As summer recruiting kicks into gear, KU will need plenty of pass catchers for 2025

photo by: Jonathan Mouer/Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Kansas wideout Keaton Kubecka catches a pass during practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023.

At the start of last June, Kansas didn’t know whether highly coveted Arizona edge rusher Deshawn Warner would join the team, let alone that he and fellow defensive end Dakyus Brinkley would end up committing just three days apart. That actually didn’t even happen until July.

The Jayhawks had just five of their eventual 17 signees from the class of 2024 when June 2023 began, before a slew of visits led to a flurry of commitments. This time around, they enter the month with four pledges for 2025 — quarterback David McComb, linebacker Malachi Curvey, offensive lineman Anderson Kopp and running back John Kelly — for the group that could eventually be charged with replacing the most monumental senior class of head coach Lance Leipold’s tenure.

KU tends to replace its seniors with an equal number of scholarship freshmen, and it will have somewhere in the range of two dozen seniors leaving following the 2024 season, so plenty of spots left to fill.

Its most glaring needs, though, will be at wide receiver and tight end, where the vast majority of long-tenured talent will depart and most of the young players have yet to prove themselves in any noteworthy fashion. These positions take on particular importance given that if Jalon Daniels has a good enough season to go to the NFL, KU will also have a new starting quarterback in 2025.

Here’s more on the outlook at these key spots, which require further action from the Jayhawks over the summer.

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas wide receiver Doug Emilien makes a catch at practice on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lawrence.

photo by: Jonathan Mouer/Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Kansas receiver Jarred Sample grabs a ball at practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023.

Wide receiver

What is possibly the strongest and deepest group on the KU roster at present projects to turn into the shallowest after 2024, with longtime contributors Lawrence Arnold, Luke Grimm, Quentin Skinner and even Trevor Wilson and part-time wideout Torry Locklin expected to run out of eligibility.

Doug Emilien has shown promise since transferring from Minnesota back in 2022 and Keaton Kubecka did enough as a true freshman in 2023 to earn snaps on special teams and even on offense, but the two still have a combined eight career catches. KU lost another young prospect, Surahz Buncom, to the transfer portal in the spring and brought in Maize native and former Syracuse wideout Bryce Cohoon. Jarred Sample, a three-star recruit in the same class as Kubecka and Buncom, is the other scholarship player still on the roster.

Other than that, the cupboard will be just about empty. Leipold’s staff can sell something it has not had the opportunity to offer for a couple years, or at most positions, which is near-immediate playing time for incoming freshmen.

That depends, of course, on how aggressive KU decides to be in the winter and spring portal after the 2024 season, but the Jayhawks under Leipold typically use portal additions to replace outgoing portal players, not graduating seniors.

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World photo

Kansas freshman Jaden Hamm runs through drills during practice at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World photo

Kansas redshirt freshman Quinton Conley practices at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

Tight end

As uncertain as the outlook is for this position group entering 2024, it will be even more so ahead of the 2025 season, when Tevita Ahoafi-Noa, Jared Casey and Trevor Kardell should all be gone. New offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Grimes will have the chance to shape the position group to a greater degree than when he inherited an array of veteran players this past offseason.

One lingering question here is the status of the injured DeShawn Hanika, who already used his redshirt year when he was a freshman at Butler Community College in 2019, meaning that if he misses all or most of the season he will have to try to get a medical waiver. If he is able to come back he will immediately slot in as the top option not only at his position but potentially in the entire receiving corps.

Otherwise, the Jayhawks will be left with a sparse and unproven group including Jaden Hamm, the Eudora native they once flipped from Arkansas (currently a redshirt freshman); Quinton Conley, a well-regarded walk-on who converted from wide receiver (currently a redshirt sophomore); and Carson Bruhn, a 2024 non-early-enrolling recruit from Sioux Center, Iowa.

Particularly for an offense and coordinator who enjoy deploying a range of tight ends with various skill sets, additional depth at this position will be necessary.

Honorable mentions

There are certainly other positions at which the Jayhawks’ personnel will be transformed after 2024. KU will be losing longtime consistent contributors in its defensive backfield, both at cornerback with Cobee Bryant and Mello Dotson, and at safety with O.J. Burroughs and Marvin Grant, respectively.

But these are not among the most exigent needs for 2025 because of the young talent the Jayhawks have coming up through the pipeline. The 2024 cornerback class of Austin Alexander, Aundre Gibson and early enrollee Jalen Todd bodes well for the future, in particular, and the safety group doesn’t look too bad for at least the 2025 season if the Jayhawks opt for a double-Dye defensive backfield with players like Mason Ellis and Taylor Davis in complementary roles. The Jayhawks could look to stock up further but hardly need to prioritize these spots, especially cornerback.

It’s a similar situation on the interior offensive line, where the prospect of losing Shane Bumgardner, Michael Ford Jr. and Darrell Simmons Jr. looks potentially dire, except that KU will be situated pretty well for the near future at guard if it can bring back Kobe Baynes, Nolan Gorczyca and newly added Michigan transfer Amir Herring to go with 2024 recruit Harrison Utley, not to mention that it already has Anderson Kopp committed for 2025. It may still need to look to the portal for a starting center in 2025 depending who else on the line is comfortable snapping, and also depending on how things go with its recruitment of Texas A&M transfer Bryce Foster.


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