There are two ways to look at the Kansas Jayhawks' recruiting class of 2012 - with transfers or without.
Since he arrived on campus, Head Coach Charlie Weis wasted no time in plugging some of the immediate gaps in his roster with transfers - many of them extremely highly-rated as high school prospects. Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps, Justin McCay, Anthony McDonald, Mike Ragone and Josh Williams will all help the Jayhawks either immediately or in the not-so-distant future.
So evaluating the class is not as simple as looking at star ratings, said Kevin Flaherty. One has to consider the multitude of sources from which Weis and his staff drew to put it together.
"I do think there are some nice-looking sleepers here from the high school side," he said. "But I think you have to judge the class by all of the different pieces in it as opposed to saying 'Well, there are only so many three-stars in this class'. Because once they get to campus, I think this is a class that could actually work pretty well together."
When the Jayhawks pulled a commitment from Tampa (FL) Berkeley Prep linebacker Schyler Miles on National Signing Day, it was Weis' first big recruiting coup. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound middle backer had offers from home-state Florida, North Carolina State and West Virginia, and for Weis to win that battle provided a glimpse of his nationwide appeal to prep prospects.
Because of his combination of speed, overall athleticism and size, Flaherty believes he's the top prospect in the Kansas class.
"You're looking at a middle linebacker who can fill not only the need that Kansas has in terms of a linebacker who can run and play sideline to sideline, but also the middle linebacker that has become somewhat of a necessity in the spread-based Big 12," he explained. "He's a guy who can play all three downs and be just as effective."
"I think all three of those guys fit needs, but more than that they have the ability to come in and be upper-tier players at their position in the program," Flaherty said.
Of all the positions represented in the signing class, a few received extra attention in the form of multiple signees. For example, the 2012 roster will include several new faces at tight end, defensive line and cornerback.
So which position group will receive the most help next season? In what probably comes as no shock whatsoever to Kansas fans, it's the defensive line.
The other positions are receiving talented reinforcements in prospects such as Jordan Smith, Charles Brooks, Greg Allen, Tyree Williams and Nasir Moore. So there's talent on the way - it's just that there's at least some level of talent on the existing roster.
This is less true at defensive tackle.
"They were dreadfully short of defensive linemen and very specifically defensive tackles who can play at the Big 12 level," Flaherty said. "So I think almost by default your'e going to see the biggest jump at that position. At tight end you have Mike Ragone, Jimmay Mundine and some players who can get them something. But at defensive line you're basically starting over."
Long term prospects
When it comes to prospects who may take a little longer to find their way onto the field, but have the ability to be major players before their careers are over, Flaherty pegged two from the Lone Star State - outside linebacker Courtney Arnick and cornerback Tyree Wiliams.
"Arnick is a guy who will need to add some weight, but he has the speed and the instincts you're looking for in terms of a spread outside linebacker," Flaherty said. "And you look at Williams and he's got outstanding size, can run pretty well and is someone you could look back on in a few years and shouldn't be shocked if he's one of the better defensive backs in the program."
Which prospect is flying under the radar? To find that hidden gem for the Jayhawks, Flaherty returns to the defensive line and Sachse (TX) High defensive tackle Tyler Holmes.
Rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com, the pick is due more to the fact that he doesn't receive as much attention as the JUCO recruits at his position. As a senior in 2011, Holmes racked up 82 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles.
"I would say that Holmes is that guy," Flaherty said. "He's someone who is 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, so he has room to add more quality weight. Even at the high school level a lot of the best tackles aren't as productive as he was."