KU football recruiting and signing day talk with JayhawkSlant.com's Jon Kirby
KUsports.com online editor Jesse Newell welcomes in Jon Kirby of <a href="http://www.jayhawkslant.com">JayhawkSlant.com</a> and the Rivals.com network for talk on the 2010 KU football recruiting class. Who are the gems of the class? Who are the underrated ones? How is new KU coach Turner Gill relating to recruits' families? Why are the highest-rated Kansas kids oftentimes leaving the state for their college choice? These topics are discussed, while Kirby also ends the podcast with an "Aqib Talib" sleeper pick for the KU class of 2010.
As recently as a month ago, the state of recruiting within the Kansas University football program was far from ideal.
The program’s most successful coach, Mark Mangino, had just been forced to resign amidst controversy, a trio of interim coaches had been let go and a new staff of four — head coach Turner Gill, offensive coordinator Chuck Long, defensive coordinator Carl Torbush and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Aaron Stamn — was doing its best to convince a collection of uneasy recruits not to jump ship.
“A lot of people don’t understand that they went through the middle of December, really, with three (assistant) coaches,” said Jon Kirby, who covers Kansas recruiting for Rivals.com. “So they were doing everything they could just to keep everybody on.”
Today, though, when Gill introduces his first recruiting class during a National Signing Day press conference, it will be difficult to scroll down the commitment list and not be a bit impressed, given the circumstances, with the final product.
Of the 17 players expected to sign with the Jayhawks today (one has already signed), two are four-star prospects, and while the class doesn’t rank quite as high as in recent years — as of Tuesday, Rivals.com rated Kansas’ 2010 class 54th nationally, down from 31st a year ago — Gill seems to have already made good on his early promise to take a dogged approach to recruiting.
And nowhere is this more apparent than with the late addition of Brandon Bourbon, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound running back from Potosi, Mo., who was committed to Stanford as recently as last week before changing his commitment to Kansas over the weekend.
The day after Gill was officially announced as Kansas’ new coach, Long was in the Potosi High football office, making a pitch, and when Bourbon was on campus for a visit not long ago, coaches did everything in their power to make it known they’d very much appreciate the services of the nation’s No. 29 running back.
“During my visit, me and my parents were sitting in a room, and all of the coaches came in just to say something to me,” said Bourbon, who could battle for immediate playing time next season despite the return of sophomore-to-be Toben Opurum. “That was pretty cool.”
What’s more, the arrival of Gill — whose approach has been said to vary highly from that of the Jayhawks’ former coach — led some players to take a second look at Kansas.
“I wasn’t really too interested with the old staff,” said Blue Valley West defensive end Pat Lewandowski, who is expected to sign with Kansas today. “This new staff, it’s a big change. I don’t think I would have considered KU if the old staff was there.”
While the team’s ’10 signing class was certainly bolstered by a handful of late additions, meanwhile, perhaps Gill’s greatest accomplishment was keeping the former staff’s recruiting class largely in tact.
With the exception of a couple of high-profile departures — Hutchinson High four-star defensive end Geneo Grissom’s defection to Oklahoma and a paper-work snafu that kept four-star defensive back Dave Clark from enrolling — Kansas’ current commitment list looks much like it did before Mangino’s departure. Four-star receiver Keeston Terry (Blue Springs, Mo.) is still on board, along with three-star running back James Sims, three-star tight end Trent Smiley and a number of other players originally recruited under Mangino.
“He kept some people that are going to be huge contributors, and added some people who are going to be huge contributors,” said Smiley, rated as a top-20 tight end prospect nationally. “It’s really a testament to what kind of a coach coach Gill is and the staff he’s put together.”
As for the class itself, Kirby tagged Bourbon, Sims and former junior college quarterback Quinn Mecham as players who could potentially battle for playing time right away, and for the second straight year, the Jayhawks look to be getting a strong group of receivers.
The reality of signing day, of course, is that it’s impossible to look at a recruiting class and know what to expect from it. All-American Aqib Talib was a two-star prospect, after all, while a number of players anointed with four stars fizzled during their time in Lawrence.
But based on the early returns, there is reason, certainly, for Kansas fans to be encouraged about the Jayhawks’ future in recruiting.
“In that three or four weeks, you’ve already seen the relationships and trust that (this staff) has built,” Kirby said. “Which I think is a great sign for the future, because then that means that once they’ve had a chance to have five and six months of relationship-building under their belts — getting to know recruits and high school coaches and parents — then I think this last few weeks is just a big sign of what’s to come.”