Why it might actually be OK to get excited about KU football's 2 Alabama transfers
I know you’re out there. I can hear you all the way over here. And I don’t blame you.
But I do think you should take a brief pause from the eye-rolling and exhaling that surely hit most of you after learning about the pair of Alabama football transfers that announced plans to come to Kansas this week.
It’s not your fault that your gut reaction is to be skeptical. Heck, after all of the seemingly-promising transfers that have passed through here and never quite panned out, I would think skepticism would be a gut reaction upon learning that more were on the way.
But there’s something different about Alabama’s Daylon Charlot and Charles Baldwin that you might want to consider before writing them off.
There’s a lot different, actually.
First of all, these are not the Dayne Crists, Mike Ragones, Anthony McDonalds, Jake Heapses and Justin McCays of the world. All of those aforementioned players, and a few others just like them, came to Kansas on the heels of some serious hype because of their previous recruiting buzz and the names of the universities from which they came. Notre Dame. Oklahoma. BYU.
Players good enough to land scholarships at those schools traditionally do not come to Kansas. In each of those instances there were extra circumstances at play that paved the way for them to land in Lawrence. And while each of them had good moments and gave everything they had, none of them really proved to be the caliber of player that KU fans were expecting to get. Because of that, KU fans then built up a wall that prompted them to first laugh and scoff at the news of any transfers coming this way in the years that followed.
As I mentioned above, I get it. I was duped too. And maybe if things were different in some ways or if they had come at a different time, those former transfers would have enjoyed terrific careers at KU and this narrative would be completely different. But that didn’t happen. So those guys and many others who followed in their footsteps immediately were labeled as busts, has-beens or never-would-bes because the guys before them didn’t quite pan out.
In almost every one of those cases, though, we already knew what type of player Kansas was getting. Sure, the idea that they had played at OU or suited up at Notre Dame sounded like a dream scenario for a struggling KU program. But each was deep into his career and had not really shown anything at the previous stop to make people here think things were going to be different. The excitement of the shiny name and the hope of better days blinded many of us to that fact.
That’s on us. Our expectations and preconceived notions created that. Not the players.
But, guess what? These guys who are coming from ’Bama are not proven — good or bad. And we don’t know that they couldn’t cut it in Tuscaloosa. All we know is that they want to try it somewhere else.
In the case of Charlot, that was after one season and, most likely, because he wants a better chance to get on the field or to play in a different style.
In the case of Baldwin, he was dismissed for violation of team rules, so we have to be careful there. And like current Jayhawk Anthony Olobia or former Jayhawk Marquel Combs before him, he was one of the highest rated junior college prospects in the country before heading to Alabama. While that part might sound familiar and surely leaves more than a little to be desired given the way things played out with Combs and Olobia, the big difference is this: Baldwin was a player Ala-freakin-Bama wanted. The best programs on Olobia’s offer list included Texas Tech and Utah.
Besides all of those facts, this is a different era of Kansas football. Much of the failed junior college experiment and transfer route took place under Charlie Weis, who was simply trying to crawl out of the mess made by Turner Gill and wound up creating a different kind of mess because of it.
Had the transfers mentioned above panned out, Weis would’ve looked like a genius and KU would’ve won a bunch more games. Neither happened and that led to the arrival of David Beaty.
Believe me, Beaty does not go into these deals lightly. If he’s taking a transfer, it’s because he thinks — maybe even knows — that adding that player immediately makes KU better. If he doesn’t believe that’s the case, he doesn’t take the player. It’s that simple.
Transfers are tricky and there is no guarantee that any of them are ever going to be what fans and coaches hope they will be. Many of them aren’t.
There’s no doubt that both Charlot and Baldwin will forever be labeled as the former ’Bama guys and, therefore, will both be held to that standard, especially in the eyes of KU fans desperate to see this program return to its winning ways. And the scenario exists that has these two playing good but not great or even being downright busts and becoming the next in a long line of promising transfers who went on to disappoint.
But I’d say the odds that they’ll succeed are at least as good as the odds that they’ll fail and probably better. Better, because they’re coming into a whole different set of circumstances than those players from the past.
So to write these two off just because of the past failures of so many others who came to KU and underperformed is a bit premature.
Things are different now. And maybe this time it will wind up being OK to be excited about this kind of potential good fortune happening to Kansas football.