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Can Kansas Actually Recruit 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 OC 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 XII 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 admit questioning 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. 

Ed Warriner proved me wrong and has 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, that Ohio State can only sign so prospects each year.  Even if the Buckeye’s 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 5-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 OU.  Mark 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 XII 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 3 yards and a cloud of dust still holds true. 

The Big XII is about as close to a polar opposite as it gets.  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 XII.  A tall, fast receiver is going to get more catches in the Big XII than he will get in the Big Ten.

If the Kansas coaching staff is successful in their 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 starting to pay 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.


Reader Comments (5)

Good article CW -- very thought provoking. Welcome aboard.

I'm pretty sure that Jeff Spikes is from the Ohio area as well. And I know Glen Mason brought in players from that area during his time -- though I really have no records (I wonder what people used to follow recruiting back then).

Anyway, I think Texas will be the focus because of the Big 12, but all three of the regions you mentioned should be important to KU. I think California and Ohio offer a unique angle for Kansas because of the Big 12. Despite the popularity of the Big 10 and Pac-10, the Big 12 offers a championship game and it is hard to imagine a scenario where a Big 12 team can go undefeated and not make the national championship game. As a north division team, I think you can sell the concept that KU now has a legitimate shot to get into the Big 12 championship game every year to players. Nebraska has the huge stadium and the tradition and Mizzou also has a big stadium, but now that facilities are in place the Hawks really can battle for recruits with those guys. Continued success and maybe we can justify stadium expansion (big attendance is a recruiting tool as well).

Plus, you see more and more dialogue about the Border War on a national level, so for all of the negatives, the Arrowhead game is starting to factor in as a recruiting tool.

Like you said, we are not going to go head to head for the top player that Michigan or Ohio State is after, but for those that aren't quite getting enough love from the big boys, I think KU can offer quite a bit with the major factor being a concrete on-the-field method toward going to the NC. The Big 10/Pac-10 plan of waiting for other teams to lose on championship weekend probably isn't too appealing to guys who like to decide things on the field.
February 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterDJ Goodwin
Jeff Spikes is from Ohio...but he wasn't recruited by Warriner so I left him out of the article. Glen Mason had a lot of success in Big Ten Country...Dana Stubblefield was an Ohio kid. I think that Ohio just provides another set of recruiting grounds that most of the Big XII has ignored...and I think that KU has a really good shot at signing some quality kids year in and year out.

Just a thought.
February 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCW
I think Spikes was recruited by Warriner, at least I remember an article saying Ed signed a last second guy from Ohio. Either way, that's three Ohio kids in three years, and very good ones.
February 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJimmyDean
Warriner wasn't on KU's staff when Jeff Spikes signed...okay so he was, but only for like a couple of weeks. He was at KU...then he spent a couple of years on Illinois staff...then he came back in January 2007. Warriner was recruiting him when he was at Illinois, but KU was on his list long before Warriner went back to Lawrence. I think that Warriner may have been what actually sealed the deal for Spikes, but he wasn't at KU for the bulk of Spikes recruitment.

Coincidentally, Chet Hartley may have come to KU because of Warriner. Warriner was recruiting him at Illinois and Clint Bowen was recruiting him at KU. Warriner came on board and Hartley did too.

I am looking at some of the players that Warriner has been given credit for recruiting...and I am really impressed. I may write an article on him in the next few months.
February 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterC.W. O'Brien
Spikes came with Warinner. He had been recruiting him before he came on board here and once he inked in as our OC, he called up Spikes and brought him along as well.

As for the piece, very well done. Though we've only taken a small handful up there, it does appear that Warinner has enough connections and Ku is developing enough of a program to sustain some success in that area. Like you said, they're never going to steal someone at the top of Ohio Stat's list, but they can certainly beat out other surrounding schools for whatever Ohio State can't or won't sign.
February 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhiphopopotamus

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