Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Column: Kansas’ next coach must target walk-ons


The next Kansas head football coach will need to entice more than just scholarship players to sign on the dotted line in order to assemble a roster with any significant depth. He also will need to convince walk-ons to come on board with a chance to earn scholarships after two years.

Here’s why: The scholarship limit for Football Bowl Subdivision rosters is 85. No more than 25 scholarships can be awarded for any one recruiting class.

Let’s look at the numbers for KU’s thinner-than-a-Ford-model roster. Just 50 players who came to Kansas on scholarship will be on the spring roster, plus four who were given scholarships at some point in their careers. That would mean a recruiting class of 25 would bring the roster to 79 scholarship players on the roster, 19 of whom have one more year of eligibility. So that means 60 would be on the roster the following spring, plus a recruiting class of 25 brings the total to 85 for 2016.

That’s if no players have career-ending injuries, or quit football, or become academic casualties or transfer. It’s inevitable that they will lose some players, probably leaving the roster well under 80. The gaps must be filled by walk-ons.

It’s always easier to land in-state walk-ons who have enough talent to build their bodies and their games in a way that they can earn scholarships, simply because it’s less painful for a family and/or the athlete himself to pay in-state tuition.

Walk-ons who committed today would have good reason to believe that they could earn scholarships for their final two seasons, for a couple of reasons. One, Kansas likely still will be under the scholarship limit of 85 because of attrition. Two, athletes who spend two years as walk-ons at a school and then are given scholarships do not count against the limit of 25 scholarships per year, just against the total of 85.

Many Kansas high school football coaches felt that KU’s previous two head coaches did not have a healthy respect for Kansas recruits, so the next coach will have some damage to repair, unless he already is known in the area.

That’s why it’s good to hear that the loudest whispers about candidates interviewing this week center on coaches who have Kansas ties. Interim head coach Clint Bowen, Texas A&M; recruiting coordinator David Beaty, and Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner (slightly lower volume on the whispers), all have worked as assistants at Kansas. Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill is highly regarded by Kansas high school coaches, but it would be difficult to imagine why he would want to inherit a roster in such bad shape, compared to Minnesota’s. Plus, his price tag would be much steeper.

Regardless of the identity of the next coach, he must find a way to make Kansas/Kansas City, Missouri, the go-to destination for football players from Northeast Kansas, highly ranked ones and walk-ons.

Nebraska alone scored with three area recruits in the Class of 2015, and now that Bo Pelini has been fired, look for schools to resume recruiting them. Cornhuskers offensive line coach John Garrison was involved in recruiting all three of them.

Baldwin High’s Christian Gaylord, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive tackle and twins Carlos and Khalil Davis, both 6-2, 260-pound defensive linemen, from Blue Springs, Missouri, all were recruited by Kansas.

Reaching the conclusion that Kansas would have a better shot at them if it hired a coach before Nebraska did might be an oversimplification, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Make the choice by Monday. Negotiate the deal by Tuesday. Announce it Wednesday and start relentlessly raiding those Nebraska recruits and intensifying relationships in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It will take time for the new coach to dig out of this mess. The sooner he has the shovel in his hands, the better.


Ashwin Rao 8 years ago

"Make the choice by Monday. Negotiate the deal by Tuesday. Announce it Wednesday and start relentlessly raiding those Nebraska recruits and intensifying relationships in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It will take time for the new coach to dig out of this mess. The sooner he has the shovel in his hands, the better." On it, Tom! Thanks for the tip! --- Zenger

Bill French 8 years ago

Tom, Great article and very good points made. I'm for CLINT.

Robert Brock 8 years ago

It's time that Ed Warinner takes over as KU coach. Welcome back, Ed!

Gary McCullough 8 years ago

You sound panicked, Tom. Relax. Remember the old carpenter's meme: Measure twice cut once. I'd rather the AD take his time to get the right HC than jumping on a big name like Weis.

Randy Bombardier 8 years ago

Too much time backfires. You lose parties to other opening s, give them time to think. We should already have had a list of who we were interested in just had to mske contact to id those with mutual interest. My guess is its farther along than we think but the coach has unfinished business. I hope that's the case. If not I'd be nervous.

Erich Hartmann 8 years ago

Nice story, Tom. When I first saw the headline alone, I showed up armed with the brilliant counter of: "No, we need 4 & 5 star guys, not less-than-2-star guys (walk ons)", but your numbers show perfectly the 'gap' that walkons could fill.

We are simply getting our butts killed in the trenches.

And I can only look at KState's success with walkons as a peculiar thing...Yes, it works for Snyder, but none of the other programs in the BigXII that we aspire to compete with do that. And Weis tried the juco thing hard, but you get the feel this team, at best, was still a patchwork product.

Tom does make an good point about the walkon timeline...that by their upperclassmen seasons the walkons could earn a scholly (& be ready to contribute like they do at KSU). Man, but cant there be a better model than KState? While most KU fans will readily acknowledge KState's success, alot of KU people dont necessarily want to become KState. The logical question would be: is that really the "only" model to emulate? (answer: no, it isnt).

What killed Charlie Weis's plans was talent gap, and his imperfect adjustments to those problems. Cannot get too many walkons, or you still (obviously) would have talent gap...and the problems it causes, imho.

David Atchley 8 years ago

I appreciate you mentioning the sense of urgency and targeting "juco players" to re-build. Texas, in the past 2 weeks has received commitments from 2 heavily recruited players. The latest was yesterday from Quincy Vasser 6'4"/270 pound DE who decommitted from Georgia. The benefit as you know of Juco recruits is they can be on your campus in January, take full advantage of training table and strength/conditioning all winter/spring.

Randy Bombardier 8 years ago

Brett, Mike Riley was a brilliant hire after a questionable firing. He's a Saban disciple and has done a remarkable job at the past bottom dweller of the PAC. He's 5-5 against top 5 teams. He's greatly overshadowed by Oregon's glitz deep pockets but has held his own. With the talent and facilities in Lincoln it will not take him long to get to the top. Now Pelini for KU? The gripe on Mangino was his fire, his temper s nd the embarrassment of it. Someone s decided we don't want that kind of embarrassment so we settled for another brand...getting humiliated on the field. Its a matter of style. And some folks just think that style doesn't belong in Lawrence.

Suzi Marshall 8 years ago

If you want fast, think Nebraska, who hired Oregon's Mike Riley. I (hope) suspect KU has narrowed down on a decision, awaiting for some details to clear.

Robert Brock 8 years ago

Because KU is going to hire Ed Warinner.

Stephen Johnson 8 years ago

Pelini is a hot head. I think is schtik would get old real quick. But Zenger needs to make a decision. This is starting to drag on.

David Atchley 8 years ago

Riley was at Oregon State..... and I agree with the sentiment posted here....or in the immortal words of Aaron Rodgers...."R-E-L-A-X....there are still plenty of coaches that will shake out in the next couple of weeks. Some day....Kansas Football and its nation will demand the same hiring practice standards as it does for its Basketball team.

Erich Hartmann 8 years ago

Maybe KU Admin are following a different quote from Aaron Rodgers: "Discount Double Check...!" :)

Michael Sillman 8 years ago

No way for us to know whether Nebraska, Michigan, and Florida already had this planned out weeks ago.

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