There’s not a lot to cheer about when it comes to Kansas football nowadays. The Jayhawks haven’t been to a bowl game in nearly a decade, and in the past seven seasons, they’ve won just 15 total games. The program has bottomed out, struggling through awful tenures under Turner Gill, and Charlie Weis. When hired in 2015, David Beaty was expected to bring elite recruiting to Lawrence, and turn the program around. In his first three years, he’s not been able to find success on the field, but his tenure hasn’t been a complete failure. For the first time since the late 2000s, Kansas is competitive on the recruiting trail.
Now, that needs to be taken with a of perspective. No, Kansas is not recruiting at an elite level. They aren’t competing with Oklahoma or Texas for the top class in the Big 12, and they’re still sitting near the bottom of the Big 12 every year. However, relative to their past ten years, Kansas has stepped their recruiting game up, and a lot of that can be credited to running backs coach Tony Hull.
Hull, a former Louisiana high school coach was brought on to Beaty’s staff in 2016, and has been arguably the most important part of their staff in the past two seasons. Since he was hired, the Jayhawks have landed three four-star Louisiana prospects, in Corione Harris and Pooka Williams in 2018, and Lance LeGendre in 2019. We asked coach Beaty about that success, and he credited much of it to Hull:
“I recruited when I was at Texas A&M and got to know Tony [Hull] and realized he was connected to just about everyone in that area. His school he could only take certain guys so he literally started filling his competition with terrific players. He wasn’t afraid of that. His goal was to help players in that area, help kids in that area, to help them benefit from that. So his relationships with those guys down there have been very, very important and pivotal.”
Those connections, as mentioned, have been massive for Kansas’ success, not just in Louisiana, but in the deep south as a whole. In the 2018 class, the Jayhawks pulled more recruits from Louisiana, Florida and Arkansas (7) than they did from their home state and Texas combined (6). Obviously the recruiting talent in Kansas isn’t great, but the blueprint for years in Lawrence has been to make inroads in Texas. This staff has different ideas.
Kansas isn’t just pulling filler players from Louisiana, Florida or Arkansas either. As I mentioned, they landed two four stars from the Bayou, but they also pulled safety Ryan Malbrough and cornerback Ricky Thomas. Florida yielded guard Reuben Lewis, and linebacker Kenny Bastida. Cornerback Elmore Hempstead is an Arkansas native.
“We just signed the two highest rated guys in KU history. Since there have been rankings kept, Corione Harris and Pooka Williams are the two highest rated guys that have been signed and a lot of that goes to Tony Hull and the connections he has down there.”
Kansas proved in 2018 that they don’t need to remain in the Big 12 footprint to find recruiting success, and that moving into SEC territory may be the key for Beaty going forward, especially if he wants to keep his job. Obviously on the field success is the most important thing, and drumming up recruiting hype isn’t enough to keep him employed, but recruiting leads to success. Kansas is finally recruiting like a power five team, and a lot of that can be chalked up to Tony Hull.
While recruiting is his main gig, Hull was also a popular name among Kansas players. It’s not hard to see why he’s so popular with recruits, because it’s obvious that has an impressive ability to connect with young athletes. His time as a head coach in Louisiana high school football definitely played a big part in that, but Kansas receiver Steven Sims Jr. had some more insight on coach Hull:
“Coach Hull, he’s a genuine dude. He keeps it 100 with you, keeps it real with you. He’s going to give it to you straight how it is, and I appreciate him for that.”
It remains to be seen what the future will hold for Beaty, but Hull’s seems far more stable. He’s an excellent recruiter, and when you look at Khalil Herbert’s success last year, Hull seems to be more than capable as a talent developer. No matter what happens with Beaty, Kansas will want Hull to stick around. The only question is if he’ll be willing to do that.