Les Miles taking over KU football program that will continue to lag in scholarship numbers

Kansas offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji (78) hugs Kansas running back Deron Thompson (26) as time runs out in the fourth quarter on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji (78) hugs Kansas running back Deron Thompson (26) as time runs out in the fourth quarter on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

On several occasions during his introductory press conference, new University of Kansas football coach Les Miles mentioned the number 85.

It’s an important figure for FBS programs, because it represents the maximum total of scholarship players a team is allowed to carry in a season.

And it is a number KU has been chasing since long before Miles even thought about joining the Jayhawks.

In the course of his first day on the job, on Nov. 18, Miles was asked for his thoughts on the health of the program he was inheriting, particularly as it related to scholarships.

“I recognize the key piece for us is to get our scholarships up to 85 and 85 with quality recruits, not 85 with turned and given to walk-ons that were not necessarily deserving,” Miles began, adding he isn’t opposed to placing walk-ons who prove themselves on scholarship. “But getting to 85 and doing so with quality recruits and guys that can play. That to me is the biggest battle.”

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As Miles referenced in his response, KU won’t be anywhere close to an ideal standing with its scholarship players in 2019, his first season in charge.

While his predecessor, David Beaty, rarely identified specific players as walk-ons or scholarship athletes publicly, some educated guesswork reveals next year’s roster could only include approximately 53 returning true scholarship players — not walk-ons who were awarded a scholarship after contributing to the program.

Looking at KU’s 2018 roster, it appears Beaty’s last team had roughly 11 freshmen, 14 sophomores and 28 juniors (53 total) among its recruited scholarship players.

However, Miles won’t even be able to add the NCAA maximum of 25 scholarship athletes to his 2019 recruiting class. Miles told the Journal-World on the day he was introduced that he expects to be able to offer about 15.

Over the past few years, Beaty and his staff utilized blueshirts, athletes who didn’t sign letters of intent but joined the program on scholarship and counted toward the following year’s recruiting class. That strategy is finally catching up with KU.

So if all of the nonsenior scholarship players stay healthy and decide to remain with the program instead of transferring, the Jayhawks should have about 68 true scholarship athletes on the team in Miles’ first season, if you include 15 2019 signees.

This past July, Beaty stated that when he took over the program in December of 2014, KU only had 39 scholarship players.

“By the time we hit spring ball, we had 28,” Beaty added.

It’s worth noting that a football program’s scholarship numbers are always at their lowest in the spring, when the previous year’s seniors are gone and the full incoming signing class has yet to arrive. If Beaty’s numbers are accurate, KU would have fielded a roster that included roughly 53 scholarship players (including the 25 members of the 2015 recruiting class) in his first season leading the Jayhawks.

KU’s scholarship numbers suffered unusual blows prior to Beaty’s arrival, with players leaving for various reasons as the program transitioned from head coach Mark Mangino, to Turner Gill, to Charlie Weis, to Beaty.

Now, it appears Miles will need some time to get the Jayhawks on a level playing field with the rest of the Big 12 in terms of scholarship athletes, because the program will lose roughly 28 more when next season’s seniors exhaust their eligibility.

If KU were able to sign 25 players in both 2020 and 2021, it still wouldn't be able to zero in on its target of 85 before the 2022 season, which would be year four of Miles' five-year contract.

KU’s projected returning scholarship players for 2019

2018 juniors (28):

OL Hakeem Adeniji

DT Jelani Brown

CB Julian Chandler

WR Dayton Charlot

DT Codey Cole

CB Hasan Defense

WR Evan Fairs

LB Denzel Feaster

OL Kevin Feder

OL Antione Frazier

CB Elmore Hempstead

RB Khalil Herbert

CB Elijah Jones

DE Azur Kamara

S Mike Lee

OL Reuben Lewis

OL Api Mane

CB Kyle Mayberry

DE Willie McCaleb

OL Clyde McCauley

S Jeremiah McCullough

DE Darrius Moragne

S Shaq Richmond

TE James Sosinski

QB Carter Stanley

DE Najee Stevens-McKenzie

S Bryce Torneden

OL Andru Tovi

2018 sophomores (14):

OL Earl Bostick

OL Malik Clark

OL Cam Durley

S Davon Ferguson

WR Quan Hampton

OL Chris Hughes

LB/DE Kyron Johnson

K Liam Jones

QB Miles Kendrick

LB Dru Prox

WR Stephon Robinson Jr.

S Ricky Thomas

P Kyle Thompson

RB Dom Williams

2018 freshmen (11):

LB Kenny Bastida

LB Jay Dineen

OL Joey Gilbertson

CB Corione Harris

OL Jacobi Lott

RB Ryan Malbrough

OL Jalan Robinson

CB Robert Topps

RB Pooka Williams

OL Nick Williams

WR Takulve Williams