In Les Miles' second season as head coach of Kansas football, an 0-9 record is not what Kansas football fans had hoped for.
However — while playing football amid a pandemic — this was a year of much-needed change: rebuilding a team with high school talent. A nation-leading 27 freshmen took the field for the Jayhawks this year and several made significant contributions, including All-Big 12 Honorable Mention cornerback Karon Prunty, quarterback Jalon Daniels and wide receiver Luke Grimm.
“It has been a highly unusual year in college football,” said Kansas Athletics Director Jeff Long in a media availability Thursday. “It was not the season we had hoped, but we also know from the beginning of this transition to coach Miles and building our football program that this was a building process."
“We were not pleased with the success on the field and at times didn’t see the kind of progress that we had hoped," Long continued. "Then again, there have been so many things impacting this year.”
Long also emphasized the need for Kansas to recruit more high school prospects, instead of junior college transfers.
“We’re making that convergence from relying on junior college student athletes to fill our program,” Long said. “We’re making this change and this build with high school student athletes. To compete in this league and in any Power 5 league, you have to compete with third, fourth and fifth-year players.”
And Miles did this with Kansas' 2021 class, which featured 18 players signing to play for the Jayhawks Wednesday. As of Thursday, the Jayhawks have the No. 55-ranked 2021 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports.
Long said he is comfortable with Miles' approach to rebuilding the program.
“I think we're pleased with the recruiting class from [Wednesday]," Long said. "It’s promising that we had two [recruiting classes ranked] in the top 50, something we haven’t had in back-to-back years in quite some time."
With a solid recruiting class behind it, Kansas could also improve next season by grabbing fourth or fifth-year transfers from the transfer portal. Long said adding these types of transfers would “fit the mold” to bolster the roster alongside high school prospects.
“[The transfer portal] is being flooded every day," Long said. "It’s a reality and we are working our way through it. We are committed to building with high school students, but we also have to have our eyes open for four year transfers.”
Many of Kansas' own players have entered the transfer portal recently, most notably cornerback Kyle Mayberry, punter Kyle Thompson, and wide receivers Andrew Parchment and Stephon Robinson Jr.
Long said the most important thing he will evaluate as far as progress is on-field production. And with Long anticipating a full spring 2021 schedule, he expects to win sooner rather than later.
“We need to win. I honestly believe we are going to be better. How much better remains to be seen,” Long said. “We are very aware, not only [within Kansas Athletics] but as an institution, that our football program needs to be better and be able to compete.”