Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kansas on the mind: Gill emphasizes importance of in-state recruiting

Kansas coach Turner Gill smiles as he walks around the practice field in this April 5 file photo at the KU practice fields. Gill and his staff are putting an emphasis on keeping close tabs on high school recruits in Kansas.

Kansas coach Turner Gill smiles as he walks around the practice field in this April 5 file photo at the KU practice fields. Gill and his staff are putting an emphasis on keeping close tabs on high school recruits in Kansas.


Don’t let Kansas University football coach Turner Gill’s first recruiting class mislead you. Gill is a believer in Kansas high school football.

“Getting in-state talent, we’re going to make sure we recruit those (Kansas) guys and we want ’em all here,” he said. “To say it’s going to be 100 percent, that’s probably not realistic. But we need to make sure to get our share of in-state guys to come here to the University of Kansas.”

Despite devoting just one scholarship to a player from the Sunflower State in the Class of 2010 (defensive end Pat Lewandowski of Blue Valley West) — Hutchinson High running back Josh Smith announced after signing day that he plans to join the Jayhawks as a walk-on, as well — Gill’s actions since taking over have backed up his claim that landing Kansas athletes will be important to his program.

Upon arriving at KU, one of the first things Gill and recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell did was divide the state into nine different regions. From there, each assistant coach — including Mitchell, who also is in charge of KU’s running backs — was assigned to a region, therein providing consistency and continuity in recruiting the more than 81,000 square miles that house Kansas’ high school football fields.

“All of our assistant coaches have a part of Kansas,” Gill said. “We want to make sure that there’s a touch or a connection from a KU coach. We’re not going to visit every high school in the state of Kansas but we’re going to hit quite a few schools and we’re going to make sure that, at least in Kansas, we are aware of the top players. Then we’ll evaluate them, and if we believe they’re top-notch players who can help KU be successful, then we’ll offer.”

In many ways, the new approach appears to be working. This spring, KU received an oral commitment from Wichita Heights junior running back Dreamius Smith. KU assistant coach Robert Wimberly is in charge of the Wichita area and Smith’s coach, Rick Wheeler, said he saw first-hand how the KU staff’s commitment to Kansas would work.

“As the process started, I had been talking to coach Wimberly about another athlete of ours, someone he had called about, and I said, ‘Well, I want you to take a look at this running back of mine,’” Wheeler said. “Coach Wimberly liked him right away, he reported back to coach Gill and it just went from there.”

To be fair, Wheeler said Smith told him at the start of 2009 that Kansas would be his first choice if he could pick any school in the country. At that time, Mark Mangino coached the Jayhawks and Gill still was in Buffalo. In some ways, such a statement reflects well on what Mangino was able to do at KU. At the same time, the fact that Gill stuck with Smith, and ultimately landed him, demonstrates that his approach works, too.

“I certainly get the feeling that recruiting Kansas kids is really important to them and winning the kids in their own back yard is important,” Wheeler said.

Gill’s plan is a slight departure from the way Mangino and his staff did things. Under Mangino, Kansas was divided into three areas — the Kansas City metro area, southern Kansas and the rest — and one coach was assigned to each region. It’s not that Gill’s way places more emphasis on Kansas — Mangino was fairly successful in landing some marquee Kansas players — it’s just that, under the new system, there’s more of a connection between the state and the KU staff.

“The important thing is that people identify with the state-of-Kansas kids coming to play at the University of Kansas,” Gill said.

Added Mitchell: “We have to be able to recruit Kansas better than anyone. Even though there may not be more than 10 Div. I football players in the state, during a good year, you still have to show the commitment.”

So far the Class of 2011 is shaping up to be one of those good years that Mitchell mentioned. Though Smith is the only Kansas player to orally commit to KU so far, several others have the Jayhawks high on their lists.

Through Monday, according to, KU had offered scholarships to the following Kansas players: Bubba Starling, QB, Gardner-Edgerton; Dylan Admire, OL, Blue Valley West; Shane Ray, DE, Bishop Miege; Jordan Phillips, OL, Towanda. About a dozen others from the state are on KU’s radar and most are receiving major interest from programs throughout the country. Landing any number of them would go a long way toward making Gill’s second recruiting class at KU a memorable one.

As assistant coach Aaron Stamn said, “Gotta keep the heart here.”


Ted Toulouse 7 years, 12 months ago

Here-Here and kudos to the coaching staff. I've been pretty annoyed with several nationally ranked players, mostly from the Wichita schools, going to other programs. Anyone remember where the RB from Wichita that committed to Tennessee landed after Kiffin left? Seemed like it was Miami. Would have been nice to keep that kid in-state.

Ted Toulouse 7 years, 12 months ago

Thanks! So their in-state now, just playing for the wrong team. And THAT'S what Gill will hopefully accomplish in the future.

Mike Kendall 7 years, 12 months ago

Arthur and Bryce Brown---yea, I remember the Brown brothers. Both played at Wichita East HS in Wichita. They played against my hometown HS, the Derby HS Panthers. Although they both were talented individually, East didn't have much success in the post-season. I believe East had made the State playoffs for the first time in years and when Bryce was a junior, played against a good Maize Eagles team. East lost that game, 14-7, if I remember right. I was at that game, and Bryce Brown had their only touchdown. How well will they do at K-State? Who knows? I hope KU's defense shuts them down, and then some!

KURocksChalk 7 years, 12 months ago

Really glad to hear this. We have lost some great ones out of Wichita over the yearsgoing all the way back to Barry Sanders, one of the top 2 or 3 NFL backs of all time. Recently, RB Bryce Brown and QB Blake Bell left Kansas for other programs. If we can get the State's best talent it will help dramatically. You take these kids that are big enough from the small towns and watch out. They have something to prove. They want respect, give it all, usually good background and values and grew up listening to and watching Kansas. They fit in and won't have to adjust to "small-town" Lawrence. To them, Lawrence is pretty metro.

Dyrk Dugan 7 years, 12 months ago

"Both Brown brothers transferred to Kansas State. Bryce a RB was at Tenn, and Arthur a LB was at Miami. "

Neither Brown brother is listed at the purples' official site, as being on the roster.

I believe Turner Gill will be a better recruiter than Mark Mangino, but this emphasis on Kansas kids, has ALWAYS been made. the proof is definitely in the pudding. if we see more top Kansas kids coming to KU, then it's been emphasized...if not, then same 'ol, same 'ol.

you have to remember in the Wichita area...they're not that far from OU and OSU. and that's where a lot of kids go. it will always be tough to go against the Sooners for the football talent they covet.

Kevin Studer 7 years, 12 months ago

They aren't listed on the roster as both are in their transfer year and ineligible. Arthur has officially transferred to KSU, while, as far as I know, Bryce has not officially done so yet. But here in Wichita, it is considered a foregone conclusion that he wants to be closer to home and playing with his brother.

Jonathan Briles 7 years, 12 months ago

When did this transfer take place? I just looked at KSU's site and it has nothing about it in the last three months. I never heard a thing about this and I think a transfer of a player that good would make a lot of news around here. I'm not sure if it is all just speculation and wishful thinking by the wildcats fans.

Marcia Parsons 7 years, 12 months ago

Regarding the Brown brothers, is it possible that they are having to sit out this year because of transferring and that's why they aren't on the roster?

KGphoto 7 years, 12 months ago

I'm a little shocked that KU didn't make more of an effort for Bryce. He should've landed at KU in the first place. He was the top running back in his class and would've played a huge part in our offense last year.

However, I'm not exactly sure how you make that additional effort. Coaches have to be pretty careful these days. It's gotta be kind of tough for a coach. He gets his phone calls, a visit with mom, shows him the weight room, then crosses his fingers. The fact that Gill hired a new, and respected, staff will probably help as much as any other future recruiting efforts.

rolo2383 7 years, 12 months ago

We also lost out on Grissom last year.

The Brown brothers carry a lot of baggage with them. Arthur may end up being a huge bust b/c he rarely saw the field in two years at Miami. I think Bryce will turn out to be a solid running back.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 12 months ago

and Justin McCay.

There was a LB (?) named Byrd (?) as well 2 years ago.

jhokfan 7 years, 12 months ago

Gill has to compete against KSU and any other out of state schools. CU, NU and mu are the only BCS schools in their state which gives them a distinct recruiting advantage.

tobyfoo 7 years, 12 months ago

I'm glad KU has already offered Bubba Starling a scholarship! He will be a senior next year. He took Gardner to the state title game as a Junior in 5a. He will be fun to watch next year (Gardner is 20 miles from Lawrence). I think Notre Dame is interested in him too.

Michael Pannacciulli 7 years, 12 months ago

i don't recall kansas being a particular hotbed for football talent. but it makes sense to get the good locals. i don't envy Gill and co's job right now. they need to accumulate some intrigue by getting wins to pull guys in, from kansas or elsewhere. they really seem to be doing all they can to get the best guys possible...the stage is set for they just need to make it happen. great field, fans, campus, facilities, sports tradition, recent bowl wins, big 12 competition, etc....but they have an AD on the chopping block, scandals, the basketball team is the schools real love, and more than anything a relatively unproven coach on the national level...a few wins in Albany and being a stud QB in the '80s won't be enough--let's be honest.

we should all be content with what he's accomplished thus far. and if he leaves KU with a 10-26 record i am fairly confident he won't be tossed out for a scandal. i'm not a mangino hater, he did great things for us, and off the field he's done great things for the community. lew hated him, and that was that. plus he is overweight. another reason people won't admit it, but hate him for it. boo hoo. back to our new man, gill...let's see what this guy's got. i'll be rooting for him...and so should you if you are a jayhawk.

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