About one month from now the summer football camp circuit will kick into full swing. June and July is a time for players to get out and earn that offer if they haven't received one already. It's also an opportunity for players to get out and see college campuses, take some unofficial visits and for many it will be decision time before the summer ends.
With that in mind, what are the big needs for Kansas football in this years recruiting class. Coach Gill and company will be hitting the trail hard with their first full year as members of the Jayhawk staff and while it's not easy to say exactly what the final makeup will be, perhaps a roster breakdown can give us a little insight and help project the needs of the program for the 2010 class.
To start off, let's breakdown the players by position and class. This will only include scholarship players as that is what we are concerned about here. Some notable omissions in this instance would be the walk on kicker and our walk on fullback from Hutchinson. Both players obviously impact the needs from a recruiting standpoint, but as of now they don't impact the number of scholarships that will be available.
Another factor to consider, the freshman class is going to include incoming freshman as well as redshirts from a year ago. It will look pretty heavy now, but those things tend to sort themselves out after a year.
Now obviously I'm one over the allotted 85 scholarship players by my estimation and I have a hunch where that's at. If my hunch is correct it will fall with the junior class and not the senior class so it won't make a difference in terms of the total number of scholarship available at the end of the year. So, off the top it looks like we have 19 to work with.
Expect that number to change with a few defections, transfers or something of that nature. It's bound to happen with a coaching turnover, that's something that happens even when there isn't turnover.
I'd estimate a final class somewhere in the neighbor hood of 21-24. Where are the needs and where do they go, that's the question.
Quarterback - 1
Obviously it's safe to assume Kansas will be taking a quarterback. I think it's a safe assumption that almost every class will attempt to include at least one and just for the sake of letting him know, we want you Bubba Starling.
Runningback - 2
Fullback - 0
I would expect this to be a spot Kansas will continually try to address with the addition of a few well placed walk-ons. Based on his background Turner Gill should know a thing or two about finding some in state walk on talent to fill this role. They did that this year by bringing Josh Smith from Hutchinson aboard.
Tight End - 1
Kansas is comfortable at the position with Tim Biere well established, AJ Steward ready to break in to a role and Trent Smiley or Jimmay Mundine coming up through the ranks. To me, this is a swing for the fences type position. The new offense appears to have a lot of opportunity at the position and if a guy like Dan Tapko wants to jump on board or you can find a solid prospect it definitely doesn't hurt to bring them in. Kansas could be turning into a great place to be if you want to make a play as a traditional tight end at the professional level.
Receiver - 1
This is a no brainer. 13 receivers on a roster and 7 of them will be freshman or redshirt freshman. Still it appears Kansas is willing to take one, but it's going to be a very specific one. Long rangy players need not apply. Kansas needs speed in the slot and there's one spot available here at best, unless someone comes along that you can't pass up. Keep an eye on Keante Minor out of East St. Louis for this spot. Reggie Mitchell is recruiting him and does very well in the area. This might be a spot where no one fills the spot, but for now we'll say 1 receiver in the class.
Tackle - 2/3
This is a big time position of need for the Jayhawks. Kansas whiffed a bit last year only landing one in the class in Chad Kolumber. Not a huge deal considering the youth at the line, but as a program you want a good 3-5 working through the system in each class. Build from the inside out. A quick glance at the offer list and Kansas would definitely appear poised to take a few tackles and add them to the mix. My favorite candidates: Derek Farniok, Travis Bodenstein, and Zach Sterup. Bodenstein could end up on the interior so I'll throw out another in Chris Bryant.
Guard/Center - 2
Again I think this is an important need for Kansas and while the exact mix of the offensive line that is signed will vary, the important thing is to end up with 4 at a minimum and hopefully five to add to the pipeline. At guard I've already mentioned Bodenstein. Junior college prospect Jacob Farhrenkrug, Tyler Pierson, and Mitch Smothers are others that Kansas appears to have some traction with early.
Defensive Tackle - 1/2
Defensive tackle is a spot where Kansas appears to have some depth. Jamal Greene is the lone departure following the season and the Jayhawks have 7 still in the pipeline. I would still expect the Jayhawks will look to take one or two at the spot. Jordan Phillips is now projecting on the defensive line, but if that doesn't work out he could move to the offensive side of the ball as well. I would love to see Kansas get back into this thing. He's big and extremely athletic for his size. Plenty of time to develop a player with his physical tools due to the depth at the position right now. If Kansas put themselves too far behind with Phillips, Clint Tucker another East St. Louis prospect seems a likely candidate at the moment.
Defensive End - 2
Until this is a strength, Kansas needs to focus on it. After a year where they signed three, another two might be too high of an expectation but quite simply Kansas needs to develop some depth and talent at the spot. The scary thing is, Kansas doesn't appear to be hot on anyone that really jumps of the page for the upcoming class. Robert Mincey and Joel Heath are two early targets out of Ohio that do appear interested in Kansas. Hopefully something develops soon though, I for one am tired of talking about a complete lack of a pass rush every year. Geneo...Geneo, is it too late to change your mind?
Outside Linebacker - 2/3
Linebacker is a huge topic of conversation and could be once again as the Jayhawks have very little in the way of known solutions to this problem from a year ago. That said, one would expect the staff to continue it's focus on the position. Word is Kansas wants to land 2 maybe 3 at the position for the class, personally I'd like to see that on the high side. Wonderful Terrific is listed as an end, but the Jayhawks are looking at him as a linebacker. Other strong early candidates that look the part of a the Huldon Tharp, Jake Farley mold that appears to be the trend are, Cole Fisher, Nico Ornelas, and Jake Love. If it's me, I go hard for all three and Wonderful Terrific, why not?
Inside Linebacker - 1
Kansas loses Justin Spring and Drew Dudley, both more your throwback bigger inside linebackers of yesteryear. A very short five years ago yesteryear. Keeon Virgile appears to be the player that fits this role the most early on, but it's tough to peg a kid as an inside vs. outside backer at the moment with all the focus on stopping the spread. The reality is you need speed, range and football instinct.
Kansas has some solid young depth in the defensive backfield but they will graduate four after this year. Replacing at least two of those in some fashion should be the goal although it could be very likely that Kansas will use some if any extra spots at this position and of course any time you recruit an "athlete" this is an area they might fall into as well. The first player I'd love to see fill in at this position is Bernard Thomas. Thomas is a teammate of Darrian Miller and I think he's a strong enough local talent that Kansas needs to land him. At corner another great option would be Jalen Brown. Brown is a teammate of incoming recruit James Sims, definitely stiff competition for his services though. At safety there is a pretty big name with Kansas in the mix and that is Franklin Shannon. If the Jayhawks could make that happen it would be a big step in the right direction as we'll have beaten out some of your more traditional powers to land his services.
Athlete - 1
The athlete position. These are players that could fill several roles potentially and plain and simple make plays. Kansas wants and needs guys like this on their team. Turner Gill and his staff have offered a handful and I suspect this will be an area where they target a few a year once the ball gets rolling. Kevonte Richardson is a name that was associated with the last staff and continues to be now with the new group. Richardson plays quarterback at the high school level and claims Mizzou as a favorite. Kansas was positioned well with the last group so hopefully they can get back in the mix.
Punter - 1?
Rojas is gone after this year and to my knowledge the replacement isn't sitting on the bench. Kansas will need to find someone, somewhere to fill this role.
That gives us 22 scholarships filled, two more than what we have to give according to the current roster projections. Definitely not a stretch to assume the class should end up somewhere around that level with the ability to bump up a few depending on how things shake out.
If the Jayhawks do have some room to work, I would expect Turner Gill will target speed and players that he can plug into a few potential roles. The new staff has made no secret of the fact that team speed is a big area they want to improve and once the needs up front are addressed that will likely be the direction they go.
So there you have it. A purely speculative, best guess, best hope at how and where the scholarships will be used with a few targets at each position. There are certainly more scholarships to be offered up and the look and feel of this will probably change, but for now I think a class breakdown with the above would serve the Jayhawks well.