College Football Recruiting: Kansas Jayhawks Rolling the Dice on JUCO Recruits

By Curt Popejoy
Kansas Jayhawks

Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. And I think it’s safe to assume that times in Lawrence, Kansas are quite desperate for the Kansas Jayhawks football program. That is made much more evident with the 2013 football recruiting class that consists of upwards of 18 JUCO players out of a potential 25 possible scholarships. This is a move that Big 12 fans should recognize, but all college football coaches should beware.

When KU hired head coach Charlie Weis, they did so under the assumption that he would be able to rally the program and give a program that has long suffered some much needed success. I don’t think anyone expected a turnaround in one season, but after going 1-11 in 2012, even the most staunch supporters of Weis had to wonder if he can make this team competitive before he losses his job.

It’s a vicious cycle that happens to coaches attempting to rally bad programs, but any coach who takes a job like this understands and accepts the risks.

So Weis decided to hedge his bets in a most risky way. By bringing in JUCO players in such a high percentage he is rolling the dice in a big way. If, and it’s a big if, all these players can keep their grades in order and are as good as advertised, than this Jayhawks squad will be much better in 2013. This pays off long term for the program because success is the only way to bring in high school recruits is to win ballgames.

It’s a Catch-22 for Weis because he has to win this year, so he takes a chance, much like Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has done in the past with his team. He would load up on JUCO players to surround his young players, and in most cases he got it right enough that he was able to start building a recruiting foundation.

However, should even a couple of these guys fail academically or on the field, this team is right back to where it was, and the KU bigshots are going to want to potentially make a move.

Looking over the players Weis has brought into Lawrence, you can tell he’s building this team for a run from the inside out with several top JUCO players along the offensive and defensive lines. He’s also been able to lure in several very good JUCO defensive backs. I won’t be shocked if the Jayhawks had seven new starters on defense from top to bottom and two or three more players who could see prominent roles in the rotation. If this works, the Jayhawks defense will be much improved, but make no mistake this is a risky move.

On offense, as I said the offensive line is going to be re-tooled by several new members from the JUCO ranks, and in terms of skill players, Weis is counting on some talented wide receivers to help make up for the questions at talent among the quarterbacks and running backs. The quarterback position still needs some work, but Weis is putting some excellent pieces around him.

I for one will be rooting for Weis and his dangerous move. The more good teams there are in the Big 12, the better it is for every team in the conference. I’ve watched around half of the players Weis has targeted while they were at their respective JUCOs, and I can say with certainty that if they can all get onto the field and stay this, this team, in particular the defense will be a much more formidable group.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL Draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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