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What we've learned about KU football coach Charlie Weis' recruiting style
With the second national signing day of the Charlie Weis era at Kansas University now just two weeks away, it seems like a good time to quickly go over some of the main things we've learned about Weis' recruiting strategy.
We all know that the second-year coach can walk in to any recruit's house, flash his Super Bowl rings and immediately wow everyone in the room. You might be surprised to learn, however, that he doesn't do that very often.
Weis' recruiting strategy is simple and it falls right in line with the way he runs his football program: Hit them with substance and style.
Based upon my conversations with several KU recruits and a few words from Weis himself, it sounds as if the KU coach is as brutally honest on the recruiting trail as he is with his Jayhawk players and he does not make empty promises just to entice prospects to sign with Kansas. During in-home visits he shows up in his best suits and allows the players and their families to ask him anything and everything they can think of.
It's not a strategy that works for everybody and it does not appeal to every player Weis targets. But, as we can see from a recruiting class that's ranked 37th nationally by Rivals.com and the continued and rising interest in the program, it seems to be working for KU.
Of course, there are several other factors at play here, though. And they are, in no particular order:
• The presence of Dave Campo as his defensive coordinator. During the chase for players in the Class of 2013 alone KU picked up some big-time prospects who passed on some pretty big schools, including a couple who call the SEC home. Campo was a big reason for that. And as long as he's in town, KU will continue to draw serious interest from some of the top defensive prospects they target.
• Forget about a hotbed for recruiting. Weis has proven that he and his coaching staff will go anywhere to get their guy. That's obvious from the multiple trips many of them took to Hawaii during the past couple of months. It may not have landed them the big kahuna they were looking for — offensive lineman Reeve Koehler, who chose Arkansas last weekend — but they were able to pick up a pretty nice, under-the-radar linebacker in Colton Goeas and also made some nice connections that can only help in the future.
• Speaking of the staff, most of the guys on Weis' crew have what it takes to bring in talent, but few of them have been as impressive early on as tight ends coach Jeff Blasko. Blasko (one of the guys who traveled to Hawaii) played a huge role in landing some big-time juco guys this offseason, including top-rated overall juco prospect Marquel Combs as well as offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi, linebackers Marcus Jenkins-Moore, Samson Faifili and Colton Goeas and defensive back Cassius Sendish. All of those guys could — and probably should — be in KU's two-deep depth chart to open the 2013 season. Blasko's presence on the staff (along with Weis' quick decision to move Clint Bowen to linebackers coach) helped keep things calm when news broke that DeMontie Cross was leaving for TCU.
• Weis is not afraid to work. And travel. And miss out on sleep. And use whatever means available to recruit including modern-era tools such as Facebook and Twitter. With the recent rule changes (look for a story on that soon) opening up the door for unlimited contact between coaches and recruits, it bodes extremely well for KU's future classes that Weis is already comfortable going full speed ahead. Some coaches will have a tougher time with the adjustment.
• When all is said and done and the Jayhawks will have nearly 20 junior-college players in the 2013 class. That's a lot for any class and certainly as many as KU has had in a single haul, but it's not necessarily a sign of things to come. Although Weis has said that he would be more than willing to take junior-college transfers every year, he also said his ideal classes would include a blend of high school and juco talent, with the number of juco transfers tapering off each year as the program begins to develop younger talent more and more each year.
• While most of the aforementioned facts represent good news for KU, there remains one question surrounding Weis' recruiting that figures to take some time to answer but also is one that could go a long way toward determining how successful he will be at Kansas — How long until Weis and company are bringing in more four- and five-star players? Such players have never flocked to KU with much regularity, but with Weis and Campo being big-time draws, the number of big-time recruits could be on the rise if KU can return to its winning ways. This year's class features two four-star prospects (juco transfers Marquel Combs and Chris Martin), 20 three-star players and three two-star guys.
• Finally, Weis was asked toward the end of the 2012 season if he was concerned about the team's record hurting recruiting. As we all know by now, KU's current class is ranked in the Top 40 nationally and Weis' answer to the question illustrates why. “The best year I ever had recruiting in the past was after the worst season,” he said. “Because more guys see an opportunity to play earlier. They all want to play. Yeah, they all want to play.” A closer look at the rest of the Top 40, however, reveals that nearly all of the programs in that group are what many would consider traditional powers and certainly programs that have been mainstays in the Top 25 during the past several seasons. There are only a few programs in the Top 40 — KU (37th), Illinois (33rd), Rutgers (40th) and maybe one or two others — that many would consider to be “outsiders” on that list. KU's presence certainly speaks to the impact of Weis and Campo and the name recognition that both coaches bring to KU's recruiting efforts.