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Archive for Thursday, November 28, 2002

Coming weeks critical for Kansas

November 28, 2002

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The success or failure of Kansas UniversityâÂÂs 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.

âÂÂWe have to go out and recruit very well now,â said KU coach Mark Mangino, whose team finished 2-10 in his first season. âÂÂWe have some immediate needs that weâÂÂre going to look for junior college players, but weâÂÂre still going to recruit high school players. They will be the foundation of our program.âÂÂ

KUâÂÂs coaches played host to the first of four recruiting weekends in a five-week period last Friday. Of the five players who attended the Jayhawksâ menâÂÂs basketball game against UNC Greensboro, four were junior college players.

Two of those visiting were Garden City Community College sophomores Ãi¿½" 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 Broncbustersâ 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 FridayâÂÂs group was linebacker Lorenzo Williams (6-2, 235) of Midwest City, Okla.

None of the recruits have made commitments.

âÂÂThe 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 heâÂÂs going with it. Everything that came out of their mouths was positive.âÂÂ

In-state priority

While it might not be reflected in FridayâÂÂs group, Mangino said KU must do a better job of recruiting in-state high school talent.

âÂÂThereâÂÂs not a high number of them but thereâÂÂs some real quality players, what I would term blue-chip players, in the state of Kansas this year,â he said. âÂÂIâÂÂm 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 canâÂÂt be specific, in the state of Kansas that have a chance to be very good Division I players. WeâÂÂre competing for those kids.âÂÂ

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 hasnâÂÂt been able to sign such players in recent seasons. This year KU had 36 players from Kansas high schools, while Kansas State had 58.

âÂÂFirst and foremost Kansas and Kansas City proper is our No. 1 priority in recruiting,â Mangino said. âÂÂBut as we all know thereâÂÂs 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.âÂÂ

Branching out

In the Big 12 region, KUâÂÂs focus will be on Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa also will be monitored but are considered âÂÂsecondaryâ to the four other states.

Mangino said his staff is recruiting Southern California, âÂÂdabblingâ in south Florida and âÂÂtesting the watersâ in the Chicagoland area where KU draws many out-of-state students and has a large alumni base.

âÂÂWe feel very good about the areas weâÂÂre covering geographically,â he said. âÂÂWe know weâÂÂre going to have to compete with a lot of teams, but we believe we have a lot to offer.âÂÂ

Kansas also will follow up on referrals from alumni, fans and former players anywhere in country.

âÂÂItâÂÂs a lot of legwork, but we will,â Mangino said.

Why wait?

After losing all eight of its Big 12 Conference games, one of the biggest selling points KU has to offer is playing time.

âÂÂWeâÂÂre on some really quality kids because they believe they have the opportunity to play quickly here, and for some kids it really is,â Mangino said.

Mangino wouldnâÂÂt 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. KUâÂÂs coaches are also looking for players who can provide immediate help on special teams.

âÂÂThe punt block and punt return units have not been very good,â Mangino said. âÂÂWe need to upgrade our personnel on that. ItâÂÂs 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 weâÂÂve made it a priority.âÂÂ

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.

âÂÂOne of the things we donâÂÂt want to do here is just take players just to take them and take a chance,â he said. âÂÂThere is no strength in numbers. If you really need a good cornerback, taking three average ones doesnâÂÂt make one good one. YouâÂÂve got to find the guy youâÂÂre really looking for.âÂÂ

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