Friday, May 17, 2013
New faces embrace leadership for KU
By David Ubben
DALLAS -- Charlie Weis has seen leadership.
He's also seen what he refers to as "real leadership."
"There’s a difference," the Kansas coach told ESPN.com in a recent interview.
Kansas has drawn plenty of attention this offseason for welcoming a parade of almost 20 junior college players, but the Jayhawks are getting more than just a talent upgrade in the new additions to the roster. After spending a spring with many of those players enrolling early and participating in practice, he's seeing that real leadership in two new members of his defense.
It starts with a mature cornerback in Cassius Sendish, who showed up with a commanding presence and impressed Weis immediately. The 6-foot, 187-pounder was one of the nation's top juco prospects a year ago at Arizona Western and may be one of four new starters in the secondary.
"I wouldn’t say he’s been a surprise, but he is a natural leader and I think that one of our biggest problems with our defense is we were void of real leadership," Weis said. "Cassius is a very intelligent, physical player and I think in the secondary, he’ll be one of the key leaders of our defense. You don’t find those guys very often. They grow into it, but he kind of walked in the door with that."
Don't be surprised if all four new starters in Kansas' secondary are new players, Weis said. He brought in another player in the ESPN Juco 100, Chris Martin, because of his history recruiting him to Notre Dame. Martin originally committed to Weis and the Irish before transferring to Florida, where Weis coincidentally ended up for the 2011 season. He's had issues in the past and attended three different high schools, but the 6-foot-4, 250-pound pass rusher gives an immediate upgrade up front physically that's been long absent in Lawrence.
"The whole team feeds off of him. We haven’t had a guy that looks like an NFL outside linebacker/defensive end," said Weis, who added that he's also one of the team's fastest players. "He's like what I'm used to looking at in the NFL."
Kansas' defense centered around linebacker Ben Heeney last season, and may again in 2013, but the talent upgrades around him should help Kansas' defense improve and allow Heeney to improve, even if his stats take a dip after he finished fourth in the Big 12 with 112 stops in 2012.
"He shouldn’t have to make 100 or whatever tackles," Weis said. "That tells you you’re not making any tackles up front."
Martin and fellow newcomers like Ty McKinney, who also impressed Weis and DC Dave Campo this spring, and summer enrollee Marquel Combs could help change that.