Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender received an unexpected call at 8 a.m. Wednesday. His junior college buddy, Octavius Matthews, was ready to join him in Lawrence.
“I wasn’t sure he was serious about coming here. He kept telling me he was, but you never know,” Bender said. “So it was a little surprising, but I’m fired up.”
Matthews was the unanticipated prize that completed KU football coach David Beaty’s third recruiting class, as Rivals.com’s top-rated junior-college running back picked KU over Purdue and Tennessee. Those schools were his three finalists after he decommitted from Auburn last week.
“I would consider this one of the biggest victories that we’ve had in this class,” Beaty said, “because we had to battle some big-time places to get him all the way to the end.”
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Matthews, who is 6 foot 1 and 200 pounds, shared the same backfield last season with Bender at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss. Beaty sees Matthews as a versatile player who can be used out of the backfield and as a slot receiver.
Bender described Matthews as “explosive” and believed he would be an immediate contributor.
“The ultimate goal for him, I know, is to make it to the NFL, and you can’t do that if you don’t play,” Bender said. “I think he made the right decision.”
KU’s other top signing Wednesday was a running back, as Dom Williams stuck with his commitment for more than a year. He ended his high school career ranked 10th on Texas’ career rushing list.
Beaty said Williams’ acceleration reminded him a bit of NFL rookie of the year Ezekiel Elliott.
“This guy will be a guy we will circle for a long time as one of the stars in his class,” Beaty said of Williams.
One other notable addition was Derby tight end Kenyon Tabor, whom Beaty referred to as “a pillar in our program.”
Beaty has often spoken about the importance of landing a top-ranked recruit from the state so others might follow. Tabor, at 6 feet 4 and 215 pounds, was Rivals’ fifth-ranked player in Kansas.
“He caught enough balls to sink a battleship this year,” Beaty said. “So we’re going to throw him the ball a bunch, I promise you.”
KU, which did not differentiate between scholarship and non-scholarship players, listed 27 signees in its 2017 class.