University of Kansas

Why Les Miles was looking for one trait in particular with his first KU signing class

KU’s Les Miles on his first recruiting class after a coaching layoff

Kansas Jayhawks coach Les Miles discusses the emotions of having another recruiting class following a head coaching layoff since 2016. He spoke to reporters on Feb. 6, 2019.
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Kansas Jayhawks coach Les Miles discusses the emotions of having another recruiting class following a head coaching layoff since 2016. He spoke to reporters on Feb. 6, 2019.

New Kansas football coach Les Miles didn’t hold back his enthusiasm for the 19 KU signees announced during Wednesday’s news conference at Anderson Football Complex.

“This class will have the ability to compete for championships,” Miles said. “It’s the style of team, the speed, that will develop and develop nicely.”

Overwhelmingly, Miles looked to one attribute in particular to improve his team’s roster: size.

That was most evident on offense. New quarterback and likely starter Thomas MacVittie is 6-foot-5, with Miles even commenting on that stature — “Wait till you see him” — as he watched a highlight video of the quarterback during Wednesday’s festivities.

KU’s running back position also added some strength with late surprise Amauri Pesek-Hickson, a Blue Valley North product who was originally committed to Michigan before the Wolverines’ staff made a late request for him to attend prep school.

“We needed a big back,” Miles said.

The Jayhawks supersized at the receiver position too. Ezra Naylor is 6-foot-4, while Andrew Parchment is 6-2.

“We were going to look for some receivers who had height,” Miles said. “There’s plenty of receivers on the team with speed and agility and capabilities, but we needed a group of men who could go up and get balls.”

The search for larger bodies was just the first step for Miles in trying to create a roster that more reflects his style.

“I think physical football has to be played by big men at some point at time,” Miles said. “ ... The offensive line is probably the next place that we’ll evolve, but we feel like this year’s offensive line should be in pretty good shape. We’ll have to address that next year.”

The class was highlighted by a few late surprises. Steven Parker, a four-star outside linebacker out of Dallas, chose KU over Nebraska and Texas Tech while choosing to keep a relationship with receivers coach Emmett Jones. Previously, Parker had committed to Texas Tech when Jones was on the Red Raiders’ staff.

KU also secured a late pledge from Rivals three-star linebacker Gavin Potter, who originally committed to Kansas State. During his signing ceremony, Potter had some fun, taking off a K-State hoodie and then a Texas Tech T-shirt to reveal the word “KU” painted on his chest.

“Several times in recruiting, it becomes important that certain guys come,” Miles said. “It was important to the Kansas Jayhawks that that guy (Potter) came.”

KU, which was expected to have 15 only available scholarships because of recruiting decisions made by the previous coaching staff, had 19 players on its official list Wednesday. That raises the possibility that a few of the listed signees could grayshirt, meaning they would not immediately arrive at school and instead become scholarship players during the second semester of the 2019-20 school year.

KU football signings

Player, Position, Height, Weight, Previous school (Hometown)

Valerian Agbaw, CB, 5-10, 170, McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)

Jacob Borcila, K, 6-2, 170, Westerville Central (Westerville, Ohio)*

Mason Fairchild, TE, 6-5, 250, Andale (Andale, Kan.)

Velton Gardner, RB, 5-9, 190, Skyline (Dallas)*

Marcus Harris, DL, 6-2, 265, Park Crossing (Montgomery, Ala.)*

Malcolm Lee, DL, 6-5, 270, Iowa Western CC (Omaha, Neb.)

Torry Locklin, QB, 6-2, 195, Rockdale (Rockdale, Texas)

Kenny Logan, CB 6-0, 195, Fr., Menendez (St. Augustine, Fla.)*

Thomas MacVittie, QB, 6-5, 225, Mesa (Ariz.) CC (Cincinnati)

Jordan Medley QB, 6-2, 200, A.L. Brown (Kannapolis, N.C.)*

Ezra Naylor, WR, 6-4, 210, Iowa Central CC (Atlanta)

Andrew Parchment, WR, 6-2, 185, Iowa Central CC (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Steven Parker, LB, 6-4, 220, South Oak Cliff (Dallas)*

Amauri Pesek-Hickson, RB, 6-0, 225, Blue Valley North (Olathe, Kan)*

Gavin Potter, LB, 6-2, 205, Broken Arrow (Broken Arrow, Okla.)*

Jereme Robinson, LB, 6-3, 235, Carver (Montgomery, Ala.)*

Jayden Russell, S, 6-3, 190, St. Thomas Aquinas (Shawnee)

Caleb Sampson, DT, 6-3, 280, Coahoma (Miss.) CC (Covington, La.)

DaJon Terry, DL, 6-4, 350, Meridian (Meridian, Miss.)

*Signed on Wednesday

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.