David Beaty came to his Signing Day press conference prepared.
The Kansas football coach knew he was going to be asked about going heavy on junior college players — the Jayhawks signed 11 in Wednesday’s class — after that approach set KU’s program back a few years when Charlie Weis tried it in 2013.
“There are going to be a lot of people that say, ‘They’re going to sign a lot of junior-college guys and it’s going to perpetuate the problem,’” Beaty said, “but that’s a lie.”
The coach was ready to explain.
When he first got to KU, Beaty said he and his staff evaluated the recruiting of the previous regime and determined the biggest problem was a lack of both retention and production. Not only were juco guys frequently leaving the program without playing a down, but even the ones who stayed were often non-factors. That led to Beaty inheriting a program in 2015 that was woefully low on scholarship numbers.
It started a shift, Beaty says, in how he wanted to approach juco recruits. When possible, KU wanted to target “qualifiers,” or those who are academically eligible to play at the Division I level out of high school. Those players had two benefits: They could potentially transfer to KU with three years of eligibility remaining and also were less likely to have academic risk.
So far, Beaty says, his program has had success in this area. He cited that of KU’s 24 juco players in his three recruiting classes, 13 of them were qualifiers out of high school. In addition, the coach said 22 of his 24 juco guys “have had an impact already” on the program, while the other two had medical issues that forced them to give up football; KU recouped both of those scholarships.
Beaty went a step further to prove his point Wednesday, using numbers to also indirectly criticize his predecessor. Beaty said that 15 of Weis’ 36 juco players never contributed on the field for KU, while 15 also didn’t graduate.
According to Beaty, 10 of his juco players graduated, while all the other 14 are “on track” to get their diplomas.
“I tell you exactly what the (juco) plan was, so you know,” Beaty said. “That way you get the truth out there.”
There is still reason, though, to wonder about KU’s recent recruiting motivations.
For Beaty, who has a 3-33 record at KU in three seasons, there obviously is immense pressure to win now. After averaging eight juco players per class his first three seasons, a jump to 11 could easily be viewed as an attempt to plug short-term holes without regard for the long-term cost.
“We deal in reality,” Beaty said. “We’ve got to have guys that are ready to go right now to help us compete in the Big 12. We’re here to win, and we’ve got to get that done.”
The juco reliance also can be seen as an indictment of KU’s ability to develop players under Beaty. After three years, the ideal situation would be for the starting roles to go to those with multiple years in the program.
At this point, KU doesn’t have enough of those guys, with Beaty realizing his team needed immediate help at defensive end, cornerback and safety.
KU’s recruiting class, on paper, is a solid one. The Jayhawks, who had previously never signed a high school player in Rivals’ top 200, picked up two in cornerback Corione Harris (No. 105) and running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams (No. 178).
The Jayhawks also ranked 46th in Rivals’ team rankings — the school’s best mark since 2013.
That year should seem familiar, though, as it was the last time the Jayhawks chose to load up on juco players.
Will 2018 produce better results? Beaty believes so.
“We had a very, very precise plan for how we were going to add personnel, and we followed that plan,” Beaty said. “And we know it works because we’ve been using it since we got here.”
2018 Kansas football recruiting class
Deerfield Beach HS (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Kapaun Mt. Carmel HS (Wichita)
Charles “Codey” Cole
Butler CC (El Dorado)
Wichita Collegiate (Wichita)
West Los Angeles College (Culver City, Calif.)
Hartnell College (Salinas, Calif.)
Blue Valley North HS (Overland Park)
Landry-Walker HS (Marrero, La.)
Fort Scott CC (Fort Scott)
Ellsworth CC (Iowa Falls, Iowa)
Arizona Western College (Yuma, Az.)
College of San Mateo (San Mateo, Calif.)
Coffeyville CC (Coffeyville)
Tascosa HS (Amarillo, Texas)
Cecilia HS (Cecilia, La.)
Park Hill HS (Kansas City, Mo.)
Hartnell College (Salinas, Calif.)
Wichita Collegiate HS (Wichita)
Rockhurst HS (Kansas City, Mo.)
Olathe Northwest HS
El Camino College (Torrance, Calif.)
Lawrence Free State HS
ASA College (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Anthony “Pooka” Williams
Hahnville HS (Boutte, Fla.)
Ritenour HS (Overland, Mo.)
Note: KU does not distinguish between scholarship and non-scholarship players when listing its signing class