Kansas football coach David Beaty always is at his most entertaining on signing day. His blend of football lingo and down-home sayings delivered in a Texas twang makes for an entertaining press conference and probably results in a few ticket sales as well.
A sampling of Beaty-isms from Wednesday’s media session:
On defensive end Najee Stevens-McKenzie: “Man, you’re talking about a pass-rushing fool now.”
On cornerback Elmore Hempstead: “He’s from Smackover, Arkansas. How about that name? And he will hit you, which is good.”
The hometown is a cool name, especially for a player who “will hit you.” But how about the player’s name itself?
On guard Jacobi Lott: “Tried not to say too much about him. Tried to hide him, but he’s too big to hide. He’s a big human.”
On running back Pooka Williams: “He was playing in the state semifinal and the quarterback got underneath (center). It was the last play. They were going for two, and the quarterback looked back at Pooka like was a little bit nervous, and Pooka said, ‘Man, what you doing, boy? Just snap that ball and give it to me,’ and he did the rest.”
On linebackers coach Bill Miller: “He’s a beloved Kansan. When I met him down there in Florida he showed me pictures of the Kansas sky with the waving wheat, and I don’t know many guys who carried that picture on their phone, but that’s how much he loves this place. He’s truly excited to be back here.”
Beaty’s most stunning prediction came when discussing Wichita Collegiate High quarterback/defensive back Cody McNerney part of what appears to be an impressive class of walk-ons.
“He can run the football. He can throw the football, and he will flat hit you on defense,” Beaty said. “He’s a guy who can do just about all of it. I can see him being a beast on special teams. He did everything for those guys. He’s a terrific basketball player. This guy’s a great athlete.”
And now Beaty's bold prediction: “I would not doubt that this guy will wind up in the NFL, because it’s just the type of guy he is. He’s a guy that nobody’s going to think about and then he’s going to be the guy making all the money playing in the NFL. Because that league is full of guys like that, and he does everything right.”
Save that quote.
If McNerney makes an NFL roster, Beaty’s ultimate football destination could become NFL general manager or at the very least director of scouting for an NFL team. Tracking McNerney’s career will make for an interesting exercise. Clearly, Beaty sees something special in him.
Kansas went heavy on junior-college recruits, using 11 of an estimated 20 or 21 available scholarships on them.
Still, KU was able to recruit a decent foundation of high school blockers to try to build with in the weight room and on the practice field.
Guard Jacobi Lott of Amarillo, Texas probably projects as the player most likely to play as a true freshman. Offensive tackles Mac Copeland from Wichita and Nick Williams from the St. Louis area are likely candidates to spend their first season in the program as redshirts.
Kansas has a good shot at adding a fourth high school offensive lineman from right down the road. Free State High's Jalan Robinson will announce his college choice at 2:45 p.m. today. KU offered a scholarship late in the process, after Mississippi State offered. Nebraska got involved late, but the Cornhuskers appeared to have him as a backup plan in the event they didn't land Will Canty, a three-star lineman from Florida. The Cornhuskers beat out Louisville for him, so it looks as if Robinson is down to Mississippi State and Kansas.
Robinson appeared to have more interest in Nebraska than Mississippi State because it's closer to him, so that bodes well for KU's chances of landing the blocker who didn't become a starter until his senior year, but has a high ceiling because of his frame and quick feet. He starts for Free State's basketball team.
In a class that for the most part is all about winning now, it's refreshing to see Kansas continue to try to build an offensive line with primarily prospects from high school.
In job-saving mode, Kansas football coach David Beaty has loaded up on recruits from junior colleges.
Less than a week from next Wednesday's late signing day, Kansas looks as if it will end up with seven, maybe eight high school signees. Five signed letters of intent in the early period and two others have made verbal commitments.
Plus, Rivals reports that Kansas is battling Missouri for a Nick Bolton, a linebacker from Frisco, Texas, but he's thought to be leaning toward Missouri over Louisiana Tech and Kansas.
Defensive ends Miles Emery of Blue Valley High and Ryan Malbrough of Cecilia, Louisiana have made verbal commitments.
Free State High offensive tackle Jalan Robinson has been offered scholarships, but KU will not, an indication that the job-saving recruiting mode Beaty is in doesn't leave room for players who need time to blossom in the program after spending time reshaping their bodies in the weight room. Mississippi State and Nebraska both have first-year head coaches are building programs, and offered Robinson a scholarship earlier this week.
The KU class of high school recruits grades higher in quality than quantity among.
The five signees, ranked in estimated order of the contributions they'll make to the program:
Corione Harris, cornerback, 6-1, 170, New Orleans: He committed to Kansas early, even though SEC schools recruited him heavily. In the end, he chose Kansas over Mississippi State. Harris will participate in KU's spring football and projects as an immediate starter. Has reputation as hard hitter.
Pooka Williams, running back, 5-10, 165, Boutte, La.: A burner, Williams rushed for 3,120 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior. He chose Kansas over LSU and Nebraska. Williams, also a track star, lost all the toes on his right foot at the age of 9 in a lawn-mower accident.
Jacobi Lott, offensive guard, 6-3, 305, Amarillo, Texas: Stronger than a typical high school recruit, he has a change to play sooner than most O-line recruits. Texas offered him a scholarship the night before the early signing period, but he stayed true to KU, which was in on him from the start.
Nick Williams, offensive lineman, 6-8, 260, Overland, Mo.: Kansas is excited about how he projects as an offensive tackle after spending a couple of years in the weight room.
Mac Copeland, offensive lineman, 6-5, 250, Wichita: Like Nick Williams, will need time to develop his body and technique before contributing and has a frame that should enable him to add weight easily.
Eight consecutive years of anywhere from zero to three victories have put many a Kansas football fan in such a guarded state of mind that to write anything nice about the program is to run the risk of being accused of "hyping" the team.
Consider yourself warned: I am not hyping the Jayhawks, not predicting that KU can contend for a bowl game in 2018 and won't yet even go so far as to predict a victory in the season-opener vs. underrated Nicholls State, but I am going to write something nice about KU football. So if you are afraid that it will lead you to get your hopes up yet again, thus setting yourself up for disappointment, this might be a good time to find something else to read on KUsports.com.
David Beaty made a terrific addition to his coaching staff by bringing veteran linebackers coach Bill Miller on board.
Kansas Athletics hasn't announced Miller's hiring yet, but he's already recruiting for Kansas, both on campus over the weekend, and out of town this week.
Miller has worked for, among others, Nick Saban, Jimmy Johnson, Butch Davis, Jimbo Fisher, Mark Mangino and Jerry Kill, a list of coaches who know how to evaluate assistants.
Miller will coach linebackers, so it will be interesting to see what assignment shifts that sets in motion. One strong possibility: Linebackers coach Todd Bradford will move to cornerbacks, and Kenny Perry, who doubles as recruiting coordinator, will move to special teams coordinator. Bradford has spent more seasons coaching the secondary during his career than any other position group.
Perry's first job after concluding his playing career at Houston came at his alma mater, where he worked with special teams and defensive backs. Plus, he was a head high school football coach for 13 seasons in Texas and has worked with specific special-teams units at TCU and Kansas.
Miller's strong reputation extends beyond his work on the field. His connections Kansas and Florida coupled with his his ability to evaluate talent give him value as a recruiter as well.
At Kansas, Miller received a verbal commitment from Class of 2010 Hutchinson High defensive end Geno Grissom, who would have honored his commitment had Miller been retained by Turner Gill. Upon learning that Miller would not be coaching at Kansas, Grissom switched to Oklahoma, where he eventually became a tight end. A reserve linebacker, Grissom is on the New England Patriots Super Bowl roster.
The Miller hiring is good news for Kansas, such good news that I imagine that Beaty eventually will get around to announcing it, although he too appears a little skittish about being accused of hyping the team yet again.
Many will go to their graves believing that the $12.5 million Charlie Weis was paid to coach Kansas for two-and-one-third seasons was his primary motivation for accepting athletic director Sheahon Zenger’s surprising job offer.
I never believed that. I thought it ranked second to his chief motivation, which became obvious at his introductory press conference. Weis took the Kansas job to use it as a vehicle to launch his son Charlie Jr.’s coaching career. The $12.5 million was a nice fringe benefit, but helping his son on his way to a coaching profession meant more to Tom Brady’s former offensive coordinator.
It worked. Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin hired Weis Jr. as his offensive coordinator, ESPN reported this morning.
“He's way ahead of his time in how he sees the game, his football IQ and just his overall intelligence," Kiffin told ESPN. "He's been around the game with his dad being a coach, a lot like I was when I was growing up, and has a bright future."
Monte Kiffin, a defensive assistant for eight different NFL franchises, works on his son’s staff.
In hiring Charlie Weis, Jr., Lane Kiffin has the youngest offensive coordinator in the nation. Charlie Jr., 24, worked as a student assistant under his father at Florida, where Charlie Sr. was offensive coordinator, and at Kansas. Charlie Jr. graduated from Kansas in 2015.
Charlie Jr. worked under Nick Saban as a non-recruiting offensive analyst in 2015-16 and then worked for the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive assistant.
At KU, Charlie Jr. earned a reputation as an intelligent, hard worker with a more low-key personality than his father.
At his introductory press conference, Charlie Sr. shared aloud his fantasy: Turn around the KU football program in five years or so and then turn it over to a more affordable Weis, Charlie Jr. Sure, Jr.'s name put him on the fast track, but he'll make or break a career on his own. Players and coaches who came to know Weis Jr. as nice, hard-working young man will be rooting for him.
All three bowl-game starting quarterbacks for Kansas were vertically challenged by Big 12 standards, but not challenged at stretching the field vertically, which of course is far more important.
Bill Whittemore, Jason Swanson and Todd Reesing combined to go 3-1 in bowl games at Kansas. Reesing was listed at 5-foot-11, Whittemore and Swanson at 6-foot.
Miles Kendrick, a native of San Jose who spent one semester at San Mateo Community Collge before enrolling at Kansas, is even shorter at 5-10.
That doesn’t mean he’ll be good, but it does take the air out of the inevitable question: If he’s any good, why didn’t anyone else offer him a scholarship? The bigger the program, the less likely the coaching staff will take a chance on a short quarterback.
Kendrick started the season second on San Mateo’s depth chart behind Shawn Akina, son of Stanford defensive backs coach Duane Akina. Despite Akina playing well, Kendrick beat him out from the fourth game on and took his team all the way to the California state juco championship game.
In his first start, Kendrick completed 14 of 21 passes for 263 yards and threw touchdowns without throwing an interception. He rushed for 84 yards on 10 carries and was on his way.
Kendrick wasn’t KU’s first choice. When it became obvious to the KU coaching staff that Texas high school standout Clayton Tune merely was using Kansas to get better offers, he was scratched off the list. Lindsey Scott, Jr., a 5-11 dual-threat QB from East Mississippi CC, visited Kansas but didn’t sign during the early period, which meant he was going elsewhere.
Kendrick will have a chance to show during spring football whether he has the arm strength to make the throws favored by offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. If Miles can beat out Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, great. If not, he could always spend a year as a redshirt, spending four-and-a-half years at Kansas. Either way, his addition to the class means that the coaching staff doesn’t have to force the issue in making sure a high school quarterback is part of this recruiting class.
At this point, not as many prospects are available as in the Class of 2019, so might as well delay that a year. Best guess as to how many scholarships KU has left this season: Four. Why waste one on a high school quarterback unless a must-have prospect surfaces?
KU will have a senior (Bender), junior (Stanley) and two sophomores (Kendrick and Tyriek Starks) on scholarship in 2018, and four is the right number to have on a roster.
Obviously, without better blocking and fewer receiver drops, it will be tough for any QB to get much accomplished this coming season.
I know you have read this opinion in many previous seasons only to be disappointed, but this time it seems as if it can't possibly be anything but accurate: Kansas should have a better defense this coming season than last.
Now that Daniel Wise decided to return, that means that KU has 10 of its leading 11 tacklers, its two sack leaders and its only two players to pick off passes (Hasan Defense and Mike Lee) back for David Beaty's fourth season.
Plus, several defensive players from junior college were recruited with the intention of helping immediately.
Sure, defensive end Dorance Armstrong will be missed a great deal, despite being limited to two sacks a year after totaling 10 as a sophomore. Still, he led all Big 12 defensive ends in tackles and played a part in KU's big improvement against the run.
In 2015, opponents averaged 5.67 yards per carry, placing KU 123rd in the nation. The numbers improved to 5.17 (106th) in 2016 and 4.19 (55th) in 2017. Other than Armstrong, all the players who brought about that improvement return.
The linebackers all are back and the hope is that speedy Kyron Johnson will improve enough from his true freshman to sophomore season to take on a bigger role.
J.J. Holmes, mobile for his size but still in need of shedding a few pounds, Isi Holani (with a medical redshirt gaining him an extra year) and juco recruit Charles Cole have a chance to make defensive tackle a solid position.
Azura Kamara, juco defensive end, is considered by some the jewel of KU's juco class, and Najee Stevens-McKenzie arrives from juco with a reputation as an explosive edge rusher. Josh Ehambe has one more season remaining.
Four juco defensive backs were recruited to try to shore up a shoddy secondary. Will they make KU better against the pass? Can't get much worse. Plus, top 100 high school recruit Corione Harris could win a job right off the bat.
Most importantly, the driven, energetic, talented, experienced Wise is back, which enables the rest of the front six fall into place.
It’s becoming increasingly popular for top NFL prospects to blow off bowl games so as not to risk injury.
No such players fill the rosters for the Tropical Bowl, where non-prospects attempt to remove the word before the hyphen one last time.
The Tropical Bowl, played at 8 a.m. Central time Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla., is not televised, but is available via subscription at FloFootball.com.
The “all-star” game and two practices that precede it give players a chance to be watched by NFL scouts in attendance. It could result in some players bypassed in the draft gaining invitations they otherwise might not have received to NFL camps.
For three former Kansas football players the game also serves as a mini-reunion of sorts in that all three players were at least part-time starters as juniors on the Jayhawks’ 2016 offense.
Guard Jayson Rhodes and receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez each started 11 games and quarterback Montell Cozart seven for the 2016 Jayhawks and are teammates on the American Team (Red) vs. the National Team (Blue) in the Tropical Bowl.
The KU offense for which the three players started the majority of games ranked 117th among 128 FBS schools with 4.96 yards per play and led the nation with 36 turnovers. The three Tropical Bowl selections who combined to start 29 starts as juniors combined for three KU starts as seniors. Rhodes, replaced in the starting lineup by Andru Tovi in the starting lineup, was the only of the three to play for KU as a senior.
Offered a chance to switch positions, Cozart instead graduated without participating in spring football and then transferred to Boise State.
Sharing the job with Boise State starter Brett Rypien, Cozart had by far the best season of his career. He completed 62.9 percent of is passes, threw 10 touchdowns, was intercepted just once, and averaged 7.8 yards per pass attempt. He also rushed for 361 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per attempt.
In parts of four seasons at Kansas, Cozart threw 14 TD passes, 19 interceptions and averaged 5.7 yards per pass attempt. He also averaged 2.5 yards per rush and ran for two touchdowns at Kansas.
Gonzalez caught 62 passes for 729 yards (11.8 yards per catch) and three touchdowns during his lone season at KU. His hands weren’t as sticky when fielding punts as in other areas, such as catching passes.
Gonzalez was dismissed from the team before his senior year and transferred to an NAIA school in Lakeland, Fla., so that he could be eligible to play immediately. Gonzalez caught 60 passes for 1,018 (17 ypc) and 10 touchdowns at Southeastern.
Juco recruiting: David Beaty’s Dream Team II bound to perform better than Charlie Weis’ Dream Team I
Kansas hasn't recruited so many highly rated football recruits from junior colleges since Charlie Weis assembled a Class of 2013 that came to be known as #DreamTeam on Twitter.
It's not fair to say that entire class turned into #NightmareTeam because 2 of 7 recruits cited in the Rivals Top 100 junior college prospects had strong careers in the KU program. Defensive back Cassius Sendish started all 24 games in two seasons at Kansas, was a team captain and the leader of the secondary. Offensive guard Mike Smithburg was a two-year starter and drew high grades for his run-blocking.
Other than that, nightmare city.
DREAM TEAM I TOP 100 JUCO RECRUITS
|10||Marquel Combs/DT||Never played in game,
transferred to La. Lafayette
|13||Chris Martin/DE||Never played in a game
and was sentenced to
three years probation
for felony robbery in home
|41||Mike Smithburg/OL||Two-year starter at guard and
was one of line's more
|57||Marcus Jenkins-Moore/LB||Slowed by knee injury,
never played in a game and
transferred to South Dakota.
|59||Cassius Sendish/DB||Started all 24 games of
Kansas career, captain
and All-Big 12 honorable
mention as senior. Works for
KU football as grad assistant.
|69||Kevin Short/CB||Withdrew from school before
appearing in a game.
|91||Andrew Bolton/DT||Played one injury-filled season
and did not return for senior
Thus far, David Beaty's 2018 recruiting class includes nine juco players, including five ranked in the top 100 by Rivals. It's a safe assumption that Beaty will get more out of his five top 100 jucos than Charlie Weis received from his seven.
Thanks to the famous flops from the Class of 2013, nobody from Kansas is calling this Dream Team II, and in fact, Beaty is low-keying the class, perhaps because he defended his case for a fourth season by saying he needed time because he didn't go the quick-fix, juco-recruiting route. Unlike last season, Beaty did not have a season-ending press conference and has gone underground on the publicity front.
Simply for comparison purposes, though, let's call Beaty's full-out dive into the juco pool Dream Team II.
DREAM TEAM II TOP 100 JUCO RECRUITS
||6-4, 215, DE
||Iowa St., Maryland
UCF and others
||6-6, 230, DE
Baylor, Florida State
Iowa State, Ole Miss
Nebraska, Okla. St.
Tennessee and others
||6-3, 185, CB
||Illinois, Iowa State
Utah State and others
||5-11, 170, WR
||Hawaii, Mid. Tenn. St.
Mont. St., Old Dominion
||6-3, 280, DT
||Memphis, Murray State
North Texas, Toledo
UNLV and others
This recruiting class was assembled with the idea of fortifying an extremely vulnerable secondary and in preparation for losing defensive end Dorance Armstrong a year early to the NFL draft, which happened Thursday.
Although the staff went about it quietly, the juco plan has been in place all season, which gave coaches time to thoroughly check out the backgrounds of the players offered scholarships. At least with the best of the signees, this doesn't appear to be a case of last-minute sorting through leftovers.
Kamara, an every-down defensive end, appears to be the player the coaching staff was most excited about landing and he had an impressive list of schools recruiting him. Stevens-McKenzie also had power-five schools in pursuit of him, attracted by an explosiveness that translates well to his projected role as a pass-rush specialist. Three-star DE Foster Dixon also will battle for snaps.
In the secondary, if high school recruit Corione Harris of New Orleans can lock down one starting spot at cornerback, jucos Jones, Elmore Hempstead and returning starters Hasan Defense and Shakial Taylor will battle for the other starting spot. Tyrone Miller, a returning starter at safety alongside Mike Lee, will have a tough battle on his hands staving off challenges from junior-college defensive backs Davon Ferguson and Jeremiah McCullough.
Beaty has been consistent through the years in stating the belief that teams loaded with fourth-and-fifth-year seniors are the toughest to beat, but facing long odds at keeping his job beyond 2018, Beaty recruited mostly players who could help right away, thus guaranteeing the 2021 roster will lack fourth-year seniors and the 2022 squad will be shy of fifth-year seniors.
If you're going to take the juco approach, you might as well recruit good prospects and according to Rivals, Kansas accomplished that.
The SEC’s encroachment on the Big 12's chief football recruiting turf, namely Texas high schools, has been slowed down and the Big 12 has the Texas hiring of Tom Herman to thank for that.
Herman landed the top six prospects from Texas high schools, according to Rivals’ ranking of the state’s top 100. The Longhorns landed 14 of the top 65 prospects in the state.
Texas A&M, under new head coach Jimbo Fisher, easily did second-best with Texas preps, landing four in the top 20 and 12 in the top 100, so the SEC still has a strong foothold.
In all, 31 different schools recruited a top 100 Texan. The four Texas and two Oklahoma Big 12 members did well in the state, but the other four didn’t land a top 100 Texas prep.
David Beaty brought with him to Kansas a reputation as a strong recruiter in his native state, but a 3-33 record has damaged his ability to sign high school recruits. KU did land one Texas prep player, two-star offensive lineman Jacobi Lott.
In Beaty's first two recruiting classes combined, KU signed 21 Texas high school players. The two most recent classes combined have had just four: Lott, linebacker Kyron Johnson, running back Dom Williams and receiver Quan Hampton.
The following chart looks at how schools did with the top 100 Texas recruits on the opening day of the early signing period, based on a point system that awards one point for the No. 100 recruit, two points for No. 99, etc., all the way to 100 points for the No. 1 Texas recruit, cornerback Anthony Cook of Houston Lamar High.
|1 - Texas
|2 - Texas A&M
|3 - Oklahoma
|4 - Baylor
|5 - LSU
|6 - TCU
|7 - Texas Tech
|8 - Missouri
|9 - Michigan
|10 - Oklahoma State
|11 - Penn State
|12 - Vanderbilt
|13 - Washington State
|14 - Wisconsin
|15 - Arkansas
|16 - Oregon
|17 - Mississippi State
|18 - Ohio State
|19 - Alabama
|20 - UL-Monroe
|21 - Houston
|22 - Arizona
|23 - Duke
|24 - Stanford
|25 - SMU
|26 - Illinois
|27 (tie) - Syracuse
|27 (tie) - Rice
|29 - Navy
|30 - Boston College
|31 - Arizona State