KU football strengthens connections in Florida

Florida players Kansas has made offers to

• Wonderful Terrific Monds, DE, Fort Pierce,

6-foot-3, 212 pounds

• James Elliott, OT, Pensacola, 6-foot-4, 285 pounds

• Keeon Virgile, LB, North Miami Beach, 6-foot-2,

210 pounds

• Keith Lewis, LB, Tampa, 6-foot, 194 pounds

• Javess Blue, WR, Lake Wales, 5-foot-11, 180 pounds

Source: Rivals.com

Don’t look now but the Kansas University football team has made huge advances toward recruiting the state of Florida.

The reason? His name is Robert Wimberly, KU’s assistant coach in charge of safeties, who was born in Miami and has spent a lot of time developing relationships in the state.

Although KU head coach Turner Gill has a history of dabbling in Florida from his days at Buffalo, the first-year Jayhawk said he relies heavily on Wimberly to handle most of South Florida.

“We all have all kinds of different connections,” Gill said. “I haven’t specifically recruited (Florida since arriving at KU), but when I was back at Buffalo, I was down there a little more regularly. But Robert Wimberly is our guy there. He knows a lot of high school coaches because he’s from the Miami area and he played high school ball there.”

So far Wimberly’s efforts have landed Kansas on the short lists of several of the state’s top prospects for 2011.

The most recent Florida junior to connect his name to Kansas has made a splash for more than one reason.

If his play on the field lives up to the name on his birth certificate, defensive end Wonderful Terrific Monds will be a heck of a football player. It appears the KU staff is willing to take that chance.

Rivals.com is reporting that the Jayhawks have offered a scholarship to the junior from Westwood High in Fort Pierce, Fla. Monds, 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, finished his junior season with 87 tackles and 11 sacks.

Monds’ coach, James Monds Jr., who also is his cousin, told Rivals that Monds is receiving interest from Nebraska, Kansas State, Tennessee and Florida State. The site also reported that the offer from KU was Monds’ first from a BCS school.

Wednesday, Rivals added yet another name to the list in offensive tackle James Elliott from Pensacola Catholic High. Elliott, 6-4, 285, also is considering Louisville, South Alabama, Alabama, Florida State, Florida International and Florida Atlantic.

The latest development brings KU’s list of Florida offers for the Class of 2011 to five. The staff still seriously is evaluating nearly a dozen others from the Sunshine State. In addition to Monds and Elliott, Kansas has offered linebackers Keeon Virgile, 6-2, 210, of North Miami Beach High, and Keith Lewis, 6-foot, 194, of Freedom High in Tampa, along with wide receiver Javess Blue, 5-11, 180, of Lake Wales (Fla.) High. To put this in perspective, Gill’s first recruiting class (2010) included one commitment from Florida. Former Kansas coach Mark Mangino’s last class (2009) included just two Floridians.

“Florida, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, these places all have talent,” Gill said. “I want to say we’re going to go nationally, but we’re not going to hit every single state.”

For now, a large chunk of KU’s focus has been in Florida. And, for now, that approach seems to be working.

“Coach Wimberly and the staff at Kansas are straight-forward and honest,” North Miami Beach coach Jeff Bertani told Rivals. “They are sending the right message to recruit kids with high character.”