Kansas University’s emphasis on recruiting in-state talent appears to be working, as Charlie Weis’ football program on Saturday night made the list of the final six schools vying for the services of Hiawatha High standout Peyton Newell.
Newell, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive tackle ranked by Rivals.com as the fourth-best prospect in Kansas in the Class of 2014, revealed his top six schools via Twitter.
Joining KU in making the cut were: South Carolina, Georgia, Nebraska, Kansas State and USC.
Newell’s new list is a trimmed-down version of his original 34-school list. Of those 34 — dozens more showed interest early on — more than 30 were BCS programs, with nearly the entire Big 12 and Big Ten offering Newell scholarships. Newell said the prospects of early playing time and quality relationships with the coaches played a key role in his recruitment to this point, and both were a big reason KU made the cut.
“I definitely want to play early and that’s something that coach (Buddy) Wyatt and coach (Clint) Bowen, as well as coach Weis have pounded into my head, that I’d make an early impact,” Newell said. “That stuck in my mind.”
Another thing that helped KU was the fact that Newell comes from a KU family. Both of his parents went to KU along with nearly 20 other relatives.
Asked if KU had a legitimate shot of landing him or if including the Jayhawks was merely an act of kindness and loyalty, Newell did not diminish KU’s place.
“They actually do,” he said. “KU’s a school I grew up with and is kind of my family school and hometown school. KU’s definitely important to me.”
Another thing that’s important is the role KU plays in honoring Newell’s mother, Missy, who passed away when he was 5 after a battle with breast cancer.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind to go to KU and make a big difference early on (for) her,” Newell admitted. “So that’s definitely something that sticks with me. But I have no pressure to go anywhere. My family’s been great about letting it be my decision.”
It’s not just the Kansas coaches with whom Newell has built strong relationships. Even some of the current and future players are getting in on the act of trying to convince him that KU is the right pick.
“Relationships are a key part of the process,” Newell said. “And me and (2014 commitment) Traevohn Wrench (of Gardner-Edgerton High) have gotten close through the process. I know every time I see him he’s always saying something about me becoming a Jayhawk.”
Newell has a busy summer of workouts and team camps ahead and plans to announce his pick on Aug. 30.