In his final two seasons at Maryland, Nigel King caught five touchdown passes, a number that probably won’t excite the casual college football fan.
King, a former three-star recruit from North Carolina, was a player you would want on your team but probably not someone you’d hear much about.
Expectations, of course, are usually dependent on context. So Thursday morning, when King suddenly appeared on the Kansas football depth chart, it was worth pointing this out: Over the 2012-13 seasons, while King was hauling in those five touchdown receptions, the Jayhawks’ entire receiving corps managed just four.
“The guy has made plays (and) scored touchdowns,” Kansas coach Charlie Weis said. “It would be nice to have some receivers scoring some touchdowns.”
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King’s inclusion on the roster was the biggest surprise Thursday as KU players reported tofor the start of fall camp on Friday. In one week, King had gone from a likely backup receiver at Maryland to a potential spark at Kansas — and a college graduate.
King, who had 33 catches last season as a redshirt sophomore, finished his undergraduate degree last Friday and quickly began looking for a new place to play. A previous connection to KU receivers coach Eric Kiesau led him to Lawrence, where he should have the opportunity for immediately playing time. He will be listed as a junior and will be eligible to play two seasons.
“This all happened fast,” Weis said. “Like all of a sudden the kid is on the street. We had an opening.”
For now, King is listed as the backup to senior Tony Pierson at the “Z” receiver position. The depth chart could change, but it’s also a promising sign that Weis is able to place a receiver with a solid track record on the second team.
For the last two seasons, the Jayhawks’ receiving corps has been a vast wasteland of sloppy route running and myriad drops. The Kansas’ passing attack averaged just 140 yards per game last season, and the offense cratered (again), averaging a Big 12-worst 15.3 points per contest.
Weis scrambled to rebrand the unit in the offseason, and the results of the offensive renovation were present all over the Anderson Family Football Complex on Thursday morning.
Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart was expectedly atop the depth chart after beating out incumbent starter Jake Heaps in the spring. (Heaps has since transferred to Miami.) First-year offensive coordinator John Reagan, a former KU assistant under Mark Mangino, spent 20 minutes discussing his version of the no-huddle spread offense. And both Weis and Reagan each propped up a piecemeal receiving corps.
“The first impression?” Reagan said, thinking back to spring practice. “It’s better than I thought.”
King, 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds, adds another able body, while senior transfer Nick Harwell is eligible after sitting out last season. Pierson is healthy again after battling concussions issues last season, and senior Justin McCay is listed as the third starter, ahead of junior Rodriguez Coleman.
“We’ve shown ourselves to be far more consistent,” Harwell said last month at Big 12 football Media Days. “Last year, I couldn’t even call us consistent. I’d call us inconsistent. You didn’t know whether we were going to catch the ball or not. And now, we catch the ball more than not.”
Well, perhaps that’s a good place to start. But it’s worth pointing out that Harwell’s comments came before King was added to the fold.
“He’s an experienced kid,” Reagan said. “It’s not like he’s new to Division I college football. He’s not new to working, and he’s not new to having to learn. We’ll put him in and see where it goes, and see how fast he adjusts.”