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High school-heavy 2020 recruiting class the latest reason to be intrigued by the future of Kansas football

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Kansas head coach Les Miles walks off the field after a timeout during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Les Miles walks off the field after a timeout during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The two most important letters on the list of the 18 December signees announced by the Kansas football program on Wednesday were the H and S sandwiched next to each other to the far right of each new Jayhawk’s name.

The letters stand for “High School,” of course, and the fact that every player signed by Les Miles in the 2020 recruiting class to date is from the high school ranks represents a significant shift in philosophy from what Kansas fans have seen for the past decade.

Consider it choosing development and big picture over panic and temptation. And consider it the perfect move for a program at the early stages of its latest rebuild.

For years, KU fans have heard numerous head coaches talk about wanting to sign and develop high school prospects only to see them audible in the months ahead to fill their recruiting classes with a mixture of more-mature junior college prospects and players from the prep ranks.

Don’t get me wrong; some of the junior college prospects that KU has brought to town have panned out and gone on to become key contributors.

The complete list from the past decade of those types of juco home runs is too long to list, but one of the most recent is current wideout Andrew Parchment, who started at Northern Illinois and came to KU in the class of 2019 after one year at Iowa Central Community College. All he did last season was lead the Jayhawks in receiving yards (831) and receptions (65).

But it’s important that coaches walk down that path only when absolutely necessary and not as the foundation for the future of their program.

“It depends on how severe the need is,” Miles explained Wednesday when asked if it was hard to lay off of the juco prospects. “If there’s a guy that fits you specifically, maybe a quarterback, maybe a wide receiver some, some real specific skill that you have to have and you don’t have on your team, we understand. But we’re not building that way. And that doesn’t appeal to us. What appeals to us is the opportunity for (players) to come on campus, improve, take steps, take time. (In) two years, he’s probably played at least a piece of one of those two, and now he’s got two solid years left to play. That is, to me, the recipe for success here.”

With Steven Sims Jr., and Jeremiah Booker both graduating after the 2018 season, Kansas was in need of playmakers at the wide receiver position. Parchment not only fit the bill as a prospect but also backed it up as a player.

However, for every Parchment that KU has found throughout the years, there have been two or three junior college gambles that either did not stick around or, perhaps worse, failed to impact the product on the field, eating up valuable scholarships in the process.

It’s OK to miss on one or two juco or transfer prospects here and there. But when large chunks of your recruiting classes are made up of those types of players, the risk and potential long-term damage is just too high.

Miles, who signed mostly high school prospects during his time at LSU, understood that long ago and appears to be determined to follow a similar plan at Kansas.

All but three players in his first recruiting class at KU (2019) were high school prospects, and north of 90% of the players signed by Miles to come to Kansas thus far have been high school seniors.

That’s a terrific ratio and that number, more than the speculation over which of Wednesday’s signees might pan out, is the real reason for fans to be excited about the future of Kansas football.

With 18 players in the 2020 class signed and six other high school seniors committed to KU but waiting until February to sign, Miles and the Jayhawks are looking at the real possibility of having a class almost completely full of high school prospects.

With that as the foundation, the KU coaching staff now has options for what it can do with the few spots left to fill.

After talking to offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon on Wednesday, it’s clear that there are certain positions at which KU would take a player no matter where he’s enrolled in school today. Quarterback, offensive tackle, elite pass rusher and lockdown cornerback are those positions.

And even if KU were to add one of each of those from the juco or transfer markets in the months ahead, the 2020 class still would grade out well even if none of the non-high school prospects panned out.

There’s no doubt that you have to have talent and you have to get lucky a few times along the way. But building blocks is the name of the game. And Kansas football has more young ones today than it has in years.

KU Football's juco or transfer signees per class in the past 10 years

2019 - 3

2018 - 11

2017 - 10

2016 - 7

2015 - 7

2014 - 11

2013 - 16

2012 - 15

2011 - 1

2010 - 1

Comments

Greg Ledom 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Weis totally f’d us the most in my opinion and I believe the #s above show it. Would love to have Matt dive in deeper and show how many actually even played, how many even showed up on the roster, who played a vital role and who was a 3 year JC vs. 2. Regardless, Les and crew are doing it the right way because he knows he’s been given the time to get it done right. In Les I trust. Rock Chalk!!

Brett McCabe 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Greg, Beaty was nearly as bad, especially when the panic set in the last two years. Let’s stop blaming the program’s failures on one guy. There were lots of millionaires making major mistakes for multiple years.

Beaty didn’t fix the problems created by Weis and that was his job. Then he went nutty and sold out the program under Zenger’s watchful eye the last two years of his tenure at KU.

The good news is that Miles is changing the direction.

Michael Maris 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Probably due to the fact that Kansas Athletics has an AD who is allowing his Football HC to BUILD a program. Brett, you mention the following "There were lots of millionaires making major mistakes for multiple years." That's what I've been saying the last few years, "the Power's that be must NOT want a successful football program at Kansas (because, they're afraid that their Highly Prized Basketball program may take a hit)". Jayhawks Basketball is it's own animal and has been on a successful path for 4 Decades now. And, there's been a LOT more $$$$$$$$$$ allotted towards Allen Field House facilities and affiliated buildings. It's HIGH time that the Football Stadium situation be addressed. When Mangino was hired, it was an AD with a Football background. But, Ole Roy "Boy" Williams had him ran out of town as fast as Roy could get him out of town. Only to have Roy exit stage Left for UNC (on the 2nd attempt to hire him away from Kansas). So, Roy Williams begin the process of screwing the Football program (out of jealousy over salaries for assistant coaches salaries). THANKS Roy (for the initial screwing of the Jayhawks Football program). I am putting faith in AD Long, HC Miles and his staff to right the ship for the long term.

Dane Pratt 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Firing Al Bohl to keep Roy in Lawrence may have been the worst move KU has ever made. Roy still bolts for Carolina and we get rid of the guy who hired arguably the best coach in KU football history. BTW, Al also hired Nick Saban when he was the A.D. at Toledo so the guy knows his stuff.

Greg Ledom 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Brett, I don’t disagree. And certainly not pinning it on one person as many are responsible. My only cover for Beaty was that he tried hard to get JUCOs with three years of eligibility in place. He definitely caved in his last class. Hopefully not as many Miles to go with how Les is running the show. Rock Chalk!!

Brian Wilson 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Completely Disagree. Beaty did exactly what he was paid to do and had to do. Beaty in his first year had over 60 walkons!! In his tenure KU went from having 45 scholarships to over 70. Beaty's job was to fill the scholarships and find a player or two to build upon. Nobody else wanted the job and Beaty took it and aleast did that. It's just too bad he couldn't coach. But now from Beaty's effort, after just one year HCLM has a team with over 75 scholarships filled and most players are local coming from Kansas and the surrounding states. The vast majority of the transfers are gone. So Blame Weis. Weis chased everyone away.

Brett McCabe 3 months, 2 weeks ago

You are right on Beaty’s efforts, he did try and get guys who could either come in December or who had three years or both. And Weis’s damage was greater. I’m just hoping we can all be done comparing which coach/AD did the most damage and start thinking more about how much better things are going to get.

I think that Miles’ biggest challenge will be 2020 recruiting. It the wins don’t increase, he’s going to have to absolutely expert in filling that class.

Dirk Medema 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Greg - You are spot on about Beaty’s JCs commonly being January enrollees after/or 3 or even 4 to play 3 JCs. That was a huge change. The other was that 50% of the JCs previously never even made it onto the field and barely even on campus in many instances. It’s the reason the roster was such a massive crater at the previous change. While Beaty didn’t fix the roster it was a huge move in the right direction.

I would also suggest to you that recruiting JCs wasn’t by design this last time as much as necessity. CW commented early on about copying Grampa’s recruiting to success but that wasn’t the case with Beaty. Instead it seemed to me that he was getting the best players available when he wasn’t able to fill the class spots with HS players. And as you said he generally still got kids that spent more than 2 years on campus.

It is nice to see this class solidly rooted in HS kids. Now it’s just lacking that marquee player or 3. 6 spots to go plus transfers.

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