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July 10, 2006
Sunflower State power
Things have definitely changed in the Sunflower State.
After an amazing run that included a Big 12 title and six 11-win seasons, Bill Snyder left Kansas State, ushering in new coach Ron Prince and his different take on recruiting. On the flip side, Mark Mangino has built the Kansas Jayhawks into a team that can now compete for bowl bids every year and is primed to compete for the Big 12 North title.
Also changing is the landscape as to how teams recruit the state of Kansas. In the past both Kansas and Kansas State seemingly waited to reel in numerous commitments, but with Prince aggressively attacking his own backyard and Mangino's deep roots with the high school coaches in the state, more and more Sunflower State prospects are committing early. That's why this year's Rivals.com Kansas top 15 is loaded with players that have already made up their mind.
At the top of the list are two four-star prospects - Rivals100 tight end Christian Ballard and Rivals250 linebacker Blake Lawrence. Ballard, who is 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, is a soft Kansas commitment and continues to look around at teams like Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Iowa and others.
Lawrence, is 6-3 and 205 pounds, looks to have narrowed his list down to Kansas and Nebraska and could have a decision any time soon. His brother signed with Kansas in the class of 2006, but the Huskers have made up a lot of ground with him over the past few weeks.
If KU can hang onto Ballard and reel in Lawrence, it would be a major positive for Mangino. It would mark the third year in a row that KU landed the No. 1 player in Kansas and Lawrence would be a major recruiting victory over a Big 12 North rival.
In Manhattan, Kan., things have changed dramatically as the Wildcats have double-digit commitments in July for the first time - well, ever. Prince has been aggressive and targeted local players first and foremost and it's paid off with commitments from five of the top 15 players. The Wildcats even landed a pledge from the No. 6 player in the state, Jayson Cuba, on signing day of 2006.
KSU also has commitments from the No. 4 player, running back Jeremy Reed, the No. 8 player, running back Demetrius Bell, the No. 9 player, cornerback Justin Woods and the No. 14 player, linebacker Kevin Rohleder.
Lawrence Free State has three players on the list - Ballard and twin KU commitments, Brian Murphy and Ryan Murphy. Ryan is ranked as the state's No. 7 player and Brian is ranked at No. 15. St. Thomas Aquinas has two players on the list with linebacker Brian Smith at No. 3 and rapidly improving tight end Drake Dunsmore at No. 11.