Kansas football: Award-winning Division II center commits to Jayhawks

Kansas might have found its starting center for 2024
Kansas offensive line coach Scott Fuchs blows his whistle during Tuesday's practice within the practice facility
Kansas offensive line coach Scott Fuchs blows his whistle during Tuesday's practice within the practice facility / Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA

Following unexpected departures from two contributors on the offensive line, Kansas football rebounded in the transfer portal with a commitment from the best center in D-II football.

The coaching staff bolstered the outlook in the trenches next season by adding Shane Bumgardner. The Division II Rimington Award winner — the honor given to the best center in the sport — played four years at Tiffin University and will finish off his collegiate career in Lawrence.

A 6-foot-3, 290-pound graduate transfer from West Jefferson, Ohio, has a long list of accolades with the Dragons. He was an AP Second Team All-American this year and secured First Team All-Conference honors twice.

His recruitment was under the radar once he entered the portal, though he did receive offers from schools like Coastal Carolina and Bowling Green. Bumgardner could quietly fill a massive hole for the Jayhawks.

Mike Novitsky, KU's starting center for the past three years and a multi-time preseason All-Big 12 selection, ran out of eligibility after the Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory. Although Michael Ford Jr. was expected to move over from offensive guard to take over snapping duties in 2024, the loss of Ar'maj Reed-Adams makes that a highly unlikely scenario.

With those facts in mind, all signs point to Bumgardner becoming an immediate starter for Kansas football. He also is set to graduate after the 2024 campaign, so O-line coach Scott Fuchs likely promised him a significant role in the offense when the two spoke.

Do not be put off by the fact that he played a lower level of competition. Kansas developed former Division II offensive lineman Dominick Puni into one of the best tackles in the country and a sure-fire selection in the NFL Draft this April. If Bumgardner can go down a similar path, the front five should continue to create exceptional run gaps for Devin Neal and protect star quarterback Jalon Daniels.