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Signing Day 2011: Tracking KU's newest football class


6:13 p.m. Update:

Still waiting on that video... should be up shortly. It's been a busy day for all of us so some of this follow-up stuff is going to have to shift to tomorrow. Oh well, more signing day fun for everyone then!!!

That includes our podcast with Rivals.com's Jon Kirby. You can't imagine how many radio interviews that guy's done today. He just called back and tried to squeeze us in tonight, but I thought it'd be better to have something fresh tomorrow, so check that out sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Also, if you haven't already seen it, be sure to check out the transcript of the Live Chat we did earlier today with Bishop Miege offensive lineman Phil Ford. Ford was fantastic and was a terrific spokesman for the entire class.

It really seems like a great group. They're talented, good-character guys with excellent leadership and academic qualities. It's going to be a blast to watch them develop.

Thanks to all of you for checking us out today. Having readers/commenters like you makes all the hard work worth doing. More tomorrow.

I have to run over to the KU women's basketball game now. See ya tomorrow.

4:09 p.m. Update:

Just got back from Coach Gill's press conference and he had a lot of good things to say about this class. He didn't really address all 27 guys individually but he did go position by position. Asked which position he thought he improved the most with this class, Gill said all of them.

"I think at every position we did that," Gill said. "And that's why it's so exciting to me, because now I truly believe that we have guys who can compete for a job at every position. I'm excited over every last one of them."

Here are a few more notes and nuggets from Gill's 30-minute meeting with the media:

• On just his second day on the job, new KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger made it to Gill's news conference, despite being delayed in Lubbock, Tex., with the men's basketball team.

• Gill notes that last year was somewhat odd in that only three true freshman played. This year, of the 27 guys that signed today, Gill anticipates that nearly half of them will play this fall in some capacity. The reason? Speed. They all have it and that immediately makes them viable candidates for playing time at every position.

• One big advantage that Gill gave it up to was the Kansas basketball program and Allen Fieldhouse. "One thing that's great for us, there's no doubt about it, is going to a basketball game (with these recruits)," Gill said. He also noted that people in all areas of the university from other sports to academic counselors to professors and students lent a hand in helping to land this class.

"This is a great class," Gill said. "And it's great because each one of the guys we signed has great speed and character and believes academics is important."

• Already committed to saying that half of the class will play, Gill was asked more directly about the quarterback position. "Would you feel comfortable playing a true freshman at quarterback," he was asked. The answer: Yes, sir. Absolutely." That's not to say Brock Berglund is going to be the starter, but he's clearly going to have a legitimate opportunity to earn the job.

• Quickly, here are some facts and figures about the Class of 2011.

  • 26 of the 27 players signed were high school seniors
  • The class spanned 11 different states, with Texas (9) and Kansas (7) having the most
  • The class includes two sets of teammates, Ben Goodman and Collin Garrett, of West Brook High in Beaumont, Tex., and Adonis Saunders and Victor Simmons, of Olathe North
  • 14 members of the class played in and won state championship games last fall
  • 23 of the 27 members played in high school playoff games in each of the past 2 seasons
  • The class includes 13 on offense, 13 on defense and 1 special teams player
  • The position with the most signees was offensive line (6), followed by linebacker (5).

More to come. Be sure to check out the ongoing live chat with Phil Ford and check back soon for our podcast with Jon Kirby of Rivals.com.

1:27 p.m. Update:

Preparing to start the journey over to campus for this afternoon's press conference. I'll get there a little early and give myself plenty of time to navigate the roads.

Check back later, though, for reaction from Coach Gill in this blog, as well as via video footage that we'll put together.

Reminder about the 3:45 p.m. Live Chat with Bishop Miege offensive lineman Phil Ford. If you haven't done so already, submit your questions now and be sure to log on then to see what Big Phil has to say.

After that, I'm hoping to line up Rivals.com's Jon Kirby for a podcast. He said Monday that he's in, we just have to check on the weather and his availability. But look for that at some point later today, as our non-stop coverage of Signing Day 2011 continues.

12:14 p.m. Update:

Just saw this on ESPN.com. Before you get too excited, it's merely a list of the biggest classes so far, which is why KU ranks 4th overall, with 27 signed. Still, it's nice to see the Jayhawks up there with some of college football's heavy hitters.

More to come....

11:40 a.m. Update:

Just got done with a little shoveling and came in to find this gem... Malcolm Walker, an outside linebacker at Navarro Junior College, which won the juco national championship last season, has decided to join the Jayhawks as a walk-on...

Jon Kirby, of Rivals.com, is reporting that Walker chose KU over other schools because that's the place he felt the most comfortable.

"I decided to go to Kansas because that's where I fit in," Walker told Kirby. "They said they might run some more 3-4 defense and that plays to my game. That's what I do best. The coaches told me they like how I get to the quarterback and how I can cover the inside receiver when he goes in motion."

At 6-2, 215, Walker sounds like a linebacker. But added bulk this offseason could inspire him to slide to defensive end, especially with all that talk of getting after the quarterback. Of course, if KU does play more 3-4, that leaves room for 4 LBs on the field at one time and, unlike last year when KU had very little depth behind it's front three, this year's group of linebackers is going to be very deep and very talented.

Kirby calls this the steal of the class, largely because he's coming as a walk-on. Huge get for KU and coach Gill, making a great day even better. Could this be the player that pushes KU into the Top 30?

More to come...

10:31 a.m. Update:

It's 10:30 and all the letters are in. KU's complete class has signed and faxed the letters to campus. Everyone who was expected to join the Jayhawks today did just that, making this one of the most successful — not to mention smooth —  Signing Days in quite some time.

KU missed out on DT Terry Redden, who chose Memphis instead, but that opened up an official spot for DE Javonte Daniel, who quickly took advantage of that opportunity and signed right away.

Others who joined the part in the last half hour include, Wichita RB Dreamius Smith, Texas OL Damon Martin, Oklahoma LB Jake Love, Olathe North DB Adonis Saunders and California OL Bryan Peters. Here are a couple of tidbits from those guys:

Damon Martin, 6-5, 265, made no secret about his goal for next season: "My goal is to start," Martin said, adding, "I was impressed with the athleticism (Coach Gill brought in)."

Dreamius Smith, of Wichita Heights, talked about nothing more than working hard when he gets to town: "My goals are to come in and work hard everyday and earn playing time," he said. "And the 2011 class is a great class to get... (I) know there will be a lot of competing going on."

More to come throughout the day so stay tuned in to KUSports.com.

Here's the final list of guys whose letters of intent have been faxed to KU.

• Luke Luhrsen
• Chris Robinson
• Jason Hensley
• Phil Ford
• Michael Reynolds
• Ben Goodman
• Collin Garrett
• Michael Cummings
• Travis Bodenstein
• Victor Simmons
• Ben Heeney
• JaCorey Shepherd
• Alex Matlock
• Alex Mueller
• Anthony Pierson
• Damon Martin
• Tunde Bakare
• Bryan Peters
• Adonis Saunders
• Jake Love
• Dreamius Smith
• Javonte Daniel
• Marquis Jackson

Add to this list, the following players, who already have signed and are on campus:

• Brock Berglund
• Dylan Admire
• Darrian Miller
• Julius Green

For more on the entire class, keep it right here all day and be sure to check out our recruiting capsules at KUSports.com.

10:09 a.m. Update:

It looks like the LaGrange, Ga., prospect Javonte Daniel will be a member of the Class of 2011 after all.

Jon Kirby, of Rivals.com, is reporting that Daniel has signed his letter of intent to join the Jayhawks. And just in the nick of time, too. It seems that Daniel's mom was wanting him to take a guaranteed offer from Marhsall instead of waiting for KU to sort things out. Daniel wanted to be a Jayhawk, but also wanted to please his mother. So, as he walked down the hall of his school on the way to sign with Marshall, the AD came running into the hall, yelling that the letter from KU had arrived.

Daniel quickly shifted gears, signed with Kansas and is expected to be here in August.

This, in a nutshell, is what signing day's all about and it's the reason people wake up before 6 a.m. to start following this stuff. Great work by Kirby, as always, and even better work by the KU coaching staff to snag Daniel before he got away.

More to come...

9:57 a.m. Update:

KU just released its first "official" signee list. It includes 17 names. Those that we have that aren't on there include: Anthony Pierson, Damon Martin, Tunde Bakare and Phil Ford.

Not to worry. Sometimes things on campus just move a little slower.

9:52 a.m. Update:

Here's the story about DE Javonte Daniel... He is in the high school Class of 2011 but may not wind up in this recruiting class. That's still up in the air.

I think a lot of it depends on who else KU signs and what the total number from the day is. If it's fewer than expected — even by just one or two — then Daniel may get his scholly and be ready to come to town in August. If it's the number we expect, or perhaps even one or two more, then Daniel may wind up grayshirting, which means he'd sit out this fall, work out and/or take classes at a juco and then come to KU in January as a part of the Class of 2012. Sort of like what KU did with Julius Green this year.

I know Daniel wants to be a Jayhawk and I know the coaches want him. All we're waiting on now is the numbers game to play out.

Stay tuned...

9:32 a.m. Update:

Let's update the list. Just about everybody in already and it's only 9:30 a.m. With the weather being a factor and KU coming off a 3-9 season, it's awesome to see that so many talented players were so excited to join the Jayhawks.

I can only imagine how happy Coach Gill and crew are right now. Luckily, I won't have to imagine that for long. Coach Gill has a news conference scheduled for 3 p.m. today to talk about the class.

Here's the updated list:

• Luke Luhrsen
• Chris Robinson
• Jason Hensley
• Phil Ford
• Michael Reynolds
• Ben Goodman
• Collin Garrett
• Michael Cummings
• Travis Bodenstein
• Victor Simmons
• Ben Heeney
• JaCorey Shepherd
• Alex Matlock
• Alex Mueller
• Anthony Pierson
• Damon Martin
• Tunde Bakare

Add to this list, the following players, who already have signed and are on campus:

• Brock Berglund
• Dylan Admire
• Darrian Miller
• Julius Green

9:23 a.m. Update:

Quick story about Highland linebacker Tunde Bakare, who has now sent his letter of intent to the KU coaching staff.

Originally from Virginia, Bakare was recruited heavily by Maryland out of high school. He almost ended up there but wound up going the juco route instead. From the moment he arrived at Highland, Bakare always figured he'd go back south to play Div. I ball. Then he got hooked up with the Kansas coaches and he never looked back.

When talking to Bakare the other day, he told me it was "meant to be" for him to wind up at Kansas and that he was real excited about the opportunity to join the Jayhawks. I'll have more on Bakare, who's name is Nigerian and means "Child of God," in the next couple of days.

And believe me, you'll be hearing plenty from this guy in 2011. He should be a candidate to start at LB and, with a motor like his, should be involved in tons of plays.

More to come...

8:57 a.m. Update:

Jon Kirby, of Rivals.com, is reporting that DT Terry Redden will pass on Kansas to sign with Memphis.

Not a huge surprise here, but it was looking like KU was making a serious move to add Redden's services.

Would've been nice to land a DT like Redden, but this news should not in any way dampen the mood today. KU is already well into hauling in one of its best classes in a long time.

More to come.

8:51 a.m. Update:

Don't forget the kicker... Just received word that Alex Mueller, a place kicker from Grapevine, Tex., has faxed his letter into the KU football offices.

Mueller told me earlier this week that he hoped to step in right away and contribute to the team in some manner. With former kicker Jacob Branstetter graduating, Mueller figures to at least get the opportunity to compete with Ron Doherty for kicking duties.

Like several of his future teammates, Mueller also has been impressed with how close the Class of 2011 already has become.

"The amount of talent that is coming in, and how all the guys are wanting to become a family (is incredible)," he said. "A few guys have messaged me on Facebook already, and I got to talk to a few on the recruiting trip. It will be a great group of guys."

More to come.

8:33 a.m. Update:

Add Hutch LB Ben Heeney's name to the list. Heeney just faxed his letter in, making it 15 from the Class of 2011 already official. Talk about a bunch of kids who were eager to sign. This is outstanding news for KU.

I talked with Heeney earlier this week and he said he wasn't sure when he would sign because of the weather. Looks like it didn't hurt him too bad. Heeney gets his letter in by 8:30 a.m. and officially joins former teammate Josh Smith (a walk-on RB in 2010) and the Jayhawks.

Here's what Heeney had to say about his hopes for 2011 and the rest of the class he's coming in with.

"My goal for next year is to get some playing time," he said. "The thing that impresses me the most is how I've gotten along with all the other guys in my recruiting class."

Not only are the players KU is signing a talented group, they're also already teammates. Just a great sign for the future of KU football.

8:27 a.m. Update:

This from Coach Gill via Twitter just a few minutes ago:

"This phone is ringin off the hook! Get ready Jayhawk nation"

8:17 a.m. Update:

No more questions about whether Wichita defensive end, Michael Reynolds, is coming to Kansas. He's signed and is ready to make an impact.

"Since I have a chance to play early, I want to start and become a role player on the squad," Reynolds told me last weekend. "I also expect for us to go bowling this year."

Big goals go hand-in-hand with a big-time class. And it looks more and more each day like KU has just landed a big-time class.

More to come as the letters keep rolling in.

8:08 a.m. Update:

Here's this from QB Michael Cummings, of Killeen, Tex., a dual-threat prospect who injured his knee midway through his senior season and currently is rehabbing.

Asked what his goals for his first year at Kansas were, Cummings said: "First, get healthy and be a good teammate and learn the offense as well as be a reliable man for my coaches and team."

As for the one area of his game that he'd like to improve the most: "I would say decision making."

8:02 a.m. Update:

Here's the latest update of letters that have arrived at KU:

• Luke Luhrsen
• Chris Robinson
• Jason Hensley
• Phil Ford
• Michael Reynolds
• Ben Goodman
• Collin Garrett
• Michael Cummings
• Travis Bodenstein
• Victor Simmons

Add to this list, the following players, who already have signed and are on campus:

• Brock Berglund
• Dylan Admire
• Darrian Miller
• Julius Green

7:45 a.m. Update:

Here's more from a couple of Jayhawks who made it official between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. today...

Linebacker Jason Hensley, of Alma, Ark., had this to say about what he's expecting next season:

"My goal is to work as hard as I can, and hopefully to play," said Hensley, 6-2, 222.

As for his strengths and what he'd like to improve the most between now and then: "I would have to say I go 100 percent each play and I need to work on my footwork."

Ben Goodman, a 6-3, 225 pound DE from West Brook High in Beaumont, Tex., outlined some rather lofty goals for his first season at KU:

"Play as a true freshman and be a freshman all-american and big 12 defensive freshman of the year."

He continued: "We are getting good players in and they all seem like winners but the two boys from Beaumont, Tex., (Goodman and LB Collin Garrett) we're born winners, it's in our heart and the programs we've been in have been winning since the 7th grade and I don't expect to lose a KU either."

It's not hard to see that the duo from West Brook High in Beaumont, Tex., is extremely confident. Here's what Collin Garrett had to say about his goals for 2011:

"My goals are to get on the field and be the Big 12 defensive player of the year."

Wow. Gotta like that if you're a Kansas fan.

7:42 a.m. Update:

More from Facebook...

"Officially just became a member of the kansas jayhawks," - Ben Goodman, 7:27 a.m.

And this from juco linebacker Tunde Bakare at 7:38 a.m.: "Getting ready 2 sign these papers, big chapter in my life. all can say is thank you God Tune in to ESPN at 9 and watch ya boy's name go across that screen aint gunna cry lol."

7:37 a.m. Update:

Here's the updated list of 2011 recruits who have officially signed their letters of intent:

• Luke Luhrsen
• Chris Robinson
• Jason Hensley
• Phil Ford
• Michael Reynolds
• Ben Goodman

For more on the entire class, keep it right here all day and be sure to check out our recruiting capsules at KUSports.com.

7:30 a.m. Update

Next, our attention turns to nearby Olathe North High, where defensive backs Victor Simmons and Adonis Saunders were expected to sign at 7:30 a.m.

One problem: There’s no school today and that means there’s no signing at the school. Simmons and Saunders both said Tuesday, though, that even if the weather causes a problem (I’d say 8-10 inches of snow and frigid temperatures qualifies) they’d still find a way to get their letters of intent signed early and sent off to KU. Talk about dedication.

Here’s what Saunders and Simmons, teammates who also made up a wide receiver-quarterback duo at O-North, had to say about their goals for their rookie seasons at KU.

“My goal for KU is to come in and make an impact on the team and help build them back up,” said Saunders, a 5-11, 185-pound D-Back. “(Coach Gill) has brought in guys from wining teams who have that leadership that teams need (to be successful).”

Added Simmons, a 6-1, 185-pound safety: “Work hard and be successful on and off the field.”

As for the Class of 2011’s camaraderie, Simmons said that was already taking shape: “Everyone is easy to get along with. Every recruit i met, we became friends almost instantly.”

7:21 a.m. Update:

This is from Luke Luhrsen's Facebook page... "I believe this means that now I am a Jayhawk. Officially."

That letter must be signed and sent. One down. 25 to go.

7:01 a.m. Update

You really can’t take a break for a second here on signing day. Not long after tracking Love’s progress down in Oklahoma, we turn our attention to Wheaton, Ill., where offensive lineman, Luke Luhrsen, 6-5, 265, is expected to sign at 7:01 a.m.

I also caught up with Luhrsen this weekend, who’s goals for his first year with the Jayhawks focused a lot on individual improvement.

“I would really like to get stronger and learn better technique so that I can be all I can be when the time comes for me to take the field,” said Luhrsen, who hails from the same hometown as KU offensive coordinator, Chuck Long. “I expect to get a lot bigger and hopefully a lot stronger, physically and mentally.”

One of six offensive linemen in KU’s Class of 2011, Luhrsen was not at all intimidated by the large number of players at his position.

“As an offensive lineman, I was thrilled to see that there were five other skilled lineman who I know I will be able to rely on in the future,” he said.

7:00 a.m. Update

Next up, our attention turns to Tonkawa, Okla., where linebacker Jake Love plans to sign his national letter of intent at Tonkawa High at 7 a.m... weather-permitting, of course.

I caught up with Love last weekend, and he was not shy about sharing his hopes for his first year in Lawrence.

“(I’d like to) find a way on the field, whether its special teams or outside linebacker,” said Love, a 6-foot, 195-pound outside linebacker. “I just want to help the team in any way possible.”

Also included among Love’s goals for next year are: “Beat OU and OSU, help the team get to a bowl game and improve every day.”

Original Post, 6 a.m.

Good morning, and welcome to KUSports.com’s coverage of Signing Day 2011.

There are a few reasons that Signing Day figures to be a little different around here this year. For starters, signing day itself has become a much bigger deal in the past several years, with ESPN increasing its coverage, newspapers and web sites throughout the country have stepped up their game to follow suit.

What's more, KU coach Turner Gill and his staff appear to be living up to their billing as big-time recruiters, which has brought an extra dose of excitement to this year's big day.

Seeing how this is my first official signing day as a college football beat writer, I have to admit I’m pretty jacked up about the whole experience. I plan to be here throughout the day, bringing you the latest on the KU signings from what appears to be a pretty stacked class. Rivals.com has KU’s Class of 2011 ranked as the 33rd best class in the country and, as our sports editor, Tom Keegan, likes to say, for a school like KU with an unproven and inconsistent football program, that’s actually more like 23rd. His reasoning goes like this: Because it’s Kansas, a football school that, historically speaking, has yet to fully turn the corner, analysts don’t give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt like they do with other, more proven football schools.

Anyway, back to our plans for the day. In addition to live updates throughout the morning on this blog, you can also follow me on Twitter (@mctait) for the latest tidbits of information regarding KU’s latest class.

We’re also planning to have a live chat with offensive lineman, Phil Ford, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound standout from nearby Bishop Miege High. The chat with Ford is scheduled to begin at 3:45 p.m., but you can submit your questions now.

As of midnight, the KU coaching staff still had a few irons in the fire out there and at least one more scholarship to hand out, so there’s a decent chance that we might get a surprise or two as the day moves along. Keep it right here for all of that information and much, much more.

Remember, three players from the Class of 2011 — QB Brock Berglund, RB Darrian Miller and OL Dylan Admire — already have signed and are enrolled in classes at KU while preparing for spring ball.

KU’s first signing of the day is expected to take place on the East Coast, where Lake Mary, Fla., cornerback, Chris Robinson, is slated to sign just after 7 a.m. local time — 6 a.m. central time — which gives him the jump on so many of KU’s 2011 recruits who call the Midwest home.

Robinson told Jon Kirby, of Rivals.com, that his father, who is in the military and has just been deployed, will listen to the ceremony via telephone, as will his brother, Michael, who attends college in North Carolina. Several other family members will be at Lake Mary High to watch the three-star cornerback join the Jayhawks. Included among them are his mother, his maternal grandmother and his grandfather, who is ill with cancer.

We’ll leave it there for now, but check back often throughout the morning as I’ll have updates on most of the day’s signings as they happen.

Later today, we’ll wrap up our Signing Day sprint with coverage from KU coach Turner Gill’s 3 p.m. news conference in which he unveils the full class and talks about his latest crop of Jayhawks.

While you’re waiting for the next signing update, or sometime later today, be sure to check out the collection of video highlights from KU’s latest class that our own Jesse Newell threw together.

More to come...


Jean1183 7 years, 1 month ago

Really excited about this year's team! Great job, Coach Gill and staff!

ranger73 7 years, 1 month ago

So where are all the naysayers who were saying Gill can't recruit? Looks like a good signing class on paper. May have to wait a year or so, but looking good so far. Top 30 class-great! Go Hawks!

MISTERTibbs 7 years, 1 month ago

Ratings mean nothing if they can't translate to the field. I am excited to see what the product looks like starting next year.

ModerateOne 7 years, 1 month ago

Fabulous work M@8. You really have done a good job of bringing the real-life aspect of this stuff home to readers. It is amazing to think about how much a young man's life can change in the span of minutes (see, e.g. Javonte Daniel who was about to sign with Marshall).

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