LAWRENCE — Douglas Emilien just felt like he had more to give.
Emilien had chosen to start his time as a college football player at Minnesota for a reason. That’s where the wide receiver wanted to be coming out of high school in 2020. But after two years there, and feeling as if he wasn’t receiving enough opportunities to shine, he elected to transfer from that program and find one where he’d be able to better showcase his skillset.
It’s a decision that’s landed Emilien in Lawrence, where he’ll spend his redshirt sophomore season in 2022 with the Kansas Jayhawks. It’s one the 6-foot-1 and 190-pound talent will say himself is a risk. But had he not taken that step, he added this week after another fall camp practice, there wouldn’t be a story to tell.
“I’m all-around, not only will I run a route and catch a pass I want to block for my players because I’m a selfless player,” said Emilien, who’s eager to have a chance to pancake block a defender. “End of the day, somebody’s got to get the job done.”
In a position group that’s looking for one or more players to step up, following the departure of Kwamie Lassiter II to the professional ranks, Emilien is viewed as one who could compete for a key role right away. He’s seen that way, despite not coming to the Jayhawks with much in-game experience from his time at Minnesota.
From a projection standpoint he was graded similarly to Kansas redshirt sophomore wide receiver Lawrence Arnold coming out of high school, according to 247Sports Composite ratings, so there’s reason to believe with more chances in games Emilien could show why that was.
Jayhawks wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel described Emilien as someone who’s eager to play, to contribute to a winning program. Samuel said Emilien is detailed, and has been picking up the offense quickly. The latter point matters to Samuel, as he feels that can be difficult to do with Kansas’ offense because of what it requires from verbiage and reps standpoints.
Samuel anticipated Emilien being capable of doing so because of his familiarity with the athlete coming out of high school. Samuel, who’s new to the Jayhawks’ staff this season, had recruited Emilien before. It’s a familiarity that certainly made the recruiting process and evaluation easier this time around.
“I can call his high school coaches,” Samuel said. “I’ve already talked to some of them. So, I’ve got an idea of a feel. But, like I said, I already knew what his film, highlight film, high school film, looked like. So, I felt really comfortable being able to talk to him, knowing what type of personality he would have coming in. We did our homework, and like I said he’s showing that he can do what we need him to get done.”
Emilien added: “That was amazing, like somebody I can connect to. Last year he coached one of my old teammates, Oronde Gadsden (II), at Syracuse. That was something big, and he coached Laress Nelson at Michigan State. So, it was like, we was connected. It’s a small world … That was just, ‘All right, I’ve got people that I can talk to in my corner that knows him.’ And he has a good resume.”
Emilien said every day he’s been on campus since he arrived has shown him why he made the choice to pick Kansas. If he wants to get away from football for a bit, maybe to bowl or paint, he feels he can. He’s also rooming with redshirt sophomore running back Ky Thomas, another transfer from Minnesota, who Emilien lived with at Minnesota as well.
Emilien has been putting in the work to build a relationship with junior quarterback Jalon Daniels, who’s likelihood to start the opener has certainly became more likely as redshirt senior quarterback Jason Bean missed time due to an illness. Much of that work with Daniels, Emilien explained, took place over the summer. That chemistry will be key, to ensuring Emilien’s effect on the offense can be felt sooner rather than later.
“He’s amazing,” Emilien said of Daniels. “He’s an amazing athlete. It just all comes with communicating and understanding when I’m going to break and when he’s going to throw it.”
Because of how young Emilien’s position group is overall, the true potential of it may not be fully realized until next year or even the year after. There’s a level of youth there, a need for experience, that Samuel said can only be changed through reps in practices and games. Samuel will continue to look to build up everyone’s confidence, while also making sure he’s doing that to a degree that overlooks the severity of something like a dropped pass.
But Samuel noted as well his athletes’ comfortability will grow in time. He’ll continue to provide the likes of Emilien and redshirt freshman wide receiver Tanaka Scott with chances to make plays. Samuel just wants them all to stay humble, and stay hungry.
Samuel didn’t seem to think it was necessary that the Jayhawks find a true, No. 1 option this fall. He expressed confidence in belief it could be accomplished by committee, especially if his guys are eager to make a play and the offense remains simple enough to the point where that’s what matters. Time will tell, where Emilien fits in Sept. 2 when Kansas opens the season against Tennessee Tech.
“I feel like his biggest strength,” Arnold said of Emilien, “is route-running, catching, speed — for real.”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.