It’s not quite Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day,” but it’s close.
Throughout most of the recruiting period for the Class of 2011, one aspect kept popping up with nearly all of the players Kansas University football coach Turner Gill was targeting.
Speed, speed and more speed became a recurring theme of the players who orally committed to Kansas, and, because of it, Gill is in position to announce a recruiting class that’s on the brink of cracking the top 30 in the nation.
“I would say, on paper, it’s one of the top two classes KU has had in the last 10 years,” said Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jon Kirby. “What stands out? Athleticism and speed, there’s no doubt. There are just a lot of guys that can really move, and there’s some explosion there and serious athleticism.”
Pegged by Rivals as the 33rd-best class in the country, KU football officials will man the fax machines bright and early Wednesday — Groundhog Day — waiting to receive the first letters of intent.
Linebacker Jake Love, of Tonkawa, Okla., is the first future Jayhawk scheduled to sign Wednesday. He’ll join KU at 7 a.m. at Tonkawa High, just a minute before offensive lineman Luke Luhrsen, of Wheaton, Ill., who is slated to sign at 7:01 a.m. at Warrenville South High.
This year’s class features two four-star prospects: running back Darrian Miller, of Blue Springs, Mo., and “athlete” Anthony Pierson, of East St. Louis (Ill.) High. The rest of the class is made up of 21 three-star prospects and three two-star guys.
By position, the class includes six offensive linemen, five linebackers, four defensive backs, three running backs, two defensive ends, two wide receivers, two quarterbacks and a kicker.
The blizzard that recently passed through the area figures to make things interesting, as several recruits will be out of school because of snow days. School or no school, the athletes affected by the weather say they’ve made arrangements to get their letters faxed to KU one way or another.
Gill, who cannot talk about specific players until receiving their signed letters of intent, is scheduled to reveal the class at a news conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Until then, here’s a quick look at each prospect expected to join the Jayhawks:
Dylan Admire, OL, 6-3, 264, 3-star
Local product from Blue Valley West High signed in November, graduated early and has been on campus since January. Admire originally committed to Nebraska but changed his mind and picked the Jayhawks because of his desire to play closer to home. Rated by Rivals.com as the 30th-best offensive guard in the country, Admire recently participated in the NUC All-World Game in South Carolina.
Tunde Bakare, LB, 5-11, 215, 3-star
Clocked at 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Bakare (pronounced Toon-Day, Buh-Car-Ee) is without question one of the fastest players in a fast class. He’s also the only junior-college guy in the group, coming to KU from nearby Highland Community College. Bakare led Highland with 72 tackles this season and also led the Jayhawk Conference in forced fumbles. Originally from Woodbridge, Va., the tenacious linebacker chose KU over East Carolina and also received serious interest from USC, Boise State, and Maryland.
Brock Berglund, QB, 6-4, 205, 3-star
One of the gems of the Class of 2011, Berglund graduated early from Valor Christian High in Highlands Ranch, Colo., and began taking classes at KU in January. His early arrival, along with his raw skills, figure to give him a legitimate chance to earn the starting quarterback position this summer. Ranked by Rivals.com as the 15th-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, Berglund threw for 2,174 yards and ran for 945 more while leading his team to a state title last fall. Berglund chose KU after decommitting from Colorado.
Travis Bodenstein, OL, 6-5, 295, 3-star
Similar in size and style to current KU up-and-comer Duane Zlatnik. Named first-team all-state in Arkansas as a senior after leading Shiloh Christian to its third consecutive Class 4A state championship. Was the only player on his team to earn Associated Press “Super Team” honors in three straight seasons. Chose KU over East Carolina, Memphis, Ohio and Tulsa.
Michael Cummings, QB, 6-0, 196, 3-star
The first quarterback in the class to commit to Kansas, Cummings joins KU as a highly touted, dual-threat QB from Killeen, Texas. Threw for more than 4,000 yards and rushed for 1,800 more during his sophomore and junior seasons combined at Killeen High. Named offensive player of the year in his district as a junior. Knee injury cost him most of his senior season. Chose Kansas over Louisiana Tech and Tulsa.
Javonte Daniel, DE, 6-4, 215, 3-star
Daniel was one of the big mysteries in the Class of 2011. After committing to KU a while ago, he had to wait until signing day to receive his official offer. As he walked down the hall of LaGrange (Ga.) High to sign with another school, the letter of intent arrived and Daniel quickly signed it. With his raw size and skills, many consider him to be the biggest sleeper in the class. Chose KU over SEC schools Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
Phil Ford, OL, 6-6, 320, 2-star
Local prospect from Bishop Miege High has been tied to Kansas since his junior season. Finally got the offer from KU in July and orally committed right away. A mountain of a man who helped lead Miege to a state title in 2009, Ford has dropped nearly 30 pounds since last summer and continues to work hard to get closer to the 300-pound mark. Played tackle at Miege and chose Kansas over Minnesota. Also received interest from Oklahoma.
Collin Garrett, LB, 6-1, 205, 3-star
This all-state selection from West Brook High in Beaumont, Texas, comes to KU on the heels of two monster seasons. Recorded 137 tackles as a junior and followed that up with 155 tackles this season. The strong senior year led to Garrett being named defensive MVP in his district. Clocked in the 4.5-second range in the 40, Garrett has serious speed and projects as an outside linebacker in college. Chose KU over Houston, Miami (Ohio), Mississippi, North Texas, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP.
Ben Goodman, DE, 6-2, 225, 3-star
Committed to KU two days after teammate Collin Garrett pledged his services to the Jayhawks. Goodman is a three-time, all-district defensive-end selection from West Brook High in Beaumont, Texas, and is one of the most athletic players in the class. Has been clocked at 4.68 seconds in the 40-yard dash and chose KU over offers from California, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami (Ohio), North Texas, Tulane and Tulsa.
Julius Green, DE, 6-7, 260, No ranking
Technically a member of the Class of 2010, Green arrived at KU in January and currently is enrolled in classes and preparing for spring ball. Was scheduled to join the Jayhawks out of Aldine High near Houston last summer but was forced to sit out because one of his high school classes did not transfer. Spent 2010 taking one class at Houston Community College and working out. Added 30 pounds to his tall, athletic frame and is ready to make up for lost time. Chose KU over Iowa State and Louisiana Tech.
Ben Heeney, LB, 6-1, 195, 3-star
Ranked as the 58th-best linebacker in the nation and the 11th-best prospect in Kansas, Heeney, an outside linebacker from Hutchinson High, comes to KU from a program that has been one of the most dominant prep football teams in the state during the past decade. Reportedly orally committed to Kansas during KU’s loss to Texas A&M; at home. Clocked at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Heeney chose KU over Colorado State. Also had interest from Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU.
Jason Hensley, LB, 6-2, 225, 3-star
Widely regarded as one of the biggest sleepers in the class, Hensley comes to KU from Alma (Ark.) High with serious speed and a body already built for the college game. Athletically gifted, Hensley led his high school team in tackles in each of the past two seasons and also recorded more than 10 total sacks while being named all-conference. Chose KU over Tulsa and also was receiving serious interest from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and LSU.
Marquis Jackson, WR, 6-0, 205, 3-star
Like so many members of KU’s Class of 2011, Jackson’s biggest asset appears to be his speed. The first-team all-state selection from Arlington Heights High in Fort Worth, Texas, hauled in 44 passes for 1,186 yards this season and has consistently been clocked in the sub-4.5-second range in the 40-yard dash. Also one of the strongest players on his high school team. Turned down scholarship offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Kansas State, Minnesota, Nebraska and UTEP to join the Jayhawks.
Jake Love, LB, 6-0, 195, 3-star
Another linebacker with legitimate Big 12 speed, Love joins the Jayhawks as the 70th-ranked linebacker in the nation and the 14th-rated prospect from Oklahoma. An outside linebacker from Tonkawa High, Love was one of the first players in his class to commit to KU coach Turner Gill. Committed to KU after visiting campus for the spring game last April. Three-sport athlete who won a state title in the 189-pound weight class in wrestling as a junior and also runs the mile and sprint medley relay for the Tonkawa track team. Chose KU after receiving interest from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa.
Luke Luhrsen, OL, 6-5, 275, 3-star
Kansas was the first school to offer Luhrsen, and that wound up going a long way with the Wheaton (Ill.) Warrenville South High prospect, who orally committed to KU two weeks after receiving an offer. Versatile lineman who can play either tackle or guard hails from the same hometown as KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long. Chose Kansas over Louisville and Bowling Green. Also received interest from Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern.
Damon Martin, OL, 6-5, 265, 3-star
One of the most physical players in the Class of 2011, Martin comes to KU from Arlington (Texas) High, where he played both guard and tackle. He projects as a tackle at KU. Chose the Jayhawks over Arizona, Memphis, New Mexico, Tulsa, Utah and Utah State.
Alex Matlock, DB, 6-2, 190, 3-star
A true safety from Pflugerville (Texas) High, Matlock has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and possesses a 37-inch vertical leap. Decided to commit to Kansas on the drive home from his official visit last May. Picked KU because of its facilities and the relationships he built with the coaches. Chose the Jayhawks over offers from Tulsa and Wyoming. Also had interest from Rice, Baylor, TCU and SMU.
Alex Mueller, K, 5-10, 155, 2-star
Ranked as the fifth-best place kicker in the country by kicking guru Chris Sailer, Mueller hit 11 of 14 field goals for Grapevine (Texas) High this season, including a long of 47 yards. Also averaged 61 yards on kickoffs.
Darrian Miller, RB, 5-10, 181, 4-star
Signed early and arrived on campus in January. Miller is one of two four-star players in KU’s Class of 2011. After a stellar junior season at Blue Springs High put him on the map, Miller became Missouri’s all-time prep rushing leader this season and finished his high school career with more than 6,500 yards. As a senior, he ran for 2,226 yards and 30 TDs. Miller originally committed to KU last March and then re-opened his recruitment. After exploring his options, which included Iowa, K-State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and others, the 22nd-ranked running back in the nation chose Kansas a second time in October and is currently taking classes at KU.
Bryan Peters, OL, 6-5, 305, 3-star
Ranked as the 65th-best offensive lineman in the nation and the 64th-best player in California, the La Mirada (Calif.) High tackle committed to Kansas early and canceled all other visits. High school coach Mike Moschetti, a former Colorado quarterback, has said that Peters has the ability to be a pro and should have a leg up on adjusting to the college game because of the style of offense his high school team ran. Played alongside a player who committed to Alabama. Versatile lineman who can play all three positions on the O-Line and also is a 4.0 student.
Anthony Pierson, RB, 5-11, 175, 4-star
This East St. Louis (Ill.) High running back was recruited by Kansas as an “athlete” and is ranked by Rivals.com as one of the top eight “athletes” available in this year’s class. He’s also the fourth-ranked player in Illinois. Previously committed to Missouri but decommitted in November and chose Kansas in December. The blazing-fast back who’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field tapped the Jayhawks over Kansas State, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and Arkansas.
Michael Reynolds, DE, 6-4, 220, 3-star
Reynolds, a standout defensive end from Wichita’s Kapaun-Mt. Carmel High, committed to KU in January and quickly has become one of the most talked-about players in the class. Also an all-state baseball player and may consider playing both sports at KU. Reynolds tapped Kansas over offers from TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Indiana.
Chris Robinson, DB, 5-9, 170, 3-star
Naturally gifted athlete from Lake Mary (Fla.) High who committed to KU in May, Robinson fits right in with the Jayhawks’ incoming crop of speed. Clocked at 4.43 seconds in the 40, Robinson was the fastest guy on his high school team and could compete for the same title at Kansas. Chose KU over Georgia Southern, Louisiana-Lafayette and UConn. Also received late interest from Ole Miss.
Adonis Saunders, DB, 5-11, 185, 2-star
Played a key role in one of the most successful prep programs in Kansas (Olathe North) for the past two seasons. Played both ways as a senior, starting at cornerback and wide receiver. Chose Kansas over Iowa State and New Mexico State.
JaCorey Shepherd, WR, 5-11, 170, 3-star
Shepherd is another player in the Class of 2011 who backed out of a previous commitment to sign with the Jayhawks. Originally committed to Iowa, the speedy wideout from Horn High in Mesquite, Texas, switched his choice to KU in July. Shepherd is ranked by Rivals.com as the 82nd-best wide receiver in the class.
Victor Simmons, DB, 6-1, 185, 3-star
Played quarterback for Olathe North High for two years, leading the Eagles to a state title in 2009 and a state runner-up trophy in 2010. Projects as a defensive back — likely a safety — at the college level. Clocked at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Simmons is a dynamic athlete with a good frame. Chose KU over interest from K-State and Nebraska.
Dreamius Smith, RB, 6-1, 210, 3-star
One of the first players from the Class of 2011 to commit to Kansas, Smith has been on the Jayhawks’ commit list since late March. As a junior at Wichita Heights, the 44th-ranked running back in the nation ran for more than 1,300 yards and helped Heights reach the state title game. As a senior, Smith outdid himself, finishing the season on top by avenging last year’s loss in the state title game with a victory over Olathe North. In that one, Smith ran for 286 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. Chose KU over early interest from K-State, Nebraska and Oklahoma State.