KU's Les Miles reveals his blueprint with 2020 class featuring exclusively high school players
In a lot of ways, this was Les Miles’ first true recruiting class since becoming the head coach at Kansas.
Sure, the history books will say that 2019 was his first class, a group that ultimately ranked No. 70 overall in team rankings on Rivals. But that class was put together on the fly, with Miles taking over after the 2018 season and finalizing the 19-player group by Feb. 6, 2019.
This time around, Miles had more than two months to land all 30 of his 2020 signees. And he revealed a blueprint for what he’s trying to do in the process. All 30 of KU’s pledges in this class are high school seniors, including four preferred walk-ons.
“This is what I want to do, period,” Miles said on his "Hawk Talk" radio show Thursday evening. “It’s where we want to stay.”
Now, of course, that type of bold proclamation is easy to say after the fact. We know that the Jayhawks would have liked to land former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks, who ultimately chose to transfer to Arkansas.
But understanding the historical significance of this class is eye-opening. Rivals’ recruiting rankings go all the way back to the 2000 season. This is the first time KU hasn’t had at least one junior college player or transfer in its class.
Texas is the only other Big 12 program to not have a junior college player in this year’s class. Kansas State, meanwhile, leads the way with six such players. KU’s 2020 class is also ranked No. 47 overall on Rivals, which is the team’s highest overall ranking since it had the 43rd-best class in 2013.
“Ultimately, you want to get the opportunity to get that player on your campus and make him better,” Miles explained on "Hawk Talk." “If you go for a two-year junior college guy, you (have) two years to make him better. So what you see on film is really what you are going to get. You don’t really have the opportunity to invest in them, and make them more talented.”
Kansas has certainly pursued the junior college route before. Between 2012-18, five of the seven classes featured double-digit junior college players. David Beaty, who was the head coach before Miles, brought in 35 junior college players in his four years at the helm.
While Miles’ approach is refreshing, it certainly doesn’t bode well for KU’s success in the near future. And, for a fan base of a program that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2009, that might be a tough pill to swallow.
Looking at KU’s 2019 class alone, it is obvious that the team’s best contributor last fall was a junior college prospect. Receiver Andrew Parchment, who started at Northern Illinois and came to KU after one year at Iowa Central Community College, paced the team with 831 receiving yards and 65 receptions.
The other two junior college players, quarterback Thomas MacVittie and receiver Ezra Naylor II, were not as productive in their debut season with the Jayhawks. But Parchment’s play made a bigger impact than even the most lauded freshman prospects.
Steven Parker, who was a four-star prospect out of Dallas, played in four games and made one solo tackle in his rookie campaign. Linebacker Gavin Potter was forced into action after a season-ending injury to Dru Prox and finished with 56 total tackles in a year that featured plenty of learning moments for the freshman.
But just like it is still too early to determine the fate of the 2019 class, it will take some time to see the impact of the 2020 prospects. Still, developing those particular players will be the key to eventually turning this thing around.
“With those players that are playing three years and four years, it makes a tremendous difference how they finish their technique,” Miles said. “They will be a much better athlete and more competent competitor.”
It just might mean that the on-field product could get worse before it gets better at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.