Monday, October 26, 2020

KU plans to ride with true freshman Jalon Daniels as ‘the guy’ at No. 1 QB

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels (17) looks to pass during the first half of an NCAA football game against Kansas State Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels (17) looks to pass during the first half of an NCAA football game against Kansas State Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


It appears the Kansas football team’s starting quarterback question is finally resolved: Barring an injury or any other unpredictable turns, freshman Jalon Daniels should retain his spot atop the depth chart, KU coach Les Miles said Monday.

“If he stays healthy, I think he’ll be the guy that starts,” Miles said. “With some experience, he’s going to be very special.”

Daniels already has started three of KU’s five games. He likely would’ve started a fourth, too, if a left foot injury that he suffered against Oklahoma State hadn't kept him out of the lineup for KU’s game at West Virginia.

A 6-foot, 203-pound dual-threat QB from Lawndale, Calif., Daniels returned to his starting spot Saturday in a 55-14 road loss against Kansas State. Still just 17 years old (Daniels turns 18 on Thursday), he became the first FBS true freshman this season — and the only one so far — to throw for at least 200 yards and rush for two touchdowns.

“It’s pretty special what he’s getting accomplished right now,” Miles said.

Daniels completed 22 of his 39 passes (56.4%) at the K-State game for 207 yards. He was intercepted once, and that mistake turned into a pick-six for the Wildcats in the second quarter.

Playing every offensive snap in two KU games and appearing in a more limited capacity in two others — Daniels was the third-string QB in the opener and had his start versus OSU cut short by his foot injury — the young QB is 45-for-79 passing (57%) thus far, with 381 yards, one interception and no TD passes.

Miles said Monday he and the KU coaching staff want to play the youngest QB on the roster exclusively for the rest of the season.

“The opportunity for him to get the majority of the snaps in practice is going to happen anyway. So we might as well,” Miles said. “Miles Kendrick is a good quarterback and a guy that is going to compete. And we’re going to watch him through the week. And I’ll not ever make a promise of who I’m starting, who I’m not. But I can tell you that Jalon has done the things that we needed.”

Though Daniels has been sacked 12 times in his four appearances, he often has shown his mobility as a QB. He ran for gains of 4 or more yards six times at K-State, with a long of 11.

Dating back to his first start at Baylor, Daniels also has proven he can take some nasty hits from defenders without those encounters slowing him down.

“The kid is definitely tough, man,” senior right tackle Adagio Lopeti said. “He’s a baller for sure. He’ll go out there; he’ll take the blame. But at the same time he’ll work for every inch that he can get.”

In the Jayhawks’ most recent setback, Daniels completed passes to eight teammates. Two of his completions went to sophomore tight end Mason Fairchild, and both of those picked up first downs.

A year ago, Fairchild first arrived on campus at KU before his 18th birthday, so he can relate to some of what Daniels is going through.

“Getting used to everything, especially playing against guys that are 22, 23 years old, it’s something you’ve got to take in stride,” said Fairchild, a 6-5, 250-pound sophomore. “And he’s done a really good job of adjusting to it.”

Leading up to this week’s home game versus No. 23 Iowa State (3-2 overall, 3-1 Big 12), Daniels remains a work in progress. KU had a few chunk plays through the air at K-State, with Daniels connecting with Kwamie Lassiter II for 15 yards, Fairchild for 27, Ezra Naylor II for 19 and Luke Grimm for 28. But two of those didn’t come until the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach. Daniels also had a string of seven consecutive incompletions in the second half.

Miles said a lot goes into preparing a game plan with an offense that uses run-pass option plays. The coach said KU (0-5, 0-4) needs to take advantage of passing situations when they appear.

“That’s the thing that Jalon’s got to get done,” Miles said. “And he’ll get that done. He’s bright as a whip and still provides us with quick feet and the ability to get down the field.”

Punting situation unclear

KU was without its top two punters by the end of the K-State game on Saturday, and Miles still isn’t sure whether starter Kyle Thompson or backup Donovan Gagen will be back for this week’s game.

“Thompson, I think he’s probably closest to being on the field and ready to go. He’s a guy that we need,” Miles said. Thompson, a senior, averaged 39.9 yards per punt in KU’s first four games.

“And Gagen, as a backup punter, is going to put himself in position as best he can to be ready in the back end of this week,” Miles said.

Freshman Reis Vernon punted five times, averaging 34.6 yards, at K-State after Gagen got injured trying to make a tackle on one of Phillip Brooks’ four long returns.

Gagen also typically serves as the holder on KU’s extra points and field goals. Miles said running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. has experience holding and can fill in.

Another Pooka statement

Also at Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference, Miles reiterated that running back Pooka Williams Jr., who last week opted out of the rest of the season, was “firm” about returning to KU when the 2021 spring semester begins.

Miles, however, acknowledged that circumstances surrounding the star running back could still change: “But again I think that’s January and there’s a ways to go between now and then."

Later kickoff coming

The Jayhawks’ run of three consecutive 11 a.m. kickoffs will end when they face Iowa State this week.

The Big 12 announced Monday that KU’s Nov. 7 game at Oklahoma will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and air on either ESPN or ESPN2.


Dale Rogers 1 month ago

“With some experience he’s going to be very special.” I agree. I watched his high school film and the kid just needs some experience at this level and an o-line that can buy him a little time. The experience he is getting this season will pay off in future seasons.

Lucas Town 1 month ago

I re-watched the game from Saturday. Daniels is only 17 so I will give him time to learn and grow in the system. I agree with many that we have good players, but unsure why our coaches for so many years have been able to translate the talent onto the field.

Dane Pratt 1 month ago

That may be the only silver lining to this season. I hope the kid shows his worth and come next fall we will have an unquestioned starter behind center.

Allin Herring 1 month ago

I now s÷ why we lost the 4 star reciever recruit recently if our future is in the hands of Daniels. The recruit saw it and left.

Len Shaffer 1 month ago

Why are you so sure that Daniels isn't a good QB??? Do you think ANYONE could be consistently good with the "offensive" line we have?

Brad Avery 1 month ago

"It appears the Kansas football team’s starting quarterback question is finally resolved: Barring an injury or any other unpredictable turns, freshman Jalon Daniels should retain his spot atop the depth chart, KU coach Les Miles said Monday."

Not really any choice to make. The season, from we hoped to take a step forward perspective, is over. To use a baseball analogy, KU is playing in a AAA league with players who should be in the rookie league. Player development takes time and patience. Let's hope the coaching staff proves to be good at it.

Doug Roberts 1 month ago

Develop a competent O-line, and all the QBs will look better.

Layne Pierce 1 month ago

Anybody who is a so-called 4 star player always has a lot more options than KU, many of them are just playing us. Occasionally they decide that we are still the best choice. Other teams have the same issue, but they are not so forlorn.


Randy Bombardier 1 month ago

Great decision. Develop a no. 2 right beside him as much as possible. Stanley had the most starts over the last 5 years and his experience showed last year. We could have had two years like that. I thought we would after that Texas win when he was just a sophomore. But, no we had to panic and weren't building for the future. Don't look for Miles to do that. We will eventually get to full scholarships and then we can make progress. I think year five of this staff is the bell weather year. If it does not end well no need to panick then either. I think by Jalon's senior year he will be very effective.

Joey Meyer 1 month ago

Will Daniels have four more years after this year to play, due to the COVID eligibility extension?

I'm not sure if that applies to freshmen... but if he could play and get experience over five years I'd be even more excited on this guys' future.

Gerry Butler 1 month ago

That ruling applies to ALL football players this season - - not just the Seniors. That is why so many had been saying play Daniels get a full year of game time experience and still be a Freshman next Season

The QB situation will be much better finally - we will have Daniels and then Easters coming in - -that is if we can hang on to Easters - -I think we will. Get these guys some O-line help doesn't matter who you have at QB if they don't even have the time to be able to have the play develop.

Right now they are not even being able to maintain their block long enough for our running backs to find a hole to run through - -can't hold a block long enough for our QB be able see the play develop - - got to get better a lot on the O-line

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