Harwell, King arrive to bolster Kansas attack
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Nick Harwell had to wait an entire season before getting on the field at Kansas.
For Nigel King, the wait will be just a few weeks.
Together, the wide receiver transfers hope to provide a potent, 1-2 punch for a passing offense that was among the worst in major college football last season. They will be counted on more than expected after the Jayhawks lost their top two running backs to season-ending injuries.
''I feel like we're looking really good,'' said Harwell, who had to redshirt last season after arriving from Miami of Ohio. ''We have no depth chart etched in stone right now, so everyone is still competing, trying to win spots. It's fun to go out there and compete against each other.''
Harwell is clearly the most decorated of the Jayhawks' wide receivers.
As a freshman for the RedHawks, he caught 62 passes for 856 yards in his final nine games, making him one of the nation's most productive pass-catchers. He started 10 games the following year and set a school record with 97 catches for 1,425 yards and nine touchdowns. And as a junior, he caught another 68 passes for 870 yards, including eight for 120 in a game at Ohio State.
Things unraveled quickly, though. Harwell was arrested in connection with a domestic incident and landed on suspension, and decided to transfer when it became clear he wasn't going to play.
Harwell had hoped he would be eligible last season, but attempts to have the NCAA's transfer rule waived proved fruitless. So instead of helping the Jayhawks on Saturdays, he was left helping them every other day of the week as a member of the scout team.
Now, he hopes to remind people that he's still hanging around.
''I mean, I didn't want to end my senior year by getting in trouble,'' Harwell said in a recent interview, ''so I felt like coming to Kansas was a new start, more exposure.''
As for sitting out during the Jayhawks' 3-9 campaign?
''I feel like it was a blessing in disguise,'' he said. ''By winning more games this year, you'll have more exposure, and that helps your chances of getting noticed by NFL scouts, and that'll help me to my ultimate dream of playing in the league.''
Weis knew all offseason that Harwell would be available this fall.
He had no idea King would be until a few weeks ago.
After graduating from Maryland at the end of the summer, King decided he wanted to continue his playing career elsewhere. His high school coach happened to have a relationship with new Kansas wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau, and in a matter of days he had committed to the Jayhawks.
King played in 24 games over two seasons, and had 33 catches and four TDs last season.
Because he has received his diploma, King is cleared to play immediately. And because he did it in just three years, the rangy wide receiver still has two years of eligibility.
''Experience and production,'' Weis said. ''Guy's produced and made plays, scored touchdowns. Be nice to have some receivers who are scoring some touchdowns, without being sarcastic.''
Harwell and King were already going to be integral parts of the offense, but their value grew exponentially on Tuesday night, when Weis announced that senior running backs Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox had each sustained season-ending injuries.
Bourbon, who tore his ACL in a scrimmage on Sunday, was listed first on the most recent depth chart. Cox, who tore his Achilles in a non-contact drill Monday, was listed as second. They were significant blows for an offense that scored just 184 points last season, an average of fewer than 16 per game, and that was shut out in a humiliating loss at Iowa State.
The biggest culprit was unquestionably the passing game, which went through three quarterbacks but never got on track. Jake Heaps, Montell Cozart and Michael Cummings combined to complete just 47 percent of their passes for 1,685 yards and nine touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
Cozart, a sophomore, has already won the starting job for this season. And Harwell and King should at least give him a little confidence when he looks downfield this season.