‘We can’t be settlers’: Kansas football coaches talk recruiting as open week continues

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal

LAWRENCE — Without a game to prepare for Saturday, Kansas’ football coaches have been able to spend more time recruiting this week.

Head coach Lance Leipold took a trip to Wichita. Other coaches have been traveling, too. It’s a reminder that, while there’s still seven games to play, Leipold and his staff have to spend time working on the future of the program as well.

And according to Leipold, the Jayhawks coaches are being received well.

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“It’s about building relationships with players and with coaches in the area and we’re just trying to be consistent in what we’re doing and honest and thorough,” Leipold said Thursday, “and I think much like we want on the other side of the coin when we deal with them, we’re hoping that they see that in us and we’ll build those consistencies and recruiting success will follow. But, yeah, I think there’s probably a slight hesitation of a wait-and-see as we go into schools. But it’s been positive of — they’ve appreciated some of the things we’ve tried to do upon our arrival in zooming and doing different things and what we have. And so, I feel that we’re definitely trending in the right direction.”

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold pulls his quarterbacks aside during a practice at the University of Kansas.

The Jayhawks have six commits in the 2022 recruiting class as of Friday afternoon, and a class that ranks 10th in the Big 12 Conference and 89th nationally. All six of the 247Sports Composite three-star talents are out-of-state prospects, with two coming from Texas, two from Missouri and one each from Alabama and Michigan. Positionally, as listed by 247Sports, the six break down into two offensive linemen, two cornerbacks, a wide receiver and a safety.

Considering Kansas (1-4, 0-2 in Big 12) has played five games so far, Leipold and his staff have more familiarity with their roster and what areas of focus they should have in recruiting. Maybe that means adding a transfer at the position with experience, and maybe that means taking a high school athlete who’ll need more time to develop. Leipold noted injuries play a part in this, too, in addition to whether or not they may choose to have a player redshirt.

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Jayhawks offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki pointed out Thursday that playing against Iowa State recently was a chance to evaluate what a successful Big 12 program looks like. But he would add that the type of person they’re looking to recruit doesn’t change, and said as defensive coordinator Brian Borland would that they’re always looking to see what they might need.

Kansas has seen two prospects decommit since the start of the season.

“If we’re looking at a defensive end, will he improve the defensive end room compared to what’s there now?” Borland said Thursday. “I think that’s going to be the same even down the road when we are really doing well … You’re always looking to find better than your current situation. So, yeah, I think we, like I said, I love the players that we have. But I think we also understand that we’ve got to continue to upgrade and those are the guys we’re looking for. We can’t be settlers in recruiting.”

Rob Ianello, the team’s general manager, said during an appearance Wednesday on Hawk Talk this week that Kansas’ recruiting plan will see it add high school and college prospects each year. And the college players could even come from the Division II or junior college levels, if the team finds the right guy.

With transfers, Ianello wants someone who has a chip on their shoulder and is looking to prove something, not run away from something. He said a team has to be prepared to lose players each year due to transferring, and that the transfer portal is an avenue to solve whatever issues arise because of that.

“If you’re not willing to embrace it, if you’re not willing to really look deep into it, then you’re going to fall behind,” said Ianello, who likened the transfer portal to free agency and signing day to the NFL draft. “Because that’s where it is right now for every sport.”

Grant Murray, the team’s director of player personnel, is someone who Leipold trusts a great deal when it comes to evaluating talent. Murray played for Leipold when Leipold coached at Wisconsin-Whitewater, and according to Leipold knows what Leipold’s looking for and can compare recruits to players Leipold has seen in the past.

“When I watch film of recruits and things like that, 95 percent of the time, probably, Grant’s the guy that I watch it with,” Leipold said. “Because I take all the information that’s been logged in by our coaches and that, and then I also kind of jump in with what Grant has. And he knows me as well as anybody, and my first week as a head coach I went into his high school to recruit him.”

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.