One never really knows for sure in 2020 whether any given college football game will be played as scheduled, but as of Monday at least, Kansas coach Les Miles felt optimistic about the Jayhawks returning to action.
“Right now I would guess that we would have the numbers to play this week,” Miles said during his Monday afternoon video press conference, regarding Saturday’s home matchup with TCU. “And we’re looking forward to it to be honest.”
After KU was unable to meet the Big 12 thresholds for available defensive linemen this past week, forcing its home date with Texas to be postponed to Dec. 12, Miles said the D-linemen “will be back” this week to face the Horned Frogs (3-4 overall, 3-4 Big 12).
“So we’re looking forward to them returning to the field,” Miles added.
However, the KU coach also hinted the Jayhawks could be missing some offensive linemen when they play for the first time since a blowout loss at Oklahoma on Nov. 7.
“Our offensive line’s not necessarily in the same position (as the D-line),” Miles said, when asked for an update about the team’s depth. “But we feel like they’ll have a good practice week and bring it to the field.”
With the season winding down, at least one starting senior for KU hopes to take advantage of an NCAA blanket eligibility waiver for 2020 and play an extra year.
Senior outside linebacker Kyron Johnson shared Monday with reporters that he thinks he will return for the 2021 season.
“Knowing my circumstances, it’s really just another person just to lead and really more along the lines of not doing it for my own well being, but for the others,” Johnson said of his desire to come back for another season. “To put KU on the map basically. We’re not on the map. And people know that. It’s good to say that — it’s OK.”
The NCAA determined back in August, before fall sports began, that all Division I athletes would receive an extra year of eligibility, due to the complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes who are able to take advantage of this unusual extra year of eligibility won’t count against their team’s scholarship limits until the 2022-23 academic year begins.
Miles, when asked how he would handle possibly bringing back some seniors, said Monday his focus right now is on the three remaining games on the schedule. While he said he had discussed the topic with some seniors, he didn’t specify which ones.
Johnson said he told his position coach, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, about his plans, as well as his teammates.
“Just to give them a sense of I’m not going anywhere,” Johnson said.
Through seven games, Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior, ranks second on the team in total tackles (31) and leads the Jayhawks in sacks, with three.
Asked for an update on true freshman quarterback Jalon Daniels, Miles indicated KU’s starter is back on track after an injury forced the QB out of the game, late in the Jayhawks’ loss at OU.
“He practiced all last week. He’ll practice this week,” Miles shared. “We’d expect him to be certainly a player.”
Daniels suffered an ankle injury when he was sacked for the ninth time in the loss to the Sooners.
Miles didn’t have as clear of a report to share when asked about starting offensive lineman Chris Hughes, who missed the OU game with an undisclosed ailment.
The coach said Hughes “got himself a little nick and I hope he can return.” Miles added he thinks Hughes will enjoy playing for KU’s interim O-line coach, John Morookian, “as soon as we can get him back.”
Traditionally the final KU home game of the year is designated for Senior Day, when the program honors all of the Jayhawks who are about to play in their home venue for the last time. But this is 2020, after all, so even what’s customary is subject to some reworking.
This year’s KU football seniors will still be honored before kickoff of Saturday’s TCU game (7 p.m., FOX Sports 1), which was the original plan. KU opted to keep its Senior Day where it was, despite last week’s home date with Texas being pushed back to Dec. 12.
Having the pregame ceremony as scheduled, instead of moving it to the new 2020 home finale, allows KU to meet the needs and desires of family members of seniors who already had made plans to travel to Lawrence for the TCU game.
Though KU’s athletic department decided to play sporting events through at least the end of this month without fans, the family members of KU and TCU players will be allowed to attend the game and socially distance themselves.
Typically on Mondays during the football season, the Big 12 announces kickoff times and TV networks for league games that will be played 12 days later. The conference is delaying those decisions regarding the Dec. 5 slate, though, the Big 12 announced Monday.
The league will wait to see all of the outcomes from this week’s lineup of games before determining the times and channels for the Dec. 5 matchups.
In what was originally scheduled to be KU’s season finale, the Jayhawks play at Texas Tech on Dec. 5. Entering this weekend’s games, Tech is 3-5 overall and 2-5 in the Big 12, while KU is 0-7 overall and 0-6 against league foes.
The Red Raiders have defeated West Virginia and Baylor at home in recent weeks. This Saturday Tech travels to No. 21 Oklahoma State (5-2, 4-2).