Free State lineman Calvin Clements chooses Kansas after de-committing from Baylor
photo by: Mike Shaw/Special to the Journal-World
Five months after committing to Baylor and one day after de-committing, Free State High offensive lineman Calvin Clements announced his plans to play football at the University of Kansas.
Clements, the top-ranked offensive tackle in the state of Kansas in the 2023 class — and No. 8 among all prospects in the Sunflower State — announced both his de-commitment and his pledge to KU on Twitter on back-to-back days.
“I’m very happy for Calvin to make a decision he is comfortable with,” Free State coach Kevin Stewart told the Journal-World on Wednesday night. “He had a great relationship with the entire KU staff and players the entire time and I think his heart was always with KU.”
In a Wednesday night phone interview with the Journal-World, Clements said his change of heart really started to take hold over the recent Thanksgiving holiday. So he thought about his options, weighed his choices and prayed about it while talking to both his family members and the coaches at Baylor. He said keeping them in the loop was important because the BU coaching staff didn’t do anything wrong or not do anything he needed that made him change his mind.
“After being around my family a lot lately and just being home, I kind of came to the realization that I wasn’t really sure about going down to Texas,” Clements told the Journal-World. “All of the emotions and change came over the past couple of weeks. It was pretty difficult, but the Lord made it pretty clear to me what I truly needed and what was most valuable.”
That led to him making a final decision and, from there, he wanted to announce things quickly. His connection to the entire KU coaching staff, and specifically offensive line coach Scott Fuchs, played a big role in Clements’ positive feelings about Kansas. Seeing fellow-Lawrence native Devin Neal have such an impact on the Jayhawks these past couple of years didn’t hurt either.
“Watching him do his thing and just ball out was really inspiring to me,” he said of Neal, who led the Jayhawks in rushing during each of his first two seasons at KU.
Kansas, Baylor and Kansas State were the initial final three for the 6-foot-7, 275-pound lineman, who continued to keep an eye on KU throughout the Jayhawks’ 6-6 season despite his oral, non-binding commitment to BU.
“There’s a vision ahead,” Clements said. “And it’s really exciting in the moment but it’s also cool to know you’re committing to something way bigger than yourself. I always want to stay humble and remember I’m a man on a mission and just continue to work hard.”
Clements, who grew up watching and cheering for Kansas football, said watching the team qualify for a bowl game this season reminded him of how much love he has for the school and his hometown and he could not pass up the opportunity to become a key part of it.
“I’ve seen this program go through its different stages and I grew up going to the losses and the not-even-close-to-full stadium, and I’ve just always had a lot of pride in KU. I think these new coaches are really determined to not only switch this program through winning but also to capture the community and get the city and the state behind them.”
Clements spent his first two seasons of high school football at eight-man Veritas Christian before transferring to Free State in 2021. KU offered Clements a scholarship in March of 2021 — before he had ever played a game for the Firebirds — and his stock quickly soared from there to include scholarship offers from his top three, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska and others.
After a solid season as a junior in 2021, which ended with a broken left ankle in the postseason, Clements was one of the Firebirds’ top leaders in 2022, helping to anchor the offensive line and establishing the kind of work ethic and culture that the rest of his team tried to follow.
“He’s been a great player and a great teammate at Free State,” Stewart said. “And I know he is grateful to all of his past and current teammates and coaches for helping bring success to our team. We’re all very proud of him.”
In other KU recruiting news of late, Lance Leipold’s Jayhawks also landed commitments from D.J. Johnson, a 6-7, 315-pound tackle from Dodge City Community College and 3-star running back Johnny Thompson Jr., of Westlake Village, Calif., who had previously been committed to USC.
Both pick-ups, along with Clements, indicate a significant uptick in recruiting for the Jayhawks, who figure to be as active as anyone in the transfer portal market during the weeks ago, looking for even more talent to bring in to help sustain the foundation of success they established in 2022.
The portal, of course, is a two-way street and in the last week, a few players who either were or still are on KU’s roster for the 2022 season announced their plans to enter the portal and leave Kansas.
That group included: junior wide receiver Steven McBride, who made two starts in 24 appearances during his Kansas career; sophomore cornerback Shaad Dabney, who appeared in 23 games with the Jayhawks; Kevin Orange Jr., a defensive end with two years of eligibility remaining; and sophomore safety Edwin White-Schultz, who made 11 tackles in 15 games at KU.
Former KU linebacker Gavin Potter, who left the team several weeks ago, also is in the portal, and former Eastern Michigan safety Jarrett Paul and UCF linebacker Eriq Gilyard also are believed to be entering the portal and no longer with the KU program.