LAWRENCE — Adversity hasn’t hampered Daylon Charlot’s confidence.
In fact, the Kansas football wide receiver enters his final collegiate season just as certain of his own abilities as the scouts that slotted the former four-star recruit as one of the nation’s top incoming freshmen four years ago.
Charlot, once pegged by recruiting outlet Rivals as the nation’s No. 78-ranked high school prospect, has made what amounts to only cameos across 11 career contests in his three active seasons. The 6-foot, 193-pounder out of Patterson, La., has tallied 15 total catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns in that span, first at Alabama (2015) and then with the Jayhawks (2017-18).
With depth questions for KU at wide receiver, however, Charlot enters this year with preseason hype, a familiar feeling but one that could prove accurate if the pass catcher’s own prognostications come true — asked Saturday whether he has the ability to compete for a spot as a No. 1 receiver in the Big 12, Charlot went even further.
“Oh yeah — No. 1 receiver in the country,” Charlot said. “Yeah, yeah. I’m competing for the No. 1 receiver in the country.”
“So I mean, like I said, it’s going to be a great year after all the adversity I’ve faced. I just prayed about it,” Charlot said. “So I’m really competing with the No. 1 receiver in the country.”
Some who have experienced similar setbacks to what Charlot has endured wouldn’t carry as much swagger.
Charlot has most notably battled a litany of injuries throughout his collegiate career, the most severe coming in preseasons. Those ailments — Charlot said he suffered a knee injury a week before last year’s season opener, for example — put him behind the eight ball from the outset.
While there’s still practices to be had ahead of the Jayhawks’ 11 a.m. Aug. 31 season opener against Indiana State at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Charlot believes those woes are in the past, now labeling himself “very healthy."
"Now I’m ready to roll and the season is just right around the corner," Charlot said.
Injuries weren’t the only roadblock for Charlot.
He struggled to see the field at times even when he was dressed and on the sideline, though that changed last year after the midseason firing of former offensive coordinator Doug Meacham — Charlot posted three games with at least three catches and 30-plus receiving yards across KU’s final six contests, hauling in three receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown in the season finale against Texas.
“Every day I was getting treatment. Every day,” Charlot said of his strong finish. “I just started getting healthier, so I just started playing to the best I can.”
Playing time became so sparse that at one point midway through his first season with KU, Charlot made the switch to safety, a move former head coach David Beaty labeled a depth-related decision.
“It was done out of a need because we were short of depth at safety or whatever,” Charlot said. "But I feel like the coaches put me somewhere on the field, I’m just going to make the best of it and just go from there.”
Charlot, who is majoring in liberal arts and is on track to graduate in December, said the decision to stick with KU this offseason was an easy one, citing new head coach Les Miles as the primary reason.
“He recruited me out of high school,” Charlot said. “When he recruited me out of high school, (he) had a great plan for me if I came to LSU. But now we ended up at the same place. He has a great game plan for me now. He’s putting me in the right position to be successful this year.”
Miles seems to appreciate the weapon he inherited.
“Just huge hands, strong, and a guy that thinks and pursues being the best,” Miles said of Charlot. “And so I think he’s a guy that steps onto the field and does things that we didn’t expect him to do — or that he’s not done before, I should say. He’s trying hard, having a great camp, busting his behind.”
So how has Charlot upped his game this offseason? He says he’s smarter, for starters.
“The offense that we’re running is pretty simple. I’m on it,” Charlot said. “I feel like I got faster, bigger, stronger, and more cut, too. I feel like I’m healthy. I’m going to have a great year.”
Despite the departures of former standout Steven Sims (53 receptions, 535 yards and four touchdowns last season), as well as the team’s second- and third-leading pass catchers (Jeremiah Booker, Kerr Johnson), Charlot said he believes this receiving corps can be even more productive than the one that took the field a year ago.
Asked who among the group can be a breakout candidate, Charlot replied: “I feel like all of the receivers.”
“I mean, all of us can make major plays, big plays,” Charlot said. “If the ball is in the air, we’re gonna get it, because every day we do these drills that Coach Miles set up where it’s like competitive catches and things like that. I mean, all the receivers are very good at it. So I feel like any receiver that’s out there is going to make a big play. ...
“I feel like if somebody goes down in a game, the person right behind him is just as good as the person that started. It really doesn’t matter who’s in the game. Somebody’s going to make a play.”