Matt Tait: Les Miles’ juco signing strategy has different feel than recent experiments

Newly-hired Kansas football coach Les Miles shakes hands with a fan as he is introduced to the Allen Fieldhouse crowd during halftime of the Jayhawks’ game against Stanford.

Let the record show that the first official recruiting class in the Les Miles era of Kansas football will include at least six junior college signees.

Insert your best eye roll, more-of-the-same statements and belly laughs worthy of Old Saint Nick here.

Hasn’t Kansas tried this whole juco thing way too many times before? Yes, and no. More on that in a minute.

Now, take a deep breath and let your mind accept the fact that the news that Wednesday’s early signing period haul included six juco prospects and four high school standouts is actually OK.

The reason?

Because a little more than a month ago, Miles explained that this could happen. He even went as far as to say he planned on doing it, was OK with the move and would need juco help to fill some immediate needs for his first team at Kansas.

In other words, Miles had a plan and he’s actually sticking to it.

I know. I know. I know. Mind-blowing.

Miles’ exact words when he was introduced back in November were: “… with the proximity of the JCs that we have in this state, I’m going to certainly look at those guys as they would be emergency-need style of guys.”

Let’s quickly assess just how much of an emergency these initial juco signees really are.

Mesa Community College quarterback Thomas MacVittie is a player who Miles called “arguably the best pocket-mobile quarterback there was.” And given the fact that KU will have to replace two-year, primary starter Peyton Bender, adding a QB was an absolute must. One for one.

At wideout, the 2019 Jayhawks will have to replace steady seniors Jeremiah Booker, Steven Sims Jr. and Ryan Schadler, and now have better odds of doing it thanks to the signatures obtained from Iowa Western wideouts Ezra Naylor and Andrew Parchment. Both stand 6-foot-2 or taller and both add good size and playmaking ability to a key position in Big 12 football. Three for three.

Up front, the addition of three-star, Iowa Western defensive end Malcolm Lee — arguably the best of the bunch who signed with Kansas on Wednesday — and two-star D-Lineman Caleb Sampson, of Coahoma Community College in Mississippi, give Kansas a shot of making a smoother transition from senior co-captain Daniel Wise. Five for five.

And three-star cornerback Justin Ford, of Golden West College in California, is ranked as the 20th best juco corner available, and will, at the very least, push to create depth and competition at a position where you can never have too much of either. Six for six.

The likelihood of all of Wednesday’s juco signees becoming key contributors for Miles and Kansas is low. It never works out that way, at any school, and I have yet to meet a coach who expects it to go that way for him.

But panning out down the road and being good additions up front are two different things. And, as of today, be it because they address a particular need, are in good academic standing or come to KU with more than two years of eligibility, the newest group of juco players coming to KU appears to be worth the risk.

Call those players the foundation. And expect Miles and company to go heavy on high school talent from here. That seems to be the plan anyway.

How that plan evolves, and whether Miles sticks to it to the point of relying less and less on junior college transfers each year, will go a long way toward determining a.) how successful Miles will be in Lawrence; and b.) how strongly the KU fan base will embrace The Mad Hatter and his strategy for rebuilding Kansas football.


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