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Rise & Sign: KU Football set to usher in 2016 recruiting class

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It's national signing day for KU football.

It's national signing day for KU football. by Matt Tait

11:26 a.m. Update:

I didn't want to copy and paste this here because it would've made this blog one that you could scroll down on forever. But I wanted to make sure you all caught my breakdown of the 2016 class that I posted in another blog.

It includes some of the top players to watch, the biggest need addressed, the steal of the class and an overall grade.

So be sure to check out my complete breakdown of the 2016 KU Football recruiting class and stay tuned in to this blog for any breaking news and/or further feedback I get from the players in the class.

KU coach David Beaty will have a press conference at 2 p.m. to talk about the class and we'll have the presser available to watch right here.

From everything I've been told, there are no expected surprises ahead, so I'm gonna grab some lunch and get prepped for the press conference.

9:49 a.m. Update:

Kyle "Money" Mayberry promised me the other day when I talked to him that he had a fresh look lined up for signing day. He just sent me this photo of his signing this morning and I think the bowtie got the job done.

New KU cornerback Kyle "Money" Mayberry signing his letter of intent Wednesday morning.

New KU cornerback Kyle "Money" Mayberry signing his letter of intent Wednesday morning. by Matt Tait

9:33 a.m. Update:

Just took another glance at the updated 247Sports recruiting rankings for 2016. KU is still listed 82nd (a big reason for that is the 17-man class being 8 players shy of most other classes) with Kansas State, in 68th, as the next closest Big 12 team.

You have to go all the way down to Baylor at No. 15 before you bump into a Big 12 program, but there are four in the Top 24 — Baylor at 15, Texas at 17, TCU at 18 and OU at 24.

Some notable programs that KU is actually listed ahead of are: San Diego State (87), Purdue (94), Louisiana Tech (96) and Air Force (108). Not exactly a list to brag about there, which only further hammers home the point that, given the current state of Kansas football, it's not going to be about the rankings and star ratings, it's going to be about coaching and development of the athletes KU is able to land.

A couple of months ago, before well over half of this class had even been secured, Beaty told me he felt good about the direction they were headed in with recruiting because the guys they were in on were Big 12-caliber athletes. Now, they didn't get them all and that does not mean that the ones they did get had other Big 12 schools on their lists (some did, some didn't), but I trust that Beaty and this staff know what Big 12 athletes look like and his words, based on that, sounded at least a little encouraging.

Again, though, if these coaches don't develop these guys and coach effort and maximization of their potential, none of it will matter and KU will continue to occupy the Big 12 basement.

That's why you've got to give them time, though.

Much more to come today...

9:16 a.m. Update:

While this blog recaps all of the scholarship players signing with Kansas in the 2016 class, it's important to remember that KU also has landed a number of impressive walk-ons who, eventually, could play an important role in the program.

The development of a quality walk-on program was one of KU coach David Beaty's first and biggest priorities upon arriving at Kansas and, although he has barely had a full year to get it off the ground, the early returns are good and KU keeps adding to it and trying to entice quality athletes to join the football program via the walk-on route.

For some, the idea behind joining up is that it gives them a chance to keep playing the game they love. Those guys are happy with practice reps, running scout team and doing their part to make the other guys better.

For others (and this is the majority of KU's current walk-ons) the idea behind signing up for the walk-on role is to take advantage of the opportunity to prove yourself, with the hope that what you do during your first year or two in the program will lead to a scholarship offer down the road.

Those walk-on-to-scholarship guys are far from a guarantee, but Beaty already has shown that he is not afraid to reward guys who work hard, especially if he believes they can help the program.

Having said that, the 2016 also includes a few walk-ons who are worth noting and Beaty himself did a nice job of making them feel like a part of the program this morning, as well.

The walk-on thing can be pretty fluid, so it's best to wait until after spring football to come up with an actual list of all of the names added to the roster via walk-ons. But the players listed above are a few future Jayhawks who you can count on to stick it out and possibly contribute down the road.

Still working on that superlatives list about this year's class. Stay tuned...

8:17 a.m. Update:

Just got this photo of new KU offensive lineman Hunter Harris, who was one of the first to sign this morning and then got cleaned up and decked out in his KU blue.

New KU offensive lineman Hunter Harris proudly rockin' his KU blue.

New KU offensive lineman Hunter Harris proudly rockin' his KU blue. by Matt Tait

Here's a look at Harris' highlight film...

8:11 a.m. Update:

Offensive lineman Antione Frazier Tweeted out "It's official now," at 7:58 a.m., making it exactly 57 minutes from the time KU opened for business until the time it received its last letter of intent.

This class, regardless of what it does on the field, will always go down as one of the favorites of the KU coaching staff for making what can be one heck of a stressful day an absolute breeze.

I'll have a lot more reaction and will continue to track these guys throughout the morning, so be sure to keep it right here for updates. Then, at 2 p.m. today KU coach David Beaty will host a signing day press conference where he'll get to talk about these cats and answer questions about a light but solid KU football class.

Here's a quick look at some highlights from the last man to hit send, Mr. Frazier...

OL Antione Frazier – 6-5, 250, 2 stars, Hargrave High, Huffman, Texas

Don't forget, the 12 athletes who sent their letters today join the three mid-year transfers (DT DeeIsaac Davis, DT Isi Holani and DB Stephan Robinson) and two former 2015 commitments who were delayed a year (OL Cam Durley and DB Shola Ayinde) to make up a 17-man class for KU football.

More to come, so keep it right here...

8:01 a.m. Update:

For those interested in tracking some of the fun yourself throughout the day, here's a list of 15 of the 17 Twitter handles for the newest Jayhawks in the class of 2016. The only ones I could not find were O-Lineman Chris Hughes and DB Shola Ayinde.

Tyriek Starks — @saucytj9

Ian Peterson – @Dash_Era

Hunter Harris – @bearcats75

Antione Frazier – @antionekfrazier

DeeIsaac Davis – @DeeIsaac99

Isi Holani – @TheIsiHolani

Julian Chandler – @The_RealNumber1

Bryce Torneden – @_nado

Evan Fairs – @_EvoOcho

Kyle Mayberry – @moneymayberry

Maciah Long – @Godss__giftt

Isaiah Bean – @IsaiahBean_8

Khalil Herbert – @JuiceHerbert

Stephan Robinson – @Stephanrob11

Cam Durley – @CamDurley31

Still waiting on official word from Frazier...

7:55 a.m. Update:

Less than an hour after lines officially opened for national letters of intent to be sent in, KU football is almost finished announcing its 2016 class.

That's not to say a couple of surprises could not come up in the coming hours and/or days, but of the guys who were committed, KU has landed just about all of them and it's not even 8:00 a.m.

Regardless of what you think about their ability or the overall strength of this class, that has to be considered a good sign, (a) because these kids were so fired up to sign with Kansas that they wasted no time in doing so, and (b) because so many of these guys fill immediate needs for the Jayhawks.

That does not mean that they're all going to step right in and play like all-Big 12 caliber studs. Most of them are going to need (and get) time to develop. But there are a few guys you can expect to see contribute right away and when all of the letters are officially in, we'll get into that and much more on this, an incredibly smooth national signing day for KU football

Updated commitment list:

RB Khalil "Juice" Herbert
OL Hunter Harris
DB Ian Peterson
OL Chris Hughes
DB Julian Chandler
WR Evan Fairs
CB Kyle Mayberry
LB Maciah Long
DB Bryce Torneden
QB Tyriek Starks
DE Isaiah Bean

The only known commitment not accounted for yet is O-Lineman Antione Frazier and I don't think there's anything to worry about with him.

More to come...

7:47 a.m. Update:

Remember all that energy, passion and enthusiasm second-year KU coach David Beaty is known for? Yeah, it's showing up hardcore today as he announces this class on Twitter. Here's a taste of some of Beaty's best intros...

He's been Tweeting like this for every letter that has come in this morning.

7:44 a.m. Update:

For those of you gunning for a little perspective on all these names we're throwing at you, here's a nice look at how this class stacks up according to the composite rankings from the guys at 247 Sports.

7:39 a.m. Update:

A few more highlight reels of KU's newest commitments while we wait for pictures and instant feedback...

Here's the updated list, which, already, is nearly complete...

RB Khalil "Juice" Herbert
OL Hunter Harris
DB Ian Peterson
OL Chris Hughes
DB Julian Chandler
WR Evan Fairs
CB Kyle Mayberry
LB Maciah Long
DB Bryce Torneden

S Bryce Torneden – 5-10, 185, 2 stars, Free State High, Lawrence, Kansas —

OL Chris Hughes – 6-5, 260, 3 stars, Harker Heights (Texas) High —

DB Julian Chandler – 6-0, 170, 3 stars, Hightower (Texas) High –

7:33 a.m. Update:

Add Kyle "Money" Mayberry to the list of letters that have arrived.

Mayberry, one of the most confident recruits I have ever talked to, is all about KU and wants to do whatever he can to help rebuild this program. He played a huge role in coordinating the bond between this incoming class and figures to get as good of a shot as any of the newcomers at playing right away, given (a) KU's need at the CB position and (b) his advanced skills.

Here's a look at a few highlights from the man they call "Money," a nickname given to him way back in eighth grade because the confidence he carried himself with reminded so many around him of the boxer, Floyd "Money" Mayweather.

That's no small compliment.

Updated commitment list:

RB Khalil "Juice" Herbert
OL Hunter Harris
DB Ian Peterson
OL Chris Hughes
DB Julian Chandler
WR Evan Fairs
CB Kyle Mayberry
LB Maciah Long

7:27 a.m. Update:

The list of letters that have reached Lawrence continues to grow quickly....

RB Khalil "Juice" Herbert
OL Hunter Harris
DB Ian Peterson
OL Chris Hughes
DB Julian Chandler
WR Evan Fairs

Of this group, Fairs might be the one that KU fans should be most excited about. At 6-3, 182 pounds, he's already got the size and skills needed to play on the outside. He told me the other day that he prides himself on being a red zone threat but also is not afraid or unwilling to play inside and make tough catches over the middle.

He lists guys like Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson as WRs he likes to try to emulate and said he liked the idea of KU having two coaches for the WR position, returning coach Klint Kubiak and newly hired outside receivers coach Jason Phillips.

“I feel like it's an advantage," Fairs said. "Coach Phillips is the outside guy and it's good because we can work more in detail and get down to the nitty gritty.”

Here's a few highlights of this guy whose name you'll learn very quickly.

7:18 a.m. Update:

Starting to get some confirmations. Here's a list of the letters I know have been sent:

RB Khalil "Juice" Herbert
OL Hunter Harris
DB Ian Peterson

Peterson sent me this photo of his early-morning John Hancock.

New KU DB Ian Peterson signing his letter early Wednesday morning.

New KU DB Ian Peterson signing his letter early Wednesday morning. by Matt Tait

And also a few Peterson highlights...

7:07 a.m. Update:

Now that we're in the 7 o'clock hour, the signings should be rolling in fast and furious.

Most are sent digitally these days, which makes the fax machine even more obsolete, but there are still some delays and small glitches that keep these things from being automatic.

That said, we know Herbert's letter has arrived and we're waiting word on the others.

6:53 a.m. Update:

While we wait for Herbert's letter to be confirmed, let's jump ahead a couple of minutes to Maciah Long (pronounced Ma-Kye-Uh) who, at least according to Twitter, seems to be the most jacked up of all to get that letter signed and sent.

Long, a 3-star LB from North Shore High in Houston, who also played quarterback and led his team to a state title, is one of the more confident recruits I can ever remember talking to. He believes he can step in right away and not only contribute but also provide leadership for his new squad.

KU D-Line coach Calvin Thibodeaux played a huge role in landing Long and, just recently, the 6-2, 240-pound athlete said he developed a great bond with new KU linebackers coach Todd Bradford.

"My first take on him was nice guy, nice coach, knows a lot about football," Long said. "He's been in the industry for a long time. It all changed this past weekend and now my take on him is, 'That's my coach,' and I'm ready to work with him. I like his vibe and we spent a lot of time bonding throughout the whole weekend." 

Here's a quick look at some of Long's highlights, including a QB clip that shows how good his feet are.

6:46 a.m. Update:

According to 247 Sports' composite recruiting rankings (which has KU's class listed 82nd in the nation), Herbert is a three-star prospect with a score of .7986. He's listed as the 143rd best player at his position and 308th best player in his home state.

For a point of reference, Houston LB Maciah Long, who 247 Sports lists as KU's top prospect in this class, has a score of .8610.

6:36 a.m. Update:

Talked with Herbert the other day and he said he never in a million years would've believed he would wind up in Kansas for college.

"I thought maybe the ACC," the Fort Lauderdale-area prospect said. "But I'm just grateful for the opportunity."

Herbert, who spent a good chunk of his prep career training with former KU standout Tony Sands, said he met Sands after breaking his wrist his sophomore year when his dad sought out a trainer and found Sands. He knew nothing about Sands' playing career or former single-game rushing record and said he was shocked when he saw Sands' name on the list a couple of years ago (after Melvin Gordon and Samaje Perine set the new records) because Sands never had mentioned it.

Asked what his relationship was like with Sands, Herbert said it was simple: He doesn't talk a whole lot, he just keeps me focused on doing what I need to do.

As for how things went when he tolds Sands he was headed to KU: "He was excited," Herbert said. "He told me to go break all his records."

Here's a look at some Herbert highlights....

RB Khalil Herbert – 5-10, 190, 2 stars, Heritage High, Plantation, Florida —

6:06 a.m. Update:

Here's a quick look at RB Khalil Herbert (pronounced Ka-Lil) from his official visit while we await confirmation of his letter being sent to Lawrence.

Original Post, 5:39 a.m.

If everything goes according to plan, Plantation, Florida, running back Khalil Herbert will become the first member of KU’s 2016 football recruiting class to make his commitment official on national signing day.

The reason? Herbert lives in the Eastern time zone and that gives him the one-hour head start on the rest of this KU class that is eager to make things official at the first possible moment.

Having said that, Herbert, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound, two-star running back from the Fort Lauderdale area, will have to make sure his ducks are in a row if he wants the distinction of being the first player to get his letter in today.

That’s because there are a whole bunch of Midwesterners and Texas prospects who are dying to hit send on their signatures.

Eight of the 11 other commitments I spoke with during the past few days told me they planned to send their letters in at 7:01 a.m. In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never heard of so many recruits using the exact time of 7:01 as the answer for when they’d be sending in their letters. Sure, some have been as eager as these athletes and have listed the first possible minute allowed by the NCAA as the time they would send their letter to KU. But many often said, “around 7,” or “first thing in the morning,” or other more general time frames.

The fact that so many guys mentioned 7:01 a.m. makes me think this is going to be a stress-free signing day for the KU coaching staff. These fellas are ready to sign and make their commitments official.

With that in mind, here’s our Class of 2016 recruiting page with the bios of the prospects in the class and links to the back story of how, when and why each athlete committed to KU.

And here are the specifics of the entire class, three of whom signed in December and two more who initially were members of the 2015 class but were delayed and bumped back to the Class of 2016.

You’ll note that there are only 17 names listed here and if you’re up this early and reading this blog, I’m guessing you already know why. But in case you don’t, here’s a quick recap.

Because KU coach David Beaty was in search of as much immediate help as he could find last season, eight players who arrived on campus prior to the start of the 2015 season wound up counting forward to the 2016 class. That trimmed the number of initial counters in the current class from the 25 maximum allowed annually by NCAA rules to 17.

Beaty and company, of course, remain dedicated to being as creative as possible in enticing talent to come to Lawrence via the walk-on route or other arrangements. And, from the sound of things, the walk-on program continues to attract talented athletes.

Because of the number crunch, I’m not expecting too many surprises today, if any. However, having said that, if Beaty were to come across an uncommitted athlete whom he thought could (a) upgrade the talent on the roster at a given position or (b) start for the Jayhawks as soon as 2016, you can bet he’d find a way to get him into the program, most likely the same way he brought those eight other guys to Lawrence last season.

Continuing to count players forward is not exactly the fastest way to dig out of the numbers jam KU football is in, but talent talks.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the class. Now, sit back, get comfortable and keep it right here as we track the letters coming in and the happenings of yet another national signing day.

KU Football’s Class of 2016:

DB Shola Ayinde – 6-0, 168, 2 stars, George Ranch High, Richmond, Texas – Originally a member of KU's 2015 class, Ayinde did not make it to campus last year and, instead, will add depth to the secondary in 2016. Known for range and speed, Ayinde once had committed to Tulsa but followed former TU assistant coach Calvin Thibodeaux to Kansas.

DE Isaiah Bean – 6-4, 210, 2 stars, Summer Creek High, Houston, Texas – Explosive prospect who has experience on both sides of the ball became KU's top choice at the position after local talent Amani Bledsoe chose Oklahoma. Picked KU over Tulsa and Fresno State.

DB Julian Chandler – 6-0, 170, 3 stars, Hightower (Texas) High – Had committed to Louisiana Tech but de-committed late in the game and picked KU over offers from Nevada, New Mexico and North Texas.

DT DeeIsaac Davis – 6-3, 290, 2 stars, Highland C.C. – A Wichita native, Davis played his first year of college football at Eastern Arizona and recorded 76 tackles before moving on to Highland C.C. and registering 76 tackles and five sacks. Signed with KU in December and is already on campus.

OL Cam Durley – 6-6, 275, 2 stars, Houston Chrisitian High, Houston, Texas – Originally a late addition to the 2015 class, the big, athletic, rangy tackle was delayed a year and is now in KU's 2016 class. Chose KU over McNeese State, San Diego State, TCU and Temple along with interest from Texas Tech.

WR Evan Fairs – 6-3, 182, 2 stars, Foster High, Richmond, Texas — A finalist for the Houston Touchdown Club offensive player of the year award in 2015, Fairs picked Kansas over Illinois after initially committing to Maryland and re-opening his recruitment when the coaching staff was fired.

OL Antione Frazier – 6-5, 250, 2 stars, Hargrave High, Huffman, Texas — A two-star offensive tackle, Frazier played both ways for Hargrave and committed to KU offensive line coach Zach Yenser in February of 2015, before his senior high school season. Picked KU over early interest from Houston, Iowa and Texas A&M.

OL Hunter Harris — 6-2, 257, 2 stars, Aledo (Texas) High, — A two-star offensive lineman from Aledo, Texas, Harris had offers from Cal, Princeton and Tulsa, as well, before committing to Kansas.

RB Khalil Herbert – 5-10, 190, 2 stars, Heritage High, Plantation, Florida — Herbert trained with former KU standout Tony Sands during his prep career. He committed to KU on his fifth and final official visit in January and picked the Jayhawks over offers Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Fordham, Georgia State and Mississippi State.

DT Isi Holani – 6-3, 300, 3 stars Riverside (California) C.C. – Kansas filled a need by adding the three-star juco defensive tackle shortly after the 2015 season ended. Holani also had offers from Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Boise State and others. Signed with KU in December and is already on campus.

OL Chris Hughes – 6-5, 260, 3 stars, Harker Heights (Texas) High — After spending a recruiting weekend in Lawrence in October of his senior year, Hughes cited the impressions David Beaty and Zach Yenser made on him as reason for committing to KU. Picked the Jayhawks over Cal, Houston, Texas Tech and Utah State, among others.

LB Maciah Long – 6-2, 240, 3 stars, North Shore High, Houston, Texas — Long is one of the top talents in the class and his size, speed and athleticism translate well on both sides of the ball. Brings great confidence and leadership to a thin position and picked KU over offers from Arizona State, Houston, Missouri, Ohio State, SMU, Texas Tech and UCLA.

CB Kyle Mayberry – 5-11, 163, 3 stars, Booker T. Washington High, Tulsa, Oklahoma — One of the top defensive backs in Oklahoma, Mayberry consulted former KU star Chris Harris before deciding to join Kansas football instead of pursuing offers from the likes of Kansas State, Houston, Washington State and others.

DB Ian Peterson – 5-11, 180, 2 stars, Cedar Ridge High, Round Rock, Texas — KU defensive backs coach Kenny Perry’s reputation helped land the versatile corner. Peterson committed to Kansas without making a visit and chose the Jayhawks over offers from Colorado, Wisconsin, SMU and others.

DB Stephan Robinson – 5-11, 173, 2 stars, Northeast Oklahoma A&M J.C. – Former wide receiver figures to have a future on KU’s defense. He’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining as a Jayhawk after considering Virginia Tech, Iowa State and other programs. Signed with KU in December and is already on campus.

QB Tyriek Starks – 6-2, 188, 2 stars, Warren Easton High, New Orleans — Dual-threat QB who threw for 4,000+ yards and rushed for 1,000 more while leading his team to the state semis picked KU over Georgia Southern and Tulane.

S Bryce Torneden – 5-10, 185, 2 stars, Free State High, Lawrence, Kansas — Former North Dakota State commitment was one of the Sunflower League's most dynamic players during the past couple of seasons and a key component to the recent success enjoyed by the Firebirds. He said getting a chance to play in the Big 12 under another Lawrence native in KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was too appealing to pass up.

Comments

Armen Kurdian 1 year, 1 month ago

With Gill & Weis, it was more hope than expectation that the team would turn around. I believe Coach Beatty has the attitude and gumption to get this program righted. You could see how he handled press conferences and talked to the media was different from the other guys.

If I'm wrong, then the program needs a top-down audit, because I doubt any coaching change alone will fix things.

Matt Tait 1 year, 1 month ago

Well said. So important to give Beaty a real chance.

Michael Bennett 1 year, 1 month ago

Too bad Northern Iowa and Clemson out-recruited KU in Kansas. Don't believe me, ask Rivals.

Matt Tait 1 year, 1 month ago

I do believe you. But I also don't think being out-recruited by Clemson, which is fresh off of a heck of a season and an appearance in the national championship game, is anything to hang your head about.

As for Northern Iowa, I can only assume you're referencing the Mill Valley kid. He's a great player and may turn out to be a stud. But there has to be some reason that most other Div. I programs did not offer him, so I'm willing to give KU a pass on that one, too.

Maybe it'll turn out to be a miss, but with only 17 scholarships available, this recruiting year was much different than most.

Deb Fitch 1 year, 1 month ago

I know time will tell come fall but approximately what number does this class bring our total roster count to, will KU still be way short of everyone else's numbers?

Matt Tait 1 year, 1 month ago

It will. The number is still going to be around 65, maybe a little higher, and then should start to climb back up next year, depending on what Beaty does in the next six months. If he adds more players that he has to count forward, then it will take KU even longer to climb back up to 85.

Greg Ledom 1 year, 1 month ago

I'll defer to those who have taken a closer look at the roster, but I doubt we are at 70 scholarships yet and thus would minimally be 15 down still. It's going to take a couple more years to get there.

David Robinett 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't know jack but this seems like a pretty good class given the circumstances. And if the rankings are partly based on sheer numbers then one might make the argument that our ranking is higher than K State.

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