Although many college football programs still have spots available, most of the recruiting classes for 2013 were finalized Wednesday.
Kansas University, under the direction of second-year head coach Charlie Weis, officially signed 25 players in its latest class, including 18 from the junior-college ranks.
Now that the ink is dry and the faxes have fallen silent, what do the so-called experts think about Weis’ haul?
The Sporting News is the national media outlet that has, by far, the most faith in the Jayhawks-to-be. KU’s class landed 25th on the Sporting News’ final team rankings, which were released Wednesday night. No explanation was given, but it seems fair to suggest that the Sporting News clearly values junior-college prospects more than the others.
Rivals.com, which deemed KU to have the seventh-best recruiting class in the 10-team Big 12, ranked KU 45th; 247Sports.com ranked the Jayhawks 50th; and ESPN.com put KU in slot 55, one spot behind Kansas State.
Although he was not asked specifically about the rankings, Weis offered some insight into why his collection of talent placed where it did when he spoke with reporters on signing day.
“I think recruiting classes are based off high school seniors,” said Weis, who added just seven such players to his roster this offseason. “I don’t think one (ranking) system really is factoring in a junior-college player playing at the top of their game right now.”
To further make his point, Weis pointed to juco defensive tackle Marquel Combs, who ranked No. 1 on ESPN’s list of the top junior-college players in the nation.
“Combs, they list as a four-star player,” Weis began. “How can the No. 1 player in the country not be rated with the most stars? (It’s) because they are rating him based on what he was in high school, not what he is right now.”
Combs, who has the look of an almost-certain starter at defensive tackle, is one of the best examples of why Weis believes bulking up the roster with juco talent can help turn things around at Kansas.
The fact that Sunflower State rival Kansas State has proven it can work under Bill Snyder only fuels the fire.
“I don’t think people have the appropriate resources to be able to evaluate a class based off of the combination of high school guys and junior-college guys,” Weis said. “Let’s face it, if you sit here and get 18 (high school) guys that are ready that are five and four stars by everybody, your recruiting class is going to be rated way up top. But tell me they are more ready than the 18 junior-college players that you just brought in, and I would beg to differ. I’ll take the 18 junior-college players, because they are ready to play now. You have seen them on tape; you have seen them against college players; you have seen them physically, and they are two years older, at least.”
Going the junior-college route certainly is not without its challenges, but Weis, who prides himself on looking into the future and trying to stay one step ahead of opponents, does not believe blending a juco-heavy class with what’s already on the roster will be that tough.
“A lot of them are here already, and that helps,” said Weis, referencing eight of the 10 midyear transfers who are on campus and will participate in spring practice. “But there are going to be tweaks in what we do on offense and defense that everyone’s going to have to learn. I’ve had a couple months to study our team, and I’ve already enlightened the staff on what directions we’re heading.”
For better or worse, that appears to be down a similar road Snyder took the Wildcats. Whether it works out the same way remains to be seen and will not be known for at least a few years.
“When (KU athletic director, Sheahon) Zenger offered me this job, I went online, and I looked at their roster, and I looked at our roster,” Weis said of the Wildcats. “I saw all their junior-college kids, and I saw none of ours. I said, ‘Well, it’s pretty obvious what the formula is, go do that.’ And then when I saw coach Snyder before the game this year, I said, ‘I just want you to know, I learned a lot from your model, and there are a lot of things I took from it.’ It was a nice cordial conversation, but I meant it out of respect for coach Snyder, because I haven’t seen a guy work that system any better than he has.”