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Lance Leipold's second season at Kansas to feature Big 12-high 19 transfers

Kansas coach Lance Leipold observes his team during the game against Texas Tech. Kansas fell 41-14 Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

It wasn't until late in October that Kansas coach Lance Leipold realized the Jayhawks needed to get older.

Leipold, who was hired the previous April, had too many challenges to confront during his first several months on the job to recognize what it meant to have a team full of underclassmen.

The solution? The transfer portal. Since the end of last season, Kansas has added 19 players who spent last season playing at another college — the most of any Big 12 school.

Many of them will hold significant roles as soon as the season opener at home against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 2.

"When we got through that first eight weeks or so, we knew we were going to have to do some things and take advantage of new opportunities and a new group of people," Leipold said. "On that note, I really think that for the ones that are here, they fit in well. They fit into what we're asking them to do and those things. Sometimes you can just try to fix needs and hurt your locker room, and I don't think we've done that at this point."

At Big 12 football media days earlier this month, Leipold outlined the way he, his assistants and his support staff identified and added those 19 players, of which 12 are on defense and seven on offense.

According to ESPN, more than 3,600 players from FBS schools entered the transfer portal by mid-April — nearly 30 per team — and that doesn't include all of those who decided to leave after spring practice had concluded or those at other levels. (Kansas lost 22 scholarship players since the start of last season.)

Leipold said his staff monitored the portal for any additions, including those from Division II and Division III given their roots, and would flag anyone who it believed may have a chance of helping the Jayhawks. One player, offensive tackle Dominick Puni, transferred to Kansas from Central Missouri, a Division II school.

"We try to get eyes on every guy that is in the portal, and then from there, we'll do background and reach out to different people and how and what and is there a fit," Leipold said. "Those are things that we've gone to, and I would say we would probably consistently continue to look at all avenues to improve our roster."

Part of those background checks includes intelligence from other coaches and players who may have relationships with those who are looking to transfer. One player who decided to transfer to Kansas this offseason, Louisiana linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill, exemplifies the staff's approach.

The Kansas coaches were alerted to McCaskill's availability when they were a camp at Eastern Michigan over the summer. Another coach who knew McCaskill told them he had yet to find a new home, and the Jayhawks' four players from Detroit shared how he could fit in Kansas.

"When guys make those decisions based on being in the portal, prior relationships will play a part, and right now, that Detroit area has been pretty good for us," Leipold said. "But again, it's still going to be relationships and development of your current roster, and again, the quick fix isn't always going to be the answer."

Leipold also said that roster construction remains a priority. Kansas did not add any high school wide receivers, nor anyone else who plays the position, as part of the recruiting class when it was unveiled in mid-February. It later added one in Doug Emilien, who left Minnesota after spring practice concluded and decided to transfer to Kansas in early May.

"Maybe we didn't add at certain positions — or as many at a certain position — until after spring or as we continue because we want to continue to evaluate the development of that position," Leipold said. "But again, then you have opportunities to make it more competitive, first of all — to make it deeper. Again, a lot of those things are still balancing scholarship numbers, but yeah, you have to worry about the psyche and maintaining what's there already."

With several of those 19 players who transferred to Kansas expected to make an impact, it would be understandable if those who were "recruited over" were upset. But Leipold noted that none of the players the staff projected in April to be a starter or a primary backup this season chose to leave.

"That's a balancing act, and I made sure to talk to them as well [to tell them] that this isn't anything that you're not doing or can't do," Leipold said. "This is also where we have to make things internally better to try to add to our program. ... It's part of the new way of what's going to happen, but I think overall, our team has handled that really well."

Whether Leipold and his staff need to continue to use the transfer portal so heavily beyond this season is uncertain, but it will remain an avenue by which players join the team.

"We've got a lot of ways to address things," Leipold said, "but it's still going to back to the evaluation of talent and need and how it's going to affect the team."

Comments

Dirk Medema

Lots of good info. Thanks. Couple questions and observations.

Do we know if all the players that left are scholarships? If they are then our roster numbers are worse. I’m thinking that’s not the case, but haven’t really checked

All of this is a completely new reality that only happens because the ncaa waived the 25 player annual limit. In seems that this staff is more capable of making the turnaround than any in the past decade+, but there certainly is no comparison.

19 transfers leading the conference would seem to indicate how far behind we were/are?

Nearly 30 transfers per team but KU leads the Big12 with 22 means some teams really lost a lot of players. 40? per team would be about half the roster. That’s in the realm of KU2010’s level turmoil. Not sure how that’s sustainable

Selling the players on embracing the competition has to be helped by having a team leader (D Neal) recruiting his own competition (K Thomas).

It would seem that the amount we need to use the transfer portal will diminish as the players, existing and future, buy into the culture.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Michael Maris

In reading this article, and focusing on the opening paragraph.

I can't help but to think about Matt Rhule and his Coaching career @ Baylor.

He bit the bullets and focused on rebuilding the Baylor Bears program and did an outstanding job on recruiting Freshman each year @ Baylor.

Granted, he moved on to the NFL. But, his Era @ Baylor truly corrected the path in a matter of 2 seasons. Only beat Kansas with a team highly concentrated with mostly Freshman players.

But, those Freshman matured and grew up and look where they were after 4 years under Rhule and Assistant Coaches.

Sure it helped that Baylor is situated in Waco TX. But the correct decision was made on who to hire and lead the program out of the darkness that had enveloped the program from Briles Era.

I feel like Coach Liepold is the CORRECT hire for the Jayhawks........

But, I know that the focus needs to be on the development of youthful players and not on constant influx of transferring players who didn't get enough playing time @ former so called Higher Learning Institutions.

This Portal Transfer system has created just another form of an Entitlement minded system (instead of working to become knowledgeable and mature as ONE with your respective teammates).

Truly LOVE how Devin Neal expressed his LOVE for Lawrence, KS. and mature decision to step out of the BOX and desire to be a LEADER and make a difference for the University of Kansas and the Jayhawks Football program.

THAT folks is a LEADER........

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Robert Brock

The integrity of college football is rushing into the quicksand.

2 weeks ago

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Brad Watson

How many 5 star high school recruits are in the NFL?...not as many as 2...3...stars...develop hungry kids... instill the work ethic necessary and they will out shine the 5 stars in the end...Coach knows this....Coach knows how to develop kids.....he can turn no names into winners and for some... a shot at the NFL ....we are extremely lucky to have him here resurrecting this..... dead in the ground for years program!

2 weeks ago

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Jeff Coffman

22 transferred out and 19 transferred in...deficit of 3, to me that doesn't sound good at first site. However, none of the 22 were in the Starting or Primary Backup role. It sounds like many of the 19 are. In addition, we added freshman to start building the program forward. We added strength or leadership from other prolific schools like Ohio State and Minnesota. I'm very hopeful of this year. Another Texas win gets Sark fired (that would be beautiful). 6 wins could get enough excitement that could make us a little more viable to expanding football conferences. But let's just hope we can hold our own in the non-conference and sneak out a couple victories in conference.

The best note out there, is we haven't had coaching turmoil this year at the coach or the assistant level. Consistency can help a lot in that realm and I hope with a full year, Leipold enhances the program a lot. I think Daniels showed some potential, but he also showed he was a freshman. I think I'm one of the few that would like to see Bean play the year, but again I hope that I am wrong and Daniels lights it up.

1 week, 5 days ago

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Brian Wilson

As I commented last year, KU may be one of the few schools benefiting from Covid and the new transfer portal. KU had just dumped a huge round of 20 or so transfers two years ago due to all the coaching screw ups from the past 20 years. And those transfers were a results of KU had to loading up with just about any mutt player it could find. Getting the extra year's eligibility last year, having the player transfer portal, not having a 25 scholarship limit, has now allowed KU to redshirt players this coming year and last so they can to grow, develop, and learn the system while culling and ridding ourselves of the older talent we don't need or want and adding older proven talent to our upper classes. This is a HUGE change in personnel.

Add to that the situation...last year having no real Spring practice, the coaches came in Mid to Late Summer and there was no way to put it all together in time for the season. Leipold was scrambling to bring in players from Buffalo hoping it would expedite the players learning a new system. Some coaches didn't even get to Lawrence until August. So we got exactly the results expected. It took until the last three games of the season before the team began to figure some things out. Now having had spring practice, a new recruiting class plus 19 portal transfers KU has likely right sided the roster and talent in a single year. I sooooo look forward to seeing the growth and development of the program this coming fall. I can hardly wait.

1 week, 3 days ago

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