The NCAA’s new December early signing period for college football began Wednesday morning, and once the prospects could make their commitments official, the letters of intent from transfers began rolling in for Kansas.
After five junior college players and one graduate transfer became the first six to send in their documents, KU added its first high school signee when Texas prep offensive lineman Jacobi Lott did the same.
The biggest moment of the morning by far, though, came when New Orleans prep cornerback Corione Harris, a four-star prospect attached with this KU class for more than 10 months, announced he will sign with the Jayhawks instead of Mississippi State — where his prep teammate and former KU commit Devonta Jason decided to go.
High school and juco prospects have until Friday to sign, but they don’t have to do so. Players can just as easily wait until February 7 for National Signing Day if they so choose.
Putting it off until then would allow many undecided players to further weigh their options and visit more programs before making a final decision.
Below is a rundown — which will continue to be updated through the day — of which players can officially be called members of KU’s 2018 recruiting class.
• Mavin Saunders | 6-5, 256 | TE | Florida State
• Jeremiah McCullough | 6-0, 205 | S | Hartnell College
• Davon Ferguson | 5-10, 190 | DB | Hartnell College
• Elijah Jones | 6-1, 175 | CB | Ellsworth Community College
• Najee Stevens-McKenzie | 6-3, 225 | DE | ASA College
• Azur Kamara | 6-4, 225 | DE | Arizona Western College
• Jacobi Lott | 6-4, 309 | OL | Tascosa High (Texas)
• Charles Cole | 6-3, 280 | DT | Butler Community College
• Foster Dixson | 6-4, 250 | DE | West Los Angeles Community College
• Stephon Robinson | 5-10, 170 | WR | El Camino Community College
• Mac Copeland | 6-4, 245 | OL | Wichita Collegiate High
• Nick Williams | 6-8, 265 | OL | Ritenour High (Mo.)
• Corione Harris | 6-1, 170 | CB | Landry-Walker High (La.)
• Elmore Hempstead Jr. | 5-11, 175 | CB | Fort Scott C.C.
The University of Kansas football program generated an explosion of unexpected buzz this past February by adding intriguing prospects to its 2018 recruiting class.
But 10 months later, with the NCAA’s new early-signing period for college football beginning Dec. 20, the vibe surrounding KU’s potential signees could shift drastically in the opposite direction.
Over the weekend, the biggest name tied to the Jayhawks, four-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason, decommitted from David Beaty’s program. Meanwhile, the only quarterback in KU’s class, Texas prep Clayton Tune, visited Ole Miss and currently describes Kansas as “still in the picture” for the quickly approaching signing day.
KU fans now have to hope Beaty and his staff can hold on to the high school commitments they have, with the biggest concerns being four-star cornerback Corione Harris — Jason’s prep teammate at Landry-Walker (La.) — and the group’s other remaining “Louisianimal,” running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams.
Harris announced recently he will chose between KU and Mississippi State. Williams, though, appears to have a number of programs to consider.
Sam Spiegelman, a recruiting reporter for SEC Country, spoke with Williams after his Hahnville High team lost in Louisiana’s Class 5A state title game on Saturday. The 5-foot-10, three-star running back explained how his recruitment has picked up during his remarkable senior season, capped by rushing for 1,403 yards and 14 touchdowns in five playoff games.
The speedy all-purpose back told SEC Country he not only has an offer from LSU but also Miami. Plus, Williams related, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama and Auburn have shown interest in him, as well.
“A lot of schools have come here,” Williams told SEC Country. “When you do big things, big schools come in. Nebraska, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Miami. … I can keep naming schools.”
Williams had stated previously he planned to sign with Kansas on Dec. 20, but Spiegelman reported the Louisiana standout is considering delaying signing until February.
If the increasingly popular running back had to make a choice now, he told SEC Country he would pick the Jayhawks, to whom he committed in February after hitting it off with running backs coach Tony Hull, a Louisiana native.
“It’s still Kansas, because I’m committed to them and I gave them my word,” Williams said. “It would be hard for me to flip my word on them. It’s about loyalty and it’s like a family, so if I go somewhere, I have to feel comfortable and it’s where I can play. We’ll see who can build a family [relationship] with me and we’ll take it from there.”
Frisco, Texas — National Signing Day could look significantly different this year for the college football coaches eagerly waiting to see their recruits’ names on official NCAA documentation. Whether that’s a positive or negative, Kansas football coach David Beaty said, remains to be determined.
It used to be prep football talents couldn’t sign with their college programs of choice until February. But the NCAA is introducing this year an earlier option, in late December, lasting just 72 hours.
Asked at Big 12 Media Days about how the new early signing period for high school prospects could change the way Beaty and his staff approach the uber-competitive world of recruiting, the third-year Kansas coach had to take a wait-and-see stance.
“I don’t know that we’ll know the answer to that for a couple years,” Beaty admitted Monday at Ford Center, while speaking with a group of reporters. “I’d like to say that the research we’ve done is going to be accurate, but the truth is when you get major rule changes like that it usually takes a few years for all the things to shake out.”
High school football seniors this winter will have the option of signing with a university between Dec. 20-22 — also the first three days of the mid-year signing period for junior college players. If they don’t make their commitments official then, the prospects still can do so on Feb. 7, 2018.
“One of the most interesting things for me,” Beaty said, “is when kids are committed and that first period comes around how many of them actually sign and how many don’t, because if they don’t sign then, they’re not committed.”
KU’s 2018 recruiting class has the potential to be the most significant in program history, thanks to the non-binding verbal commitments Beaty and his staff already have received from five-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason and his Landry-Walker High teammate, four-star cornerback Corione Harris.
Jason has stated in previous interviews he is on pace to graduate high school early and enroll at the university of his choice for the 2018 spring semester to get a head start on his college football preparation. So Beaty and associate head coach Tony Hull, who recruited the first five-star commit in program history, might have known Jason’s status by December even if the new signing period had not been implemented. But the recruiting rule change still holds importance for the rest of KU’s targets. Beaty indicated he would like to get as much of the 2018 signing class officially on board as soon as possible.
“Now, they still may sign on that second one,” the coach added, referencing the later February date. “But if there’s a paper available and they don’t sign it, that’ll be very interesting for me to see how many kids actually open their recruiting back up at that point, which I think that there will be some.”
As of Tuesday, Rivals ranked KU’s 2018 class 28th in the nation, thanks to the presence of Jason and Harris. The Jayhawks’ list of commitments currently stands at 13 players, nine of whom have been assessed a three-star ranking.
An oral commitment from a recruit never has provided college coaches with much certainty. Beaty said those in his profession will keep refining their sales pitches and doing all they can to get players signed. Three days in December now provide them with a new wrinkle in those endeavors.
“But for the most part if you do the studies and you look at basically signing trends, the majority of the kids still sign with the guys that they’re committed to and they don’t switch very often,” Beaty added. “I think (switching is) becoming a little more prevalent, but I think that’s where it comes down to coaches and their talent, in terms of how well they continue to recruit. Because make no mistake it’s not done with them there (when players commit).”