LAWRENCE — As Ra’Mello Dotson watched Kansas football add transfer after transfer following the end of the 2021 season, he thought about the team’s improved depth.
Dotson, a redshirt sophomore cornerback for the Jayhawks this fall, wasn’t going to be stubborn. He wasn’t going to take it badly that the coaching staff added transfers — many veterans — to the high school as a whole and to his group of positions. He looked at the positives, that these newcomers answered a need for more experience in his room.
Dotson, sophomore safety OJ Burroughs and others embodied a mindset that head coach Lance Leipold and defensive coordinator Brian Borland wanted them to have. Transfers – junior redshirt safety Marvin Grant, senior redshirt safety Jarrett Paul, sophomore safety Jalen Dye, junior redshirt cornerback Kalon Gervin and super senior cornerback Monte ‘McGary – will fight over playing time. Dotson and Burroughs are adamant they’re okay with that.
“I just embraced competition,” Burroughs said. “Just knowing the people who are coming makes everyone better. And that’s all we’ve been doing every day since fall camp started.
Dotson, speaking of the experienced newcomers, added: “We need such help…If someone has to leave the field, another has to step in. And if they know what they’re doing, that’s even better.
For Burroughs and Dotson to express that and deliver is key to what Kansas aims to accomplish in 2022 after going 2-10 in 2021. Both Burroughs and Dotson played in all 12 games last season, Dotson recording eight starts, on their way to finishing in the top 11 in tackles among the Jayhawks and ranking second on the team with one interception apiece. They were in line for even bigger production this fall considering veterans such as safety Ricky Thomas Jr. and cornerback Jeremy Webb ended their college careers last season.
Assuming otherwise would open up the possibility of distractions. Just look at the friendship that junior quarterback Jalon Daniels and redshirt senior quarterback Jason Bean have talked about sharing. Leipold credited that made the competition for a starter in that position more manageable. Daniels is expected to get the job for the Sept. 2 opener against Tennessee Tech.
“It’s kind of a balance, isn’t it?” said Borland, explaining how to deal with emotions when experienced transfers are added to the secondary. “So you just have to be smart in how you handle things.”
Borland continued, “And I’m just saying to guys… ‘Be the best version of you that you can be. Make good use of the reps you have. Make sure I have to play with you, don’t you? So just because you’re bringing an older man doesn’t mean it’s his place. Everything is earned here.
Borland expects Grant to play a lot this season and considers him a physical instinct, long and tall at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. There’s a chance that Grant and senior safety Kenny Logan Jr. will share the field together, and that’s why Borland will continue to have those two reps at every safety point so they’re prepared to do so. But it’s still early in Grant’s time at Lawrence after his transfer from Purdue, and Borland noted he needs to consider Burroughs, Paul, sophomore safety Edwin White-Schultz and others.
McGary, Paul and Dye are all versatile high school additions. They have experience at every level, and in some ways Borland said it was a conscious decision to find players like that. But Borland also wants them all to be able to adjust to the places they’ve been recruited from, and that will also take time.
“I don’t want a guy to feel like, ‘I’m the utilitarian infielder, oh I can play anywhere, but I’m not really starting anywhere either,'” Borland said. “So I try to lock these guys in one place. But we sometimes find ourselves in the secondary, the corners and the securities. We meet. We assemble blankets together. So I think you can’t help knowing what’s going on there, just if you pay attention. The guys will know. So if we ever had to knock down a guy there, I think we could do it easily.
Burroughs said he, Grant and Paul watched the movie together and wondered about what they were seeing. Dotson said strong bonds have already begun to form. As the fall camp continues, other opportunities are sure to arise.
Back at the Big 12 Conference media days last month, Leipold mentioned conversations with high school members that were similar to those described by Borland at the start of fall camp. Burroughs was one of the people Leipold spoke to. And in Burroughs’ estimation, talking about it wasn’t so necessary.
“Just knowing football is what football is,” Burroughs said. “Just compete. Nothing will be given. So embrace it.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas athletics at the Topeka Capital-Journal. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.