Recruiting rankings have never been a reliable tool for predicting Kansas State’s success on the football field.
Since Bill Snyder returned as coach, experts have regularly ranked the Wildcats’ recruiting classes, made up of mostly two- and three-star prospects, near the bottom of the Big 12. But those recruiting classes helped K-State finish second in the Big 12 last season and win a conference championship this season.
Either the experts are wrong or K-State is better at developing talent than other programs.
Whatever the case is, Snyder has no plans to change his recruiting approach. Though the Wildcats’ recent success has helped them get in contact with highly-touted prospects that might not have been shown interest in past years, they aren’t going to start targeting five-star recruits simply because of their reputation.
“That is never going to be our motivation,” co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said.
K-State is going to continue making scholarship offers based on its own evaluation tools.
“We are the blue-collar type of school,” Dimel said. “We will take a four- or five-star guy if we think he is a legitimate four- or five-star guy, but sometimes the four- or five-star guys aren’t the best football players. I’m not a big believer in recruiting rankings. We don’t look at stars. We evaluate.
“That’s what we do well. We bring them along and develop them as well, but evaluation is the big thing. If we see a four-star guy, but he really isn’t a four-star guy ability-wise, we will recruit the two-star guy.”
As long as the player has good work ethic, a team-first attitude and enough skills to play at the Division I level, K-State will consider him.
“You have got to have people that you believe are appropriate for your program,” Snyder said. “I think all schools are that way.”
K-State coaches have targeted a wide range of recruits this season. They have gone to the junior-college ranks for immediate help at quarterback and on the defensive line, and they have looked at high school seniors for positions where they are deeper. They have earned commitments from lightly recruited players, and beaten national powers for more touted athletes.
Nick Ramirez, a four-star linebacker from Lee’s Summit, Mo., is the highest-rated incoming recruit, according to Rivals.com, but the Wildcats also have high hopes for quarterback Jake Waters, who put up impressive stats while guiding Iowa Western Community College to a national championship, Kansas Gatorade Player of the year Tanner Wood and three-star defensive ends Jordan Willis and Jamone Boyd.
K-State coaches beat schools such as Penn State, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Tennessee for those commitments. Recruiting experts are higher on the Wildcats right now than they have been in years.
“When you are winning football games that is the easiest recruiting tool you have,” K-State receivers coach Michael Smith said. “People know who we are. I don’t know how they forgot who we were in such a short time, but the Powercat is well known again.”
Playing on national TV most weeks, staying in the top 25 polls for two straight seasons and Collin Klein finishing third for the Heisman Trophy have also helped K-State gain exposure on the recruiting trail.
That has helped Smith with recruits as far away as Florida and Louisiana, and as close as Wichita.
Recent success has supplied K-State with a nice recruiting boost, even if its approach hasn’t changed.
“We don’t feel like we have to play second-fiddle to anyone in recruiting,” Smith said. “But we aren’t going to recruit a guy just based on his star-rating. We are going to evaluate him the same way we would a guy that is going to be a walk-on. We want the guys who want to be at K-State and fit our program. We’ve done a good job of that.
“It’s not that we don’t we don’t get any five-star guys. Why wasn’t Darren Sproles a five-star player? Why wasn’t Jordy Nelson a five-star player? We have won a lot of games with players that people said aren’t good athletes. We have a lot of guys playing in the NFL who didn’t have a lot of stars.”
“Oh yeah, I remember them really well,” Clanton said, smiling. “Tough to forget guys that make as many plays as they did.
“Nigel is so athletic ... I remember him going up and making some one-handed picks that kind of just kind of left you shaking your head. I was really fond of Bubba because of how he played the game, which is angry, and that’s kind of how I play, too. You could just see it in his eyes before game that he was going to that kind of scary place ... I loved it.”
Clanton was an All-American offensive lineman in 2009 when CCSF went 9-1. Clanton has started every game this year for the Ducks, the first eight games at left guard and the last four at right guard.
That might not be true, according to junior wide receiver Josh Huff, who leads Oregon with 467 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
“Everybody thinks it’s De’Anthony, but it might be B.J. Kelley,” Huff said. “He’s young, so people really haven’t heard of him yet but he can really move.”
Kelly, a 6-foot-2, 181-pound redshirt freshman, has six catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns this season for the Ducks and has also played a big role on special teams.