The success or failure of Kansas UniversityÃ¢ÂÂs football coaches during the next month of recruiting will go a long way in determining how successful the Jayhawks can be on the field in 2003.
Ã¢ÂÂWe have to go out and recruit very well now,Ã¢ÂÂ said KU coach Mark Mangino, whose team finished 2-10 in his first season. Ã¢ÂÂWe have some immediate needs that weÃ¢ÂÂre going to look for junior college players, but weÃ¢ÂÂre still going to recruit high school players. They will be the foundation of our program.Ã¢ÂÂ
KUÃ¢ÂÂs coaches played host to the first of four recruiting weekends in a five-week period last Friday. Of the five players who attended the JayhawksÃ¢ÂÂ menÃ¢ÂÂs basketball game against UNC Greensboro, four were junior college players.
Two of those visiting were Garden City Community College sophomores ÃiÂ¿Â½" cornerback Frank Irby (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) and teammate Kay Jay Harris (6-2, 238), a running back who has rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns through the BroncbustersÃ¢ÂÂ first 10 games. The Tampa, Fla., products have one game left with GCCC (7-3), which will play in its ninth straight bowl game Dec. 7 at Glendale, Ariz., when the Busters meet host Glendale.
Also on hand Friday was Lyonel Anderson (6-4, 230), who set school records for career receptions and receiving yardage at Alfred State College in New York.
While those players all have other campus visits yet to make, Jon Kirby of Mo-KanFootball.com and rivals.com said Georgia Military defensive back Shelton Simmons has narrowed his choices to Kansas and Kentucky.
The one high school senior in FridayÃ¢ÂÂs group was linebacker Lorenzo Williams (6-2, 235) of Midwest City, Okla.
None of the recruits have made commitments.
Ã¢ÂÂThe biggest thing that came out of the weekend was the fact that everyone of them told me that coach Mangino conveyed very well his plan for the program, and a lot of them really believe in where heÃ¢ÂÂs going with it. Everything that came out of their mouths was positive.Ã¢ÂÂ
While it might not be reflected in FridayÃ¢ÂÂs group, Mangino said KU must do a better job of recruiting in-state high school talent.
Ã¢ÂÂThereÃ¢ÂÂs not a high number of them but thereÃ¢ÂÂs some real quality players, what I would term blue-chip players, in the state of Kansas this year,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not just talking about kids who would have a chance to play at Division I. There are some kids that I really believe, and I canÃ¢ÂÂt be specific, in the state of Kansas that have a chance to be very good Division I players. WeÃ¢ÂÂre competing for those kids.Ã¢ÂÂ
Kirby said two of the players Kansas would love to land are Kansas City Schlagle end Rashad Norwood and Wichita Southeast cornerback John Randle. KU hasnÃ¢ÂÂt been able to sign such players in recent seasons. This year KU had 36 players from Kansas high schools, while Kansas State had 58.
Ã¢ÂÂFirst and foremost Kansas and Kansas City proper is our No. 1 priority in recruiting,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂBut as we all know thereÃ¢ÂÂs not enough Division I players to build a Big 12 team, so what we have to do is move into the Big 12 region because our television package covers that area, and those kids watch you the most and listen to you the most and read all the newspapers that are in that area.Ã¢ÂÂ
In the Big 12 region, KUÃ¢ÂÂs focus will be on Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa also will be monitored but are considered Ã¢ÂÂsecondaryÃ¢ÂÂ to the four other states.
Mangino said his staff is recruiting Southern California, Ã¢ÂÂdabblingÃ¢ÂÂ in south Florida and Ã¢ÂÂtesting the watersÃ¢ÂÂ in the Chicagoland area where KU draws many out-of-state students and has a large alumni base.
Ã¢ÂÂWe feel very good about the areas weÃ¢ÂÂre covering geographically,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂWe know weÃ¢ÂÂre going to have to compete with a lot of teams, but we believe we have a lot to offer.Ã¢ÂÂ
Kansas also will follow up on referrals from alumni, fans and former players anywhere in country.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs a lot of legwork, but we will,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said.
After losing all eight of its Big 12 Conference games, one of the biggest selling points KU has to offer is playing time.
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂre on some really quality kids because they believe they have the opportunity to play quickly here, and for some kids it really is,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said.
Mangino wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt say how many junior college players he expected to sign, but he did say his team needed transfer help in the secondary and offensive line. KUÃ¢ÂÂs coaches are also looking for players who can provide immediate help on special teams.
Ã¢ÂÂThe punt block and punt return units have not been very good,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂWe need to upgrade our personnel on that. ItÃ¢ÂÂs going to be extremely important that we find big guys who can run and play special teams. That is something we need to do and weÃ¢ÂÂve made it a priority.Ã¢ÂÂ
Mangino said he was uncertain how many players he expected to have when his second recruiting class is announced Feb. 5, but he made it clear that quality was more important than quantity.
Ã¢ÂÂOne of the things we donÃ¢ÂÂt want to do here is just take players just to take them and take a chance,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂThere is no strength in numbers. If you really need a good cornerback, taking three average ones doesnÃ¢ÂÂt make one good one. YouÃ¢ÂÂve got to find the guy youÃ¢ÂÂre really looking for.Ã¢ÂÂ