The state of Kansas is not typically known as a factory when it comes to the production of high school football talent, this much is true.
It may sound harsh to say so, but the numbers don't lie. Each year, the Sunflower State produces perhaps a handful of BCS level players - far fewer than other states in the region such as Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and, obviously, Texas.
The Class of 2013 may be signaling a change, however, as the level of talent appears to be on the rise. And the Class of 2014 looks as if it may boast a few elite, national level prospects as well.
Things are still incredibly early in the recruiting process for the current crop of juniors, with a full spring and summer of combines and camps still to come, but we decided to take a stab at a preliminary Sunflower State Top 10. With the understanding, of course, that things will change, new prospects will emerge and nothing is set in stone.
1. Clay Rhodes - Offensive Tackle - Stilwell (KS) Blue Valley - 6-foot-6, 265 pounds
A prototypical tackle prospect built for a pass-heavy offense, Rhodes has exceptional length and athleticism for the position - and many BCS programs have taken notice. Already he has claimed offers from Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Tulsa, with interest flowing in from Nebraska, Stanford and others.
The Missouri Tigers were the first to step up with an offer and have kept up the pressure, making it clear Rhodes is a priority for them. Having already visited Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Tulsa unofficially, the athletic tackle is now planning a second round of visits to take in spring practices. He'll visit the Tigers (Mar. 22), the Jayhawks (Mar. 31) and the Northwestern Wildcats (April 7). Plans to return to Kansas State and Tulsa are still being worked out.
2. Ben Johnson - Tight End - Basehor (KS) Linwood - 6-foot-6, 227 pounds
A dyed-in-the-wool Kansas fan, Ben Johnson received an offer from Head Coach Charlie Weis in late Februrary, it took him just 24 hours to make his commitment.
Johnson is an outstanding get for the Jayhawks. Big and athletic, he's a prototypical tight end for today's college game, with the speed to stretch the field and the size to make himself a factor in the running game. Before Kansas pulled the trigger on their offer, he had interest coming in from the likes of Arkansas, Oklahoma State and others.
Part of what made the Jayhawks so attractive to Johnson was Weis' reputation for utilizing tight ends so effectively, said Basehor head coach Steve Hopkins.
"He feels like they use the tight ends and that his skills fit there," he explained. "And I agree completely. He attacks the ball when it's in the air, catches it with his hands and then he attacks a defender."
3. Tanner Wood - Linebacker - Conway Springs (KS) High - 6-foot-5, 240 pounds
Tanner Wood has been committed to Kansas State since…well…forever. Or to be more technically about it, since mid-July.
A product of one of the most successful high school programs in the state, Wood committed to the Wildcats shortly after they extended an offer, citing the coaches as one of the primary factors behind his decision.
"I really love the coaching staff," he told KStateFans.com in July. "It's close to home. I love every part of the program, and the university really, and my family feels the same way. When I called to commit I spoke to (assistant coach) Joe Bob (Clements) and Coach (Chris) Cosh, the defensive coordinator. They offered me at linebacker or defensive end. I'm excited to play either position."
Wood's film is extremely impressive. Despite his size, he moves like a guided missile at linebacker, playing sound, disciplined football and exploding through blockers and ball-carriers alike. He'll be a great fit for the Wildcats defense in the years ahead.
4. Montell Cozart - Quarterback - Roeland Park (KS) Bishop Miege - 6-foot-2, 180 pounds
A case could technically be made that Montell Cozart is even a little underrated at the No. 4 spot on this list, as he was after all the 2011 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and put up outstanding numbers for the Stags as a junior.
So impressed was the Kansas coaching staff by what they'd seen of him, they opted to make him the first local prospect to whom they extended a scholarship offer. That should speak volumes about his ability, and he also holds an offer from Northern Illinois in addition to interest from an ever-increasing number of programs.
Though labeled by many as a dual-threat quarterback, Cozart made his mark in 2011 as a pass-first guy, completing more than 60-percent of his passes. Tall and mobile in the pocket, he showed solid arm strength and the ability to make quick decisions in the Stags' spread attack.
Some questions do remain, however. For one, Cozart had an outstanding receiving corps last fall, thanks to Kansas signee Tre Parmalee - the 2011 Otis Taylor Award winner - and Quanzee Johnson. Smaller, quicker receivers, the two were able to take short-yardage passes and turn them into big gains.
How will Cozart handle the loss of his two primary pass-catchers? What will the offense look like now that former head coach Tim Grunhard is the offensive line coach at Kansas - and Cozart's lead recruiter with the Jayhawks? Can he show the ability to take - and hit - more opportunities downfield?
That he possesses all the tools to be a top-flight, legitimate BCS quarterback isn't up for debate. The tools are there. If he can replicate his production from 2011 in 2012, he could make a jump up the list. For now, he's probably the prospect in the state to watch most closely.
5. Jerel Morrow - Wide Receiver - Emporia (KS) High - 6-foot-1, 180 pounds
A track star with outstanding size, Morrow will likely become one of the hottest commodities in the state with a strong summer camp showing and senior campaign in the fall. His physical tools are simply too impressive, with great size, strength, speed and hands.
Thus far, the two in-state programs - Kansas and Kansas State - are the only to extend him scholarship offers, but the interest in him is growing rapidly. Earlier this month he took an unofficial visit to the University of Nebraska, and came away impressed.
"I think that they are really assessing me personality-wise," Morrow told BigRedReport.com. "THey are taking their time and are being thorough with the process. If Nebraska were to offer it would mean a lot. It's definitely one of the top schools on my list."
He's heavily invested in both Kansas and Kansas State as well, and will take return trips to both programs in the weeks ahead to check out spring practices.
"Since I've grown up in Kansas I definitely have to consider these two schools because I've grown up on it," Morrow said. "But I'm just taking it equal opportunity for all schools."
6. Jordan Darling - Quarterback - Shawnee Mission (KS) East High - 6-foot-4, 230 pounds
As a prospect, Jordan Darling is an interesting case. A child of a military family - his mother, Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Darling - is currently stationed in Afghanistan. An extremely close-knit family, they have moved a number of times in recent years in order to stay together.
Last season, the big signal-caller played for Waco (TX) Midway, but with his mother re-stationed to Fort Leavenworth, he'll complete his senior year at Shawnee Mission East.
Possessing prototypical size and a powerful arm, Darling recently received his first BCS offer - from the Kansas Jayhawks.
"Yesterday was one of the best days of my life," he told Scout.com Ohio recruiting analyst Bill Greene during a Feb. 24 interview. "Coach Weis let me know he wanted me to be his future Kansas quarterback. Coach Weis must think the only word I know is thank you. I kept saying it over and over. They have one of the best coaching staffs in the country at any level, and (quarterbacks coach) Ron Powlus is definitely someone who has been where I want to go."
Several additional programs have shown interest, however, and Darling is planning on taking his time with his recruitment.
7. Skyler Windmiller - Quarterback - Mill Valley (KS) High - 6-foot-2, 180 pounds
Skyler Windmiller is another quarterback with a plethora of physical tools. While not a true dual-threat talent, he's mobile enough to stay alive in the pocket and do some damage if forced to tuck it and run.
His arm is the main attraction, however. While he still deals with some accuracy and touch issues - not uncommon in any young quarterback prospect - he has an absolute Howitzer strapped to his right shoulder. He's hard at work with an area quarterback coach in the off-season to help improve that accuracy, and if he can effectively bring his arm under control he becomes a major impact player in the area, if he wasn't considered one already.
A stellar junior season has brought several BCS programs calling though no offers as of yet. He attended Junior Day events at both Iowa and Kansas, has been hearing from Northern Illinois and Wyoming a great deal lately, and has two more Junior Day visits planned for next month - first to Tulsa and then to Tennessee.
He'll also visit the Hawkeyes and Jayhawks for spring practices, as their proximity allows for an easy trip.
8. Dan Morin - Offensive Guard/Defensive Tackle - Overland Park (KS) St. Thomas Aquinas - 6-foot-3, 275 pounds
Dan Morin is a bruiser with potential on both sides of the ball. He's aggressive, strong and explosive off the ball. On offensive, his quickness allows him to get to the second and third levels of the defense in the run game, and once he gets his hooks in on a player it's usually lights out. He's got a real penchant for pancaking defenders, at the line of scrimmage and beyond.
Defensively, he uses his hands well and is extremely quick off the ball, making him a player who - at the high school level - necessitates a constant double team in order to block effectively.
Morin attended Junior Day events at Kansas and Kansas State, though additional interest will assuredly be coming his way. Had he been in the Class of 2012, he would have ranked just below Kansas signee Brian Beckmann from Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley West - so he's unquestionably a talented kid.
9. Coleman McCann - Offensive Guard - Mill Valey (KS) High - 6-foot-3, 275 pounds
Coleman McCann and Dan Morin could practically be cut from the same cloth. McCann may not be quite as quick off the ball, but he's brutally strong for his size and is an outstanding drive blocker - locking in, keeping his feet moving and possessing a wonderful understand of the role leverage plays in winning battles at the LOS. He's a technician, and an excellent one at that.
After camping at Navy last summer, McCann has also taken trips to Kansas and Pennsylvania (he's an excellent student, as one might imagine). Recently, Western Michigan has begun to show interest as well.
The Jayhawks have told him they're extremely interested, and will visit him at school next month.
10. Anthony Miller - Tight End - Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley Southwest - 6-foot-5, 245 pounds
Anthony Miller is another outstanding tight end prospect who would have ranked even higher had he been born a year earlier. A big, strong body with the ability to move well after the catch, he's not quite the athlete or downfield threat that is Ben Johnson, but he's naturally bigger - looking physically ready to compete at the BCS level right now.
He attended Junior Day at Kansas, and also either visited or received invitations to visit from Kansas State, Tulsa, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.