LAWRENCE — There are a lot of coaches who wouldn’t answer this question directly. Some wouldn’t issue a response at all.
But Les Miles, speaking Thursday on the heels of finalizing his second recruiting class with Kansas football, tackled head-on the following inquiry: What position group would he say is the strength of this incoming crop of Jayhawks?
“I think the corners,” Miles said, “if I had to pick one group.”
He didn’t stop there.
“This has been the kind of class that we’ve needed,” said Miles, who knocked twice on his wooden lectern. “Now, you’re going to really know about this class in about two years, right — ‘That guy had a great career,’ ‘That guy’s comin’.’ That’s just the way it is. But we have speed and size and ball skills, guys that have played and understand the position.”
KU announced a 30-player recruiting class Thursday, and somewhat remarkably, all 30 incoming athletes come from the high school level. Of that group, there are five cornerbacks, a stable headlined by three-star prospect Jacobee Bryant, a 6-foot, 170-pounder out of Hillcrest High School in Evergreen, Ala.
Slotted by the 247Sports composite rankings as the No. 26 prospect in Alabama, the No. 41 cornerback in the country and the No. 562-ranked prospect nationally, Bryant is the highest-ranked incoming recruit for the Jayhawks, who have the 57th-ranked recruiting class nationally. Bryant decommitted from KU last week, but the program was able to re-secure his commitment Wednesday, the first day of the second signing period.
“We had good knowledge there. We stayed with him the entire time,” Miles said. “He’s a guy that we really came in on late and yet we knew him. We got freed for a scholarship and that made it all kind of work. Yeah, yeah. He’s instinctive and again has ball skills.”
Bryant also had offers from Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee, among others.
“We want to give every kid an opportunity to be an 18-year-old,” said Joshua Eargle, the Jayhawks’ new recruiting coordinator and tight end coach. “Man, they’re making lifetime decisions. ... They’re choosing an alma mater. They’re not just choosing where they want to go play football. There’s so much that goes into that — their education, who they’re going to surround them with, their brothers on the team, the philosophy of the head coach, how they’re going to fit in the scheme. There’s just so much more.
“So he just wanted answers to the questions he had, and coach Miles to his credit gave him the time he needed to go through and sort through those things. Him jumping on the boat late, man, we’re ecstatic. We can’t wait to get him rocking and rolling and plugged in and see all he can do.”
Other cornerbacks joining KU include consensus three-star recruits Duece Mayberry (6-foot, 185-pounder out of Owasso High School in Tulsa, Okla.), Johnquai Lewis (6-foot, 165-pounder out of Champagnat Catholic High School in Haileah, Fla.), Karon Prunty (6-1, 190-pounder out of I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, Va.) and Ra’Mello Dotson (6-1, 170-pounder out of Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla.).
“Ra’Mello Dotson is a guy that’s got ball skills and speed," Miles said. "So many times you get a corner in a position to make a play and he doesn’t squeeze it, you know? This guy’s got unbelievable ball skills and he’ll make plays. I mean, he’s the best player on (his high school) team, and they played offense with him too, so he played both ways.
“I like that group. I think that group will help us right away.”
KU notably lost cornerbacks Hasan Defense and Elmore Hempstead and safeties Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden to graduation this offseason, and rising junior cornerback Corione Harris, a former four-star recruit, has been suspended from team activities indefinitely following an arrest last month. Harris faces two felony charges in Missouri.
Miles indicated some of the incoming cornerbacks could be converted to safety down the line, as the Jayhawks didn’t land anyone at that position in this recruiting class.
“Because they’re tall guys and they’re physical guys,” Miles explained. “You look back on your memory and Prunty is going to rock people. Ra’Mello is going to be a physical, downhill guy. I mean, I think it’s really a good class in that area.”
Jayhawks lose three to transfer portal
KU in the last week lost three players to the transfer portal: senior running back Dom Williams, senior wide receiver Evan Fairs and junior wide receiver Quan Hampton.
Miles indicated the trio likely desired more featured roles than what they anticipated they would get next year with the Jayhawks, though the head coach said he tried to talk each into staying.
“(They’re) people you really enjoy, they’re good guys. They’re making a statement that they think that it’d be very difficult for them to play here,” Miles said. “I made every pitch that I could to redirect them, but you know, it’s their call.
“It is what it is, I guess. I hate that term. This may be the first time I’ve ever used it.”