Thursday, November 13, 2014


Column: Class of ’11 scattered, but gems still remain


Turner Gill’s second recruiting class at Kansas University was made up of 25 high school seniors from the Class of 2011. Just 11 of them remain in the program.

Some never suited up for Kansas, such as quarterback Brock Berglund, who is at his fourth school and still hasn’t thrown a pass. He appeared in one game this season for Northern Colorado of the Football Championship Subdivision and rushed the ball once for two yards.

Others gave up football. Some transferred. A number of players from the class flunked, some were dismissed for bad behavior and others transferred.

Most of the ones who stuck it out are among the best players in the program.

Provided offensive lineman Damon Martin recovers sufficiently from an illness that has sidelined him most of the season, five players from the class will return next season because they red-shirted as freshmen. Quarterback Michael Cummings, defensive lineman Ben Goodman, linebacker Jake Love and offensive lineman Bryan Peters have one more year of eligibility.

Safety Alex Matlock has the option of returning for a fifth season.

Middle linebacker Ben Heeney, cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, defensive end Michael Reynolds, versatile Victor Simmons and Love, a linebacker, all are coming off big games in the 34-14 victory against Iowa State.

Tony Pierson ranks 18th on KU’s career rushing list, despite spending a year-and-a-half as a wide receiver and missing time with concussion problems.

Gill and his staff emphasized speed in that recruiting class and that approach ranks as the No. 1 reason KU has a good defense. But Gill took way too many academic risks and/or didn’t instill enough discipline in that area for the class to stay together. Gill’s successor, Charlie Weis, took way too many behavior/academic risks when he emphasized recruiting junior-college players and that combined with the attrition from the Class of 2011 has left Kansas with woefully inadequate depth and badly in need of stability in the program.

But the players who did stick around from the Class of 2011 bring plenty of talent. Six of them play their final game in Memorial Stadium on Saturday vs. TCU. Heeney, a standout running back at Hutchinson High who switched to linebacker at KU, leaves the biggest mark on the program.

Heeney reflected on, “coming into Kansas my freshman year, not knowing what to expect, not knowing if I was going to be able to compete, not knowing if I was going to be good enough. I was a Kansas kid out of high school, I’m coming in with all these guys from Texas and all these guys from all over the place, and I’m from Kansas. It was scary, man. It was scary back then.”

A bona fide All-American candidate, Heeney said the success he has had at Kansas proves the school should value in-state recruits higher than it has.

Heeney was asked what all the players are asked these days. Where should KU go next for its coach.

“I don’t know if it’s my place to say, but at the same time, I’ll say it anyway because I don’t really care,” Heeney said.

More athletes need to take that approach. Speak their minds. Don’t let anybody else do their talking for them.

“As far as I’m concerned, and I feel like most of the team feels this way too, I think the last two guys who were hired had no connection to KU, or no connection to Kansas or anything like that. Coach Bowen is a guy, grew up in Lawrence, went to Lawrence High, went to KU after that. He spent most of his life in Lawrence. He knows every single guy in Lawrence. He knows the donut-shop guy down the street. He knows the police officers. He knows literally everybody.

“To have a guy like that run the football program, to me, you’re not going to be able to bring anybody in here who cares more about KU or what happens to this university more than him, in my opinion.”

Then he lobbied for Kansas high school football prospects.

“I feel like we need to recruit more in Kansas,” he said. “I think he can do that because he knows the coaches around here. I’m a Kansas kid. I think I have some talent. There are other kids like me that in the past KU hasn’t been able to get. Those kids are going to K-State more often than not and they should be going here.”

The only purple he wears these days is in the form of bruises, and if you think he looks bad, you should see the other guy.

“I was about to go to K-State rather than come here because when Gill was recruiting, I wasn’t being looked at. I had a breakout year my senior year,” Heeney said. “I wasn’t even getting looked at by KU until the fifth game into the season, which is stupid. You should be recruiting the best kids out of Kansas and they should be going to the University of. Why would they be going to the state university? I think coach Bowen definitely has all the connections and all the ties to get Kansas kids here.”

Heeney said he never lost a football game from third grade until losing one in eighth grade. KU is 9-36 during Heeney’s time in the program and he has played for three head coaches. In his mind, if Bowen doesn’t land the job, he’ll count that as a major loss for the university he has loved for as long as he can remember.

“It means a lot to him,” Heeney said. “Maybe it hasn’t meant as much to the previous guys. I don’t know. I’m just a player.”

A great player.


Gerry Butler 6 years, 3 months ago

are you listening MR A.D. don't screw this up AGAIN

Jim Jackson 6 years, 3 months ago

You think Bowen is going to go into Houston and Dallas and pick off the best players in those respective cities? Or are you assuming we are just going to be able to hire another stud recruiting assistant? Mind you, why would a top recruiter leave anywhere else in the power 5 where he is an invaluable asset to come to KU??

Retaining Bowen as Associate HC/ DC makes more sense to me with Beaty as HC.

Jim Jackson 6 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, he is a recruiting wunderkind. He was named Dallas Morning news recruiter of the year. How many college coaches do you think hit Dallas HS's per year? 300? 400? And yes, I believe he could pick off a few 4 star players for us. He has that kind of respect from HS coaches in Texas.

We need better players and quickly.

P.S Reggie Mitchell can't do it by himself. Breaking news there.

Jim Jackson 6 years, 3 months ago

YOU ARE THE SAME GUY WHO STATED THAT RECRUITING TX DID NOT MATTER THAT MUCH; after that statement no one should take credence to ANYTHING you say. Do you know how many guys from the current KU staff have recruited the Dallas area?? Vestal, Campo, Mitchell, Wyatt, Bowen. That's 5 guys from our OWN staff. How do I know that? I pay an annual fee, the same one that the LJW staff pays to track College fball bball recruiting. Now to your other idiotic statement; half of the FBS schools? With TX, FL and CA as the most fertile recruiting grounds in America, more than half of the FBS schools in America send representatives to recruit the DFW/ Houston area. Who cares about the DMN award??? That was polled by HS coaches in the Dallas area; it means they trust him and advise their players to com to KU and play for him, you imbecile. And finally, recruiting KS/ KC is important, but only about 15-20 players annually are Big 12 Caliber. There are probably about 200 in TX.

Beaty is also in the top 10 for recruiting overall by ESPN and took a Rice offense ranked in the 100's to the 50's in his first season as OC. Bowen supporting him as his DC is our best option.

Mark Palmer 6 years, 3 months ago

we already have a top recruiter in Reggie Mitchell

W Keith Swinehart II 6 years, 3 months ago

We gotta look at all comers. But I like every thing about Bowen. I don't place much faith in home run hitters. Most have unrealistic expectations and won't have the patience to last very long. Most no longer have the energy of youth, hunger and drive it takes to build a program. Consider, too, if he loses the job he will likely leave soon for a head coaching job, and take someone with him.

Jack Joiner 6 years, 3 months ago

Lost time in recruiting. I'm on board with Bowen regardless of the results in our last 3 games.

Michael Maris 6 years, 3 months ago

My Ohio State informant informed me that Josh had family issues and that Josh and Ohio State decided it would be best for him to stay closer home (instead of heading to Columbus, Ohio). So, thank god for Clint Bowen having his KC / Lawrence connections. Now, if the Jayhawks can start turning over every rock / stone, corn / wheat kernel, etc......... to get kids from the State of Kansas to stay home and get educated at University of Kansas vs. Kansas State University.

Wichita Collegiate High School kid who is interested in going to Medical School. As well, I see that Bishop Carroll has another Bell kid who has size and is listed as a TE. But, we all know that Mark and Mike Bell were DE's. So, why not check in on that kid (as well). Beau's already in house. Wichita Trinity has a 3 star rated RB as well. And, I don't see Kansas on his list. So, is Kansas not reaching out to these kids? I understand that Kansas isn't a Football State (in regards to D-1 type kids). But, Bill Snyder has shown that there are plenty of kids who travel to Manhattan and red-shirt a season and work their ways up the roster. Nebraska showed how that worked years ago. Get the Corn Fed boys from Western Kansas (who may be playing TE/ DE, etc.......) and can move their feet, etc.......... We know that Texas is fertile recruiting grounds. If Clint is retained, then Kansas needs to start checking on these kids. I'm not in favor of hiring some coach that's looking for another 5 year retirement building check.

Glen Miller 6 years, 3 months ago

I know Bowen isn't the sexy choice here. I know some of you are not sold on him. I know that some of you think his numbers show that he'll be no better than what we have had, but what Heeney said speaks volumes in my mind and is right in tune with my thoughts. This is a kid that has stuck around when he was good enough, he could have transferred out. He stayed and he's seen his share of coaches. He KNOWS when he sees a guy that can succeed here. He wasn't singing the praises of Weis or Gill like he has Bowen. None of these guys have. Now all of the sudden, you have guys that are leaving, guys that have lost and lost some more and they are wishing they could come back another year so they can play for the guy. The product on the field right now is the best it has been in 5 years and it's the same players that both Gill and Weis had to work with. These guys are proud of the Kansas across their chest because Bowen makes it a point to show how important the University is to him. None of these other guys did that. We were just a stop in the road. Bowen wants to be here and stay here. He doesn't have the experience and it's clear there are some areas he needs to improve in, but when kids are out there flying around and playing for passion and pride, they can overcome some of those mistakes. He will sure up the penalties and tackling is something that will be practiced. We are so quick to say that we don't think he can do the job because the numbers don't support it..... but what I'm seeing on the field right now is guts, heart and pride. I'm seeing a team of kids playing together and for their school and their coach, not their draft status. I see a team of players who are not giving up. I see a team of players that believe in their leader. I haven't seen much of any of this in several years. Mark Mangino... the same man many of you want back said himself that KU would be silly not to hire this guy. Bowen can do this, I know it in my heart and he will represent this school better than anyone else will. He loves KU and when you walk into someones home trying to sell a program that doesn't have much success to show, you need a guy who is excited about our school and who can give some insight to our school that other coaches won't be able to. I'll be extremely disappointed if Bowen is not hired on. I know some don't agree, and it's true we could probably do better as far as name recognition... but better doesn't love this school and these players. Better will be gone in 3 years if he turns it around and gone anyways if he doesn't. We want to go to a 9-10 win a year team in one year and that's not going to happen, no matter who the coach is. I want a guy who WANTS to be here and WANTS for OUR school to succeed. We need stability at the position like we have in basketball. We can't keep changing coaches every 3 years. I believe in Bowen, the players believe in him, numerous fans and alumni believe in him..... it's time to hire him RCJH

Bob Bailey 6 years, 3 months ago

Being a Great Jayhawk doesn't satisfy the "football problem". There should be a place for Bowen, but it isn't HC.

Glen Miller 6 years, 3 months ago

Having a big name doesn't necessarily satisfy the "football problem" either, now does it.... Charlie Weis showed how much crap that was. Why not give this guy a chance? Does anyone have a legitimate gripe as to why we shouldn't, other than the numbers don't support it or that our players are making mistakes in games? News flash... some coordinators that had tons of success go on to suck it up. Some coordinators who have modest numbers go on to be amazing head coaches. And making mistakes on the field happens when you're implementing a new system under a new coach. Being a Great Jayhawk sure as hell doesn't hurt anything.......

AJ Cleland 6 years, 3 months ago

Where is Doug Cramer to tell us that a player, and a damn good one at that, who wants Bowen here, does not know what he is talking about?

Bob Bailey 6 years, 3 months ago

The team can't tackle, have been improved in coverage, but are frequently 'out of position" much of the time. No one has done anything about the QB coach. And Zenger has demonstrated for 4 years that he is no judge of coaching. Except for that, a perfect choice.

Glen Miller 6 years, 3 months ago

watch most college games and you will see guys out of position quite a bit. The problem we have is that the teams we play have more talent on the field that can make up for blown coverage. We can't afford to make those types of mistakes and not pay for it. It's reality, not coaching. Tackling can be coached till you are blue in the face, but in this day and age of "big hits" there are far more players making shoulder tackles and looking to blow a guy up, than making sure they make a sound tackle. You see missed tackles of epic proportions in every game from every school. Right now Bowen is not at mercy to bring guys in, so he had to stick with what he's got. He actually had the nuts to put Cummings in, Weis did not..... that in itself is impactful as far as our QB is concerned. My last argument is that whatever Zenger wants to do, we should do the opposite. It's clear he doesn't want Bowen, so let's keep him.

Kevin Robert Fest 6 years, 3 months ago

The Kansas program is poor and has been poor for a long time KU can only get 2-3 star players maybe a 4 every once in a while. What do you expect with 2-3 star players? Missed tackles? Yes. Poor coverage? Yes. Missed assignments. Yes. Look at some of the other schools recruiting the same kids we are. Apa Vista was recruited by KU and Missouri state that's it of course he chose KU but how much of a difference wil he make? Better program we get better recruits. No matter who the coach is if the team doesn't improve no one will want to come maybe an Avvery who wants to play right away and doesn't want to sit behind others at another program but he is the exception and I'm thankful he came.

Micky Baker 6 years, 3 months ago

Over the past 5 seasons, KU has signed more 4-star players than they ever did under Mangino or Mason. Let's go down the list. James Sims Brandon Bourbon Keeston Terry Darrian Miller Tony Pierson

I'm not naming the others who didn't play because they wouldn't work when they got here. We also had some higher rated players that transferred and didn't work out because of Weis' inability to recognize the differences between the college game and the NFL.

There were others before that. Ryan Murphy in 2007. Jacques Crawford(that was the big Mangino bust) Nathan D'Cuhna Prinz Kande Bradley McDougald Toben Operum Quentin Woods

It's not like we haven't had talented players over the past five years. We've had very undisciplined and extremely incompetent head coaching. We have very few 2-star players on this roster who aren't walk-ons. I'd say 4 or 5 tops. That's more 4-star players than some of the other teams in the Big12 have recruited... Texas Tech/K-State/Iowa-State, for example, have fewer. I think it's time some need to pay attention before they post, because it's very easy to know these things if you follow along.

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 3 months ago

Good for Heeney. I've been very frustrated because I've been saying the same thing. Kansas high schools limit how much time football players can be involved in the program. Therefore it stands to reason that they have as much raw talent as kids from other states but it just has not been developed. Go get some big fast guys; some track stars and coach them up. It won't be a culture shock coming here , they will most likely perform academically and actually be proud of being at KU. They will work hard and play hard.

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