UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 6, 2019
LES MILES: First of all, I'd like to thank my coaching staff. We got a late start. I was methodical in my approach to hiring, and it took some days away from us to chase that staff.
But when they got on board, the things we wanted to do in the short-term were those needs that the team had to have and had to have quickly, and we started fast and really got a foothold on the defensive line in the first signing period.
But as the staff became connected, they did a really great job in terms of representing Kansas and in really signing this class.
I also want to thank their family, because what happens is, as an assistant coach, you leave Sunday, you come back Friday, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday you recruit, and it's a full-time job. The people that suffer certainly are the wives and children of those men that are assistant coaches, and I want to thank them, as well.
Yeah, it's -- and there were a number of people that contributed to this class who were not on the road, men that were in the backdrop, women that were in the backdrop that helped in travel and helped in setting up what was the weekends. I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such a loyal and dedicated group.
Great day for Kansas football. We had 19 signees. There's a rare combination here between strong and thick and physical and athletic and with speed. The Kansas brand helped us tremendously. It stands for academics, it stands for great athletics, and the people that went to school here and carry the message that they had when they were students here just -- it's tremendous for us. We use it really on a regular basis.
Yeah, it's a place with a lot to offer, and I think we sold that great. I think our guys approached the opportunity to play and the making your four years count at Kansas was a part of really the mantra that allowed us to be successful.
And you know, this is a family atmosphere. I think you'll find that today's student-athlete and certainly their parents, they want that relationship that looks like a family to them and that they can kind of attach themselves. And I think that we portrayed that, and I think that's us.
We started in the Kansas footprint. We took three from the state, Jayden Russell, a strong safety. Long body, plays corner, as well. Mason Fairchild, a big tight end, able to run and catch, 6'5", 250. Amauri Pesek-Hickson, a big back right out of Leawood. We got a nice start from this state and this area.
We went to Texas thereafter, and we went after Steven Parker, who was a four-star and the Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Texas, landed him, which we were very thrilled about.
Velton Gardner from Dallas, also running back, 31 on the 24/7 Rivals. People kind of put him at the 31st prospect in the state. And Torry Locklin, who also was a quarterback athlete out of Texas.
The class represents 12 states, three in Kansas, three in Texas, two in Georgia, Florida for two, Alabama for two, and then Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Nebraska all for one. The class has eight on offense, 10 on defense. 14 high school players, five junior college players, one specialist kicker that we just are allowed to talk about as he got his housing application in.
Yeah, the key is to fill the roster and to fill that roster answering the needs of your football team.
Thomas MacVittie was a quarterback. We felt like we had to have a guy that could -- with graduation, we had to have a guy that could stand in there, throw, but he is also mobile. He's a 6'5", 220-pound quarterback that really can really sling it.
Jordan Medley came out of Kannapolis, North Carolina. Again, a 6'1", probably 4.55 quarterback who can throw it, as well. And Torry Locklin, dual-threat quarterback, again, in a position where if, in fact, Thomas MacVittie is the starter, possibly we have a second behind him. We might find one of those two to go to another spot. But we feel very confident that they'll give us an opportunity at quarterback with them before that happens.
The defensive line we had after graduation, just a very slim number, so we had to take numbers at the defensive line. We took four guys, and Malcolm Lee, 6'5", 290, a sophomore junior college guy. Caleb Sampson, 6'3", 290, junior college, as well. Dajon Terry, 6'4", 350. I would not want to block that lad. But a true freshman. And Marcus Harris, a high school lad, is also 6'2", 265 right now, but will develop very, very nicely.
Now, the running backs, we had Amauri Pesek-Hickson, and again, right here from the Kansas City area, can catch it and can run, and really is going to be a big back for us that we really need. The key, too, we were going to look for some receivers that had height. There's plenty of receivers on our team with speed and agility and capabilities, but we needed a group of men that could go up and get balls. Ezra Naylor, 6'4" talented receiver, a dominant guy, not afraid to block, 210 pounds.
Andrew Parchment, good athlete, great speed, great hands. Again, needs. We needed tall, athletic wide receivers, and those are guys that we went after and got them.
We've got a nice physical tight end Mason Fairchild. He's out of the Wichita area, a very -- can catch it, big, strong, capable 6'5" guy, so how he'll turn out will be very helpful.
And the kicker, the kicker that can kick it 60, a nice all-district, all-state guy from Westerville, Ohio, when we get down in the back end of contests and we look for somebody to go step in there and kick one through, we will be very confident in him.
On defense, we talked about the defensive line. We talked about Steven Parker and Gavin Potter at linebacker, but there's another, Jereme Robinson. He's 6'4", 220 pounds, just has speed, slams a basketball, is a really good basketball player, on all-state, played on a team that won the state championship in basketball. So we're going to have a great future at some of those line backing spots with those lads.
We had three defensive backs with Jayden Russell being in state. Valerian Agbaw is a guy that's out of Florida, and Kenny Logan, a three-sport athlete, not afraid of contact, a guy that's a really, really good corner. So we have three secondary backs that can step in there and play.
This class will have the ability to compete for championships. It's the style of team, the speed that will develop and develop nicely. So we're proud. And I think the coaching staff did a great job, and what I'm used to doing is giving you guys a picture of some of these guys.
(Referring to Valerian Agbaw) He's a guy that keeps that kind of phase. He's going to get a lot of speed to come from behind. He's going to get a lot of opportunity at interceptions. This is that big tight end, Mason Fairchild. Has good ball skills, and he's got a body you don't know what he's going to grow into.
Velton Gardner, the 31st athlete in the state in rivals.com. But you'll see that he has speed, makes a -- you know, they're playing him at corner -- excuse me, they'll play him at slot receiver, at quarterback and at running back. He was their best player.
Marcus Harris, young defensive lineman from Montgomery. He's going to be something special, and it's going to take a little bit of time to grow into his body. No. 8. Explosive, long arms, strike you.
This is Malcolm Lee, defensive lineman out of Omaha, Nebraska. Again, a guy that will play next fall.
Torry Locklin, Rockdale, Texas, nice lefty. He is a very, very dangerous runner, as well.
That kind of middle of the field decision is a great decision to be made, guys that are comfortable back there. That's great.
Thomas MacVittie out of Cincinnati. It's an interesting thing, he got caught in a coaching change, and he ended up in junior college to kind of get himself to make a new decision. We recruited him at the place I was last as about a 12 year old. Thank goodness he grew into something special. We would expect a lot out of him. So wait until you see -- he's 6'5".
Jordan Medley, quarterback out of Kannapolis, North Carolina. Again, very athletic, can throw it.
Ezra Naylor, 6'3ВЅ", 6'4", one of the wide receivers that we felt like we had to have height to make a difference in this league, and Ezra is one of those.
Andrew Parchment, again, wide receiver with height, of 6'2", out of Fort Lauderdale.
He's explosive. He's got great ball skills. Be interesting to see how he matures.
Steven Parker, Player of the Year on defense in Dallas.
Amauri Pesek-Hickson, big back, 6'2", 200 pounds, 210 pounds.
Gavin Potter, finalist for the Player of the Year on defense in Oklahoma.
Jereme Robinson, linebacker out of Montgomery, played on a state championship basketball team as well as played great football.
Jayden Russell, safety out of Shawnee, Kansas. He was the first commitment that we had in the early signing day. Very bright. He'll be a team leader. He'll be a guy that handles that secondary extremely well.
Caleb Sampson, defensive lineman out of could have gone ton. A 330-pounder. We've got to get him to lose a little bit of weight. This film here may not be 330, it may be 310.
Dajon Terry, this is the largest lad. There he is. He will give push, and he will give athleticism. We would expect him to be a very, very good defensive lineman for years.
So that would be our signing class. A round of applause will be necessary at this time.
Q. I know you talked about having a blend with this class, but it seemed like size might have been important for you. You talked about the size of running backs, receivers, quarterback. Was that something you --
LES MILES: Yeah, I think physical football has to be played by big men at some point in time. Even the wide receivers we're looking for height and size. Yeah, I think it's a necessity at some point in time.
The offensive line is probably the next place that we're going to go, but we feel like this year's offensive line should be in pretty good shape. But we'll have to address that next year quickly.
Q. Looks like this class ended up being a little bit bigger than you might have expected when you first came in. Did you end up doing more scholarship players than you anticipated?
LES MILES: Really anticipated this number kind of from the start.
Q. And how many of these guys are scholarship players?
LES MILES: They're all -- yeah, they're all going to come on our team and play and on scholarship.
Q. Could you talk through the recruiting battle for Steven Parker a little bit?
LES MILES: Well, first of all, Emmett Jones did a great job there and represented us extremely well. But it was -- there were some -- we went on home visits, and we just really used the ability to be in their home and to be with them. I mean, it was routine by the number of events that we could be with them, but it was not routine. It's a man that wanted to be a part of something special and got attached to us, and the school supported that decision, and we ended up with a very, very fine player and a good person.
What happened to him, one of the things that excited me about him, is the teachers and the principals and the people came out of their classroom to come to tell me, let me just tell you about Steven Parker, and was special. So yeah.
Q. When you were introduced back in November, you talked about just being excited to be back in it, right. How much did this process, recruiting, going out and visiting kids and then actually signing day, getting letters, faxes if that's still a thing --
LES MILES: Not faxes but pictures.
Q. I'm old school. How much did that add to the juice of just your excitement to be back in it?
LES MILES: I've got to be honest with you. It's really about Kansas. It's a special place. It's a place where you can get revved up because the people that you serve are great people. That family environment is very obvious.
No, I'm fired up, but I want to bring a quality athlete to a place that's going to take care of them. This is that place.
Q. The coaching staff, and you had a change kind of in the middle of this thing from what you thought you'd have. How big of a challenge was that, especially at the offensive coordinator position, and just in general the challenge of putting together a staff while trying to recruit, too?
LES MILES: Well, it was certainly time-consuming. Steve Bider gave me some help. He did some things, running around and doing things administratively that allowed me to recruit and go after those assistant coaches that I felt like would be a fit for Kansas, would understand the brand and what we were expected to be.
I think it was -- I think it went fine. I can't imagine that it would have gone any different considering I didn't bring a staff. If I bring a staff with me right away, you know -- somebody said to me the other day, you didn't hire your best friends. No, that's a fact. What I went after was a professional that would enjoy being at a place like Kansas, who wanted to represent education when they came into the home, and guys that had history of recruiting in this footprint.
Q. Talk about the recruiting process for Amauri Hickson and if he was a surprise at all to you and how excited you are to have him.
LES MILES: We saw him early. Like one of the things that I did in my early days here is we popped up the top -- the top prospects in Kansas, and so I studied that group, and he was a part of that group, and he had a -- I think at that time he was committed to Michigan, and I said, oh, I'd love to have that man. But it took some time for me to get around to him. I had to hire staff, and I didn't -- I couldn't tell him who his running back coach was.
It took some time getting there. There was a shake-up in recruitment. Michigan didn't quite handle it in a way that the prospect would have enjoyed, and so we had an opportunity to sneak in there. Those are wonderful people. Those are people that want for their son to have a great experience, and I believe that Kansas is that.
We needed a back, and his teammates that he met, the Jayhawks while he was on campus, they told him that, too. They said, hey, we need a big back. So we're going to see if that big back can run.
Q. How did you find Jordan Medley, and what do you like about him?
LES MILES: Well, there's nothing not to like about him. First of all, his family is just a wonderful group of men and women. I mean, his mom and his dad are the salt of the earth. I mean, you can just tell that he was a leader, okay. He didn't really go out much, and he was really interested in obviously what we had to offer in the experience of our new offensive coordinator, Les Koenning.
Yeah, I saw speed, ability to throw it, toughness. I mean, I like him. I like him a lot. It'll be interesting to see how he -- and where he fits.
Q. Gavin Potter was a guy who originally some people thought he might be going to K-State, Texas Tech, but he wound up at Kansas. Can you explain his recruiting process?
LES MILES: Yeah, that was certainly a very competitive recruiting process. I think that there was an attachment in a bunch of different ways to this school. I think our -- I think DJ Elliott did a great job in recruiting him, and Mike Ekeler, also, a linebacking coach stepped in there. So our defensive coordinator and our linebacking coach got active very quickly. I went in in the first visit.
It appeared to me that he was going to have interest, and some of the times in recruiting it becomes important that certain guys come. It was important to the Kansas Jayhawks that that guy came.
Q. I'm just wondering, could you speak to your initial impressions of Coach Bowen and Coach Hull and, how their continuity in the system already might have helped in the recruiting process?
LES MILES: Coach Bowen and Coach Hull. Coach Bowen has helped us a ton just from his experience in the perimeter, where we should be, where we shouldn't, and it was nice to have a good-quality opinion. Coach Hull has done a great job in recruiting and continued to do that. It was easy to fall alongside guys that were contributing very significantly to our effort.
Q. You mentioned a couple times, he'll play this fall, he'll play for us. I just wonder general philosophy, how open are you to playing guys, freshmen, right away? Is that a wait-and-see thing?
LES MILES: Yeah, I'm open to improving our team. In other words, I want to play the guy that's the best player at the position. If you think that I want to redshirt or slow down on a guy that's a great player already, it's not -- no, I'm going to get about three years with that lad, and I need to get him on the field and get him coached, and let's see how good he can be. Those guys that are going to be really good players, who need to grow up, I can comfortably come alongside a redshirt or slow up their matriculation certainly.
Yeah, I want to play the best players. I'm not that guy.
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