Completed chat with KU football beat writer Matt Tait on the 2016 recruiting class

January 29, 2016

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Matt Tait

KU football beat writer Matt Tait spent a little more than an hour of his Friday afternoon talking 2016 recruiting with some of our KUsports.com readers. Here's the full transcript from what turned out to be a busy chat.

Moderator:

Good afternoon and welcome to our pre-signing day 2016 KU football chat with Matt Tait. We've got a lot of questions and about an hour to get to as many as we can, so let's get started.

HotToddy69:

Even though Amani Bledsoe has verbally committed to OU, any chance Beaty is making a last ditch effort before signing day?

Matt Tait:

Ah, Mr. Bledsoe. The guy who many pinned the hopes and dreams of KU football to in this recruiting class.

There's no doubt that losing Bledsoe to OU was a disappointment for the KU coaching staff, but in this business the saying "It's never over til it's over," applies so well.

That's not to say KU has continued with the full-court press of Bledsoe, whom they recruited harder than I ever remember seeing a potential KU guy recruited, but you can bet they've kept in touch with him just to make sure he hasn't changed his mind.

If he would've committed to OU several weeks earlier, I think a possible change of heart could make sense. But since he did it so close to signing day, I don't expecting anything to change.

But, again, it's never over til it's over so his activity next Wednesday will definitely be worth monitoring.

russkie10:

What happened to the Juco players from Utah that gave oral commitments?

Matt Tait:

It sounds like it's the Snow College trio that you're referring to and it's my understanding that there was some mutual separation between KU and the players a couple of months ago.

You obviously can never be sure, but I think only one of them wound up projecting out as the kind of player who can contribute in the Big 12 so they kind of fell off the radar.

LB Kurtis Taufa is committed to Utah and, at last check, the other two, DE Perese and OL Malanga remain uncommitted.

I think KU did better than these guys in the long run, especially because they replaced them with high school prospects, who will be in town for more than two years.

model5:

Matt, with only 15 scholarships available for us based on other pick ups last year counting towards this year, who do you see making the biggest impact to the team. Second, I see three potential wins for this season with the two non cons (not Memphis) and Iowa State. Your thoughts on an early W-L for the Hawks? If you have time for one more, your overall thoughts on Beaty and crew now vs. when they came on. Thanks Matt!

Matt Tait:

They call this the triple threat, but I'll do my best to hit each part!

First off, I think CB Kyle Mayberry and LB Maciah Long are the most exciting additions to this team, with WR/CB Stephan Robinson right there, as well. I think all three guys are great athletes who could contribute early and each had some interest from other legit programs.

Having said that, I also really like the high school O-Linemen in this class because they look like guys who could really develop in time and I also think they did a good job of adding necessary help at D-Line, with the two mid-year guys.

It's waaaaayyyyyy too early to even talk win total, but Tom Keegan and I were having this discussion the other day and we figure the Vegas line for wins will be set at 2.5 this year. I think KU should be better and I think they should expect to win a couple of games. But Ohio and Memphis will not be slouches in the non-con and we all know how tough the Big 12 is. Two or three certainly seems like a good goal, but it's not going to be easy.

As for the staff, I continue to be more impressed by their energy and the effort they're throwing into this thing on a daily basis. None of them like losing and all of them believe that KU can win. So they're throwing everything they've got at all aspects of improving the program. Even though doing that to the liking of the fan base will absolutely take time, as long as they can maintain this level of passion and intensity for the task at hand, I think the arrow will continue to point up, little by little.

texashawk10_2:

At what point will KU have at least close to a full 85 scholarships filled? Is it 2018 or 2019?

Matt Tait:

This is such a tough question to answer because it remains to be seen what KU will do with adding to the roster today. If Beaty and company continue to add guys who count forward, which is entirely possible depending on what's available, then that will delay their ability to close in on that magic number of 85.

If not, they'll start to make progress toward it a little bit at a time in the next couple of years and could get there by Year 4 or 5. But, again, they're desperate to add bodies right now and sometimes in order to do that they have to work deals with walk-ons to get them to come now but possibly be put on scholarship down the road.

It's no easy task and not a job for the faint of heart. And it seems almost certain that at least in terms of true scholarship guys KU will continue to play with a short deck for the next couple of years. That's why they're working so hard to develop the walk-on program, where they hope to get lucky with a few guys becoming big time players.

Time will tell.

catsandwich:

I suppose this could be construed as a leading question, but when we look at the available information...1) the loss of Amani Bledsoe, 2) our current class ranking of #95 in Rivals.com data base, 3) the noticeable lack of Kansas talent in our class, 4) the number of 2* players in our group, and so on....what is your opinion regarding David Beaty as a recruiter so far? Are you surprised one way or the other about how he's done so far?

Matt Tait:

Good question. A fair question for sure.

I'm definitely not surprised at all. The job of rebuilding Kansas is such a bear that I'm not sure anybody could've come in here right away and done all that much better than Beaty has done so far.

The things I like about him as a recruiter are this: He has a ton of energy and hired a staff that works the same way; he seems to be willing to take the best athletes he can find and then will decide where they fit position-wise when they get on campus; and he doesn't seem to be the kind of recruiter who's just going to add a body to add a body. Beaty and KU have backed off a handful of kids who, in the long run, did not look to be an upgrade over what they already had and that's a huge point of emphasis for him and this staff.

Having said that, I think it's far too early to give Beaty any kind of grade as a recruiter because we simply don't know yet whether the players in the first two classes will pan out. There are more than a few guys that seem to be the kind of guys KU needs and is looking for, but Beaty also has missed on a couple of guys already.

It's not from lack of trying, though, I can promise you that. These guys hit it hard on the recruiting trail and they know that the first thing they have to do if they are to have any hope of turning this thing around is to bring in better talent.

Because of his connections and all of the talent in Texas, that's been a place where they've spent a lot of time. And just because they're not landing a ton of Kansans does not mean they're not going after 'em. That'll come in time. But you have to start by building the relationships and then by showing a product that interests the local kids.

freestate84:

Matt-

Why do you think that KU never gave Mill Valley wideout and Kansas Gatorade player of the year Christian Jegen a serious look - I see that he finally committed to Northern Iowa - but I believe KU never offered - it seems that signing talented, smart in state kids would be a priority for rebuilding

Matt Tait:

Another fair question and I think it goes back to what I said a couple of questions ago.... There were hardly any Div. I programs looking at the Mill Valley kid and I don't think that just because he's local KU should be required to take him themselves.

He's a nice player, but it seems that Beaty did not believe that he would immediately represent an upgrade at the wide receiver position and, therefore, did not feel the need to offer him. He may be right and he may look foolish. Time will tell, but you can't add a guy just because you're afraid he might make you look bad down the road. You're not going to bat 1.000 in the recruiting game.

In a perfect world, KU would have unlimited spots and be able to take all of those types of athletes. But it's not a perfect world and, what's more KU had to be very, very calculated with its offers this year because the numbers are down.

I think that may be the thing that cost the kid as much as anything here. If this had been a normal year and KU had 8 more scholarships to give, he might have got a longer look. But even then, it's possible that he's just not what KU's looking for. And that's OK. He's certainly not what the rest of Div. I is looking for either.

Hopefully he has a great career at Northern Iowa and enjoys the heck out of every second.

oklahawk58:

Is there one player that we are looking at (committed or uncommitted) that five years down the road, we will say, "The turnaround started with him."?

Matt Tait:

One of the most obvious places to look when you ask a question like this is quarterback and even though the thought was that KU was not looking for a QB in this class, they wound up adding two.

Dagan Haehn is on campus as a walk-on and Tyriek Starks just committed the other night. I'm still not sold that Starks will stay at QB but that's just a guess on my part.

Haehn is a guy who really intrigues me. I've heard some great things about him from some people down in Texas and I know the staff is really happy they were able to get him. Had it not been for the injury he suffered, all kinds of bigger programs would've surely been in on him. The injury scared many away. Understandably so.

If he's able to come back from that at 100 percent, though, he could be a very intriguing option for KU in the future.

So I'd lean toward him as a possible answer here, mostly because of the position he plays.

I think CB Kyle Mayberry and a couple of these O-Linemen also could play huge roles in the program in the near future.

sports4life:

With multiple recruits coming to Lawrence this weekend and only one remaining scholarship, who should we hope gives KU a commitment?

Matt Tait:

With KU and WR Braylon Royal parting ways (I just learned about this), the Jayhawks actually appear to have two scholarships remaining to hand out and I think the two names that would be best to hear as new commitments are D-End Isaiah Bean and WR Evan Fairs.

Bean came into play when Bledsoe chose OU and although he's not as game-ready as Bledsoe today, he looks like he's every bit as good of an athlete, if not better. He just needs a year to add bulk so he's ready to play D-End in the Big 12.

Fairs recently trimmed his list to KU and Illinois and he'll be on campus this weekend. At 6-3, 182, he's got the size KU's looking for in its wideouts and it sounds like his footwork, especially on that frame, really impressed the KU coaches.

bsearcy32:

Have you been able to follow up with the rumor that a Missouri commit will be visiting this weekend? Any idea on who it might be? Demarkus Acy?

Matt Tait:

I just heard about this last night and although I wasn't able to get a name, I did get a position... Cornerback. So, yeah, it could be Acy, given that KU is on his offer list.

Whoever it is, I heard he was planning to visit this weekend and I'll definitely have my radar up for any info I can find.

jjjhwk:

How long do you think it will take for the players Beaty has recruited to be built by S&C and natural growth along with experience to compete in the Big 12. 2016, 2017, 2018?

Matt Tait:

More and more kids are arriving in college with incredible frames and many of them look ready to roll the minute they get on campus. Most are not, of course, especially guys on the offensive and defensive lines, but the fact that KU is starting to get more guys who look like the guys that other programs are getting bodes well.

Forget their star ratings and all of that. The biggest areas that matter to Kansas are: 1. Do they fit the profile that KU is looking for? And 2. Will the coaching staff develop them?

That second part is critical because it appears that the athletes are coming and Beaty's connections are paying off in that department. But if this staff doesn't take that and turn these kids into players, then they're going to struggle regardless.

This year is too soon. You might see real signs of improvement by 2017. But I'd think we'll know by 2018 if this staff is going to get it done. That doesn't mean they'll win 6 games and be bowl bound by 2018, but I think, much like we saw under Mangino, we'll know by Year 4 if things are headed in the right direction based largely on the look of the players, the way they play the game and how competitive they are on the field.

KU7679:

What is our most urgent need and how well did we fill that need? and

Will any of the recruits have a chance to make a difference as far as wins and losses next year?

Matt Tait:

Any time you go 0-12, the answer to the "most urgent need" question could be everything.

But I think KU really needed to add help and depth on the D-Line and in the secondary and I think they did that. With Mayberry, Robinson and Ayinde, KU should have a few more guys they can try at cornerback. On the D-Line, the hope is that the two mid-year transfers, DeeIsaac Davis and Isi Holani, will be able to provide rotational depth right away at a thin position.

Despite how well things have been set up in the backfield the past several years, KU found itself potentially thin at RB too, so they went out and added a high school back from Florida in Khalil Herbert.

Again, with scholarships this year in limited supply, KU had to be very smart about where it added guys and I think they were.

Moderator:

Thanks for the great questions, everybody. Let's take a couple more and then wrap it up...

weaglehawk:

Does the scholarship offer to Torenden signal that the best guys left on KU's board are not committing, or that a commit is now going to go elsewhere? Seems odd to offer a kid that low a scholarship unless they were at the bottom of the list.

Matt Tait:

Funny you mention this. I actually posted a blog right before this chat began about this very topic. I'll give you the short answer here and leave you with the link to go check out the blog.

The bottom line is this: I think KU realized that Torneden was the type of guy that would be very low risk at this point. He's a hometown guy, a great athlete, a hard worker and has some pretty nice upside. Why not add a guy like that, especially when the guys they were looking at at the same position were not head and shoulders more impressive in any way.

This definitely was not just some sort of local-kid favor. Torneden earned the scholarship offer and KU deemed him worthy. If they hadn't, they would have had no trouble giving the offer to someone else. At the end of the day, Torneden simply looked as good or better than what's left on KU's board and the fact that he's a Lawrence kid was merely an added bonus.

Here's the link...

http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/tale-tait/2016/jan/29/latest-ku-scholarship-offer-no-freebie-t/

ChandlerAccipiter:

Happy Kansas day!

If there is any program where a freshman can come in immediately and make an impact (and please scale that "impact" down to the level of KU football), then it is at the University of Kansas. Are most of the current commits building a foundation for the future, or do any of them have the potential to help out come fall?

Matt Tait:

There's no question that one of KU's strongest selling points remains immediate playing time. As they showed last season, Beaty and company are not afraid to play young guys if they're the best options.

KU was among the top three or four programs in the country last season in terms of playing first-year guys and first-time starters and, at least until the numbers are up and the talent is upgraded to the point where there's more time to red-shirt and develop guys, that trend will likely continue.

It's always easiest to see skill position guys play right away, so don't be surprised if a few more receivers, backs and DBs get on the field early in 2016.

stupidmichael:

What are these recruits saying about Kansas in regards to what influenced their decisions? Why Kansas and not somewhere else?

Matt Tait:

The two answers I continue to hear the most from these kids when they sign and commit are these: A. They fell in love with the energy and passion of the coaches recruiting them and B. They really like how Kansas has that family vibe to it.

Now, there are still other things that entice them to come to KU, like the campus, the football complex, the chance to play in the Big 12 and the city itself, but those two answers are by far the most common and I'd say that's a very good sign.

300milestoGoodland:

KU Football has had a lot of signees never play a down.

Are you thinking it will be in the 10% range that never plays a down or higher this year?

Matt Tait:

Good question. One thing Beaty has told me over and over when asked about the numbers crisis is that it's not just about adding bodies and getting creative with walk-ons and such. It's also about retention. For a program in KU's position, retention is almost at the top of the list when it comes to the most important factors in building things back up.

Even though Kryon Watson did not look like he was going to turn into a regular contributor, losing him hurt because, with the numbers being what they are, it was not simply a case of being able to snap your fingers and replace him. So while losing the player, in terms of his abilities as an athlete, did not really hurt, losing the body, and what it brought to practice and the depth chart, absolutely did.

With that said, it's very hard to achieve 100% retention, so, yeah, in a class of 17 new faces, hoping that 15 or 16 of them stick around for the duration of their college football careers is probably a good number. If KU can keep it to that or less, they'll eventually start climbing out of the hole they're in.

Moderator:

Last one...

dself11:

What's the latest with Ian Rudzik? Seems Kansas State is now more in the mix after he tweeted a meeting with their staff last night. Think he will pick the Jayhawks?

Matt Tait:

I know he enjoyed his visit with KU a lot and was very impressed by Clint Bowen and how much love he felt from the coaching staff... He definitely made it clear that they were very frank about how much they wanted him and what kind of impact they could see him making.

Having said that, you know K-State is not going to get shut out in Kansas and with just one of the Rivals.com Top 10 in Kansas headed to KU or K-State (Torneden ranked No. 9), you can bet the purple people are making a strong push to entice Rudzik to join the KSU program.

Bill Snyder didn't do what he did in Manhattan by being a moron and you can bet he's going to do whatever it takes to keep his stranglehold on recruiting the state, especially now that he knows and has seen and heard how hard Beaty and Kansas are going after it in an attempt to tip the balance KU's way.

I don't know enough about Rudzik's situation to make a good guess about where he'll end up, but, at this point, I think it'd be a pleasant surprise if KU ends up with him.

Matt Tait:

Thanks a bunch for all of the great questions, everyone. I know things have been rough with this program the past six years — trust me, I've been there for just about every minute of it — but it's cool to see there are still a ton of KU fans out there who genuinely care about football. Makes my job a lot more fun.

We'll have all kinds of signing day coverage next week and then we'll try to do another one or two football chats before spring ball starts in March.

We're also going to try to start doing some regular KU hoops chats so keep an eye out for those, too.

Thanks again and have a great weekend!

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