Kansas Football Signs Impact Junior College Class

Jul 18, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach David Beaty speaks to the media during the Big 12 Media Days at Omni Dallas Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 18, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach David Beaty speaks to the media during the Big 12 Media Days at Omni Dallas Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

To infuse game-ready talent, Kansas football head coach David Beaty signed seven junior college players and one mid-year high school graduate. They all could have big roles for the Jayhawks this upcoming season.

DC Clint Bowen has new weapons for KU’s secondary

After losing five seniors of the two-deep in the Kansas football secondary, the Jayhawks look to reload for 2017. They’ve done just that with junior college signees Hasan Defense (yes, that’s his real name), and Shakiel Taylor. Beaty glowed about Defense at his year-end press conference, “Really terrific kid, and I think that he’s a guy that’s going to help us fill that void that our two senior corners left. I think that he can come in and compete to win that job.”

Defense is a tall, lengthy corner (6’0 185) that can come in right away and defend a lot of Big 12 caliber receivers. He comes to KU via Kilgore (TX) junior college, a traditionally powerful program. Defense has good ball skills and straight line speed. He’s also a big hitter, but I do question his pure tackling ability. Defense can run, but doesn’t have the most fluid hips in man-to-man coverage. The three-star corner’s role can be as a cover 2 or press corner, and will be very good in run support.

Three-star corner Shakiel Taylor joined KU yesterday as well. The three-star is another lengthy (6’1 185 pounds) corner who was uber-productive at Mesa (AZ) Community College this season. In a season where he garnered honorable mention junior college All-American honors, Taylor recorded 68 solo tackles, 19 pass breakups, and four interceptions. Ironically, Taylor started his first collegiate game at Kansas, as a member of South Dakota State. According to Beaty, Taylor is a “big, long, tall, rangy guy, long arms, has plenty of weight on him but can really run.” With Taylor’s size and age, he should be able to come in and compete for a starting cornerback job right away.

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Defensive line reloads

With the proliferation of up-tempo spread offenses, Big 12 teams can never have enough good defensive linemen. KU is losing two ends to graduation, Cam Rosser and Damani Mosby. To fill those roster holes, Beaty and staff dipped into the junior college ranks. Keyshaun Simmons out of Mississippi is a really good addition to the defensive line. He played mostly end at Pearl River Community College, but could easily add weight and move inside. Beaty compared Simmons to Daniel Wise. Simmons is very athletic, and at 285 pounds is versatile enough to play the three technique in a four man front, or the five technique in a three man front. He gives Clint Bowen some versatility to scheme with.

The staff dipped into Mississippi again with Willie McCaleb. The 6’2 255 pounder is a good pass rusher, and has some size to hold up against the run. McCaleb can potentially be a very good three-down end. He’ll at least keep rising sophomore Isaiah Bean fresh during the season and allow him to do what he does best, rush the passer. McCaleb’s role will likely be as a rotation end, keeping the Jayhawk depth fresh for 80+ plays per game.

I might be most excited about Hutchinson Junior College transfer J.J. Holmes. The first thing that sticks out about Holmes is his size. Beaty said that Holmes is 6’3 and 335 pounds. He was very productive as well, recording 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks as a sophomore. Holmes played all over the line at Hutch, but was mostly a three technique. He’s really athletic for his size, and has a quick first step. He’s not just a space-eater, he can get penetration and even rush the passer. Look for Holmes to compete for the other starting defensive tackle position during spring football.

Will a talent infusion help KU’s offense?

In 2016, quarterback was constantly a position in flux. KU used three starters over the course of the season: Montell Cozart, Ryan Willis, and Carter Stanley. All could return next season. However, the competition won’t be wide open. It’s Stanley’s job to lose at this point, with junior college signee Peyton Bender also in the mix.

Bender comes to KU after starting his career under Air Raid guru Mike Leach at Washington State, then transferring to Itawamba Community College. The rising junior is a really good quarterback prospect. He lacks ideal size at just six feet tall, but has a very quick release and an accurate arm. He was productive as well, completing 65% of his passes for 2733 yards and 21 touchdowns. Notably, Bender only threw four interceptions. It seems as though this spring will be the first time under Beaty that KU has multiple serviceable quarterbacks.

Skill positions were a strength for the Jayhawks last year, and will be again in 2017. The Jayhawks lose senior Shakiem Barbel off the two-deep, but signed junior college receiver Kerr Johnson to compete for that spot with a host of returners. The 5’11 receiver can really run, and has good length for his size. Beaty heaped praise on the shifty player, “This guy, you go back and watch his highlight tape and watch him pull away from guys, watch him run in vertical balls and being able to stiff-arm a guy while he’s still moving forward, and watch how he splits defenders. Man, that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for guys that do that and guys that have enough speed and quickness to get open over the middle of the field, and he does it time and time again on his tape.”

Bottom line

Overall, KU signed seven junior college players, all at need positions. Most all of them should come in and compete for major roles right away. Importantly, they will all be on campus for spring football, mitigating their non-qualifying risk. In the long process to rebuild KU’s roster, a few junior college players can go a long way in allowing younger talent to develop. I like the staff’s approach to utilizing them, and they should all be good players for the next two seasons in Lawrence.