Kansas takes share of recruiting spotlight

Gardner-Edgerton's Traevohn Wrench (Photo courtesy of PrepsKC)
By: Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Sep 4, 2013

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While it remains a far cry from such recruiting hotbeds as Texas and Florida, the state of Kansas has received its share of the college football recruiting spotlight this year.

With Olathe South offensive lineman Braden Smith, Derby tight end DeAndre Goolsby, Olathe North linebacker Jimmie Swain and Gardner-Edgerton running Traevohn Wrench, the state boasts four players in the 2014 recruiting class who are rated as 4-star recruits by Rivals.com. Smith and Goolsby both make Rivals’ list of the nation’s top 200 recruits individually. It is the first time Kansas has had four or more 4-star recruits since 2010.

ESPN doesn’t project Kansas having quite as many 4-star recruits as Rivals, but Jeremy Crabtree, a senior coordinator for ESPN RecruitingNation, said the state is blessed with some talent.

“Some years, it’s going to be 20 deep and there are 10 guys who could play Big 12 and some years there are only one or two,” Crabtree said. “I think this year there may be 12 or 15 guys who could be BCS level kids. I think you could make an argument for a guy like Landon Root at Wichita Collegiate that’s going to Northern Illinois could be a Big 12-caliber quarterback. You have Braden Smith, you have Jimmie Swain, Traevohn Wrench and DeAndre Goolsby. You have those guys who are all being heavily recruited and courted by a lot of folks. I think it stacks up as one of the best years in the last five for sure.”

Smith, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound offensive lineman, tops the list. Rivals projects him as the No. 39 player in the nation, while ESPN deems Smith No. 121. Both recruiting services have Smith in the top seven at his position, however.

“There is certainly plenty of good talent toward the top of the list,” Crabtree said. “If there’s one franchise-type kid, it’s Braden Smith of Olathe South. He’s highly coveted by everybody.”

For good reason. Smith bench presses 545 pounds and has starred at Olathe South since helping the Falcons win a Class 6 state championship in 2011. Smith has not announced a decision yet, but he has reportedly received offers Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, Michigan, USC, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Kansas and many more.

“First things first, he’s 285 pounds and could get up to 300 pounds without any issues at all,” Crabtree said. “He’s a physically imposing, strong player and nasty blocker. He needs to develop some technically. I think that’s the one little knock on him. I think his footwork is something he will improve on. He can play at a number of positions. He could easily be a tackle. Our scouts project him as an interior lineman. But he is nasty, and there is a lot to like about him.”

Goolsby is another coveted Kansas recruit who has yet to make a college choice. The 6-4, 225-pound tight end is rated No. 3 at his position and No. 168 overall by Rivals. He reportedly has garnered offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, Louisville, Kansas State and Kansas.

“I had to go see him for myself, because I heard so many great things about him,” Crabtree said. “You don’t have Florida, you don’t have Ohio State, you don’t have folks like that coming through the doors of Derby High School too often. To hear all those things, I got excited to see a kid like that and he’s everything as advertised. He plays at 225 or 230 pounds. He could easily be 250 and not lose a step at all. I know Coach (Brandon) Clark plans on using him in a lot of ways. Whether it’s at running back, whether it’s lining him up at receiver. When you have a weapon like that who creates immediate matchup problems, you got to find a way to get the ball in his hands.”

Swain, who played his junior season at Lee’s Summit (Mo.), has already committed to play at TCU. At 6-3 and 230 pounds, Swain is considered to be one of the top 20 linebackers in the nation.

Crabtree said he’s expecting big things from Swain in his senior season at Olathe North.

“He’s nasty,” Crabtree said. “He’s got a great nose for the football. He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He’s kind of like a heat-seeking missile. He’s about 6-3, 229 pounds and looks the part. Of the guys on there in the top 15 in Kansas, you ought to have your eyeball on him. I think he could have a very big senior season and be a guy who could jump into the national top 300.”

Wrench, a 6-1, 190-pound running back from Gardener-Edgerton, has been on the radar since Gardner-Edgerton graduate Bubba Starling was a top recruit for 2011. Wrench reportedly received offers from Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas State but opted to play for the Kansas Jayhawks. Both Rivals and ESPN have Wrench listed as a 4-star recruit and in the top 35 running backs in the nation.

“When I walked through the doors at Gardner-Edgerton to cover Bubba Starling when he was a senior, the coaches were telling me about Traevohn when he was an eighth-grader,” Crabtree said. “So this is a kid who the folks out there have known about for a long time. He’s got a big bull’s-eye on his back every time he steps on the field, because everyone in the stadium knows he’s going to get the football. But I think he could have a very big senior season.”

The list starts with those four but doesn’t end there. Hiawatha defensive lineman Peyton Newell recently committed to play at Nebraska. Shawnee Mission West defensive back Andre Maloney (Kansas), KC Wyandotte’s Dimonic McKinzy (Minnesota), Wichita Collegiate quarterback Landon Root (Northern Illinois) and Shawnee Mission West offensive lineman Austin Chambers (BYU) have all made early commitments. Wichita Northwest running back Deron Thompson is said to have offers from Kansas State, Minnesota and others.

Crabtree said part of the reason Kansas is receiving more national attention is because of the internet and more advanced recruiting services.

“When I first started covering this 15 years ago, there would be guys from the state of Kansas who Bill Snyder and Glen Mason or whoever was the coach of Kansas probably could hide under the radar a little bit,” Crabtree said. “But with the emergence of the internet, YouTube and with scouting services everywhere, I think it’s difficult to keep kids secrets now. If you’re a good football player, you’re going to be found.”

Despite having the stigma of being a small school (Class 3A), the recruiters certainly found Newell. The 6-3, 280-pound defensive lineman from Hiawatha reportedly had 34 NCAA Division I offers.

“I think Peyton’s going to be a good, solid Big 10 defensive tackle,” Crabtree said. “He’s at 270 or 280 pounds. He can easily be at 300 pounds by the time he’s through there in Lincoln. Defensive tackles who have solid motors get recruited heavily, and Peyton has a good motor and does a lot of really good things that got coaches excited.”

Newell announced his decision to play at Nebraska over South Carolina, Kansas and Kansas State this past week.

He said he’s glad to have the decision made and be able to focus on his senior season with the Redhawks. However, Newell also said he is motivated to show college football that there is good talent in Kansas.

“Between Braden (Smith) and I, we had more than 60 Division I offers,” Newell said. “Goolsby has a lot. Traevohn (Wrench) would have had more if he hadn’t committed so early. It shows that Kansas is coming up and has good football.”

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