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Five former elite recruits that will benefit from Les Miles at Kansas

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Pooka Williams
Pooka Williams (AP Images)

JAYHAWKSLANT.COM: Les Miles named head football coach at Kansas

The hiring of Les Miles at the new coach of Kansas is official and while the program has been the doormat of the Big 12 for years, the Jayhawks have shown recent signs of improvement. The program has also had a few big gets on the recruiting trail, some of which have lived up to the hype and some who haven’t. But with a new coach on board many will get fresh starts and get an opportunity to live up to their high school promise. Today we look at five former elite recruits who have a chance to turn their careers around once they’re given a second chance to make a first impression.

As a recruit: One of the highest-ranked recruits in Kansas football history, Harris initially committed to LSU before backing off that pledge and committing to the Jayhawks in early 2017. Despite a late push from several other programs, he stuck with Kansas, signing in December.

What he’s done: It’s not like Harris really needs a fresh start as he’s been one of Kansas’ best young players, starting nine of the 10 games he played in through Week 11. Harris has 33 tackles and one interception and according to Pro Football Focus, ranks among the team’s second-best cornerback.

Why Miles will help: During Miles' time at LSU, the Tigers were known for having a stingy defense and producing star defensive backs. Harris is only likely to continue to get better and his experience as a true freshman should lead to a nice leap from year one to year two.

As a recruit: Lee surprised many people when he committed to Kansas over a national list of offers that included Georgia, Miami and Tennessee. But the real surprise was when he reclassified a few months later, skipping his senior year of high school and enrolling early at Kansas in August 2016.

What he’s done: Lee stepped right into the starting lineup in Lawrence, earning several honors in 2016, including making the All-Big 12 freshman team. He’s been a fixture in the lineup every year since, settling in at safety, where grades as one of the team’s best defenders according to PFF. Through Week 11 of this season, Lee has 200 career tackles and four interceptions.

Why Miles will help: Lee has been rumored to be considering a leap to the NFL, but another year at Kansas under Miles’ tutelage could only help him get ready for the next level. Much like Harris, he should only benefit from Miles tradition of producing elite defensive backs.

As a recruit: A high three-star coming out of the junior college ranks, Stevens-McKenzie chose Kansas over offers from Missouri, Maryland, Pittsburgh and others.

What he’s done: It’s been a pretty quiet year for Stevens-McKenzie in Lawrence as he’s failed to crack the lineup outside of reserve appearances. On the season, his value has been as a situational pass rusher and he has eight quarterback pressures in just 34 defensive snaps through Week 11.

Why Miles will help: It’s clear Stevens-McKenzie has an ability to rush the passer and considering his effectiveness at distrusting the passer in limited appearances, a bigger role might be on the way under Miles, who has historically recruited and developed elite edge rushers, most recently Arden Key while at LSU.

As a recruit: Williams committed to Kansas in early February on the same trip with Harris and while several other schools entered the mix, he never really wavered on his pledge to the Jayhawks.

What he’s done: It took some time for Williams to really get going but now it’s clear that he’s everything that most expected and more. Through Week 11, Williams had 759 yards rushing and 264 yards receiving, with six total touchdowns. Williams is already a star and is sure to be the focal point of the team’s offense going forward.

Why Miles will help: Miles isn’t exactly known for coaching teams with a dynamic offensive attack, but it’s very likely he’s able to help upgrade the team’s offensive line and other skill position, which will only help Williams. It’s also likely that Miles and his staff will have all offseason to create a plan to use Williams to the best of his ability, with likely means more touches.

As a recruit: Williams had offers from several other Power Five offers, including Arizona State, Utah and Purdue, but elected to commit to Kansas at the start of his junior year and never looked back.

What he’s done: Williams' career in Lawrence hasn’t exactly mirrored his four-star ranking as of yet, as he has played primarily as a backup during his first two years on campus. After looking like he might step into the full-time starters job this year, he was passed by Pooka Williams on the depth chart and has served as his backup for most of the 2018 season. For his career, Williams had 338 yards and three touchdowns through Week 11 of this season.

Why Miles will help: At his past stops, Miles has shown that he loves to run the ball and there will likely be plenty of opportunities for both Williams to get their share of carries. While Pooka will be the star, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dom get a chance to earn a bigger role in 2019.