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