Even though he was a four-star recruit and a rare ESPN 300 signee for Kansas, Jacob Bragg arrived in Lawrence this summer with a serious chip on his shoulder.
The Under Armour All-America center from Nacogdoches, Texas, didn't have a choice when it came to leaving his home state. None of the major programs in Texas offered him a scholarship. No doubt that will be on his mind whenever he first takes the field against Big 12 foes.
We complete our series of weekly Q&As with the Big 12's best incoming freshmen today with Bragg, the nation's No. 3 center prospect.
What were your goals this spring before you leave for Kansas?
JB: I'm trying to get to 10 percent body fat and trying to maintain 290 pounds. A year ago I was probably 330 pounds. Yeah, I was fat. It was bad.
Is this something the Kansas coaches requested or is it your personal goal?
JB: It's both. I'm trying to get more into college playing shape and just being healthier. If I'm lighter on my feet, I can make more plays and I can move better. I'm more agile and definitely stronger now. It's amazing. I got with a personal trainer and we're working every day. Everything I'm doing (in the weight room) has probably doubled.
What was it about Charlie Weis that you appreciated during your recruitment?
JB: Coach Weis has all the NFL experience. He's a winner, he's just trying to put it all together. Recruits aren't going to come to Kansas immediately. We're obviously not winning a bunch of games, it's not really attractive. But he's doing everything he can to get us in the right direction and get good recruits out here. I believe in Coach Weis and I can't wait to come play for him.
Have the coaches told you that they want you to be ready to play? How do they treat that?
JB: Charlie Weis came to my house and told me to expect to play early. Just come in and work hard. They're not going to give me a spot, I have to work for it. The offensive line coach has said the same thing. I'm just going to work as hard as I can.
Do you like playing for an offensive line coach, John Reagan, who's also the offensive coordinator?
JB: That's awesome. He's going to know how to play off our strengths and weaknesses. If we're not run dominant, we're going to pass. If we can't pass protect, we're going to run. If anyone should be able to run the offense, it's the offensive line coach. It all starts with us. It really helps.
Tell me about the Under Armour game experience and playing against the best in the country.
JB: It was definitely an eye-opener. It puts you in your place. I dropped weight before I went there and I thought I did very, very good. Nothing was too hard for me. But some of those guys are going to be starting in the SEC next year, so I'm doing pretty good if I'm handling my own out there. It was nice to finally get to go against people my size or bigger, just to see where I am. You're not going to meet people like that every day. They're humongous.
Who impressed you at that game? Who are we going to be talking about for the next few years?
JB: Braden Smith is No. 1, without a doubt. He'll probably start for Auburn. He's amazingly strong and fast. I don't think I've ever seen an athlete like that before in my life. You don't really hear about him a lot, but he is, to me, the best athlete I've ever seen.
Do you feel like schools in the state of Texas overlooked you? Why didn't they show you more attention?
JB: You know, I really don't know. That kind of hurt, knowing that I didn't have any Texas school offer me at all. That, personally, really kind of hurt. But now that I'm with Kansas, I'm fine. I'm just going to make sure I play twice as hard against them to stick it to them.
Nacogdoches has several big-time recruits on their way up, including Jaylon Lane and Brandon Jones. Are you seeing a jump in talent in that area?
JB: We have a bunch of talent. People don't expect us to do good, and I come from a high school team that's kind of like how Kansas is doing: not really winning that many games. It's very hard to turn that around, and this is the first year we made the playoffs in 40 years, our first winning season in 15 years. It's going to take a lot to turn that around. They've just got to believe it will happen. I watch them every day and it's amazing what they're doing.
What gives you optimism about where Kansas is going as a program?
JB: People are just going to keep doubting us. I could see it on my official visit: They're so hungry to win. You can feel it when you talk to them. We're going to turn things around. People are going to be really surprised this year, and if not this year, the next year. It's going to happen, it's just a matter of when.