, First of all, you are the best at this. No other website has really anything close to this. We are very fortunate to have this kind of coverage.

Do you think Heeney will face any suspension for his off the field incident? Will we see any action from Tevin Shaw? Redshirted last year, and heard a lot about him coming in, but not much since..

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Thanks a bunch. Glad you enjoy it!

As for your questions, I don't think Heeney will be suspended (but I do think his punishment will be plenty miserable) and I'm not sure about Shaw. I like his make-up and think he could contribute but it's hard to know how much progress he made last year without seeing him yet.

Countdown to spring practice is on... 26 days!!!

tical523 8 years, 8 months ago

Only going to make Heeney tougher, going to be like mad Max.

TheRealTripleA 8 years, 8 months ago

Matt, love the first crack at a defensive depth chart. Heavy JUCO transfer which I hope to see as well. My only change would be Kevin Short at corner opposite Sendish and put McDonald or Tevin Shaw at the other safety with Johnson. I'm really excited about this secondary, with Greg Allen coming off red shirt as well. With this class coming in, I imagined only 1 or 2 returning players in starting positions on defense. Still a lot to prove when they all get in town next fall but very exciting.

Brennan Keller 8 years, 8 months ago

Really liking this defense and how it's coming together. We got some tough hard-hitting guys out there.

Pbbut 8 years, 8 months ago

Looks interesting, especially when considering that 15 of the 22 on the depth chart weren't on the KU active roster last year. We have a tendency to get infatuated with the new blood. Remember how we ecstatic we were last spring with the signing of Schyler Miles? We'll see how the veterans respond. I'll bet they fight their way onto the field more than you might think.
I know we didn't sign any RBs this class, but do you think they might use Bourbon in an HBack type of role sometimes? I like the way the kid caught the ball and I just hate to see that kind of speed and size sitting.

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

No doubt. Bourbon is way under utilized. Some of that has been due to injuries though. Hoping for a strong season for him. I also agree with your comment about the veterans fighting for playing time. I would wager these guys are working their tails off about now.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

It seemed from the limited action I was able to actually watch that Brandon spent a lot of time as a lead back, but you are right about hoping that we can find a way to have his size and speed touching the ball as well.

NotTait 8 years, 8 months ago

Three guys who need time - hmmm, aren't they the three KC kids???

April13 8 years, 8 months ago

Plus the K-State recruit...he'll also need time....7-10 years.

CrystalJones 8 years, 8 months ago

LOL...good point. He'll be lucky if it's that few.

(Actually, KSU did pursue him, but never offered. He was going to Coffeyville, if anywhere.)

clevelandjayhawker 8 years, 8 months ago

Glad to have a non basketball story today, thank you.

The battle for PT in the secondary should be a lot of fun to watch and bring out the best in everyone.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 8 years, 8 months ago


You've heard it time and time again. "JUCO players are a coin toss."

Is there anything that would lead you to believe that might not be the case with this incoming crew? That some of these guys are the real deal and not just hype?

Too early to make any predictions I know, but after last night, we could all use a little change of topic.

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

A few things, actually...

One, Weis isn't just blowing smoke when he says these guys can play. He doesn't do that when it comes to talent. Yes, Dayne was not as good as advertised, but I don't think that was because he didn't have talent. Other factors played into that.

Two, I really like the programs most of them come from. Good jucos with good track records of sending guys to Div. I and having them perform. In addition, those programs have discipline in place (academic and athletic) and that will help these guys make the transition quickly.

Three, you have to look at it in a relative sense because this is where KU is at right now. And I think most of these guys play with more toughness, nastiness and passion than a bunch of the guys we've seen here in the past couple of years. Many of those guys who lacked this are gone for one reason or another, but adding a group that elevates your team in all three areas (and more) can only help.

All that said, I'm really not expecting all of these guys to pan out. But I think more than half will and if that's the case, you're talking about adding 10 or so guys to the two-deep. Gotta like that. And that's to say nothing of the additions of Heaps and McCay or any future pick-ups Weis may land.

rockwall 8 years, 8 months ago

What does the punter and place kicker look like? Those were huge holes last year.

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Nice additions in the offseason. Trevor Pardula (juco transfer) is a scholarship guy and he'll compete for punt, kickoff and place kicking right away.

In addition, Michael Mesh, a talented juco kicker from Hutchinson, has been brought in as a walk-on and should compete right away for place kicking duties.

Still have to see 'em deliver before you can say either guy is an upgrade, but it sounds like they are and the position certainly was not ignored. It's not all that common to hand out a scholarship to a kicker, but Pardula got one.

Jim Jackson 8 years, 8 months ago

I thought Isaiah Johnson was more of Strong Safety...He is bigger (heavier) than short...

CardHawkFan 8 years, 8 months ago

What about that McDonald kid? Did he push for time on the field before he left and still Smiley over Mundine? ...interesting, but I trust your word. And no love for Love at the LB spot?

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

I thought Love was our best LB last year.

Chase Topliff 8 years, 8 months ago

I have connections with some guys who played with McDonald and Butler Co. CC. They said he was injured this past year and basically just quit coming since he had already committed to KU. That makes me kind of weary about his commitment and whether he will be able to contribute.

Bob Schutz 8 years, 8 months ago

Matt, I follow the St Louis Rams. Jeff Fischer seems to be focusing on the Rams defense first.
They made significant progress in his first year. The Rams were in almost every game.

Reading between the lines, is this what Charlie is doing at KU? Not flashy, but I think this approach could work. Particularly since we have great RB's on the offense side.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago

C_J....I am a Ram season ticket holder and I totally agree with Jeff's philosophy. I think that since KU will have a much stronger defense coupled with a deep running game, improved QB play and a much improved kicking game, this bodes well for the Hawks!!

Doug Cramer 8 years, 8 months ago

Matt - you're great at being KU's football beat writer. You put a ton of time and effort into it. So don't take me the wrong way because you're a good dude. But you're way too OPTIMISTIC about some of these guys. Way too optimistic.

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps, but I'm not the only one. Besides, it's a relative thing, you know? Are these guys better than what KU has or could put out there? I think so. Time will tell.

Appreciate the input, though!

Dale Stringer 8 years, 8 months ago

So Matt, where do you think Skyler Miles fits into the rotation. Asking because everyone was thinking of him so highly this time last year and now there's not even a whisper.

Jim Jackson 8 years, 8 months ago

I believe Schyler is too slow for the spreads, but I could be wrong. I think it would be good for him to lose 10 lbs to gain mobility.

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

I still think Schyler has a chance to be very productive. The thing everybody forgets about adding all of these new guys is that they don't/won't/can't play every snap. You still have to have guys behind them ready to go who are just as important. I know not all of these juco guys will pan out but if half of them do that will be a huge upgrade for KU because then it allows Weis to put some experienced and talented players in reserve roles and that makes the whole team better.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

Didn't Charlie begin last year saying he didn't want to talk about starters. He wanted to talk about 2-deeps.

So Matt, what's your 2-deep look like? with appropriate variations shown for 3rd & long, 3rd and short/goal?

Boouk 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure about Trent Smiley ahead of Jimmay Mundine at TE and Faifili ahead of Love and Tharp at OLB, but I like the look of the rest of it. Lots of new players on defense.

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I jacked that one up. I knew I had forgot somebody. Thanks, man. I'll add Mundine now. Smiley's a solid blocker, though, so I fully expect he'll get some serious PT.

Michael Maris 8 years, 8 months ago

As always Matt, I really enjoy reading your football stories.

You read in an ealier article that Huldon Tharpe is contemplating terminating his collegiate football career (as I remember). However, I read on another site (ealier today) that Marquise Jackson is considering ending his Jayhawk career as well.

Have you heard anything any such rumors?

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Jackson's done. Weis announced it yesterday. Health reasons. Too bad, but at least he's walking away on his terms.

I have heard the Tharp rumors and I believe there may be something to them. Working on finding out.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 8 years, 8 months ago


See you have Colin Spencer at RB. Wasn't he a corner in high school?

I think it would be great if he had the speed to provide some mismatches on offense.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 8 months ago

He got moved because of Jackson ending his career.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 8 months ago

Dang, hope he works both sides of the ball. I remember seeing some video of him on D and he really is fast, aggressive, and has a nose for the ball.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 8 months ago

Man. Not one starter on the D-line from last year. I hope that says a lot about the new guys. I also find it odd that Tavai isn't seeing the starting lineup. I thought he was gonna be a stud. Anyway hope all these guys help bolster the team and help us get over the hump to winning a few games.

Boouk 8 years, 8 months ago

DL coach Buddy Wyatt said last December that Tavai had to improve his technique. Remember, Tavai didn't even arrive on campus last year until July. With a full offseason in Holsopple's strength and conditioning program and improved technique he should be in line for a much better Sr. season.

Brandon Mahon 8 years, 8 months ago

What do you think about ALLEN over Shepard at the opposite corner?? Campo said he could have been a huge player last year?? and I think shaw will show something in a year or two after having two years to learn and train. Also I would love to see Burbon get some more PT he is a great back and we need to really find a way to implement him. Also what do we think about Mark Thomas, Hyman, and Spencer?? I think Hyman Spencer and Short will be used on Special Teams as returners, but i would def love to see Spencer and Hyman get some serious PT but Thomas with his size and speed will be tough to not play... I just dont see many guys from last years specialty players finding a spot... Maybe Turrizilli but idk bout Ford or Omigie.

Lawkan 8 years, 8 months ago

I thought Admire was supposed to be pretty good. He has had plenty of time to develop shouldn't he be favored over Smithburg?

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

It's all about experience. Smithburg has played two seasons of college ball and won a juco national championship last year. I know that's not the same as D-I but it's more than Admire has under his belt.

Admire's still young, but he's smart and solid. He'll compete for that spot and won't give it up easily. The way I see it, you're set at 1 and 2 if both of these guys are battling their tails off.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

I recall Smithburg talking about playing both spots, and sounding like the staff was talking about him being in the middle.

texashawk10 8 years, 8 months ago

Matt, what are the odds of the same thing happening to Combs that happened to McKinney last year?

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Very low. Saw recently where Combs said he'd be here in May. I'm not exactly sure what went on with McKinney (other than what was made public) but I think there was more to it than what we heard.

With Combs, as long as he passes his class or two, he'll be free and clear. I don't think it'll be a concern at all.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

In some ways it IS the same as McKinney; he'll arrive a semester late. In Combs case though, he planned to be here a semester early, so even being late is still on time. Really would have been nice to have for Spring Ball.

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Good question. I'll be interested to see the answer, too, but I would think Brandon Bourbon, Tre' Parmalee and maybe even Christian Matthews would get some reps back there returning kicks.

Maybe Bourbon and Taylor Cox handling kickoff return and Parmalee and Matthews handling punt returns.

KGphoto 8 years, 8 months ago

I would sure like to see a home run threat back there. How long has it been since we housed a kickoff?

Boouk 8 years, 8 months ago

How about Colin Spencer, Kevin Short and Tevin Shaw in the return game? I think those guys are quicker/faster than Bourbon, Cox, Parmalee and Matthews.

canuckhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

Interesting that so many recruiting nerds were poo pooing rival's team rating in favor of the 24/7 rating because the latter does much better at considering JUCO talent. Then Rivals gives us a higher (weighted ranking).

The difference between the Sporting News and the ESPN rating is crazy. One of these must be more concerned about the KC market. I'm not saying which one...but it doesn't have dominion over the sporting world.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

Sporting News had a special article on JuCo day and predicted KU as a top 25. It might be covenient self-fulfilling prophesy. That being said, they did seem to value JuCo's more than most sites. Regardless, it gets decided on the turf.

Jim Jackson 8 years, 8 months ago

Drunken, with all that's going on ST is an afterthought but I do know that Weis has a transfer who will be eligible at K who is supposed to be nasty.

I really hope Combs' situation does not mimic Mckinney's.

Extremely pumped about next season, it is going to be awesome.

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

Good point, but it's been years and years and years since KU's had a good pass rush. That's why I went with the two D-Ends because, I think that's so critical in the Big 12.

Besides, I have high hopes for Turzilli, McCay and Parmalee. If those three can play (and Heaps can get them the ball), the WR position is not in as bad of shape as it might seem.

We'll find out.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

We also lost our ENTIRE DBackfield. Hopefully, some of the yunguns can step up to at least provide support.

cabmando 8 years, 8 months ago

what is Ben Heeney's status after run in a local bar/ arrest?

Matt Tait 8 years, 8 months ago

He's fine. He has been/will be disciplined internally and, as long as he stays out of trouble from here on out, he'll be on the field every week this fall.

KGphoto 8 years, 8 months ago

Admire at C and Spencer at LT over Smithburg and Fondal.

Greg Allen at C opposite Sendish. Shepherd as the nickel.

Pierson comes off because we'll rarely see both he and Sims together in the backfield. Instead I'd add a FB (Bourbon) a WR (Parmalee) or another TE (Smiley/Brooks)

Guys who will be tough to beat for a starting spot:

-Jake Love at SLB. (He beasts. +1 season Big 12 experience.)

-Ben Goodman at DE. (35lbs of muscle in one redshirt year! Good grief, what will we see this year with Holsopple? +1 season Big 12 experience.)

-Tevin Shaw at FS. (Incredible overall athlete. Great speed and agility. I love the wrestling background. However, now that Jackson is gone, does Weis consider him for RB depth?)

-Andrew Turzili at WR. (Good length and speed. He got past some Big 12 corners last year but we could rarely hit him. +1 year experience in Big 12 and Weis' system.

texashawk10 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree with most of this. Riley Spencer is going to be very difficult to beat out at LT. The battle for C is going to be a good one and I would lean towards Admire but not sure on that one. I don't see Bourbon doing much at FB, he's too injury prone for that. Love and Goodman are nice players and I think they'll be in the rotation, but I don't see either starting. Shaw will definitely be be a contender for a starting safety spot and I think he has a decent shot along with Greg Allen to beat out the JuCo kids for starting spots in the secondsry. I also agree about Turzilli. If he can improve his route running, he will have the chance to be a very good WR in the Big 12 and give KU its first true deep threat since Dez Briscoe.

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 8 months ago

Love the article, but I can't see any way that many of these JUCO guys start. I'm way to pragmatic to take what we've seen from the JUCO guys we've had over the years and think that large a percentage of them will work out that well.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

More recently the JuCo' didn't, but we have had lots that have. Whittemore Keith Harper Hartley Toomey Vaughn and a few more contributors even if not star. It's just a natural tendancy to remember the bad more than the good.

Micky Baker 8 years, 8 months ago

If this is correct, only 2 players who were on defense a year ago will be starting, and Heeney is a beast. Jake Love will be a nice guy to rotate in and out in certain situations, but it looks the athleticism on the defense has been upgraded dramatically. On offense, if Turzilli gets his act together and Thomas is as fast as they say he is, when we wanna go four wides, we won't have a problem with spreading it out.

The focus will be getting pressure on opposing QBs and more aggressive play by the defensive backs taking the opponents' wrs out of rhythm.

rockchalk1990, Briscoe wasn't a burner by any means. Marcus Henry was faster as is Turzilli an even Omigie(but Omigie has to catch the ball). I don't see Omigie getting much time except in mop up duty unless he fixes his hands problem.

The defensive Front is upgraded talent an athletic wise. Let's see how the execute. If they execute well... that will be huge.

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