In 2017, Kansas State signed Hutchinson’s Josh Rivas, Trinity Academy’s Ben Adler and Newton’s Aidan Mills.
Those three linemen represented the most Wildcat signings from the Wichita area in one season in the past 20 years. Since then, no one has gone to Manhattan on scholarship.
For the first time in two decades, K-State is riding a two-year drought of signings out of the biggest city in Kansas. Since 2001, there had been at least one in every class 14 out of those 19 years.
That is on course to change in 2020.
McPherson’s Cody Stufflebean is verbally committed. Stufflebean is a versatile athlete for the Bullpups. He comes into the 2019 high school season as their No. 1 offensive weapon as a tight end and No. 1 pass-rusher off the edge.
Others in the Wichita area on K-State’s radar. Rose Hill junior offensive lineman Noah Bolticoff holds an offer. Maize senior receiver Preven Christon and Wichita Northwest senior linebacker Darius Cooper have been in contact but have not received offers.
Stufflebean said he had noticed a drop in K-State’s recruitment of the Wichita area lately under former coach Bill Snyder. He’s hopeful new KSU coach Chris Klieman can change that.
“Everyone you talk to says Snyder was just hoping Kansas kids would come and walk on because it was a dream for a family like mine,” Stufflebean said. “Kids grow up just wanting to be on the team, like Jordy Nelson did, and work their way onto the field.”
Stufflebean said he probably wouldn’t have accepted a walk-on position.
But even Stufflebean’s pending signing comes with an asterisk. McPherson is an hour north of Wichita. If you look at the school’s signings within 30 minutes of downtown since 2001, only 12 players have joined the Wildcats on scholarship.
Klieman said he is fortunate to have Taylor Braet, the K-State director of football recruiting and a 2003 graduate of Wichita Heights, on staff.
“We need to win across the whole state of Kansas,” Klieman said. “People don’t understand that takes time, too. You don’t just come in here and all of a sudden have great relationships.”
Trends have been up-and-down for Wichita-area athletes making it to either K-State or Kansas since 2017. That year was a high point for KU: former Jayhawks coach David Beaty signed five to its class that year.
But for all of Kansas, both schools have been down on numbers starting with the 2018 class. Including the players who have verbally committed to the 2020 classes, K-State has singed 14 from Kansas, and the Jayhawks have added just seven.
Since 2015, the oldest recruiting class still on the 2019 roster, K-State has signed 33 Kansans. Four of them are team captains this season, including Wichita Bishop Carroll graduate Denzel Goolsby.
Goolsby, a senior safety, said he doesn’t like to think about having been named a captain. He doesn’t want it to affect his approach, he said.
“But I think it’s humbling given my origin as a west side Wichita kid growing up with a dream to play on a big stage someday,” Goolsby said. “Now I’m here where a lot of people would have laughed at me six years ago if I said, ‘I want to be a Division I football player, starter and captain.’
“Sometimes it’s more so about believing in yourself and knowing that it doesn’t really matter where you come from. You could come from a huge city. You could come from a highly recruited area. Or you could just come from a normal city in Kansas in the Midwest and still make it happen.”
K-State defensive end Wyatt Hubert is the team’s only sophomore captain. He hails from Shawnee Heights outside of Topeka. He is the only player from Shawnee Heights to make it to K-State on scholarship in recent history.
Hubert said he takes a lot of pride in being from Kansas and wears what he calls a “disadvantage” as a badge of honor.
“In my opinion, Kansas kids always get the short end of the stick,” Hubert said. “The advice I’d give is if you want to achieve something, you have to do everything right.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth.”
K-State’s Tyler Burns is not a captain. A senior running back who had to fight to win back his scholarship after leaving the team under Snyder, Burns was part of the 2015 class that featured three Wichita-area signings.
Burns came out of Wichita’s Trinity Academy, where is regarded as one of the top players in school history. He said it was a massive honor to receive his K-State offer out of high school.
“I didn’t really have any honors, and I felt like I was just as good, just as fast, as most people out there,” he said. “It just depended on what conference you were in or what league whether they would respect you or watch your film.”
Burns said he agrees with Stufflebean that Kansas athletes play with an edge because they feel undervalued and under-recruited.
Goolsby said work ethic can’t be ranked.
“I just want to try to be an inspiration to some of the guys that don’t listen to the Rivals recruiters or the people that try to give out stars,” he said. “At the end of the day, they have no influence on what you’re going to do, and I found that out here for sure, coming out as a 2-star out of high school.”
For all the negativity about Wichita-area recruiting over the past couple of years, K-State still leads all Division I programs in Kansas-player signings since 2001.
The numbers point back to Stufflebean. Before verbally committing to K-State on June 9, he held offers from Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and others.
Being a Wildcat was always his dream, so when the offer came through, there was little discussion.
“Ever since I was a kid, that’s where the family has always supported,” Stufflebean said. “Some of my best memories growing up are going up there to football and basketball games.”