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February 8, 2013

Looking back on class, and ahead

You have to consider the Kansas recruiting a positive sign for the future of their program. Kansas head coach Charlie Weis said early on they would target junior college players, and that, they did.

Once signing day wrapped up and the final rankings were tallied, the Jayhawks reeled in seven junior college players on the National Top 100. The next closest was Georgia with five. The roster needed patch-work and the best way to get players in quick was the junior college route.

Over half of the junior college class enrolled for the spring semester. That paid off in two ways. First, several of the players get a head start on their schoolwork and go through spring football. It also allowed the coaches to be on the road in January focused on keeping the other players committed.

In January there were eight recruits offered by BCS schools after they committed to Kansas. It is a good sign to know others wanted their players, but makes for a long January trying to keep them committed. In the end the Kansas staff held on to every recruit.

If you sort the Big 12 rankings out by star value, the Jayhawks tied for fourth with West Virginia. For bonus sake throw in Jake Heaps and Justin McCay, who were Army All-Americans. Both will be eligible this season.

[see entire commit list and film clips]

There would be a lot of programs happy with the Jayhawks class. They finished in front of several teams that played in a bowl game. It was one of the most improved classes in the country from 2012. Not bad for a team coming off a 1-11 season.


Biggest three impact recruits

Chris Martin- Two years ago Martin was one of the most heralded recruits in the nation. He committed to Notre Dame under Weis coming out of high school. Martin will give the Jayhawks one of the best pass rush threats they have seen in a while. Martin said he is a linebacker at heart but has grown into a pass rushing defensive end.

One of his strengths is the ability to play with his hand on the ground or standing up off the edge. He played defensive end in a 3-4, 4-3, and lined up as an edge pass rusher outside of the defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He uses his hands well and plays the run. He doesn't shy away from contact.


Marquel Combs- When Combs wants to turn it on he can be dominating. At 300-plus pounds he is tough for interior linemen to handle. This year he played more nose instead of a three technique in 4 -3 defense. While he took up double-teams he didn't get a chance to penetrate as much.

His strength is getting upfield and being disruptive. In the style of defense KU will use Combs will play to his strength lining up on the inside of a 4-3, not over the ball.


Kevin Short- Two years ago Short was the best player on the field in the Missouri state title game. Hazelwood Central would eventually lose to Rockhurst but Short was everywhere. He played safety and wide receiver. Not much changed over the last two years at Fort Scott Community College.

He played safety, corner, receiver, and quarterback in the wildcat formation. He also returned punts and kicks. Short will give the Jayhawks secondary good size and can match-up on receivers in the Big 12 spread offenses. He is built a lot like former Jayhawk Aqib Talib. He is tall, rangy, and has long arms.

Expect to see Short on the field a lot next season and early.


Positions most needed

Defensive secondary- The Jayhawks lose their entire secondary. Tyler Patmon isn't returning which means all four starters will be new. Isaiah Johnson will add quality immediately to the safety position. He led the nation for much of the season in interceptions and has good ball skills.

The return of Dexter McDonald will give the Jayhawks a lot of size at corner along with Cassius Sendish and Short. All three players are over 6-foot.


Wide receiver- There aren't many catches returning and three senior starters are gone. Rodriguez Coleman and Mark Thomas bring size and speed to the position. Thomas didn't get a lot of chances at Nassau CC but he has solid hands and good speed. Coleman can be a dynamic receiver. He led the Jayhawk Conference in receiving.

Throw McCay in that group and there are receivers that will have a physical presence. Ishmael Hyman gives them speed and a receiver that get yards after the catch.


Offensive line- The three familiar faces of Hawkinson, Zlatnik, and Marrongelli graduated. The line needed help at every position. Mike Smithburg can help anywhere on the interior. Ngalu Fusimaholi will fill in right away. Zach Fondal could be one of the most pivotal players signed. He will be able to compete at left or right tackle.


The sleepers

Andrew Bolton- Bolton may be the biggest physical specimen on the defensive line. He got a lot of interest early including an offer from LSU. At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds he is athletic enough he lined up on the outside. He moves well for a player that size and is going to give offensive tackles problems with his strength.

Bolton wasn't talked about much. He didn't do many interviews and committed early. He suffered a knee injury and is already ahead of schedule with rehab. When he was healthy as a freshman he recorded 65 tackles and 18 tackles for a loss. West Virginia tried to make a late push at him. Bolton looks and plays the like defensive ends you see in the SEC.


Trevor Pardula- Nobody ever talks about the punter. It is rare a punter gets more than one division one scholarship offer. But Pardula has the talent to make an immediate impact. He will have to win the job but he wasn't signed to sit the bench.

He's left-footed and gets great height on his punts. He had 25 punts downed inside the 20 in two years at DeAnza College. Pardula also has the ability to kick field goals, but will focus on punting. He will likely also compete on kickoffs.


The one that got away

There weren't many misses by the Kansas staff. They had most of their class wrapped up by the Christmas break, which shows they landed a high percentage of their early targets.

The only negative was not getting a bonafide left tackle through the junior college ranks. It wasn't a lack of effort. They finished as finalists for three tackles (two went to Oklahoma and one to Nebraska). They got official visits from all three.


Spring position battles

With so many newcomers the position battles will be interesting to follow. It will get even more intriguing once the other players report in the summer. Here are a few spring battles to watch involving the mid-year transfers:

Center- Dylan Admire was the back-up but he will face instant competition from Smithburg. This spring could go a long way determining who the starting center will be.

Cornerback- Sendish and McDonald will get a chance to move up on the depth chart right away. They will face challenges from JaCorey Shepherd, Greg Allen, and Tyree Williams. Shepherd was the only one that saw consistent action last season.

Kickoff duties- This could be a fun one to watch. The Jayhawks are going to have some weapons to get the ball into the end zone in 2013. Alex Kahn is a transfer who sat out last season. In an open scrimmage he was kicking them eight yards deep. Pardula also handled the kickoffs at DeAnza and had several for touchbacks.

In June when more players are set to arrive we will have many more positions up for grabs to talk about.



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