Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Matt Tait: History of developing NFL talent an added bonus of Les Miles hire

Newly hired University of Kansas football coach Les Miles puts on a KU hat during a press conference Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, at Hadl Auditorium.

Newly hired University of Kansas football coach Les Miles puts on a KU hat during a press conference Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, at Hadl Auditorium.


The list of former LSU Tigers who played for Les Miles and were drafted into the NFL is roughly as long as the number of junior college transfers the Kansas football program brought in during the past 10 years, hoping against hope that the juco route would be the elixir that cured KU’s woes.

Can you imagine if Miles flips the script?

OK, OK. Predicting that Miles will put a bunch of current and future Jayhawks in the NFL is more than a little premature. He’s got some games to win first.

But if Miles is actually able to accomplish the winning part at Kansas, NFL talent likely will have at least something to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong. Winning at Kansas is more likely to be done with a bunch of two- and three-star grinders who come in with a chip on their shoulder, play over their heads and bring an element of toughness and tenacity to the field every time they play.

But, if you’re lucky, you can mix that foundation with elite prospects — a few already are on the roster — and put together a pretty nice looking puzzle.

Miles didn’t have to do that at LSU, the land of five-star recruits and big-time signing days. But he will at Kansas.

The big advantage he has today, though, is being able to sit down and tell the prospects he targets that he can help get them to the NFL.

He did it via the NFL draft 69 times at LSU, with 13 of those being first-round picks. And he’ll try to add to that number in the coming years.

I know you’ve heard some of this before. But the big difference between the NFL promise brought to town by Miles and what Charlie Weis and Dave Campo brought to the table is easy to spot.

Weis and Campo worked well with NFL players while in the NFL. Miles worked well with them in college and helped them achieve their dreams of shaking Roger Goodell’s hand.

In order for that reality to take root at KU, Miles is going to have to upgrade the depth and talent on the roster.

I know what you’re all thinking. What about the walk-on from Wichita of whom Beaty said, back on signing day, that he “would not doubt that this guy will wind up in the NFL"?

I’m not saying safety Cody McNerney won’t make it. But he did not play in a single game this season and still has a long way to go.

That’s more of an indictment on Beaty’s outlandish claim than McNerney’s ability.

And that kind of talk is now a thing of the past.

According to those who know him best, it’s not likely that Miles will oversell kids on the front end only to watch them underachieve on the back end.

For one, it does not sound like he’s wired that way in terms of his coaching style. For two, he’s been around the best of the best in college football — names like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Jamarcus Russell, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and dozens more — and he knows both what he’s looking at and what to think when a young man stands in front of him and tells him he wants to play in the NFL someday.

That’s what made Miles’ singling out of freshman cornerback Corione Harris so powerful at his introductory press conference on Nov. 18.

Harris is definitely one of those current Jayhawks who could have an NFL future. Pooka Williams Jr. is another. Give credit to Beaty and his staff for bringing a few of those guys into the mix.

But don’t be surprised for a second if it’s easier for Miles to bring players like them to town with much more regularity.

During his four seasons at KU, Beaty delivered one NFL draftee: Dorance Armstrong Jr., a fourth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year. Turner Gill had just one player drafted during his time (offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson) and Weis sent three players to the NFL: Ben Heeney, Jacorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald.

That’s five NFL picks in the last nine seasons of Kansas football.

Miles’ largest NFL draft class in a single year at LSU included nine players in both 2013 and 2014.

It may never get to that point at KU, but it sure seems like the Kansas football program is closer to that reality today than it was two months ago.


Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

Did Weis or Gill recruit any of the players that were drafted?

At least one of Weis' came from Gill, yes?

Gill also should get a negative for the bad handling of Chris Harris.

The jury should still be out in this regard for Beaty. My guess is his numbers go up significantly - not that he has any ability to develop talent {sarcasm}.

Mike Hart 3 years, 1 month ago

Gill recruited and landed Dexter McDonald in 2010, who has been in the NFL since 2015. Then Ben Heeney in the class of 2011. He played mostly for the Raiders... starting some games at LB. He was still on Texans roster in 2018 but had ankle surgery and was out for season. They then released him. That 2011 class also featured CB JaCorey Shepherd who was also drafted in the NFL (6th round by Philadelphia Eagles).. but he tore his ACL in camp before his rookie year and was released. He never actually played in the NFL. Weis had Fish Smithson who was a Washington Redskin. Joe Dineen was a 2014 recruit by Weis also, and he will likely get drafted. Daniel Wise was also a Weis recruit and he'll likely be drafted.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

Matt - Any data on what he accomplished at OSU? That's probably a better indication that LSU.

Joe Ross 3 years, 1 month ago

I just purchased Kansas football tickets for the first time in a looooong time.


Andy Godwin 3 years, 1 month ago

It is not necessarily developing talent that gets Miles more NFL players, it is recruiting the top athletes in the first place. Miles will not necessarily be better at turning a 2 star recruit into an NFL prospect as KU coaches of the past. Example, Pooka looked pretty good his first season. His early success was not all do to coaching, but was clearly a factor and will continue to be a factor. However, without his natural talents, he would not be on the path to develop into a potential future prospect for the NFL.

As one of the loyal fans on the west side, we have had season KU football tickets since returning to the area in 2010. So Joe, welcome back to the KU football fan base.

Robert Brock 3 years, 1 month ago

The KU roster is loaded with one-star players. The 2019 season is going to be a rough one to watch.

Jim Stauffer 3 years, 1 month ago

With this coach, I will sure be watching that terrible show you envision, Robert.

Mike Hart 3 years, 1 month ago

I love it when people post crap like "KU roster is loaded with one star players". Let's take a look, shall we?

2016: 4 star recruits: Mike Lee, 3 star recruits: Kyle Mayberry, Maciah Long, Chris Hughes, Isi Holani, 2 star recruits: Antione Frazier, Stephan Robinson, Ian Peterson, Julian Chandler, Khalil Herbert, Bryce Torneden, Isaiah Bean, Evan Fairs. Other: Hakeem Adeniji

2017: 4 star recruits: Dom Williams, 3 star recruits - Travis Jordan, Kyron Johnson, Kenyon Tabor, Peyton Bender, Hasan Defense, J.J. Holmes, Shak Taylor, Willie McCaleb, Kerr Johnson, Antonio Cole, Quan Hampton, Andru Tovi; 2 star recruits - Jay Dineen, Takulve Williams, Liam Jones, KeyShaun Simmons, Cooper Root, Earl Bostick

2018: 4 star recruits: Corione Harris, Pooka Williams; 3 star recruits - Mile Emery, Nick Williams, N. Stevens-McKenzie, Elmore Hempstead, Jeremiah McCullough, Foster Dixson, Jacobi Lott, Stephon Robinson, Elijah Jones, Charles Cole, Azur Kamara, Miles Kendrick, Reuben Lewis, Kenny Bastida, Jalan Robinson... 2 star recruits - Mac Copeland, Davon Ferguson, Ryan Malbrough, Torry Locklin, Ricky Thomas

So to summarize: 2016 class was 17 scholarships with one 4 star, four 3 star, and the rest 2 star recruits. 2017 class was 22 scholarships with one 4 star, 14 3-star recruits and the rest 2 star... and 2018 class had 22... with 2, 4-star recruits, 15 3-star recruits.. .and just five 2-star recruits.

So if nothing else changes on the recruiting front, we will start 3, 4-star players next year... about 14-15 three star players.. .and the rest 2 star players. So yeah... I guess our roster is really loaded with one-star players. Poor Les Miles...

Brian Wilson 3 years, 1 month ago

HA! One star players. That's a laugh. Don't get me wrong, there are still quite a few Walk-ons in the Junior class this year, but, I would bet that at least 45 of the 53 scholarship players returning were rated 2 stars or higher.

Second, barring injuries, in the end it only takes 22 starters and few backups to field a good team. Hopefully KU can play their best players a lot next year and get away with redshirting about 15 players next year and get by with 50 scholarship players while the other 15 to 18 scholarship players redshirt. KU will have a large Senior Class next year and we obviously have some talented players like Pooka. We should be able to win a few games with them while redshirting some players to help build the roster with a incoming recruiting class of 15. If we can redshirt 15 players next year, especially about 8 of the Sniors, in year two for Miles, KU will have over 70 scholarship players.

Jerry Ryan 3 years, 1 month ago

If you look at the last several Super Bowl Games, you will see more than one example I believe in which there was not a single 5 start recruit that played in the Super Bowl game. This is not uncommon. We shouldn’t care so much about the number of stars for a particular recruit but rather their desire, raw skill and heart.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

Mike - I think the numbers add to 4, 33, 21 players on the roster that are 4, 3, 2* respectively.

Remember to that it's not Robert's fault. He just has MPBFS - malepatternbitchyfacesyndrome.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

Mike - Thanks also for the earlier breakdown on recruits to the NFL. I think you also had the great review in a comment a couple days ago about the number of Weis recruits that never even saw the field. I'm recalling it generally being 50%, though you had good details.

From the comments I have read attributed to Chris Harris about Gill doing nothing to help him with exposure to NFL scouts, it would seem that while Gill was more successful at bringing in the talent , Weis' connections might have been helpful in getting the players noticed. He sure didn't do much with getting the players on campus.

It would seem that the current group is consistent with Jerry's comment. Most of the current (former?) NFL prospects are no more than 3* recruits.

Mike Hart 3 years, 1 month ago

Right on, Dirk... My purpose was not so much to argue 3 stars vs 5 was to refute the bogus contention that Beaty left Miles with a roster laden with 1 star talent....which is ridiculous.

Michael Maris 3 years, 1 month ago

Does any one know Jacobi Lott's status? Earlier in the season, I was informed that he may not be playing football any longer. I didn't know if that's still the case, or has his situation improved?

Looking at the compiled list of players, there are a few who are no longer with Kansas (for one reason or another). I never recall seeing any mention of why Travis Jordan was no longer with the Jayhawks. And, I know Kenyon Tabor had to step away for health purposes. Miles Emery, I believe he ended up at Junior College level. Other Junior College players also stepped away due to health issues. So, these types of recruited players have NOT helped the Scholarship situation either. Here's to the Les Miles Era. You have my support (just like I supported T. Gill, C. Weis and D. Beaty). Hoping the Miles Era will calm the Crimson and Blue Seas ASAP.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 1 month ago

According to another story he had a season ending injury and is a candidate for a red shirt. Don't know how serious the injury is.

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