LAWRENCE — Last fall, when Marquel Combs was looking for a college home, he saw Kansas as a place where he could build something. Combs, a junior college defensive lineman from Pierce (Calif.) College, was rated as one of the top juco defensive players in the country. He had offers from dozens of schools. And with an athletic 6-foot-3, 300-pound frame, his measurables were like catnip to college coaches.
On one occasion, when he talked to KU tight ends coach Jeff Blasko, his lead recruiter, he was honest about his intentions. “I’m trying to build a dream team,” Combs remembers saying.
One Monday afternoon, only months after arriving on campus, Combs’ vision is officially a dream deferred. KU announced that Combs had been granted his official release to transfer to any school outside the Big 12.
The announcement ended a tenuous season for Combs, who began fall camp as a first-string defensive end. He was soon demoted to second-team defensive tackle. And after not playing in KU’s first two games, Weis stated last week that Combs likely profiled as a redshirt candidate.
Now, two days after KU’s victory over Louisiana Tech, Combs is apparently looking for a new school.
“Marquel was a great factor in our recruitment of last year’s signing class,” Weis said in a statement. “We would like to wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Combs, no doubt, was a weapon for the Jayhawks on the recruiting trail. After committing to KU, picking the Jayhawks over in-state rival K-State, Combs joined juco teammate Marcus Jenkins-Moore, a linebacker, in KU’s large junior college class. Together they helped attract cornerback Kevin Short, receiver Rodriguez Coleman, and a handful of other juco signees.
In the abstract, it appeared that KU had signed a class of potential difference-makers. But on the field, the results have thus far been mixed. Jenkins-Moore won’t play this season after undergoing knee surgery during the summer. Short was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA. And defensive end Chris Martin, another key member of the so-called “Dream Team”, was dismissed from the program after being involved in an armed robbery in Lawrence in May.
Back in August, Combs appeared confident that he could help make a difference in his first year at Kansas. He was a magnetic personality, loud and personable, and Weis often joked that he had to remind Combs to keep his mouth shut.
“We just coming in, trying to put KU back where it should be,” Combs said during fall camp. “Like that Orange Bowl feeling. We want to be the reason why this program came from here all the way to the top. And I think it’s the perfect year to do it.”
In a statement released on Monday, Combs said he wished the KU program and his former teammates well.
“I appreciate the Jayhawk community, as well as my teammates and the staff, for all of the support I have received during my time with the program. It has been an incredible opportunity and I wish them the best of luck the rest of this season and in the future.”