Kansas Football Recruiting: Closing the Borders With "Potential Players"

C.W. O'BrienCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2009

Bryce Brown: Five-Star running back (Miami)

Arthur Brown: Five-Star outside linebacker (Miami)

Blake Lawrence: Four-Star linebacker (Nebraska)

Brian Smith: Four-Star linebacker (Notre Dame)

Chris Harper: Four-Star athlete (Oregon)

Jaydan Bird: Four-Star athlete (Oklahoma)

Christian Ballard: Four-Star tight end/defensive end (Iowa)

Kyler Reed: Three-Star athlete (Nebraska)

Marhsall Musil: Three-Star athlete (Oklahoma)

Trey Hobson: Three-Star safety (Missouri)

Brody Eldridge: Three-Star tight end (Oklahoma)

Brodrick Smith: Three-Star wide receiver (Minnesota)

What do all of these players have in common?  They are all playing/getting ready to play for BCS schools.  They all were rated as Three-Star prospects or higher.  They are all from the state of Kansas.

More importantly, they have all gone out of state to play college football since 2005. 

In recent years there have been many good reasons for these prospects to go out of state. 

1. Bill Snyder left K-State and was replaced by Ron Prince who all but ignored in-state talent.

2. KU started that time frame in the Big XII cellar and is only recently out of it.

3. In-state programs such as KU and K-State were not getting the television time and media notoriety that other big-time out of state programs were.

4. Programs like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Miami are consistently putting many players into the NFL. 

They are all very valid reasons.  I won't knock a recruit for going to a school where they feel that they will have the best chance to succeed as a person and as an athlete.  I wish that they had chosen Kansas, but I completely understand why those players didn't. 

The state of Kansas is not Florida, California, or Texas.  The population is nowhere near as large, and the talent pool reflects that.  There is just not enough talent to build a roster with local kids.  While the talent pool in Kansas is not deep, there are 10-15 players annually that can become major contributors. 

In 2005, 2006, and 2008, KU was able to get several of the state's top players to come to Lawrence.  They have been rewarded greatly for it.  Starters Kerry Meier, Caleb Blakesley, and Darrell Stucky were members of the Class of 2005.  Starter Jake Sharp and key reserves Jamal Green and Tyler Lawrence were from the Class of 2006.

The Class of 2008 had a major contributor in true freshman Darius Parish and will see major contributions in the future from Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik, and Kale Pick, who redshirted in 2008-2009. 

The entire landscape of the football program has changed drastically for the University of Kansas since 2005.  The Jayhawks are 3-0 in bowl games over the last four years.  The Anderson Family Football Complex, completed in the spring of 2008, is one of the best athletic facilities in the country.  The Jayhawks have been televised 20 times in the last two years. 

If there was a time to stake a claim to the best talent the state of Kansas has to offer, it is now. 

The Class of 2010 is quickly turning into one of the deepest, most talented classes that the state of Kansas has had in decades.  There are three players on the ESPN 150 Watch List.  It has talent galore at the skill positions as well as at linebacker.  Players like Blake Bell and Justin McCay are can't miss prospects.

Now the Jayhawks have to go out and land these prospects.  In 2009, Mark Mangino and his staff may have found the secret to landing the top Kansas recruits.

The road to the best talent in the area runs right through Wichita, Kan. to Brian Butler.  Butler runs Potential Players, a non-profit organization based out of Wichita, which was created to help hone talented local athletes and get their names out to college coaches.  Big time coaches like Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and Pete Carroll have all attended Butler's annual spring showcase the last few years. 

I have mixed emotions on the involvement of this group.  On one hand, I think it is a great tool for Kansas football players to utilize.  They are able to receive additional coaching and conditioning in the offseason.  They also practice with some of the best talent in the state.

On the other hand, I question Butler's motivation.  It is hard not to.  He claims to have been wronged by his high school coaches during his recruitment and only created Potential Players to keep other Kansas prospects from getting the same treatment.  I just get a bad feeling in my stomach about the level of influence that Butler and other members of his staff may have on which colleges these players choose to attend. 

Are they attending a school because it is the best fit for them, or are they attending a school because Potential Players wanted them to attend it?  We may never know. 

What we do know is that Potential Players is the one-stop shop for recruiting in the state of Kansas. 

Players like Arthur Brown, Bryce Brown, Jaydan Bird, and Chris Harper have all worked with Potential Players.  Class of 2010 prospects Blake Bell, Justin McCay, Joseph Randle, DeMarcus Robinson, and John McClure are among those that regularly work with Butler and his staff.

Luckily, the Jayhawks were able to start tapping into this resource in 2009.  Current Kansas commits Kevin Young, Huldon Tharp, and Riley Spencer were all members of Butler's group. 

This group will be the key to helping the Jayhawks land the best in-state recruits possible.  Mark Mangino and his staff have to develop relationships with Butler and the other members of his staff.  They know the athletes in Potential Players as well or better than their high school coaches.  They know their strengths and weaknesses.  If nothing else, KU needs to use Butler as a potential scout for in-state talent. 

As a former student and fan of the University of Kansas, I do not want Butler to push kids to KU.  That would be unethical.  I want Butler to show kids that the University of Kansas is a place where they can have a great career and get a quality education.

If Butler is able to do that, I think that more of his prospects will stay home to play football and see that they don't need to go to Miami, Nebraska, Oregon, etc. to achieve their goals. 

If Butler had been able to do that two years ago, things could be a lot different. 

Arthur Brown might not have been one of seven four- and five-star linebackers that the Hurricanes have signed in two years.  Instead of playing garbage minutes at The U, he may have been in the regular rotation at KU and received postseason freshman honors.

Chris Harper might not be thinking about transferring.  Oregon is a long way from home, and the Ducks didn't quite hold up their end of the bargain as far as position goes.  Harper was recruited as a quarterback, which was the biggest reason he signed with Oregon.  They moved him to receiver, and he has been unhappy ever since. 

Bryce Brown might not be joining his brother in Miami in the fall or the stable of talented backs that are already at The U.  He might have become an instant star in Crimson and Blue and been the featured back from his sophomore year on.  Instead, he will be a part of a running by committee approach and get 5-10 touches a game until he is a senior. 

Jaydan Bird might not be headed to Norman to fall onto the rear of the Sooners' very talented depth chart.  Instead he could have been a starting linebacker for the Jayhawks as a sophomore and be playing alongside his friends Arthur Brown and Huldon Tharp.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case.  Not for those players.  With any luck, it will be the case in the future. 


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