Alabama transfers Daylon Charlot, Charles Baldwin a catch for Kansas

Daylon Charlot, now at Kansas, had two catches for nine yards in his one season at Alabama. Norm Hall/Getty Images

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- When Daylon Charlot meets a football fan or fellow student at Kansas, the conversation shifts abruptly at even the slightest mention of his former school.

Charlot, the No. 8-rated receiver prospect in the Class of 2015, played sparingly as a true freshman on Alabama's College Football Playoff title-winning team.

You transferred here from Alabama? That's right.

People get excited. They want to know his number and wear his jersey.

"It's crazy," Charlot said, "but I don't let it get to me."

Alabama has lost 13 games in the past nine seasons under Nick Saban, and it's played in all three editions of the College Football Playoff. Kansas, meanwhile, fights to shake the distinction as the nation's worst Power 5 program. It is 2-22 with coach David Beaty at the helm.

And what's considerably more unusual than an ex-Alabama player transferring to Kansas, the Jayhawks have two.

Offensive tackle Charles Baldwin, the top-rated prospect out of junior college in 2016 who spent four months at Alabama before he was dismissed last May for a violation of team rules, also landed at KU in August.

Charlot and Baldwin sat out in 2016 for Kansas and look set this year to claim important offensive roles. The Jayhawks opened spring practice on Monday with Charlot in competition alongside top returning receivers Steven Sims and LaQuvionte Gonzalez, and Baldwin lined up as part of the first unit at right tackle.

Their paths to Kansas differ greatly, but Charlot and Baldwin picked KU for an opportunity to make their marks quickly. And both players said they felt immediately comfortable because of the environment fostered by Beaty and his staff.

"We do it a little different," Beaty said last week. "We do it like Dabo [Swinney] does. The difference with us is going to be love. It's going to be family. It's going to be true family. We've got their back. We love them. And when it's fourth-and-1, they're going to be in that huddle, focused, because they don't want to let us down.

"And we don't want to let them down."

Charlot left Tuscaloosa on his own last summer, in search of a more wide-open offense to showcase his receiving skills.

At Alabama, he said, "I just felt like the ball wasn't going to get thrown around that much."

"They wanted me to stay," Charlot said. "[Saban] tried to get me to stay. I was in the office, looking at him eye to eye. He was like, 'Give me and give yourself a little bit more time.' It was hard, because he gave me an opportunity to come play there.

"I said I understood, but I've got to do what's right for me."

Charlot's not hung up on perception. It's a lesson learned from 12 months with the Crimson Tide. He picked Alabama out of high school in Patterson, Louisiana, because of its performance and reputation as the best program nationally.

Beaty, coaching receivers at Texas A&M until December 2014, tried to recruit Charlot three years ago. Kenny Perry, the KU co-defensive coordinator, also courted Charlot during the coach's time at TCU. And Charlot knew of Kansas running backs coach Tony Hull, once a fixture in New Orleans as coach at Warren Easton High.

"We had a lot of connections to Daylon," Beaty said.

Still, Charlot looked all over, talking to his cousin, wide receiver Mykel Jones at Oklahoma, and others. But when he got serious about Kansas, something clicked, especially with Hull.

"I knew coach Hull," Charlot said. "And I knew he wasn't going to lie to me. I trusted his word. I came here. And I'm comfortable and happy."

Baldwin enjoyed no such connection. He had no choice but to leave Alabama. The reason for his dismissal remains undisclosed.

"I'm disappointed in myself because of decisions I chose to make to put myself in that situation," Baldwin said. "But from the time I left Alabama until now, coach Beaty and his staff have helped me mature as a man and just do what needs to be done."

He reached out last summer on Instagram to KU defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr.

"I think he was the only guy on the Kansas team who followed me," Baldwin said. "I'd heard good things about [KU offensive line] coach [Zach] Yenser, so I asked Dorance if he could put me in touch."

Armstrong did. And now they're matched up constantly in practice. Armstrong, a first-team All-Big 12 defender last season as a sophomore, said he's grateful for the presence of Baldwin.

"We're making each other better," Armstrong said.

Long gone are the days of instant recognition around the Alabama program. When Saban visited Charlot's home in recruiting two years ago, onlookers drove past and waited outside to see the coach. Charlot described the scene as a "parade."

At Kansas, Beaty can walk around campus without attracting notice.

The contrast means nothing to the Alabama transfers.

"When I got here," Baldwin said, "KU embraced me with open arms, and I was just happy that the family here, coach Beaty and his staff gave me a second chance."

This second chance for Charlot and Baldwin, though undeniably unorthodox and less victorious, may prove more rewarding than the first.