It likely didn’t take Kansas newcomers Bazie Bates IV and Brandon Stewart long to realize they weren’t at Trinity Valley Community College anymore.
However, the best friends, roommates and partners in the Jayhawks’ secondary bring a much-needed element to a Kansas program with only 12 wins and 48 losses over the past five seasons.
They have experience as winners.
Bates, Stewart and offensive lineman De’Andre Banks were all part of Trinity Valley’s 12-0 season that included championships in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference and Region XIV and the Heart of Texas Bowl.
They join a team that finished 2014 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Big 12, and one that is picked to finish last in 2015 in the start of a reconstruction job.
By the sound of it, new coach David Beaty has some good construction foremen.
“The people this staff has brought in are accustomed to winning,” said Bates, a strong safety from Allen. “The coaches brought in people with competitive attitudes and demeanors.”
Said Stewart, a cornerback from Cedar Hill: “I’ve been part of programs that have won and lost. The difference is you have to bring optimism, go to work every day and love what you do. I feel like the players that are new here bring a new identity to the team.”
Bates, Stewart and Banks are merely a few of the new faces in Lawrence.
Beaty has been charged with turning around a program that has flirted with success in the past, into something other than an option for students to pass the time waiting for Midnight Madness.
Among those other newcomers are running back Taylor Martin, a Fort Worth Dunbar graduate, and Clyde McCauley, an offensive lineman from Arlington Bowie.
He fits exactly what we were looking for at that running back position.
Kansas coach David Beaty on freshman Tyler Martin, from Fort Worth Dunbar
Both are expected to play this season, Beaty said, though the coach cautioned that he wouldn’t force Martin into action if he’s not ready.
The expected starter, Corey Avery, was kicked off the team in the off-season, so Martin will fit in behind Taylor Cox and De’Andre Mann and another newcomer, Ke’aun Kinner, the National Junior College offensive player of the year in 2014.
With the injury histories of Cox and Mann, Martin provides needed depth.
“He fits exactly what we were looking for at that running back position,” Beaty said of Martin, adding that the freshman is one of the team’s fastest players.
Montell Cozart will quarterback offensive coordinator Rob Likens’ scheme.
Bates and Stewart will fill starting roles on defense, led by longtime defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, who took over the team for the last eight games last year after Charlie Weis was fired. The co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach is Kenny Perry, a former TCU assistant and longtime coach in the Arlington school district.
“We’re Day One friends since we met at JUCO,” Stewart said of Bates. “We’ve been best friends since.
“When you look over and see your best friend, a guy you know you can depend on, it helps you and motivates you to do better.”
They’re part of a defense that ranked eighth in the conference last season and generated fewer than 10 turnovers by interception.
Not surprisingly, the two disagree with the prognosticators, though the forecasts of futility serve to drive them. “If I was to say it didn’t, I’d be lying. Of course it does,” Bates said.
“They have a right to say what they want based on past history,” Stewart said. “But they don’t know what we have in the locker room and what we’ve been doing.”
Last year’s record: 3-9
Bowl result: None
Opener: Sept. 5 vs. South Dakota State
Players to watch: QB Montell Cozart, RB De’Andre Mann, RB Taylor Cox, CB Brandon Stewart, SS Bazie Bates IV, DL T.J. Semke.
Tarrant tie: CB Shaquille Richmond (Mansfield Timberview), QB Keaton Perry (Arlington Bowie), QB T.J. Millweard (Fort Worth All Saints), LB Josh Ehambe (Arlington/Prime Prep), RB Taylor Martin (Fort Worth Dunbar), OL Clyde McCauley (Arlington Bowie), WR Eric Rivers (Arlington Bowie).
Big 12 countdown
The Star-Telegram will spotlight each team leading up to TCU’s Sept. 3 season opener at Minnesota.
Tuesday: Texas Tech
Thursday: Oklahoma State
Saturday: Kansas State
Tuesday: Iowa State
Wednesday: West Virginia