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Loss of Combs far from devastating for KU football

So defensive tackle Marquel Combs is leaving the Kansas University football program after spending less than four months in Lawrence.

On the surface, the news certainly comes as a surprise, but, a closer look at all that has unfolded during his time at KU provides evidence that we should have seen this coming.

These are the moments that sports writers tend to regret. You spend months hyping up a player you've never seen play who has a big name, a shiny ranking given to him by somebody you don't know and a charming personality only to wind up looking bad when things go south.

The good news in this instance is I think Combs is the one who ends up looking bad here.

I have no issue with an athlete wanting to be and play somewhere he feels comfortable. Maybe, for whatever reason, KU just was not quite what Combs expected it would be. But, at least from where I sit, it sure looks more like that reason is tied strongly to the fact that the former No. 1 ranked juco player in the country according to ESPN.com got here, found out he was going to have to work for his spot and did not really want to do that.

Nearly everything that happened after Combs found that out led to this moment and, although the critics surely will use this as just another reason to laugh at KU coach Charlie Weis and Kansas football, it sure sounds like the program will be stronger and better with Combs playing elsewhere — wherever that may be.

See, Weis' program is not built on entitlement, favoritism and prima donnas. He's said that more than once and, better than that, he's proven it over and over. The best players play. Doesn't matter if you're a walk-on, a has-been or a never was. If you're better than the guy you're competing with, you're on the field. Players respect that. And such an environment tends to produce a locker room full of guys who work their butts off day in and day out because they understand that. No gray areas. No nonsense.

Combs never seemed to get that. Or, if he did, he never seemed to think it applied to him.

Where Combs goes from here is anyone's guess. People with knowledge of Combs' time at KU said the highly-touted defensive tackle was struggling to adjust to KU in more areas than just the playing field, where he dressed but did not play in the season opener and then did not suit up for KU's next two games, including not even traveling to Rice after being pencilled in as a second-stringer and then sent down the red-shirt path.

One national recruiting analyst I spoke to said many teams backed off Combs the first time around because of personality issues and Combs may have a tough time selling himself a second time around after arriving at KU with the hype of a heavyweight title fight and leaving with the sound of a whoopie cushion.

The only question that remains with Combs now is will he wind up becoming the next Brock Berglund, set free to ride off to greener pastures only to never be heard from again? Berglund, by the way, is a sophomore at North Texas — his second school since leaving KU — and has not thrown a pass in a game this season.

Don't be surprised if Combs follows a similar path.

;

Comments

Brandon Mahon 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I dont know if people have forgot one of our Commits is one of the best OL/Centers cracks the espn300 if I remember correctly.

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Jim Jackson 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I still firmly believe we have to stick with the JUCO route for immediate impact, 20-21 year olds; until our record is respectable enough to where 4 star prospects will actually listen to us.

Thoughts?

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leonard 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Wow...just wow.

Inteldesign says the cure to our offensive woes could be recruiting on campus...looking for premed students from Kansas who were never offered a D1 scholarship...but played OL in high school.

wow...just wow!!

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Randy Bombardier 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Can't we get some walk-on linemen? I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that we could get some students who played in high school but were never offered a D1. Yet, they have the frame and the ability. Maybe they checked out of football because they are pre-med and wanted to take that seriously. Maybe they feared how much football would interfere with their education. I think a lot of small-town kids in Kansas never play college ball although they could. I also think these kids have a better attitude and more desire to achieve than a lot of scholarship players who wonder if they made the right choice coming to KU, especially if they were highly recruited. That element is missing with the walk-ons. Either they make it or they do not. Their pride is at work, just like Matt Wyman. I can do that, he says. And he did. Where are the linemen?

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Terran Woolley 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This was a great read. Definately puts things in perspective and shuts down the "sky is falling" mass hysteria fans.

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jayhawkintx1973 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Good article Matt. This shouldn't be one of those things where you just come with an ESPN rating and get on the field. That would create no incentive for the guys competing for the same spot. That happens a lot in high school, and when it does happen, you see teams that are on 4 or 5 season losing streaks, measured in seasons because it emphasizes how negative of an outcome it creates.

The players that are the best are on the field, and we're not using all of the depth that we will have next year yet.

Another positive thing about this is that Chris Martin and Marquel Combs are gone, so we will have more scholarships to offer next season and Wyman may end up earning one, but having just one extra recruit could be the diamond in the rough, ala, Kerry Meier coming in as a QB, then becoming a 100 reception receiver including one really big one in the border war and another big one during that sea saw battle in the 4th quarter.

We got another kid who is red shirting this year that reminds of Jake Sharp, but probably a little faster and bigger than Jake Sharp from Dallas. I'm also excited to hear some more about the kid from Gardner who committed early on.

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FCCoHawk 6 months, 3 weeks ago

So, kind of early to do this but I think next year is the critical year for the football team. Looking at the depth chart, we are stacked with Soph and Juniors. We will need to replace some bodies on the OL but still have the corner and WR eligible which will be good additions. With all these guys returning after another year of the same coaches and same system two yrs in a row, we should be much improved. Just my two cents

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rooster 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"See, Weis' program is not built on entitlement, favoritism"

Really? I disagree.

Dayne Crist

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GabrielMichael 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I've got to agree with the Tait supporters here. Nice work Mr. Tait! You've got your finger on the pulse of most Jayhawk fans and we appreciate your always being there to provide analysis and insight! RCJH!

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Mark Lindrud 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Thanks Matt for being on the ball with this topic, especially how quickly it came into the public eye. Your work is amazing.

I believe our defense will keep improving because these guys are still learning to play together. When you consider how many guys came in midway last year and this summer I'm happy with the defensive progress. This team has been progressing this year and if we can find a way to beat Tech things will get very interesting.

Finally, I'm glad to hear more insight about Combs and hopefully this is a lesson for Weis to do more due diligence when recruiting juco players. It happens to every program that a guy isn't a fit so we move on and embrace who is here.

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BPSkelly 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I dont know how anyone here can 'fear/loathe' repercussions of this move. Tempest in a teapot stuff here folks. This kid isnt going to become an NFL all-pro. He's going to be lucky to join a bottom feeder D-I team. Now, im sure there are other programs that will look at him. But the warning flags are already up. Im also quite sure that if Charlie "That Pile of Crap out there" Weis doesnt see him as useful, other places that can and should be even more discriminating than he is (ie - most other BCS schools) arent going to find him more useful.

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BPSkelly 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Good take Matt. As usual, your writing what many of us are thinking or asking. Keep it up.

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jay_cheese 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I'll never understand comparing the game of football to basketball. Outside of being games, they share very little in common (# of players, rules, scoring, objective, surface, clock, etc).

I still maintain that I'd like to see more of a winning team than winning press conferences....

RC

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jhawkrulz 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I always find it a little sad when people transfer out of KU. There have been some good basketball players that have left and there are some that stick around and battle through.

I look at Mario Chalmers and Tyshawn Taylor who both were all but gone, but stayed, both ended up in the NBA. Although there have been some, the majority that have fought through have made solid careers, the ones that have left, you seldom have heard from.

I really would like to see his name among others prove the head coaches wrong, but all too often it doesn't happen. I've heard a number of NFL coaches say the hardest part of their job is to cut people, but hope that they are proven wrong.

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Jim Jackson 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I see a lot of people commenting that going the JUCO route has been a bad idea; of course, a couple will not pan out but at this juncture, under Weis' tenure, we do not have a strong enough record to compete for 4 star HS kids.

As Matt stated, 13 guys excluding the redshirts are one the 2 deep, we have to stay this course until we can achieve a respectable record.

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Dan Pawlowski 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"..arriving at KU with the hype of a heavyweight title fight and leaving with the sound of a whoopie cushion." Nice.

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Keith Hummel 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Tweet from MJM last night:

"I ain't goin nowhere so some of yal ppl can stop callin me another mans puppet! Get it str8 lames"

Well OK then. I guess I'll just calm my lame self down and stop worrying.

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John Fitzgerald 6 months, 4 weeks ago

The only decision Weis has made that I disagree with is not hiring an offensive coordinator. He has his reasons I'm sure, but when our biggest weakness at this point is our offense, then I have reason to be concerned. As far as this Marquel Combs nonsense, I could care less. He proved nothing to any of us other than his ability to market himself. We already reaped those benefits in getting other JUCO transfers to commit with him. My only fear is that other players will follow. But if he is as lazy a person as I'm hearing, players will notice that and not associate themselves with him. I have full faith in Weis even if my glass of hope is getting a little empty. I'll take him over Gill any day.

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Adam Gerval 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Word on the street is that this kid is a turd. If you recall his little Jefferson's incident I mentioned a few months ago...not to mention talking about smoking during a class at KU, I think we'll be alright. Sounds like his mind was on things other than football...

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d_bradley27 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Honestly I'd rather hear from Coach Campo on how this came to be. Combs was the media darling early on and now a slob? Seems like a stretch but who knows. Hard to be a Juco All American and not have the fire to compete. We've seen him on tape and he can dominate at times. What changed. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of what we've read and what he'll tweet once he's out of Lawrence.

Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk. Thanks for getting some recruits for us and good luck.

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pizzashuttle 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I hope Combs learned some things from his time at KU. I'm sure Coach Weis shot straight with him about what he needed to improve on so at least he has that to take with him. Combs brought some good players to KU so he wasn't a total waste. Hopefully they stick and graduate. While I'm disappointed in Marquel's inability to overcome his challenges at KU, I wish him well in the future.

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 4 weeks ago

The adjustments to the 2-deep in the last week or 2 would make it appear that CW was giving Combs plenty of chances to earn PT. Addition by subtraction.

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Chris Gilbertson 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Ok Matt, since nobody else has asked in this article but a few people said something about it in the other article, what's the chances that some of these other guys take off with Combs? Like Kevin short or Marcus Jenkins Moore and maybe not so much of a concern but Rodriguez Coleman and a some of the other JUCO guys Combs helped recruit.

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W Keith Swinehart II 6 months, 4 weeks ago

This is football. I like the disciplined, no nonsense approach of Coach Weis. No one said it would be easy.

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Return_of_the_Mack 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Weis took a shot on some of these guys, and he had to in hopes they might pan out. Attrition in a rebuild is nothing new, and hopefully the next round of recruits will be better.

All kids are risks, be they juco or not. You just never know for sure who will be your soldiers and who will turn tail and run. But you always take a shot on talent; always. And talent will always get a second chance, or third ..... as long as they have eligibility. It's just the way it goes.

This is on Combs, he didn't cut the mustard, for whatever reason.

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Matt Bowers 6 months, 4 weeks ago

“Marquel was a great factor in our recruitment of last year’s signing class,” Weis said. “We would like to wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Weis is doing a little to hype the kid up and get him on his way. It doesn't sound like he regrets/fears the move. For now we have to sit back and trust HCCW and see what happens. I share the same concerns about recruiting, talent and wins as the rest of you, but if the program is to be restored it will be a process. Better to trust HCCW and believe this is best, than to panic.

With that said, it would be great to see a lot more high school talent come into the program. There is a lot of opportunity to play at KU, be a star, have a great college experience and achieve at the next level. Lastly and I know this is off topic...but, HCCW needs to hire an offensive coordinator and just be the head coach that oversees everything. He can't recruit, run a team, run an offense and have success in the B12...just not enough time in the day. That's all I've got to say about that!

Rock Chalk

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kudzutexas 6 months, 4 weeks ago

One thing that always impressed me about Coach Synder is his ability to identify and develop the not highly recruited players. Mangino seemed pretty successful with that too. Then when I see players like Pierce Slater and Combs disappear it always makes me worry about what is going on. However, I have to remind myself that Milton Doyle, Micah Downs, Omar Wilkes, J. R. Giddens, Quintrell Thomas, Tyrone Appleton, David Padgett, Royce Woolridge, C.J. Henry, Merv Lindsey, Arino Adams, Alex Galindo, and C.J. Giles all left KU's basketball program and it never worked out like they expected. You just never saw this "running away" years ago, but it certainly has become the norm. It's really ridiculous.

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Chuck Woodling 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Hey Matt - How about an update on the current status of each of Weis' juco signees?

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Janet Scott 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Combs is firmly in the "pile of crap" talent category Charlie likes to throw around. What a joke. He and Slater couldn't crack the line-up at Tabor or Baker, if both schools played 6 man football. How on earth did Weis conclude these two clowns would ever play a down at KU?

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texasjayhawk91 6 months, 4 weeks ago

One of my fraternity brothers is a manager with the team and told me that Combs was a lazy P.O.S., didn't work hard and pouted at practice. Never had any work ethic. My buddy called this a month ago.

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Doug Cramer 6 months, 4 weeks ago

This hurts for sure. We had the potential to have Combs, Bolton, Stowers, and Goodman starting on the line next year. I see the point you're making Matt...and it's a positive one. However...when do we finally start bringing in some boys in the trenches that will succeed in this league ? That's the question we must ask about Weis and his recruiting. Let's face it...our offense is inadequate because of the O-line...plain and simple. The jury is still out on the D-line...but come Big 12 play...I think we'll come to fine out that's also inadequate. We gave up over 400 yards to La Tech...and should have lost by 14 points.

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mikehawk 6 months, 4 weeks ago

We are in the ultimate bind here, I'm afraid. We sold out the "built on JUCO" strategy to try to win NOW. I'm not close enough to program to do an analysis of the JUCO players, but that is something right up your ally, Matt. Two games into the season, what is the scorecard on the JUCO guys from last year's recruits? How many...starting, second, third, scout team, red shirt, injured, transferred, quit, kicked off, arrested, etc.? I think the scorecard on this has to evaluated. Behind every one of the JUCO guys is a reason they are at JUCO's, i.e., late bloomer, late starter, grades, attitude/behavior, injury, size, and not good enough for D-1, or in combination. Each one is taking up a scholarship which isn't going to a four year recruit who could develop and grow into the program. But we can't recruit enough of those D-1 high school players because the good ones want to go elsewhere, e.g., Blake Bell at OU and the young man who just signed with Nebraska. So if the JUCO experiment doesn't produce enough wins so these talented high school boys want to play football at a basketball school...well, that doesn't look too good to me in the long run and in the bigger picture.

I don't question the best players play approach, regardless of hype. Bill Self and any good coach lives and dies by that approach, and of course, players respect it. But don't think every recruiting competitor after the top JUCO recruits next Spring will be bringing up the name "Marquel Combs" any time they think a top JUCO player is considering Kansas. That is just how it works, regardless, and it just makes the job that much tougher.

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Brett McCabe 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Matt is right: it's better to clear out the distractions as soon as possible so that you can focus your efforts on the guys who want to be here.

Congrats also to the D-Line guys who sent Combs packing. Sounds petty, but I'd feel pretty good about my effort right now if I just sent the number one recruit in the country at my position home to mama.

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Jason Keller 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Wow, what a clutch article by Tait. I feel the same way. Weis is laying the psychological framework with his players in which he will be able to build a successful team. Players need to know that it's not who talks the talk but who walks the walk.

In Combs case, he's walking on outta here. From what we've heard about him and seen from him, I believe he will regret this decision for the rest of his life. He had a very unique opportunity to develop at a school in a power conference with a still developing defense. I imagine that he is planning on transferring to another power conference at which there will almost certainly be even better defensive lineman.

My prediction: Marquel Combs never plays another down of college football. Not in a game anyway. He'll go to another school where he thinks it's easier and really find out what type of players are out there.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 6 months, 4 weeks ago

The problem is there are/have been 42 other players that came in with a lot of hype and flopped. Starting to see a trend!

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pigballin 6 months, 4 weeks ago

It seems like Weiss needs to find a recruiter that can spot talent.

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