Column: Kansas building strong corners
The progress Kansas University’s football team displayed in Saturday’s 30-20 loss to Texas Tech was followed by good news off the field.
Kansas oral commitment Kyle Mayberry, a cornerback out of Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, told Jon Kirby of Jayhawkslant.com, “I am 100 percent committed to the University of Kansas. There is no chance of me switching.”
Kansas cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry and offensive-line coach Zach Yenser were at Mayberry’s game Friday night, and Perry has developed a strong relationship with the 5-foot-11, 163-pound prospect who has a chance to keep KU’s D-back U reputation rolling. His arrrival will enable Tyrone Miller to shift to safety, joining Fish Smithson.
It’s easy to see why Mayberry said yes to Kansas. The Denver Broncos have the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, both ranked as two-star recruits in high school, as is Mayberry, first played together at Kansas.
JaCorey Shepherd, switched from receiver to corner by former KU assistant Dave Campo, was named starter for the Philadelphia Eagles and suffered a season-ending knee injury the next day. Shepherd’s opposite corner, Dexter McDonald, is with the Oakland Raiders. Former KU safeties Darrell Stuckey (San Diego Chargers) and Bradley McDougald (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) bring positive attention to their university. Talib, Harris and Stuckey played in the same Pro Bowl.
It’s a good sign that Mayberry, offered a scholarship by more than a dozen schools from smaller conferences, chose a Big 12 school. It shows he believes in his ability, and confidence is as important as any physical skill to thrive at cornerback.
It’s worth wondering whether Harris would have made it to the NFL had he chosen a school from a lesser conference. Signed out of KU as an undrafted free agent by the Broncos, Harris didn’t have to face the same shock-to-the-system transition as other rookies because he already was accustomed to facing NFL-caliber receivers week in and week out in the Big 12. The same will hold true for Mayberry should he develop into an NFL prospect at KU.
Kansas State also is recruiting Mayberry, who attended the Wildcats’ 55-0 loss to Oklahoma and told Kirby that K-State, “wasn’t the same to me as KU. I don’t know how to explain it, it just wasn’t.”
Short on available scholarships because several transfers and a pair of gray-shirts count toward the Class of 2016, KU is aiming for quality over quantity this recruiting season.
Kansas defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux landed a major oral commitment from inside linebacker Maciah Long from Houston in the middle of an August practice.
Missouri and UCLA were among the schools KU beat out for the 6-3, 234-pound linebacker. Kansas goes up against those two schools as well as North Carolina State, Oklahoma and Oregon in trying to keep standout Lawrence High defensive end Amani Bledsoe home.
Way back when, Lawrence High superstar John Hadl made an oral commitment to attend Oklahoma and switched to Kansas after then-Jayhawks coach Jack Mitchell went for a horse ride with Hadl’s father. When the two men returned to the Hadl residence, the then-running back was told he had switched his mind. Hadl was an All-American at halfback and quarterback at KU. He went on to become a superstar in the AFL and NFL and so loved KU he works in the athletic department to this day, proving that not only can you stay at home, you can come home again.
— Tom Keegan appears on “The Drive,” Sunday nights on WIBW-TV.