Kansas Jayhawks Laying Groundwork in Ohio

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Kansas Jayhawks Laying Groundwork in Ohio

I was in a heated debate last night with a pair of Ohio State fans at work. Before any Buckeye fans try to correct me, until there is a second Ohio State University in the FBS, I am not going to put “the” in front of Ohio State. Deal with it. We were discussing football recruiting, and more specifically, we were talking about Kansas offensive coordinator Ed Warinner securing two commitments from Ohio prospects over the last two years for the Jayhawks.

I argued that KU has been trying to recruit the state of Ohio for several years and that the commitments of Josh Richardson (Class of 2008) and Bradley McDougald (Class of 2009) were the first steps to setting up and securing an Ohio-KU connection. My Buckeye counterparts were inclined to believe that 1) I am nuts and 2) it is impossible for any Big 12 school to consistently sign quality talent from the heart of Big Ten country.

In the words of Billy Joel, “They may be right, I may be crazy.”

The only thing is, I am not so sure that I am.

I will be the first person to question whether or not KU should have spent so much time recruiting in Ohio. I felt that it was a bold move, but for all intents and purposes, utterly hopeless. I honestly thought that trying to recruit in the state of Ohio was a complete waste of time and money.

If KU had to fight a lost cause, I would rather have seen the fight take place in California or Florida. The talent in Ohio is good, but there is just more of it in those two states. I just figured that the law of large numbers might take effect if the Jayhawks case a wide enough net in the larger states.

Warinner proved me wrong and snagged two very talented prospects the last two years. I am not deluded enough to think that Richardson and McDougald chose KU over Ohio State.

They didn’t.

It is unlikely that any Ohio kid will ever make that choice if Ohio State really wants them. Most Ohio kids that play football grow up wanting to play for the Buckeyes. It is the same as most Kansas kids that play basketball grow up wanting to play for the Jayhawks.

That wasn’t even the point of my argument. My point is that Mark Mangino and his staff are in the process of setting up the channels needed to make KU attractive to those prospects that Ohio State isn’t sold on.

The fact remains: Ohio State can only sign so many prospects each year. Even if the Buckeyes sign the top 25 prospects from the state of Ohio every year, there are still 50 to 60 prospects in the state that are talented enough to play at the FBS level. Ohio State couldn’t sign all of the talent in the state, even if they wanted to. There are still plenty of prospects in Ohio left over.

Kansas will never beat out the University of Texas for a five-star recruit from Texas. It’s never going to happen. That hasn’t stopped KU from recruiting competitively in Texas. In 2009, KU signed just as many Dallas area top 25 recruits as Texas and Oklahoma. Mangino consistently finds recruiting gems in the Lonestar State.

There is no reason why Kansas can’t annually pluck a few talented prospects away from Ohio. All that Kansas needs is a linebacker here or a lineman there. It isn’t as if the Jayhawks will be building their entire recruiting class from the state of Ohio.

Sure, there are other Big Ten schools to compete with, but there is a big difference between the type of player recruited to play in the Big 12 and those recruited to play in the Big Ten.

Even though there are a few teams in the Big Ten that run spread hybrids, it is still a conference dominated by the power run game. The Big Ten is a rough-and-tough, conservative, grind-it-out conference.

There is a reason that three of the most productive runners last season came from the Big Ten. In spite of the changes that are being made within the conference, the old adage of "three yards and a cloud of dust" still holds true.

The Big 12 is about as close to a polar opposite as it gets when compared to the Big Ten. It is a conference dominated by the spread, where running the ball on 2nd-and-3 is considered conservative. A 31-27 game is a defensive struggle. It is a wild, anything-goes conference.

Neither is better or worse than the other. They are just different. So are the types of players that the teams within those conferences recruit.

A big, powerful running back is going to get more touches in the Big Ten than he will get in the Big 12. A tall, fast receiver is going to get more catches in the Big 12 than he will get in the Big Ten.

If the Kansas coaching staff is successful in its effort to make KU more attractive to Ohio kids, it won’t be long before a mini-pipeline is in full effect. If the two Ohio prospects have moderate success for the Jayhawks, how long will it be before other Ohio kids start thinking about Lawrence as a possible destination?

That may be exactly what the Jayhawks need to take them to the next level. I fully expect the coaching staff to continue to hit Ohio heavily. The addition of Tom Sims to the coaching staff can only help. His experience in recruiting Big Ten country will be a great asset on the trail in upcoming years.

Already there has been a huge spike in the number of prospects from Ohio that are interested in Kansas for the class of 2010. That is a positive sign that the coaching staff’s efforts are paying off. While I can’t start gloating yet, hopefully I will be able to in a few years.

Then again, who knows?

They may be right.

I may be crazy.

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