Nearly 15 minutes after his first signing day news conference as a college head coach, Kansas’ David Beaty sat in a back corner of an empty Mrkonic Auditorium, a pair of black headphones on his head.
Beaty was set to do a local radio interview to discuss his first football recruiting class at KU. Then he realized whom he was talking to on the other end. Royals broadcaster Rex Hudler was back in the studio, taking over the interview and offering some well-wishes and praise.
“Thank you,” Beaty said, pausing for a second.
Moments later, Beaty removed his headphones and stood up.
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“That dude was a beast,” Beaty said.
The television cameras were gone. Most of the reporters had left the room. It was after 4 p.m. on a snowy Wednesday afternoon. But even in a quiet moment, Beaty had yet to turn off his trademark enthusiasm.
For the last two months, Beaty had scrambled to hire a staff and fill a recruiting class as he took stock of the program in Lawrence. Like any new job, this process had been exhausting and exhilarating. He negotiated coaching deals while sitting on airport tarmacs. He scoured the country, looking for overlooked recruits and hidden talent. He burned through his Texas rolodex, spending hours gathering intelligence from old friends — “Dear friends,” in Beaty parlance — and coaching contacts in Texas high school football.
“You’re drinking from the fire hose for a while there,” Beaty said on Wednesday.
For Beaty and the KU staff, the payoff came early Wednesday morning, as the coaches gathered at the Anderson Family Football Complex and snacked on bagels, orange juice and coffee. They waited on paperwork and documents from high school football recruits from across the country.
Just two months after taking the job at Kansas, Beaty officially signed his first recruiting class, landing 16 players before 10 a.m. Wednesday. In all, Kansas currently has 24 players in the fold for its 2015 class, including seven junior-college players who signed in December and one high school player — receiver Chase Harrell — who graduated early and will be on campus for spring ball.
And even after just two months, this class had Beaty’s fingerprints all over it.
A former Texas A&M assistant with roots in Texas high school football, Beaty leaned heavily on the fertile recruiting grounds in the Lone Star State. The Jayhawks signed 17 players from the state of Texas, which accounted for more than 70 percent of the class.
“Most of these guys (on our staff) have a background in the state of Texas,” Beaty said. “That’s where a lot of that came from. The other thing that helped a lot (were) the relationships in that state — guys just picking up (the phone) and calling. We had a bunch of folks wanting to help.”
It is not easy to build a recruiting class in a matter of weeks. Beaty praised former interim coach Clint Bowen and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell for helping hold on to a list of players who had previously committed to Charlie Weis. (“Those guys were the magic,” Beaty said.) But this class won’t register much in the recruiting rankings. According to class rankings at Rivals.com, the Jayhawks’ 2015 class ranked 66th in the country.
That’s fine with Beaty.
On Wednesday, as he ran through a video presentation of his class, he emphasized that Kansas was looking for the right guys, the right character, and the right fit for an up-tempo spread system.
“Kansas guys,” Beaty said.
As Beaty spoke about his class, he continually used the word “length,” a trait that the Kansas staff emphasized in looking for defensive backs and receivers. Take the example of Harrell, a 6-foot-4 receiver from Huffman, Texas, who signed early and will be on campus for spring ball. Beaty compared Harrell to former Texas A&M star Mike Evans, another lanky, athletic receiver.
In other words, Harrell is a receiver that “can run for a dude that tall,” Beaty said.
This was a typical exchange from Wednesday afternoon. Beaty dropped a handful of “dudes.” He spoke with energy. He mentioned that, in addition to Wednesday’s haul, Kansas plans to add a long list of preferred walk-ons to bolster roster numbers. And he also made a point of mentioning nearly every high school coach who helped in the recruiting process, calling each one a “dear friend.”
Finally, Beaty revealed his basic recruiting pitch from the last month, which amounted to this: Kansas football is going to be fun.
“One of the things that we talked about, was this thing is gonna be fun,” Beaty said. “It’s going to be fun. College football is tough, now. It’s a hard job. You’ve got two full-time jobs as a student and an athlete. That’s two full-time jobs. So football is too hard not to be a little bit fun. And we’re going to be an up-tempo, high-flying, throwing-that-ball-around offense. It’s going to be exciting to play in.”
Kansas football signings list
Early enrollees (8)
Trinity Valley (Texas) CC
Trinity Valley (Texas) CC
College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn, Ill.)
Hargrave HS (Huffman, Texas)
Navarro JC (Corsicana, Texas)
Blinn (Texas) JC
Butler CC (El Dorado, Kan.)
Trinity Valley (Texas) CC
Signed on Wed. (16)
North Shore HS (Galena Park, Texas)
George Ranch HS (Richmond, Texas)
College Station (Texas) HS
Manor (Texas) HS
Sherman (Texas) HS
Dunbar HS (Fort Worth, Texas)
Bowie HS (Arlington, Texas)
Saline (Mich.) HS
Northwest HS (Justin, Texas)
Heritage HS (Frisco, Texas)
Fullerton College (Lawrenceville, Ga.)
Timberview HS (Richmond, Texas)
Travis HS (Richmond, Texas)
Vero Beach (Fla.) HS
Kingfisher (Okla.) HS
Bishop Miege HS