Filling the gaps: Weis seeks jucos, transfers to bolster KU’s roster

Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis talks with media members on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at the Anderson Family Football Complex. Weis introduced new members of his football team and also announced players that have left the program.

Less than 10 days remain before the Feb. 1 college football signing day, and first-year Kansas University coach Charlie Weis and his staff continue to try to make up for lost time.

With 10 players from the Class of 2012 orally committed — cornerbacks H.B. Rosser and Derek Keaton both recently dropped off KU’s radar — and another three already on campus, the Jayhawks have as many as 12 spots remaining in this year’s class.

Although the final number in this year’s class remains up in the air, Weis said during a recent meeting with the media that it would be somewhere in the 20s. He also said he would save at least a couple of spots for future transfers who will graduate in May and be eligible to play right away, as was the case with new quarterback Dayne Crist, who graduated from Notre Dame in December with one year of eligibility remaining. Two possible candidates are: tight end Mike Ragone, of Cherry Hill, N.J., and offensive guard Trevor Robinson, of Elkhorn, Neb.

The 6-foot-5, 311-pound Robinson, ranked by some recruiting services as the top guard in the country during his senior season at Elkhorn High, was recruited to Notre Dame by Weis and started every game of his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Ragone, who missed most of the 2011 season but made nine starts and appeared in 35 games during his first three years at Notre Dame, also was recruited by Weis. During his senior season at Camden Catholic High, Ragone, 6-4, 250, was ranked the No. 3 tight end in the nation, the sixth-best player in New Jersey regardless of position and 83rd on the Rivals 100. He caught 12 passes for 119 yards at Notre Dame. Should he choose to finish his career at Kansas, Ragone would be playing his sixth season of college football in 2012.

“Let’s use this fifth-year rule, where a college graduate that has another year of eligibility can move on to another place,” Weis said. “We only have one right now (Crist), but there will be others that will be a part of the program. Come signing day, they will not be a part of the mix because they have not graduated from college yet.”

The fifth-year rule is just part of Weis’ strategy for building a roster that can compete right away. With most of the top players in the country already committed, Weis and his staff have traveled from coast to coast during the past several days, mining the talent pool for impact players.

“Obviously, high school kids are always the bread and butter,” Weis said. “But the one problem when you come in late in the recruiting mix is that most high school players are greatly influenced by relationships they have with the coaches that are recruiting them. So when you do not have time to compete with relationships, you have to minimize that inventory and move in another direction to go fill holes.”

That’s why several junior colleges — locally and nationwide — have had KU coaches on campus during the most recent recruiting period.

As of today, KU has secured commitments from five junior-college players. Before recruiting the Class of 2012 is finished, Weis may have signed twice that many.

“This is a hotbed, rich and fruitful with high-level college football players in the state of Kansas,” Weis said. “We are tapping into that resource to try to fill some holes with players that are a little more developed and ready to go and that have a couple years under their belt walking in the door.”

KU’s quintet of junior-college pledges is: tight end, Charles Brooks, 6-5, 245, Scottsdale (Ariz.) C.C.; running back, Taylor Cox, 5-11, 200, College of the Siskiyous; wide receiver Josh Ford, 6-4, 195, Arizona Western; defensive lineman, Ty McKinney, 6-3, 310, Trinity Valley (Texas) C.C.; and defensive lineman Keon Stowers, 6-3, 273, Georgia Military College.

Although Weis quickly identified quarterback, where he landed Crist and BYU transfer Jake Heaps (eligible in 2013), and defensive line as areas that needed improvement, he was not shy about his assessment of the roster he inherited.

“Look, we could use help everywhere,” Weis said. “There isn’t one position on our team that I can sit there and say, ‘Hey, we don’t need help there.’ That’s a fallacy. So we’re going to spread that 20-some number across our roster and try to get us help at every position.”

Russell wooed by Baylor?

It appears that KU has some competition for Class of 2012 quarterback Seth Russell. And it’s coming from Russell’s home state of Texas.

Russell, a three-star, dual-threat QB from Garland High, committed to the Jayhawks last July. At the time, it was believed that KU would have a tough time hanging on to the 6-4, 195 quarterback, and, in recent weeks, Baylor has begun to target Russell.

A recent report from indicated Weis visited Russell last week. The KU coach made at least a good enough impression to keep Kansas in the mix. But Russell was expected to visit Baylor last weekend, so this is definitely a situation worth keeping an eye on, especially with KU’s lack of depth at quarterback.

Big weekend wraps up

As many as 10 recruits were expected to be in town this weekend for official visits, with some big-time players included among them.

Four-star cornerback Kenneth Crawley, 6-1, 170, and his H.D. Woodson High teammate and former KU commitment De’Jon Wilson, 6-3, 240, both came to town from Washington D.C. They were joined by Tampa, Fla., linebacker Schyler Miles, 6-2, 220, Houston cornerback Greg Allen, 5-11, 190, and current commitment and Bishop Miege High wide receiver Tre Parmalee, 5-10, 160.

In addition, three California junior-college players made the trek to Lawrence this weekend. Defensive tackle Jordan Tavai, 6-3, 280, of El Camino (Calif.) C.C., reportedly has Kansas in his final two; defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster, 6-4, 230, of City College of San Francisco, also is looking at Syracuse and Indiana; and offensive lineman Fehoko Fanaika, 6-6, 340, of the College of San Mateo, is looking at a long list of schools, including Hawaii, Texas Tech, UCLA, Utah, Utah State, Cal, and Fresno State.

Lozano likes Kansas

Carlos Lozano, a 6-8, 360-pound offensive lineman from East Los Angeles College, who visited KU last Monday, told Jon Kirby of that he was impressed by what KU had to offer.

“I liked all of the people I met,” Lozano said. “I liked all of the love the people and fans showed me at Kansas. A lot of them knew who I was, and I was just a visitor. I was speechless at the (KU-Baylor) basketball game. The crowd was amazing. I could barely hear the person next to me.”

Lozano, who hails from Monterey Park, Calif., has scholarship offers from KU, Utah, Washington, Kansas State, UCLA and Utah State and is drawing interest from more than a dozen others. He visited Washington State over the weekend and is hoping to narrow his list to two finalists in the next couple of days.