Notes from KU’s opening news conference

By Rustin Dodd

In an ideal world, receiver Nick Harwell would be eligible to play this fall at Kansas. In the most promising of scenarios, Charlie Weis would have been able to slot Harwell, a former standout at Miami (Ohio), into a starting spot in a depleted receiving corps, and Harwell would have finished out his collegiate career as a graduate transfer after grabbing a degree at his previous school this summer.

But on Wednesday afternoon, as the Jayhawks reported for fall camp, Weis acknowledged that this is not an ideal world. Harwell, who was dismissed from Miami last spring for off-field reasons, will be forced to redshirt this season after not being able to complete his final six hours. Harwell had hired an attorney and challenged the school’s decision, but the fight proved unsuccessful.

“The bottom line is he was never allowed to finish his last six hours,” Weis said.

Harwell has arrived in Lawrence for the beginning of fall camp, but Weis has marked him down as a redshirt and he’ll be eligible as a fifth-year senior in 2014.

During a lengthy opening news conference, Weis also announced that injured linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore would redshirt after undergoing a procedure on his knee earlier this summer.

Here’s a sampling of news and notes from Weis’ opening news conference, which included an updated depth chart for the start of fall camp.

• Weis announced that junior college transfers Pearce Slater (offensive line) and Kevin Short (defensive back) were the only players that didn’t report on time for fall camp. Slater is expected in by the end of the weekend, while Short is finishing up his final junior college course and could have that completed by the weekend. The low number of juco no-shows is slightly remarkable, considering the high number of junior college players that Kansas had in its 2013 recruiting class. Juco players are typically a risk when it comes to eligibility matters, and Weis credited a three-person staff that included assistant coach Rob Ianello, chief academic administrator Paul Buskirk, and David Reed, KU’s associate athletic director for compliance.

• The depth chart included a number of surprises, but one of the most intriguing came at the running back position, where junior Brandon Bourbon will fight for playing time at a new hybrid running back-receiver position. Weis previously said that junior Tony Pierson would take on a bigger role in the passing game, and he was listed on Wednesday as the starter at the “F” position, the new hybrid spot. But Bourbon was listed second-team at the “F” position, and Weis said the switch stemmed from his concern that Bourbon would get buried at the halfback position. For now, senior James Sims is listed as the starting halfback, while senior Taylor Cox and sophomore Darrian Miller are listed as co-No. 2s.

• Senior Aslam Sterling leads a new-look offensive line as the starter at left tackle. Weis called Sterling the “the most changed player” in the program, citing his weight loss and body transformation. The other listed starters on the offensive line: left guard Ngalu Fusimalohi; center Pat Lewandowski; right guard Mike Smithburg; right tackle Riley Spencer.

• Junior tight end Jimmay Mundine appears entrenched as the starting tight end (“It’s gonna be tough for anyone to beat him out,” Weis said), but Weis was also complimentary of true freshman tight end Ben Johnson, a graduate of Basehor-Linwood.

• Senior Christian Matthews and junior Justin McCay were listed as the No. 1s at the Jayhawks’ two primary receiver positions, but the receiving corps could feature some of the most intriguing battles of fall camp.

Senior Josh Ford was listed as the backup to McCay at the “X” receiver position, while sophomore Tre’ Parmalee was listed behind Christian Matthews. Junior college transfers Rodriguez Coleman and Mark Thomas could also be in the mix, but all players will only have about 10 days to make their case. Weis is planning to use Aug. 17 as a deadline for moving players up and down the depth chart before gearing up for the season opener against South Dakota on Sept. 7.