LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas running back Velton Gardner, who led the Jayhawks in rushing last season, has entered the transfer portal after seeing his playing time decrease over the first three games under new coach Lance Leipold.
The junior running back started each game but, after carrying 19 times against South Dakota and eight times against Coastal Carolina, appeared in just four plays and carried twice for four yards in Saturday’s blowout loss to Baylor.
By transferring now, Gardner could potentially redshirt this season and still have two years of eligibility remaining.
“Velton’s not in the program anymore. I guess the best way to say it is, he didn’t show yesterday,” Leipold said Tuesday. “We are going to focus on the guys in the program. Wish him the best in the future.”
Gardner’s transfer continues a trend of Kansas running backs who didn’t finish their careers in Lawrence .
Pooka Williams, who led the Jayhawks in rushing with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and ’19, opted out of most of last season before declaring early for the NFL draft. He wasn’t selected but was signed by Cincinnati as a free agent.
His backup, Khalil Herbert, also departed the program after running for 384 yards during the 2019 season. He went to Virginia Tech, ran for 1,183 yards with eight TDs last season and became a sixth-round pick of Chicago.
The third-string running back in 2019, Dom Williams, is currently the starter for lower-level powerhouse Northern Iowa.
“It’s a dilemma that every coach is going through right now,” Leipold said of the transfer portal. “You’re managing your roster, you’re looking at how it affects your scholarships, you’re looking at locker room morale. Everybody wants to play, and you have a lot of people influencing young men today.
“I used to say at (Buffalo), ‘A lot of people are going to tell you what you want to hear and I’m going to tell you what you need to hear.’ That’s how you have to coach young men to reach their fullest potential. And we’ll continue to do that.”
In the meantime, the Jayhawks will lean more on freshman Devin Neal, who had 11 carries for 40 yards and a score in his first real action against Coastal Carolina. Neal had 10 carries for 33 yards against the Bears.
“He has a very bright future,” said Leipold, whose team visits Duke on Saturday. “We’re not where we want to be offensively, but I think the progress of Devin Neal continues to show in a very positive direction.”