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.
Submit your questions for Ask Us Anything!
Has there ever been so much buzz surrounding a Power Five college football program that enters its final game of the season with a 3-8 record?
Nobody asked us that — at least I don’t think anyone did — over the past couple of days, but it would be a reasonable inquiry.
The Kansas football team, unlike in its primetime faceplant against TCU in 2017, looked relatively competitive this past weekend in a 55-40 loss at Oklahoma on national television.
And the very next day, KU hired Les Miles — he of LSU and 2007 national championship fame — to take over the program.
After year upon year of so many losses in the post-Mark Mangino era, it appears the football team’s supporters finally have a truly optimistic view of where the program is headed next.
Which leads us perfectly into our first actual question for today’s post.
What a strategy this would be.
If you’ve been paying attention at all to the message being pushed from KU’s athletic director, Jeff Long, and even Miles during his “Hawk Talk” debut earlier this week, the athletic department is wasting no time in trying to rally the fan base to invest in 2019 season tickets.
They’re already available online at KU’s website and the hope, of course, is that WAY more people will want to spend a chunk of their Saturdays at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in the future, because they’re excited about watching the team being led by Miles.
Here’s how many people, according to KU’s numbers, have decided to attend a KU football game in Lawrence this season, which proved to be David Beaty’s last in charge.
• Sept. 1 vs. Nicholls State: 24,305
• Sept. 15 vs. Rutgers: 28,044
• Sept. 29 vs. Oklahoma State: 18,364
• Oct. 27 vs. TCU: 15,069
• Nov. 3 vs. Iowa State: 15,543
That final number is the most appalling because it was clear that day more than half the crowd was there to cheer on Iowa State.
I’m not sure how close we are to KU football games reaching the stadium’s 50,071 capacity. But having Miles in place will definitely help.
Back to the question. If Bradley were in charge, KU football would surely see a ticket sale boost for this week’s Black Friday matchup with Texas. And if the Jayhawks got to play in front of a decent crowd, one feeling good about the program to boot, it would only help their upset bid.
First off, let me say that the employees at the Lawrence Municipal Airport could not have been more friendly or helpful.
I wish it were possible to fly out of there to cover KU road games because it is so laid back at the tiny airport.
That being said, it’s not as if the people who covered this KU coaching search were camping out there around the clock — thankfully.
The fact that the jets were never headed to or from Baton Rouge, La., even though flight plans had been submitted for them was a bit maddening.
Long clearly had some fun with the search by creating these fake flights. But in doing so all he accomplished was making sure media would cover his trips on those days. If KU’s jet only had flight plans for Dallas and Colorado Springs, Colo., there wouldn’t have been nearly that amount of intrigue.
While staking out the airport isn’t exactly my ideal weekday night, at least it was a break from the norm, and there always was that fleeting chance that you would see a football coach getting off a plane.
R.I.P., flight tracking season. (I won't be sending flowers.)
Email from Sam Bruning: Have you heard anything about Lance Legendre keeping interest in KU and do you see Miles going after him or a trying to get Graham Mertz late?
Based on conversations I’ve had with those who cover recruiting, including Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant and Scott Chasen of 247 Sports, I don’t think there is any reason at this point to believe former KU commit Lance LeGendre will hop back on board.
It’s a good question, though, because LeGendre, a four-star dual-threat QB, is from Warren Easton High, in New Orleans, where KU running backs coach Tony Hull first made a name for himself as a high school head coach. And LeGendre has offers from various SEC programs, including Alabama. Miles paid attention to the high school scene in Louisiana these past two years, often attending games. He surely knows of LeGendre and has opinions about the prep QB’s abilities.
We’ll have to see in the weeks ahead whether Miles has any interest in trying to get the Louisiana QB re-interested in KU.
As for Graham Mertz, even though he is from Overland Park, he has been committed to Wisconsin for more than a year. He chose the Badgers over KU back then and has since picked up offers from college football powerhouses such as Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson, among others. If he for some reason decided to back out of his pledge to Wisconsin, he would have better options than KU. I don’t see it happening.
Doug Stewart: What do you think the #kufball recruiting class looks like under new head coach? Best case? Worst-case? If Miles can get his coordinators and assistants in place quickly, and all of them have been active college coaches this past season, I think that’s the best possible outcome for a 2019 recruiting class, which Miles told the Journal-World he expects to include 15 signees.
Miles already has gotten out in front with recruiting, too. Jayhawk Slant reported KU’s next head coach already reached out to three-star cornerback Jayden Russell, a top 2019 prospect in the Sunflower State, from St. Thomas Aquinas.
That’s a great place to start and, if all goes perfectly for Miles and his first staff, Miles’ reputation will make it easier for Kansas to land quality prospects, such as Russell.
Worst case scenario: There is such little time between now and the early signing period in late December that KU misses out on its biggest recruiting targets and has to settle for leftovers in the Class of 2019, because the players at the top of KU’s list already have longstanding relationships with other college staffs.
It’s too early to know for sure whether Bowen would be retained by Miles.
But I think Bowen would be open to doing so. Miles most likely wouldn’t ask Bowen to remain defensive coordinator, though. If Bowen sticks around and helps with the transition, he would probably be a position coach — cornerbacks, safeties or linebackers.
David Beaty is out of here. I’m sure he will be happy to join the staff of some other Power Five program, even if it is just as an analyst or recruiting coordinator in 2019.
I’m guessing we’ll start hearing official news on Miles’ assistants early next week.
In the meantime, I don’t think we should completely rule out the idea of Jedd Fisch, who met with Jeff Long during his coaching search, being an offensive coordinator with Miles. And Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant had an interesting defensive coordinator to consider: John Papuchis, currently the D.C. at UNC. Papuchis worked with Miles for a few years when he first took over at LSU.
It’s a wild time of year for Kansas fans, what with the basketball season just underway and the university’s athletic director, Jeff Long, searching for the football program’s next head coach.
So there couldn’t have been a better time to fire up a new feature at KUsports.com, the “Ask Us Anything” blog.
We’ve had great inquiries already and we know there are innumerable more to come, and we encourage you to keep sending them our way.
You can respond to our tweets calling for questions each week — @Kusports — or you can send us your own Tweet using the hashtag #AskKUsports. You also can email us, if that’s easier. Just send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure you put #AskKUsports in the subject line.
On to today’s questions.
“Home run hire” is a good way to put it, because Jeff Long would feel good about the immediate future of the football program if he were able to convince Les Miles, Dave Doeren, Seth Littrell or Jason Candle to sign on with the Jayhawks.
But if I had to choose one I’d go with Doeren. He’s in the prime of his career at 46. He’s from the K.C. area. He worked as an assistant coach for Mark Mangino from 2002-05, when the program was on its relative rise, playing in the 2003 Tangerine Bowl and 2005 Fort Worth Bowl.
Doeren was great at Northern Illinois in the MAC and he’s doing really well in the ACC, with the Wolfpack already assured of its fifth straight winning season.
He knows how to win and he knows it actually is possible to do so at Kansas, because he’s experienced it.
I think Doeren would do a phenomenal job. But I don’t know that he’s the candidate Long is after. Or that Doeren would want to leave a program he has in a good spot for one that will need its next coach to take on a massive reclamation project.
Well, it’s obviously too late to go the other direction. But it definitely would be nice to have a peek at that alternate reality in which Long goes with an interim head coach instead.
Saturday’s loss at Kansas State was obviously winnable for the Jayhawks. But too many in-game issues typical of David Beaty’s time at KU kept the Jayhawks from actually winning a Big 12 road game for the first time since 2008. Two. Thousand. Eight.
Quick aside: Shoutout to the fans who stick with this program week in and week out, year after year, losses upon losses. I don’t know how you do it.
Anyway, I think it would have been interesting to see how the offense operated if someone such as Clint Bowen or Bill Miller or Tony Hull were named interim head coach and Garrett Riley became the offensive coordinator.
As Dillon alluded to in his question, having Hull in charge in the interim may have helped in recruiting, but only if Hull was given some sort of assurances he would be retained on the next staff and he were able to hint as much to players back in Louisiana.
Obviously Hull wasn’t placed in charge, so we’ll have to see how quickly Long can assemble the next staff — and whether the next head coach will want to keep Hull around to help recruiting. Either way, the next staff will really have to hustle to build a 2019 signing class.
This is a good question and one I’m hoping to be able to expound upon further in the future.
Obviously Long wasn’t talking about on-field position coaches when he brought this up a little over a week ago. He was referencing the numerous support staff positions that exist at Power Five programs.
There are analysts, recruiting directors, video coordinators, personnel directors, quality control staffers and other positions that help make a football program function. According to the numbers Long cited, other Big 12 programs — and not just Oklahoma and Texas — have “anywhere from eight to 13 to 15” more employees in their football program than KU.
It’s tricky to find the exact numbers for all the programs, because you can’t just open a staff directory and count the names. As one person in the KU athletic department put it to me, Texas has far more strength coaches working for its team than what comes up on a published list of employees.
I’m guessing Long’s righthand man, Mike Vollmar, senior associate AD for football administration, called around to speak with staffers and/or administrators at the Big 12’s other nine schools to find out what type of deficit KU has been operating from.
I thought this was a football blog.
Man, it’s the second week of November, so I’ll have to base my answer on what I’ve actually seen up to this point.
While KU obviously has a nice mix of depth and talent all over the floor, does this Bill Self team have enough athleticism to match up with say, Duke?
(Did I just answer a question with a question?)
It’s definitely possible that Kansas could reach the Final Four and deliver the program’s first title since 2008. But if you made me pick a champion right now I’d go with Duke.
Holy hell, the Blue Devils embarrassed Kentucky at the Champions Classic, putting up 118 points. Between R.J. Barrett, the freaky Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, Duke could have three of the top four picks in the 2019 NBA Draft — that’s if they don’t go 1-2-3.
I’m just going to assume Duke wins it all until I see something that makes me think otherwise.
And Dedric Lawson eventually rounding into his preseason All-America form might be one thing that would change my mind.
Disclaimer: I haven’t even seen Gonzaga or North Carolina or Virginia or Tennessee or numerous other teams play, so I would describe my opinion on the winner of a March tournament that ends in April as fluid.
Does Les Miles still want to coach football? Yes.
Is Les Miles at least interested in the idea of doing so at Kansas? Yes.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.
The longer this coaching search goes the less likely it is KU gets Les. If it’s over today or tomorrow, it seems that Miles would be the guy.
While nothing is concrete, I’d say this is trending toward taking a few weeks (from the start of this search on Nov. 4, the day Beaty was fired, to its conclusion). If Miles really wants to take on the burden of coaching at Kansas and Long really wants to hire him, they should be able to hammer out the details and make it official with a contract before the Jayhawks’ season is even over.
If you made me guess right now, though, I’d take the field.