With their top pass rusher out of eligibility and another entering the transfer portal, the Kansas football program hit the road in search of at least one impact defensive end this offseason.
They may have found one in Miami (Ohio) sophomore Lonnie Phelps.
A 6-foot-3, 244-pound edge rusher from Cincinnati, Phelps was a second-team all-MAC selection in 2021, finishing third in the conference with 9.5 sacks while also adding 13.5 tackles for loss.
After he elected to enter the transfer portal, Kansas coaches Chris Simpson and Taiwo Onatolu quickly identified Phelps as an option for the Jayhawks. According to a report from Jon Kirby at JayhawkSlant.com, Kansas was one of the first programs to contact Phelps after he announced his plans to transfer.
“I had a good impression because when I hopped on the phone with them after entering the portal I was hoping for some good information and also some honesty,” Phelps told Kirby. “The conversation I had with the coaches was great. I feel as if they told me the facts about the school and I also felt they were honest with me.”
Known for his speed, explosiveness and natural pass-rushing ability, Phelps told Kirby he was confident that his game would transfer from the mid-major level to any Power 5 program.
“I feel that I could bring my explosiveness and pass rushing skills to any program,” Phelps said. “I know that I can be a dominant player on any team that gives me the opportunity.”
Phelps told Kirby he enjoyed his time at Miami (Ohio) and that he loved his teammates, but added that he was ready for a new challenge and to prove himself at the highest level of college football.
He has made that crystal clear with the coaches who have contacted him thus far.
“I am not looking for school just to fill a depth chart and be a back-up,” he said. “One of my main questions to coaches (is) who is your best player at my position and why do you think he is better than me?’”
Wherever he lands, Phelps hopes to enroll in January so he can be at his new school in time for spring football. He has two years of eligibility remaining and plans to take a few visits when the recruiting calendar opens up again starting Jan. 14.
Second-year KU coach Lance Leipold said shortly after the 2021 season ended that he would look anywhere he had to look to improve KU's roster, with the transfer portal, junior colleges, high school recruits and more all viable options for the Jayhawks moving forward.
"This is a different way of college football than when I stood in front of you on May 3 and talked about recruiting,” Leipold said recently. “It is vastly changed. And we have to be able to adapt in many different ways with it.”