LAWRENCE — There was a time, maybe a few years ago, when it felt like the Kansas football staff was barely visible in the Kansas City recruiting scene.
At least, that’s how Shawnee Mission West coach Tim Callaghan remembers it. Maybe it was because the Vikings didn’t have a bevy of Division I players at the time. But Callaghan can remember the days of last decade, when Mark Mangino’s staff was always active and aggressive in the area. And then a few years ago, when Turner Gill’s staff took over, it didn’t feel the same.
“When Coach Mangino was here, there was always somebody coming in from KU,” Callaghan said. “But that stopped.”
So perhaps it’s no surprise that KU coach Charlie Weis has made the Kansas City metro area a priority during his first year-plus at Kansas. And the renewed effort paid off again this week, when Andre Maloney, a senior-to-be at SM West, became the third local commitment in the Jayhawks’ 2014 class.
Maloney, a 6-foot-2 cornerback, picked Kansas over a list of schools that included Missouri, Minnesota and Iowa State. He joins Gardner Edgerton running back Traevohn Wrench and Lawrence Free State safety Joe Dineen as local commitments from the area.
This week, Maloney credited KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, who recruits the Kansas City area, for making him feel comfortable with the idea of staying close to home. He also told Rivals.com that he was excited to play for KU defensive coach Dave Campo, who spent most of his career coaching for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.
“Coach Grunhard is a good guy and never pressured me,” Maloney said. “He always checked in on me and said he’d like me to visit whenever it fit on my schedule.
“Coach Campo was important because he knows what it takes to get to the next level. The NFL experience was big to me they have on the staff. If football after college doesn’t work then I will always have a degree.”
Last season, Maloney helped lead SM West to its first football state title since 1985. The Vikings took down state power Hutchinson in the championship game, and Maloney played a key role on both offense and defense.
“We had about four guys that played both ways, and he was one of them,” Callaghan said. “He was a starter on defense at corner, and he was a starting receiver. He did punt returns and kick returns; and later on in the season, he ended up doing a little more playing some quarterback in a shotgun (Wildcat) formation.”
Maloney is expected to play cornerback at the next level, but Callaghan says he’ll keep the same duties for the Vikings during his senior season, remaining one of the most versatile players in the city.
“He’s really learned how to work hard,” Callaghan said. “Not that he wasn’t a hard worker before … He really kind of hit the weights last year and made an effort, and he got his body ready to be a Division I guy.”
The Jayhawks previously landed commitments from Wrench, rated as the 29th-best running back prospect in the country, and Dineen, who has KU connections. It’s important to remember that Gill also nabbed a couple of key local recruits, including Blue Springs running back Darrian Miller, but local coaches say Weis’ staff has been consistent about making its presence felt.
“They’re more noticeable,” Callaghan said.
On Wednesday, the Jayhawks also picked up a commitment from offensive linemen Jacob Bragg of Nacogdoches, Texas, according to Rivals.com. Bragg is rated as the eighth-best center prospect in the country, according to Rivals. The fifth member of the Jayhawks’ 2014 class is linebacker Kyron Watson of East St. Louis.