Maybe it’s all these random pieces of grass I’ve been eating, but it seems like the past few days have been the busiest since Les Miles took over the Kansas football program.
OK, that’s not true.
I haven’t tried the Les Miles Diet and gnawed on vegetation from a nearby patch of sod.
But the part about the KU football offices remaining immersed in activity and the phones of coaches buzzing and ringing constantly is true.
With Miles simultaneously completing his coaching staff, and working with his assistants to sign as many targeted recruits as they could this week, whatever holiday breaks KU’s staffers are able to enjoy soon will be well deserved.
With that as a jumping off point, let’s hit today’s round of questions.
I’ll admit I was surprised by the amount of junior college prospects that were targeted and signed for KU’s 2019 class. To make sure everyone is up to speed, here’s the rundown of the six signees — right now there are 11 players total on board in what is expected to end up a class of 15 or so — from the junior college ranks.
• 3-star Mesa C.C. (Ariz.) QB Thomas MacVittie (6-5, 225)
• 3-star Iowa Central C.C. WR Ezra Naylor (6-4, 210)
• 3-star Golden West Coll. (Calif) CB Justin Ford (6-1, 180)
• 3-star Iowa Western C.C. DE Malcolm Lee (6-5, 270)
• 2-star Coahoma C.C. (Miss.) DL Caleb Sampson (6-4, 285)
• 2-star Iowa Central C.C. WR Andrew Parchment (6-2, 185)
The questions about relying too much on the juco ranks are fair, because, as alluded to, this 6 to 5 ratio of jucos to preps looks pretty similar to the 11 to 8 ratio from David Beaty’s 2018 signing class.
I think what makes this different is the situation.
Beaty was entering his fourth season at KU after Year 3 didn’t go as planned. He and his staff, though they didn’t say so publicly, knew another year of losing football would cost them their jobs. And ultimately they were right.
They tried to load up on players who were more likely to contribute immediately because they knew that would give the 2018 team a better chance of winning five or six games.
On the other hand, Miles and his staff kind of had to scramble to find talent. The first assistant hired, Chevis Jackson, still isn’t three weeks into his tenure here. Same goes for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot hasn’t even been here two weeks.
And today was the first day of college football’s early signing period, when so many recruits now get their decisions out of the way.
This was a tough spot to walk into for Miles and his staff. You wouldn’t have to go too far out of your way to describe finding talent to sign as kind of an emergency, either, given the circumstances.
I don’t blame anyone for wanting to toss out a cup of Kool-Aid that on first sniff seems too similar to one that poisoned him or her before.
But, as just mentioned, I do think KU’s options were a bit limited. When other coaching staffs have the ability to meet and interact with high school prospects (and their families and coaches) over the course of a few years instead of a few weeks, that’s a distinct advantage.
Plus, I think part of the good news with this group of jucos is that talent evaluators seem to like them. QB Thomas MacVittie in particular.
Remember: he signed with Pitt out of high school. It didn’t work out there, but he didn’t mind going the juco route and proving himself. MacVittie ended up becoming one of the most highly regarded juco QBs available.
I think it’s also important to remember that these juco players will, for the most part, be coached by different KU assistants than some of their unsuccessful predecessors were through the years. Let’s not rule out this staff’s ability to maximize the potential out of some of these two- and three-year players before they’re even given a chance to coach them up.
And, yes, KU is banking on at least one or two of these guys proving to be “overlooked gems,” and help KU’s chances of being competitive in 2019 and 2020.
Maybe I will end up completely wrong on this, but I do think Miles and his coaches kind of had to do what they had to do in terms of the number of junior college players they signed.
I think when they fill out the class in February, we’ll see more incoming freshmen in the mix. And I think in 2020 and beyond you should see KU going almost exclusively with preps, the way most successful programs attack the recruiting trails.
Only time will tell. But I’d say if you’re a KU football fan, try to be patient with the 2019 class and trust that Miles has the right coaches in place to do things differently in the years ahead.
Perry Ellis is old enough to be Dedric Lawson’s father, I’m pretty sure.
But I get why you’d ask this.
Even though Lawson, unlike Ellis during his days with the Jayhawks, actually looks like a college-aged basketball player instead of a 40-year-old scoring machine, there’s plenty of old man in his game.
Lawson will be the first to tell you there’s not a lot of athleticism involved in what he does. He’s just sound and smart and has a great feel for the game. He’s fine banking in a layup over a defender instead of dunking on him so severely his opponent is doomed for social media meme fodder.
I enjoyed watching Ellis’ smooth offensive game when he was at KU, and Lawson is equally entertaining to observe. And, let’s be honest, Ellis could actually explode off the floor from time to time. So maybe Ellis actually is younger than Lawson? The Memphis native certainly doesn’t jump as high as most 21-year-old, 6-foot-9 aspiring All-Americans.
OK, you’ve stumped me. It’s impossible to say who’s older.
From Dirk Medema, via the comments section: Could the lack of comment on Coach Hull's status be tied to the status of the other coaches? If he comments on Coach Hull but doesn't comment on others then it could be creating a perception he doesn't want. Obviously we want to know, but we don't need to know for the coaches to do their jobs effectively. It is just a matter of convenience for us. While we have heard that Hull has been out recruiting, I don't recall hearing that it was in contrast to the others not recruiting. While not a good sign for the others, it is encouraging for keeping Coach Hull.
Obviously this question came through before this week’s news that Tony Hull will be back as KU’s running backs coach.
But the question from Dirk here hits a lot of important points.
To me it has been pretty clear for weeks now that Hull would be back. But I couldn’t report that because I didn’t have enough sources saying so.
And I do think a lot of the delay had to do with determining how the rest of Miles’ staff would be filled out. They didn’t want to announce, ‘Hey, Hull is back,’ and at the same time not be able to provide any sort of update on Bowen’s status.
Regarding other coaches not recruiting, that actually was the case. Hull was doing things on the recruiting front that most of David Beaty’s former assistants weren’t while things got sorted out. Again, I heard this from a reliable source. But I couldn’t get enough details from other sources to reach a point where it was something I could report. There’s some responsibilities involved in journalism that you just can’t take lightly.
From Phil Leister, via the comments section: Is Quentin going to be the latest in a long line of highly-regarded Bill Self recruits - Oubre, Alexander, Diallo to name a few - who comes in full of promise and disappoints relative to the hype? Is it something about Bill's system that lends itself to this? Bill called Q as complete of a guard as he's ever had, which we have not seen in any way, shape, or form.
This has been a strange freshman season for Quentin Grimes up to this point, so Phil’s question makes a lot of sense.
I think what separates Grimes from those former KU players referenced is that he’s not nearly as raw offensively.
True, Grimes is both making mistakes on offense and misfiring on his shots — 38.2% from the floor, 33.3% on 3-pointers and even 55.6% at the foul line.
But I think it’s too soon to write him off. His attitude appears to be perfect through his struggles. And the fact that he can defend means Self won’t give up on him.
If you watched Grimes at all while he played for Self on Team USA this past summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, you saw some of that complete guard play Self has referenced.
I think there are so many new parts on this KU team that it has added to Grimes’ adjustment period. But I see him figuring things out in the weeks ahead. Good athlete. Plays hard. Head’s in the right place. All he needs is for some shots to fall and he could take off.
The past several days have turned out to be quite busy for new KU football coach Les Miles on a couple of fronts.
Miles is adding to his staff on what seems like a daily basis, with defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, receivers coach Emmett Jones, defensive line coach Kwahn Drake, offensive line coach Luke Meadows, and defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson in place.
What’s more, the Jayhawks are starting to see early results on the recruiting front since Miles took over.
It didn’t happen overnight. The groundwork was set from the day Miles took over. But now we see visible evidence of how it has paid off in terms of KU’s 2019 recruiting class.
With that, let’s dive into today’s questions.
So, as Ted points out here, one way that Miles and his staffers have attacked the recruiting trails early is by identifying preferred walk-on (PWO) players around the Sunflower State and Kansas City metro area.
That’s a sign that they’re doing a good job with their overall strategy and not solely focusing on finding scholarship players. You need walk-ons to help the program at practices and if you identify the right ones, you might even get a quality game day player out of going that route. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re investing more time than usual on finding quality walk-ons now, given the 2019 signing class is expected to be small, at about 15 players or so.
But it’s not as if Miles or any of the people working for him are ignoring the need for impactful recruits. This week has proven to be a big one, with KU landing commitments from St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back Jayden Russell, 6-foot-5, 250-pound Andale athlete Mason Fairchild and Thomas MacVittie, who is a junior college quarterback whose college career began at Pittsburgh.
KU is also looking at a number of other prospects as next week’s early signing period approaches, including:
• Donte Starks, a four-star linebacker according to Rivals, from New Orleans who is verbally committed to LSU
• Valerian Agbaw, a three-star athlete from Powder Springs, Ga.
• Dontario Drummond, a three-star receiver at East Mississippi Community College
• Malcolm Lee, a three-star defensive end at Iowa Western C.C.
• Jerrod Means, a three-star receiver from Lovejoy, Ga.
• Ezra Naylor, a 6-4 receiver at Iowa Central C.C.
• Eugene Minter, a 6-4 receiver at Dodge City C.C. currently committed to Arkansas State
• Da’Jon Terry, a 6-3 defensive tackle from Meridian, Miss.
This is a great way to describe the KU basketball season up to this point.
Maybe it’s not as noticeable because he has such a laid back, good-natured personality, but I think Dedric Lawson might be the dog you’re looking for.
He’s easily this team’s best overall player and to me what has stood out about Lawson is his ability to come through late in close games — even if he hasn’t played up to his standards earlier in that same game.
Lawson delivered in overtime when Kansas beat Tennessee in New York. He completely took over in crunch time against New Mexico State, and KU would have lost if he hadn’t.
Those are just a couple of moments but I think Lawson is still getting comfortable with his role in his first season of playing at Kansas and being The Guy. I bet we’ll see plenty more dog in him in the months ahead.
Chris: Is there a 2nd legit 3 point shooter on the #KUbball roster?
I mean … Not really. Right?
Players and coaches will tell you Charlie Moore and Quentin Grimes can fill that role. But neither has proven that with any consistency yet.
Moore has been pretty dismal from 3-point range so far — 3-for-22. Maybe this is just a slump and he ends up being a reliable threat from outside.
But to me Grimes is the guy who should become KU’s second 3-point threat, behind Lagerald Vick (29-for-52). Even though we don’t think about the freshman guard as that type of marksman from behind the arc right now, he’s still not been that bad on 3-pointers (11-for-29).
Now, as you may recall, Grimes did go 6-for-10 in KU’s season-opening win over Michigan State, so he is just 5-for-19 in the seven games since. That can change and I think it will. Grimes is too talented for the rest of the season to play out without him taking off. He looks so smooth shooting from deep that an uptick in production seems inevitable to me.
If you haven’t been following KU athletic director Jeff Long on Twitter, you may not know that Horejsi Family Athletics Center, home of KU volleyball, recently was demolished.
And that’s because the Horejsi family paid $10 million to build a bigger, better venue for coach Ray Bechard’s program.
The new arena should seat roughly 1,000 more fans than did the recently leveled one, which had a 1,300-seat capacity.
Construction of Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena is expected to be completed before the Jayhawks begin their 2019 season.
I’m not sure exactly why there hasn’t been an announcement yet regarding Tony Hull, the running backs coach and associate head coach for former KU football coach David Beaty.
When Miles took over he stated his plans to interview all of Beaty’s staff members and gauge whether he would like to retain certain coaches and personnel.
Those meetings have come and gone. And Hull, unlike other members of Beaty’s staff, has been actively recruiting since Miles took over. Hull made an in-home visit with Russell before the three-star defensive back committed to KU.
I’d be shocked if Hull isn’t a member of Miles’ first staff. Perhaps at this stage they’re still shaking out specific roles for everyone. Will Hull still be the running backs coach? Maybe. Perhaps he’ll be the recruiting coordinator. Or both.
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Already more than two weeks removed from the day Les Miles was introduced as the Kansas football program’s new head coach, there seems to be no stopping the buzz surrounding the program.
This past weekend Miles invigorated the Allen Fieldhouse crowd at halftime of the basketball game versus Stanford by simply strolling onto the court, saying a few words, eating some grass and giving away some Yeezys.
The KU fan base seems to love its new football coach and the hope his presence provides for a program that has fallen flat since a previous administration forced Mark Mangino out.
And the offseason fervor figures to continue in the days and weeks ahead, as Miles continues to fill out his staff and he and his coaches carry out a critical step in the rebuilding process: recruiting.
With that, let’s get to today’s questions. And remember, you can hit us up anytime on Twitter by using the hashtag, #AskKUsports.
While I haven’t yet got the chance to speak with Lindsey directly — plans from KU staff to make Miles’ hires available for interviews remain in the works — the more I read about him and listen to what he has to say the more I’m intrigued about what his addition will mean for the program.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Lindsey ends up being KU’s quarterbacks coach, as well. And QB has been a position of need for the program since Todd Reesing graduated.
It’s not realistic to think Lindsey will be able to make a quality Big 12-level QB appear out of thin air in time for the 2019 season. But the man already has extended an offer to a Class of 2020 four-star prep by the name of Robby Ashford.
That doesn’t mean Ashford will actually end up at KU and become the offense’s savior. It does give you a sense though that Lindsey will be aggressive in finding an effective QB to fit into his system.
Lindsey plans on building the offense around KU’s play-makers, and while it may take time to identify which Jayhawks can fit that bill other than Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert — I happen to think Daylon Charlot will, too — I think fans should be excited about the hire.
Because this one was asked during basketball season and most KU football outcomes have been foregone conclusions for years now, I’m going to assume this health-related inquiry is about KU basketball’s recent run of close games.
It really did look at various points that KU was going to lose to Marquette, Tennessee and Stanford.
I honestly was impressed that the Jayhawks didn’t drop any of those, because this is a team that’s still finding its way.
There’s no calming influence or unflappable veteran on this roster such as Frank Mason III or Devonte’ Graham to carry the Jayhawks to a victory when the odds are against them. And yet this team still is unbeaten.
The deeper we get into the season, the more it looks as though Dedric Lawson and Devon Dotson will be the players who lead game-changing runs when Lagerald Vick isn’t dominating offensively.
So that should be encouraging for the KU die-hards out there who don’t handle losing or tight games well. This team has room to grow and it’s already in a pretty good spot. Plus, the offense might not look as out of sorts in coming weeks, as Udoka Azubuike’s ankle injury forces Bill Self to go back to the four-guard lineup that has worked so well the past couple of years.
From Matt Roesner via email: Coach Miles will have ~15 available slots for recruits this coming year. In looking at the KU football team in 2019, what are your thoughts on key positions of needs, and how the graduating class (and any other losses of eligibility) are going to influence Coach Miles and KU?
As I detailed in a recent story, the football team is losing half of its 2018 starters.
There’s no way to replace Daniel Wise and Joe Dineen on defense. But defensive linemen and linebackers will be positions of need in this recruiting class.
Lindsey needs to find a QB for the Class of 2019, too. Whether that’s a high school senior who can be a longterm solution or a transfer who can step in more ready to compete — or both — don’t be surprised to see Kansas bring in a player to compete with Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick.
It will be tricky, because there are positions where KU needs help immediately and a lot of times, particularly with true freshmen, first-year players are not ready for those types of roles. Developing returning players who haven’t been heavy contributors previously will be critical.
Hull is no pushover. He’s a big, tough dude. But the running backs like playing for him and respect him. There’s value in that.
But, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, Hull’s been a prized member of KU’s staff because of his recruiting prowess back in and around his home city of New Orleans.
If Hull wasn’t at KU, there’s no way Pooka Williams, Mike Lee or Corione Harris ever would have signed with the program. And those three players will be pivotal in 2019.
Having the foresight to bring Hull aboard was one of the better moves David Beaty made in his four years on the job.
It seems Miles will keep Hull around, too, so that’s good news for the program in this early stage of a massive rebuild.
From Steven McKillip via email: Is there any information on the "blueshirts" that count towards the 2019 recruiting class? Since they are taken up spots in the 2019 class, will they ever play for Kansas?
While it’s difficult to distinguish in many cases which players from the past few recruiting classes were straight-up scholarship athletes and which ones with which Beaty and his staff decided to take the blueshirt route, I don’t think KU fans should be overly worried about how useful those blueshirt players will be for the new coaching regime.
I wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, if many scholarship and blueshirt players benefit from having new coaches around. A new assistant may see something in a player that a previous position coach didn’t or may be better suited for developing certain strengths within a player.
Plus, a lot of these guys who didn’t contribute much in 2018 will be a year older, with more coaching and lifting and preparation behind them, so, theoretically, they should be more capable of playing a role in 2019.
Now, this line of thinking might not hold up if a number of blueshirt and scholarship players end up transferring for some reason between now and next season. Then you have an even bigger problem just in terms of available bodies. But I don’t think there’s any indication at this point that Miles and his staff plan on running people off or that players wouldn’t want to stick around and play for the new coaching staff.
The past few days inside Anderson Family Football Complex, according to those who would know, new Kansas football coach Les Miles has stayed busy by assessing various aspects of the Kansas football program he just took over.
Think: meetings, phone calls and more meetings and calls, mixed in with whatever the new man in charge can do to settle in and get comfortable.
Miles has spoken with assistant coaches from his predecessor David Beaty’s staff and met with players, as well.
While no hires have been announced as of Wednesday afternoon that could change quickly.
And that leads us right into our first question for today’s post.
I asked Miles during his introductory press conference how long he thought it would take to get his staff in place. And while he didn’t give a definitive timeline for the process, his answer showed that finding the best coordinators he can will be his priority.
Miles doesn’t have to rush these hires and he made it clear from the day he took this job that he had been having conversations with potential assistants and coordinators already and would continue to do so.
This week has been the first time Miles could really speak with potential coordinators, too, because last week many candidates were busy preparing for the last game of the regular season.
As Miles speaks with potential coordinators this week it is also likely he will act quickly if it becomes clear someone he wants to bring on board is interested. He told the Journal-World recently that having coordinators in place would be one of the most important steps for him as he fully attacks the recruiting trail for 2019.
Michael Hinton: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sports' Wally Hall wrote a column that referenced the Razorbacks' losing football season(s) and Jeff Long's contributions. What are your thoughts? Things obviously ended poorly for Jeff Long at Arkansas, his previous stop as an athletic director. Long was fired in November of 2017 after close to 10 years heading the athletic department at the SEC school.
Though Long’s hiring of Bobby Petrino brought the Razorbacks victories and appearances in both the Sugar and Cotton bowls, that relationship ended in an ugly fashion when Long had to fire Petrino in 2012, in the aftermath of the coach’s motorcycle accident. The whole ordeal eventually revealed Petrino had hired his mistress to work for the football program and the coach misled members of the athletic department.
Long had interim coach John Smith handle the football team in 2012, and the Razorbacks went 4-8.
When Long hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin, Arkansas finished 3-9 in 2013 before Bielema posted a 22-17 combined mark for the next three seasons. But Arkansas fell off again in 2017, going 4-8. Long was fired shortly before the season’s conclusion and soon after Bielema was done, too.
Even before Arkansas finished 2018 at 2-10 — with its .167 winning percentage going down as the worst in program history — the school’s football fan base didn’t mind blaming Long for its current state. I had a few Razorbacks supporters email me this past summer just airing their grievances about his time there.
Does that mean Long’s hiring of Miles will go so poorly? Of course not. But it’s also important for everyone to step back every once in a while and realize it is way too early to tell how the next few years will play out for KU football.
KU football attendance really began falling off a cliff near the end of the Charlie Weis era. But it officially went kersplat in 2018, with announced crowds in the 15,000 range at each of the Jayhawks’ final three home games of the season.
That’s what makes 40,000 such an ambitious figure for Miles’ KU debut — slated for Aug. 31 against Indiana State.
Even so, the KU fan base seems genuinely fired up about the program’s latest reboot. And between the intrigue surrounding Miles and having a chance to watch Pooka Williams perform his unique form of on-field voodoo, I think KU can get there.
Nine months out, I will take the slightest of overs.
Though nothing is official yet, it sure seems likely that Miles will keep Tony Hull, KU’s Louisiana recruiting guru, in place.
And, with Miles having spent more than a decade living and working in Louisiana, I think that pipeline will only grow stronger in the months and years ahead.
Both Miles and Hull have strong connections down in the New Orleans area, and while the very best players from down in “The Boot” will likely continue to pick SEC programs, Hull has proven he can get coveted prospects to KU.
With Miles in place, the number of talented Louisiana players KU is able to sign should only increase — even though the new coach has made clear his plan to recruit heavily near his new home, too.
Oh, yeah. And, no, I don’t think fans need to worry about Pooka Williams leaving. Just my gut feeling.
I’ll begin by saying this: KU has done a good job thus far of keeping Miles’ search for his coordinators under wraps.
I’m guessing a lot of that credit goes to Mike Vollmar, KU’s senior associate AD for football administration, who, like Long and Miles, has great connections throughout the college football universe.
Fans obviously can’t wait to find out if Miles can bring in some more big-name coaches for his first staff. But I get the sense most of the people around the KU football program — except for Miles, obviously, and probably Vollmar — don’t yet know how this will all play out.
It’s probably worth monitoring the status of recently fired UNC coach Larry Fedora, as well as various members of his staff. One of Miles’ sons, Manny, was a backup QB at UNC, so Miles has to know those coaches fairly well.
John Papuchis was Fedora’s defensive coordinator at UNC, and he was a graduate assistant at KU from 2001-03. Papuchis also worked for Miles during the new Kansas coaches first three years in Baton Rouge, La.
Before Fedora became a head coach at Southern Miss, he was an offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2005-07 (after Miles left that program to go to LSU).
I’m sure the pool of candidates will be large and I think it’s a safe bet whomever Miles hires to lead the offense and defense will have plenty of experience.