New assistants finding their place in KU’s recruiting strategy

photo by: Jonathan Mouer/Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Lance Leipold speaks to reporters during a press conference in Phoenix on Friday, Dec. 22, 2023.

Make an appointment. Show up on time. Be honest with whomever you talk to. Follow up with coaches when you’re done. Be “genuine, authentic, professional” and in short “do it the right way.”

For Kansas coach Lance Leipold, those are the basics you need to recruit high school football players — and they apply in any part of the country.

“You’ll build a relationship with the staff early … and you become an East Coast recruiter, a West Coast recruiter, a southern recruiter, you can overcome those (boundaries),” Leipold said in a recent press conference.

He cited linebackers coach Chris Simpson, who has done plenty of work in Detroit and environs, as someone who can excel on the recruiting trail elsewhere, too.

“He’s done that every time I’ve asked him,” Leipold said. “(General Manager) Rob Ianello, who assigns areas, when we ask Chris to go into a new area, it doesn’t take long for him to start reaping benefits from it, because I think he does it the right way. And our other guys too.”

That sort of regional adaptability will be especially important for the KU coaching staff now that it has seen some turnover in its ranks.

The coach-specific recruiting pages on 247Sports give some sense of the overall recruiting impact that departed assistants Andy Kotelnicki, Jordan Peterson and Scott Fuchs had on the composition of the Jayhawks’ roster. Kotelnicki was a relatively minor factor in terms of overall commitments; he was involved in two principal signings during his KU tenure. But the offensive line coach Fuchs served as the primary recruiter on linemen from around the country, while the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Peterson managed to sway players of all positions within his specific territories, most notably the newfound pipeline of Arizona, which yielded four signees (just one a cornerback) in KU’s 2024 class.

New assistant coaches Jeff Grimes, D.K. McDonald and Daryl Agpalsa must now find where they fit into the Jayhawks’ overall strategy. (Grimes, for his part, already has a signee to his name, literally: his son Greydon Grimes.)

“We’ve kind of been spitballing and talking about things,” Agpalsa said in a video posted by “I think for now, before, I was recruiting the state of Wisconsin before I was here, and I think they want to put me a little bit more in the Midwest to start, and that can always be fluid.”

McDonald says he is comfortable anywhere, “it don’t matter,” which is borne out by an Iowa State recruiting record that saw him sign kids from California to Florida and everywhere in between.

“It’s been fun getting back on the phone and talking to parents and guardians and everything like that, and just getting people up here to just see the great things we’re doing,” McDonald said. “This is a hidden gem up here in Lawrence, Kansas.”

Indeed, Leipold said that while the staff asks coaches where they have recruited before and makes “some small tweaks” as needed, he has noticed a reduced emphasis on geographical boundaries.

“Everything’s speeding up so much that it turns into positional recruiting sooner than ever before, I feel, so I think that’ll help that way,” he said.


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