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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Keegan

Column: Who cares about stars?

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My 10th Kansas University football signing day included the best quote I have heard at one, and it was spoken Wednesday by first-year head coach David Beaty.

“We don’t care what anybody else thinks,” Beaty said. “We only care what we think.”

Why let somebody assigning stars next to names determine what players you’re going to coach for the next four or five years?

If Clint Bowen cared what anybody else thought about Darrell Stuckey, he wouldn’t have stood on the table and pleaded for the permission to offer him a scholarship. At that point, Emporia State was the next-best football program offering. Wyoming later offered. Utah and Kansas offered Aqib Talib; Tulsa and KU wanted Chris Harris. All three defensive backs not only played for 12-1 Orange Bowl champions, they played in last month’s Pro Bowl, the NFL’s all-star game.

St. Louis Cardinals ace Joaquin Andujar once said baseball could be summed up in one word, and the same one word that he used also applies to signing day: “Youneverknow.”

No, you don’t. Highlight videos only show the outside of a young athlete. And they only show what his body looks like as a teenager. It’s not until they arrive at school and begin to work at what Beaty accurately called “two jobs,” student and athlete, that recruits start to show how things might work out.

There was no way of knowing that James Holt would hit the weight room so hard and practice daily with such consistent focus that he would turn himself into an outstanding Big 12 defensive end/outside linebacker until he did it.

You find the athletes you think you can develop, push them hard, instruct them relentlessly and see which ones get better, which ones fade away.

Two players, one who has a chance to start immediately, another who has exciting raw gifts and so much to learn, made for interesting stories on signing day.

Dorance Armstrong, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end from North Shore High in Houston, has the potential to step in right away for Michael Reynods at defensive end. He had offers from California, Michigan State, Texas Tech and several others of that caliber or close to it.

“This is a guy who can probably get to 260 and still run,” Beaty beamed. “We’re really fired up about this guy. He was not an easy get.”

Defensive coordinator Bowen and defensive-line coach Calvin Thibodeaux made the home visit.

“Calvin’s eating all the spaghetti,” Bowen told a gathering of KU football fans Wednesday night at Abe and Jake’s. “The little brother doesn’t even get any because Calvin eats it all. Anyway, we’re sitting there, all of a sudden there’s a knock at the door. It was some people (two assistant coaches) from down the road, our old nemesis, Missouri.”

Time to stall, take their time leaving, hog the family’s time and attention, leaving their competitors with less of both.

“Dorance’s mom, she’s a great lady, she was just about out because Calvin kept telling her all these boring stories,” Bowen said. “Finally, we leave. We get out to the parking lot, and I had to hold my man Calvin back. I thought we were going to have a little throw-down with these Missouri coaches, which would have been the highlight of recruiting. Calvin did a great job recruiting (Armstrong.)”

Beaty and Bowen lauded wide-receivers coach Klint Kubiak for finding safety Denzel Feaster.

“Klint Kubiak went through every little school in central Texas you could imagine, and he wound up at (Austin) Manor High School, and he found a guy who had been playing quarterback his entire career, except for his last five games,” Beaty said. “... Nobody else went in there, except for Klint. He went in there, and he opened the door, and he talked to the coach, and he called me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a guy I feel really strongly about.’ Klint’s kind of a young guy (27). That was his way of standing on the table. He sent me the video, and I took a look at it.”

Obviously, he liked it, and so did the defensive coaches.

“This guy, for a guy who hasn’t played the position, he’s got instincts,” Beaty said of Feaster, listed at 6-3, 195 pounds. “He’ll come downhill, and he will knock the fire out of you.”

College football is all about development, especially at a school such as Kansas.

“I’m excited about what the future looks like with Denzel Feaster,” Beaty said. “He was here last weekend, and the thing that I loved about him is when we offered him the scholarship, he shed a tear. He wants to be here.”

So does Beaty. How refreshing.

Comments

Mike Barnhart 2 years, 6 months ago

As of today, there are about 10 programs who's depth charts start and end with 4 and 5 star guys. Year in and year out, these teams compete for NATIONAL championships with talent.

Then there are teams like K-State who's depth charts have a few four star guys but mostly threes. Year in and year out they compete for CONFERENCE championships with heart and soul.

Right now I'd be VERY happy to be like K-State (as a football program.) It'll all depends on the heart of our players and the quality of our coaches.

Michael Lorraine 2 years, 6 months ago

I'd be more than thrilled but I think that's setting our expectations too high. Last sentence, spot on.

Gary McCullough 2 years, 6 months ago

I'd settle for middle of the conference within 3 or 4 years. I live two hours from Lubbock and make a point of taking in the game there every other year. I would love to be as good a sportsman in victory toward the Tech fans as they have been to me in our defeats on the dusty plains of west Texas.

Jerry Walker 2 years, 6 months ago

A great take on Beaty and the newly assembled staff. I'm not expecting anything like the "Miracle on Ice" or the "Amazing Mets" but I can't help but be enthused. We haven't tried this approach since the time of the "Fighting Manginos".

Michael Lorraine 2 years, 6 months ago

Recruiting better players obviously would help but I think coaching, or lack of it is more responsible for our lack of success over the last 5 seasons.

Mike Pressgrove 2 years, 6 months ago

Went to the signing party last night and was really impressed by the youth and energy in the new staff.

Jim Stauffer 2 years, 6 months ago

Michael Lorraine says it best. First this staff got kids to fill specific needs. Second they must coach up the entire roster. These kids will likely be RS or back ups with a few exceptions. We have some talented kids on the roster already who will shine with some good coaching.

Fact is, our coaching has been so poor from an overall standpoint, we don't really know how talented our kids are.

Mark Lindrud 2 years, 6 months ago

Whether you get 2, 3, 4 or 5 star players you have talent to work with, but whether let's keep in mind how many teams have loads of talent, but fail to live up to expectations. Then again, how often to teams overachieve during a season? Players do help, but coaches still have to coach them up. Let's see how this staff does this year coaching up our players. This staff has a lot of energy, which could be exciting for our players.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 6 months ago

There have been places where lack of player development (WR 2013!, QB's?, OL?) has led to our demise, but it would seem to me that our biggest challenge the past 6 years has been attrition. There are just way too many recruits that left the program without making a contribution to the team. TK had the article yesterday about how the TG recruits have performed better than the CW recruits, tho he also gets credit for CW/DC player development, and yet half of his "best" recruits bailed out on the program. It has been similar for CW also - until last year. I think we have only lost Wrench, and it appears that Bowen & Mitchell have kept the rest of the roster intact during the transition.

We don't get enough "Jimmie's & Joe's" to be able to waste a schollie on someone leaving. Maybe that is what Beaty is getting at by saying the new recruits all want to be here. Want to can go a long ways.

W Keith Swinehart II 2 years, 6 months ago

Loved this read. Coaches find the right men. Then, as TK says, "College football is all about development, especially at a school such as Kansas."

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