Not every addition to a college football program can be a prospect with stars next to his name on recruiting websites.
While proclaiming the merits of his program’s 2018 signing class this week, Kansas football coach David Beaty didn’t gloss over the presence of seven less heralded in-state and local prep players who will be joining the Jayhawks.
Just as he did for four-star Louisiana standouts Corione Harris and Anthony “Pooka” Williams and the rest of the scholarship players coming in, Beaty took time to give his thoughts on some new KU walk-ons.
“We're extremely proud of our homegrown talent we're about to add to our roster today,” the fourth-year KU coach said. “The kids right here from this great state and the Kansas City (Missouri) area. Some terrific players that have great production.”
Here is a look at the five Sunflower State players and two from Kansas City, Mo., whom Beaty included in his National Signing Day festivities.
Ath. - Nick Channel | 6-0, 205 | Kapaun Mt. Carmel High
A safety and running back as a prep standout in Wichita, Channel is listed as an athlete by KU because the coaches don’t yet know what position they’ll ask him to play. He was an all-state rusher as a senior, going for 1,305 yards in nine games.
“Nick can play both sides of the ball,” Beaty said. “You can snap it to him. He can run it. He can play safety and he'll knock you out. He's one of those hard-nosed, blue-collared Kansans. He just likes hitting people.”
TE - Dylan Freberg | 6-4, 210 | Blue Valley North High
A productive target for Class 6A champion Blue Valley North in 2017, Freberg made 76 receptions for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“This guy gets in the end zone a lot,” Beaty said. “He runs more like a wide receiver, but he's a big kid. Those big dudes are hard to cover in the middle of the field. You're starting to notice more and more people use that. We think Dylan fits that for us.”
QB - Billy Maples | 6-2, 220 | Park Hill High (Mo.)
An all-state Class 6 quarterback from Kansas City, Mo., Maples threw for 3,130 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior.
“This kid can do it now. He can spin it,” Beaty said. “He's a guy that it's hard to not notice that production. He had some real interest here late and he hung with us. So excited about Billy and adding him.”
Ath. - Cody McNerney | 6-1, 200 | Wichita Collegiate High
A safety and quarterback at the prep level, McNerney is another player KU’s staff will wait to assess in person before assigning him a position. McNerney accounted for a ton of chunk plays at Wichita Collegiate as a rusher.
In one of the more bizarre moments of the signing day press conference, Beaty, after predicting McNerney could be a “beast” for KU’s special teams, went even bolder with his next forecast.
“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,” Beaty said. “Because that league is full of guys like that, and he does everything right. He works hard.”
OL - Jack Murphy | 6-9, 291 | Rockhurst High (Mo.)
“This kid's a giant,” Beaty said. “He's 6-9, he's a big, big dude. He's going to be a large human, no doubt about that. Another one we tried to keep down low, and being able to get him to come and be a Jayhawk was a coup for us.”
TE - Jack Parks | 6-5, 230 | Olathe Northwest High
His father, Mark Parks, is a former KU football player.
“Another long, 6-5 guy that can run down the field and catch the ball well,” Beaty said. “This guy can go in line, which is something you have to have as well. He's a guy that could get really big if he's not careful.”
OL - Spencer Roe | 6-4, 270 | Free State High
Beaty and company went back to the Free State well again this year to add all-state lineman Roe, making him the fifth Jayhawk on the roster from the in-town high school.
“He's a versatile guy that can play both sides of the ball,” Beaty said. “He can play on the offensive line, he can play the defensive line. He had a lot of production there at Free State.”