MANHATTAN — The days and hours leading up to college football signing day can be harrowing ones for coaches and recruiting coordinators alike.
That’s why Kansas State coach Chris Klieman was all smiles Wednesday night when he met with the media to discuss the Wildcats’ early haul for the 2023 recruiting cycle.
There were no 11th-hour defections. On the contrary, three late additions on Tuesday and Wednesday proved to be the cherry on top for what may well be K-State’s most decorated recruiting class ever.
By the time the day was over, K-State had 26 signatures — 23 from the high school ranks and three junior college transfers — to go with a pair of recent transfer portal additions. On a national level, Rivals had the Wildcats’ class ranked No. 28, 247Sports No. 29 and On3 No. 34.
For Klieman, the biggest factors in the Wildcats’ success — even greater than a bumper-crop year for in-state high school talent and a Big 12 championship — were perseverance and personal contact with potential recruits.
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“Guys that we’d been on for an awful long time. We had a true cycle with these guys where we were around these guys an awful lot,” Klieman said. “We had 26 guys (sing) and we had 24 guys come to game day sometime this year or last year, and I still think that’s our best sell — getting these prospects and their families to come to a game at the Bill (Bill Snyder Family Stadium) and see the crowd here.
“We had 10 kids come to our camp this past summer, and then four players that we saw at satellite camps. And obviously for us it starts with the state of Kansas. We got six kids out of the state of Kansas that we’re tremendously excited about.”
The six Kansas high school pickups — Maize High School quarterback Avery Johnson, Olathe South defensive end Jordan Allen, Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel tight end Will Anciaux, Wichita Collegiate safety Wesley Fair, Blue Valley wide receiver Andre Davis and Kansas City Piper offensive lineman Camden Beebe — all were ranked in the top dozen in the state. Johnson and Allen were legitimate consensus four-star prospects.
Landing Johnson, who helped lead Maize to back-to-back Class 5A state championship games the past two seasons, was especially significant. It had been 19 years since K-State last signed the state’s No. 1 player, and it turned out Johnson’s coattails were far reaching after he committed to the Wildcats in early July.
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From the moment he announced his intentions, Johnson was convincing other top prospects to follow suit.
“I think that was really important, for him to be one of the leaders in the class, and I know that (offensive coordinator) Collin Klein has done a phenomenal job recruiting him, and between Collin and Taylor (Braet, recruiting coordinator) and other people, just continue to try to get him to help in this recruiting process,” Klieman said of Johnson’s power of persuasion. “Whether it was social media or contacting guys, or seeing guys at games — because he made it to so many football games of ours this year — he was a huge help.
“And he wanted to do that. He wanted to help, and helped land some really good kids that he’s going to play with for four or five years.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Johnson brings much more to the table than his recruiting prowess. Over the summer he competed in the Elite 11 finals, and as a senior at Maize he passed for 2,768 yards and 29 touchdowns with just three interceptions, while rushing for 817 yards and 15 scores.
“One, he’s got really good arm talent,” Klieman said. “And that’s the first thing we look for, is really good arm talent.
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“He sees the field really well and can throw from the hash to the sideline, throws the vertical ball exceptionally well, and then the athleticism. The ability to make plays with his feet.”
Allen, a 6-3, 245-pounder, was a first-team all-state linebacker at Olathe South, but projects as an edge rusher in college.
Beebe carries on a K-State family legacy, following in brother Cooper Beebe’s footsteps. Cooper Beebe, a junior on this year’s Wildcat team, was a second-team All-American at left guard after receiving all-Big 12 honors at left tackle as a sophomore.
The three late additions to the class made signing day all the more special. The first to sign on was linebacker Asa Newsom from Waverly, Iowa, who announced his commitment on Tuesday, and was followed Wednesday morning by Hutchinson Community College linebacker Terry Kirksey and in the afternoon by wide receiver Tre Spivey of Chandler, Arizona.
In all, the Wildcats signed four wide receivers and five linebackers. Both were positions of need. They also added six defensive backs — three cornerbacks and three safeties — to offset heavy graduation losses in the secondary.
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All three junior college transfers — Kirksey, cornerback Will Lee from NJCAA national champion Iowa Western, and linebacker Rex Van Wyhe from Iowa Central — are expected to contribute immediately.
K-State cast a wide recruiting net in the cycle, signing players from 13 different states. Of the 26 players who signed, 13 are expected to enroll at semester and go through spring practice.
Kansas State’s early 2023 signing class
HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS
Jordan Allen— 6-3, 245, defensive end, Olathe.
Will Anciaux— 6-6, 220, tight end, Wichita.
Camden Beebe— 6-2, 320, offensive lineman, Kansas City, Kan.
Jayce Brown— 6-0, 170, wide receiver, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Andrew Davis— 6-4, 200, wide receiver, Leawood.
Ryan Davis— 6-4, 235, defensive end, Phoenix, Ariz.
Collin Dunn— 6-0, 195, linebacker, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Jack Fabris— 6-1, 195, safety, Bogart, Ga.
Wesley Fair— 6-1, 185, safety, Wichita.
Jackson Fullmer— 6-4, 280, offensive lineman, Eagle, Idaho.
Joe Jackson— 5-10, 195, running back, Haines City, Fla.
Avery Johnson— 6-2, 175, quarterback, Wichita.
Donovan McIntosh— 6-2, 170, cornerback, St. Louis, Mo.
Andrew Metzger— 6-4, 225, tight end, Aurora, Colo.
Asa Newsom— 6-3, 225, linebacker, Waverly, Iowa.
Chiddi Obiazor— 6-5, 245, defensive end, Eden Prairie, Minn.
Austin Roman— 6-2, 230, linebacker, Hillsboro, Mo.
Kameron Sallis— 6-1, 200, safety, Arlington, Texas.
Three Spiveys— 6-4, 190, wide receiver, Chandler, Ariz.
Kanijal Thomas— 5-10, 175, cornerback, Del City, Okla.
Asher Tomaszewski— 6-3, 280, defensive tackle, Schererville, Ind.
Devin Vass— 6-6, 275, offensive lineman, Barlow, Fla.
Wesley Watson— 6-1, 190, wide receiver, College Station, Texas.
JUNIOR COLLEGE TRANSFERS
Terry Kirksey— 6-2, 230, linebacker, Hutchinson CC.
Will Lee— 6-2, 185, cornerback, Iowa Western CC.
Rex Van Wyhe— 6-5, 225, linebacker, Iowa Central CC.
Arne Green is based in Salina and covers Kansas State University sports for the Gannett network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @arnegreen.