Jayhawk Slant takes a look back at some of the players that have committed to Kansas in the last month. Up next: Pierce CC defensive lineman Marquel Combs.
First, a couple of things you didn't know about Marquel Combs.
- In school he was nicknamed "Mr. Potato Juice." To make extra money he would bring backpacks full of cinnamon rolls, juice boxes, and potato chips and sell them to students between classes.
- Growing up in Memphis his favorite team was the Memphis Tigers. He is still disheartened that they lost the 2008 title game to Kansas.
- He estimates that he sends out over 200 tweets a day.
His social media skills have probably gotten the most media play so far. He helped inspire the Twitter hashtag #dreamteam(more on that later), and was active in trying to lure several recruits to Kansas through social media.
Even at Charlie Weis' year end press conference on Thursday, the head man said Combs will likely become a popular figure for reporters next season because of his outgoing personality.
"You are going to know why all the recruits like him," Weis said. "I call him the Pied Piper because they all want to Facebook him and text him," Weis said.
Football is still somewhat of a new thing for Combs. He didn't play the sport through most of his childhood. The game didn't really interest him. His uncle had been trying to convince him to play the sport for years. Finally, before his senior year his uncle promised to pay for his senior trip if he made the all-conference team.
"He also told me I was getting a little too big to just be sitting around the house," Combs said.
While Combs displayed natural athleticism for someone his size, he was still raw. No colleges bothered to recruit him when he was in high school. He ended up enrolling at Northern Georgia Prep and played for a season there. The following year he arrived in Ft. Scott in the spring of 2010 but left soon after when Ft. Scott head coach Jeff Sims left for Indiana. Combs was on the lookout for a new school.
He contacted his old teammate at Georgia Prep Marcus Jenkins-Moore and enquired about any openings at Pierce CC out in Woodland Hills, California. Jenkins-Moore said the team was looking for an extra defensive lineman. The Pierce coaches loved Combs film and told him they could see him as one of the top players in junior college. His first year there he made 34 tackles (22 solo, 12 assists), 10 tackles for loss and three sacks.
After his freshman year, Combs started to pick up offers from BCS schools. Soon after Charlie Weis got hired at Kansas, tight ends coach Jeff Blasko reached out to Combs and Jenkins-Moore on Facebook. Combs didn't know much about Kansas, and didn't exactly have the desire to learn more about them. He was hearing from big time schools in the SEC like Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and the list went on.
"I am thinking, 'This is Kansas. I am probably not going there and I am not taking a trip there.'" Combs said.
Combs would commit to Ole Miss in April, but Kansas and a host of other schools didn't stop recruiting him. After Combs said in an interview over the summer that he was 95% sure he was going to stand behind his commitment to Ole Miss, Blasko contacted him soon after
"He said, 'So you are saying I have a 5% chance,'" Combs said. "Coach Blasko kept grinding and grinding."
Blasko eventually got Combs along with Jenkins-Moore to take an official visit to Kansas in September.
"I didn't expect Kansas to be like that with the facilities and all that," Combs said. "I was shocked."
Jenkins-Moore committed after the visit and began soft selling Kansas to Combs. Weis then sealed the deal after visiting Comb's mother in Memphis and then visiting him personally in California. Weis challenged Combs to see if he was up to the task of helping turnaround a program.
Combs bought in and committed a short time later, thus beginning his quest to recruit other prospects to Kansas. On that note lets get into the origin of the #dreamteam Twitter hashtag that Kansas commits use at the end of their Twitter messages when describing this recruiting class.
During the spring, Blasko asked Combs what he wanted in a school. Combs responded with the usual answer of wanting a nice place to play, a good campus, and then added "a place where I can be apart of a dream team." Blasko ran with it and in later Facebook messages Blasko kept bringing up the dream team slogan. Now, it's become sort of a catchphrase among Kansas football fans on the Internet, and Combs even heard that the students were printing up shirts with that slogan for the spring game.
"I like the fact that a lot fans get involved and it really helps out recruiting too," Combs said.
Combs' social media output might decrease once he gets to campus in January, but Weis thinks his outgoing personality can help rejuvenate a defense.
"I always thought that against all the good defenses that I have gone against, there has always been a couple of personalities on defense, the guys that the media can't get to fast enough," Weis said. "The only way those personalities can thrive or flourish is if they are playing well. Fortunately he is a really good player and having something to him I like as long as he can back it up."