Another first-year quarterback is expected to be in the mix this spring for the Kansas football team.
Conrad Hawley, a QB from Raymore-Peculiar High School (Missouri), announced his verbal commitment via his personal Twitter account on Jan. 12. Hawley plans to enroll early, similar to Indiana prep QB Ben Easters, who signed with KU in December.
Also like Easters, Hawley is a three-star prospect on Rivals. Both are considered pro-style quarterbacks as well. Per Rivals, Hawley is listed as the 18th-best prospect in the state of Missouri in the Class of 2021.
The purpose of this report isn’t to determine who is the better option at quarterback. That will inevitably be decided at some point in their careers. Let’s focus on understanding who Hawley is as a player instead, and what he could ultimately bring to KU.
Based on his Hudl film, here is my report on KU’s newest quarterback:
Key stats: According to MaxPreps, Hawley completed 164-of-275 passes for 2,722 passing yards during his senior season at Raymore-Peculiar High School. He threw 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Hawley secured a state title and won the Simone Award in 2020.
Body type/athletic ability: Hawley is listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds on Rivals. He comes in way closer to being college ready from a physical standpoint thanks to his own commitment in the weight room. Compared to his frame as a junior, Hawley put on close to 50 pounds and it really helped him take a huge leap as a signal caller.
Strengths: Strong arm, can make variety of throws, and ability to make plays out of structure
Hawley feels like the type of prospect that would have been a much bigger deal like a decade ago, when everyone was drooling over the strong-armed quarterback at all levels. Now, there seems to be an emphasis on landing more mobile quarterbacks and not necessarily the tall signal caller with a strong arm.
That said, Hawley’s arm strength was the first thing that popped when watching his tape. He has a segment labeled “deep balls” on his Hudl film at about the 2:20 mark. The first one really caught my eye, because Hawley put the 45-yard pass where only his receiver could make a play on the ball.
Hawley launched the ball as soon as he hit the final step of his drop back, and saw his receiver had a step on the defensive back. Hawley aimed the throw toward the sideline because there was a safety coming to provide help over the top. The receiver was able to get his hand on the ball at the goal line. It was just the perfect ball location.
Hawley had more throws like that, but that play really helps paint a picture of one of his best attributes. He really can drive the ball downfield, and he demonstrated great footwork on such throws. He had a quick release as well.
But Hawley showed the ability to make a variety of throws, as his Hudl film also had quick passes and mid-level tosses. He wasn’t afraid to throw in a tight window, which probably played a part in him tossing 12 interceptions.
My favorite play was when Hawley changed arm angles because he had two defenders in his face. Sometimes this can be a bad habit for young quarterbacks, but it didn’t seem like Hawley altered his throwing motion much outside of that specific play.
On this particular play, Hawley had to go side arm because he had a defender coming straight at him. The ball was slightly behind the receiver, who was about 10 yards upfield. Yet the pass was still on target enough to let the receiver make something happen after the catch.
The best part about the play was that Hawley threw to where the receiver had to be. At the time of the release, the receiver was directly behind a defender. Hawley threw him open, despite having to change his arm angle and having two defenders basically on top of him.
That play was a glimpse of what really made Hawley’s tape pop though. Many of Hawley’s best moments came when he had to make something happen out of structure.
Mobility will rightfully be a concern for Hawley, but he showed enough movement to extend plays during his senior season. He demonstrated solid pocket presence, and had a knack for getting in an athletic stance when he felt pressure.
Most of all, Hawley did a good job of keeping his eyes upfield whenever he ultimately had to improvise. Whether he was going left or right, Hawley was constantly looking for an open receiver when he was on the move. Sometimes young quarterbacks will just take off to gain yardage via a scramble.
I liked that Hawley's first priority was to find an open man when he had to leave the pocket.
One reason for concern: Won’t be used in the QB run game
Hawley was used as a runner at times in high school. At one point in his Hudl film, Hawley ran a QB draw to effectively ice the game. You can tell by his movement in the pocket that he has efficient footwork, and that should bode well for his future as a signal caller.
But I’d be surprised if Hawley is involved in the quarterback run game at the collegiate level. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Players are just faster and can tackle better in the Big 12, and it doesn’t seem like Hawley would have much success on designed runs.
As long as Hawley's ability to extend plays translates, though, I think that will be more than enough mobility for him to find some level of success as a collegiate quarterback.
Overall thoughts and projection: It is easy to be optimistic about Hawley’s fit after watching his highlights. He has a lot of traits that should translate. Hawley's growth as a player and a person ahead of his senior season should speak volumes to his work ethic and his commitment to getting better.
At the very least, Hawley provides depth in a quarterback room that now features three promising young signal callers. But I think there is reason to believe Hawley could push Jalon Daniels and Ben Easters for immediate playing time.
The Jayhawks should have an interesting quarterback room now with some serious potential, even if there are some growing pains at first.
The Kansas offensive line received a much-needed boost on Tuesday, when former Notre Dame backup center Colin Grunhard announced he was transferring to the University of Kansas.
Grunhard, a former walk-on who eventually earned a scholarship, will have two years of eligibility left. Before joining the Fighting Irish, Grunhard was a four-year starter at Bishop Miege and received offers from Air Force, Colgate and South Dakota.
Grunhard probably could have gone elsewhere in the transfer portal, but playing time seems to be a big reason why he landed in Lawrence. According to NCAA Premium Stats on Pro Football Focus, Grunhard played 99 snaps at center across three seasons with Notre Dame.
As a result, there really isn’t a lot of tape on Grunhard at the collegiate level. Fortunately for the purpose of this report, Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant put together a 13-minute video of Grunhard’s snaps at Notre Dame that featured multiple angles on each play. I highly recommend checking it out to form your own opinion.
After watching the video multiple times myself, I have a better understanding of who Grunhard is as a player and how he will fit with the Jayhawks. So here is my full report on KU’s newest center:
Key stats: Grunhard appeared in 13 games in his career, including three in 2020. Per PFF, Grunhard had a run-blocking grade of 53.7 on 12 total snaps in 2020. He posted a run-blocking grade of 72.8 on 39 such snaps in 2019 and finished with a mark of 65.8 in 23 plays as a run blocker in 2018.
In terms of pass protection, Grunhard did not have a snap in 2020. He posted a pass-blocking grade of 79.9 on 18 plays in 2019, while finishing with a mark of 72.9 on two pass snaps in 2018.
For comparison, the highest pass-blocking grade by a KU player with more than 20 snaps this past season was Chris Hughes with a mark of 55.1. Earl Bostick Jr. paced the run-blocking unit among regular linemen with a grade of 72.2 on the year.
Body type/athletic ability: Grunhard is listed at 6 feet and one-half inch and 290 pounds, according to the Notre Dame roster. Grunhard probably won’t get much bigger, but he’s ready to play as is. His height has been viewed as a concern by some, but I actually think it helps him have great pad level and leverage in most situations.
More importantly, Grunhard has the athletic ability to be a starting center at the college level. He’s explosive after the snap, with great initial footwork to get in position. He has solid speed to get to the second level and execute blocks in space, and was even asked to be a puller on occasion for Notre Dame.
Strengths: Competitive toughness, explosiveness and pad level
There was one play all the way back in 2018 that really highlighted who Grunhard is as a player and why KU fans should be excited that he is coming to Lawrence.
It was an outside zone run to the right, in which Grunhard didn’t immediately have a player to block. After making sure his right guard didn’t need help, Grunhard picked up a crashing linebacker at the time of the handoff. Grunhard met him with good pad level and solid hands, and there was no chance of his man making the play behind the line of scrimmage.
Grunhard could have stopped there. After all, he had done his job and the play was going the other way. Instead, Grunhard maintained his block all the way through. When the Wake Forest defender spun and headed upfield, so did Grunhard.
Grunhard proceeded to stick with his block for nearly 10 yards until the final whistle. The play ended on the other hash, and Grunhard was the only player blocking by the end of the sequence.
It really just highlighted Grunhard’s biggest attribute, which is his competitive toughness. Grunhard has a tendency to block until the final whistle on most plays. He’s seemingly always looking to hit someone. Grunhard has a fiery style of play, which is a trait that not every lineman has.
Grunhard has even more positives from a technical standpoint, too. Grunhard has good explosiveness, and was often the first player in position after the snap. His solid initial footwork, particularly with his lead step, allows him to reach either a 0-tech or 2-tech defender to get in position to make a play.
When Grunhard does meet a defender, he is often the low man at point of attack. Grunhard has really good pad level, which allows him to have great leverage on most blocks. Grunhard might not get much push at the point of attack, but his pad level and solid use of hands should translate to success in the run game.
Grunhard also showed the ability to get to the second level and execute blocks in space against more athletic defenders.
One reason for concern: Lack of reps in pass protection
This actually isn’t a knock on Grunhard, but one thing that stood out was the lack of times he was asked to pass protect. There were very few of those reps in that 13-minute video on Jayhawk Slant, and there is a reason for that. Per PFF, Grunhard had just 20 snaps in pass protection during his Notre Dame career.
Now, let’s use some common sense here. The reason why that is the case is because Grunhard was a reserve and he typically saw action late in games when Notre Dame was just running out the clock. In fact, half of Grunhard’s pass-blocking reps came in his 18-play outing against Bowling Green in 2019.
Based on what Grunhard is good at in run blocking, though, we can make an educated guess on how well he will hold up in pass protection. I would expect a center who has really good pad level and technically sound hand placement when he is ultimately asked to pass protect for KU.
Like most centers, Grunhard won’t be asked to have too many one-on-one battles and that is good because he probably doesn’t have the play strength to overpower defenders.
Grunhard’s ability to read and pick up blitzes will determine how well he does in pass protection. But there was some of that mental processing on display in the run game, so that probably won't be an issue.
Overall thoughts and projection: It might not be saying much because KU’s offensive line was terrible in 2020, but that position group just got better by adding Grunhard to the mix.
Grunhard comes from a prestigious program like Notre Dame, which consistently has one of the better offensive line units in the country. Because of that alone, Grunhard should be able to bring a leadership aspect to this group and ultimately help turn things around up front.
As a player, Grunhard has all the tools to compete for immediate playing time. Grunhard has really good pad level and leverage to go along with solid technique on a consistent basis. He also appears to be one of the more competitive players on the football field, and that mentality should be evident as soon as he steps on campus.
A lot of things can still happen before the 2021 campaign begins, but I would expect Grunhard to be the starting center for the Jayhawks in the season opener.
Especially in this instance, it would be easy to get lost in the recruiting rank when discussing four-star receiver Quaydarius Davis from Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas
Davis, who verbally committed to play football for the University of Kansas on Saturday, is a big get for Les Miles and his staff. Davis is rated by Rivals as the No. 5 receiver in the entire Class of 2021 and is considered the 36th-best overall prospect in the country.
While his commitment is a non-binding pledge, Davis would become the highest-rated recruit to join the Jayhawks since Rivals began ranking players in 1999. But that doesn't really explain the type of player KU is getting, if Davis does end up signing his national letter of intent to the program in February.
So let’s take a closer look at the potential Jayhawk, shall we? For the purpose of this report, I tracked down as much film as I could find over the weekend using Hudl, YouTube and Twitter.
It won’t be as good as watching full games, but it will provide more information on what Davis does well as a player and what he could ultimately bring to KU.
Body type/athletic ability: Davis is listed at 6-foot and 193 pounds. He’s already pretty thick in his shoulders and chest, but will obviously add more muscle in college. Davis has really good acceleration and his explosiveness is evident when he’s got the ball in his hands.
Strengths: Hands, body control and yards after the catch
I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking they were watching the same three plays on Davis’ senior year Hudl film. Skyline did a lot of throwing the ball up to Davis, and letting him go make a play on the ball. It is not a bad strategy when a team has a receiver as talented as Davis.
Davis won’t be able to do that in the Big 12, but I thought it highlighted some of his biggest strengths as a prospect. Davis simply has really good hands and excellent body control. Most of Davis’ best plays came because he was able to adjust to a ball in the air, finding a way to come down with the grab. The combination of those two traits is why Davis is able to make all those difficult catches look so easy.
When Davis wasn’t running straight down the field and catching a jump ball on his highlight film, he was usually making defenders miss after a screen or short pass. There was one noteworthy example of this, in which Davis leaped over a defender on his way to a game-winning touchdown last December.
Davis’ ability to essentially turn into a running back after the catch is not a trait that a lot of receivers have. In fact, Davis was even used as a running back by Skyline. It is something that makes players like AJ Brown of the Tennessee Titans so successful at the NFL level, and a quality that could lead to some big plays for Davis in Lawrence.
Weaknesses: Route running and maybe blocking?
Davis didn’t exactly demonstrate a full route tree on any of his highlight videos. That’s not really a knock, because so few high school prospects come out as crisp route runners. And, as mentioned earlier, Davis did have a ton of success winning jump balls and making plays after the catch.
That said, Davis did face a lot of off coverage in the tape I watched. That was obviously because of the threat of his speed, but Davis’ inefficient footwork prevented him from creating separation at times. This is something that I expect KU receivers coach Emmett Jones, who played a key role in landing Davis, will be able to fix when Davis does get to Lawrence.
It is also worth noting how few blocking plays were available on any of Davis’ highlight videos. It is hard to know for certain what Davis can provide as a blocker, but I’m guessing that will be an area where he has room for improvement. He certainly has the physical traits to have success as a blocker, I just didn't see anything to suggest that is already a big part of his game.
Overall thoughts and projection: These recruit reports will always lean toward reasons for optimism. I just think it is more important to focus on what a prospect does well, rather than what an 18-year-old can’t do on the football field.
But Davis would be a big-time addition to the KU football program.
Just think about how often Kansas had some screen pass concepts incorporated in this RPO-system under Brent Dearmon. For that reason alone, Davis would be a contributor on this offense whenever he got the opportunity. Davis can play inside or out, so he would likely make an impact early in his career.
There are obviously still concerns about who would be throwing Davis the ball and if the quarterback has enough time to even get it to him. Those questions will certainly have to be answered.
Davis is legit, though, and KU fans should be counting down the days until he can sign.
A winless Kansas football team will have to hope that history can repeat itself this weekend, as it heads to Lubbock, Texas for a rematch of last year’s thriller with Texas Tech. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. at Jones AT & T Stadium.
The Jayhawks have lost 12 games in a row since their wild 37-34 win over the Red Raiders on Oct. 26, 2019, a stretch that includes an 0-8 (0-7 Big 12) start to the 2020 campaign. This will be Texas Tech’s regular-season finale, as the team enters the weekend with a 3-6 record and is 2-6 in conference action.
Texas Tech announced earlier this week that head coach Matt Wells tested positive for COVID-19 and began isolating. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is expected to fill in for the second-year head coach on Saturday.
According to Odds Shark, Kansas is a 26-point underdog to Texas Tech as of Friday afternoon. It is hard to expect the Jayhawks to win a Big 12 game at this point, so the real battle will be covering the large spread.
So let's take a closer look at the Red Raiders to see if covering the big number is a possibility.
As a reminder, log on to KUsports.com for our live coverage and follow our team on Twitter: @KUSports, @BentonASmith, @mctait and @SJacksonLJW
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS TECH:
Quarterback — Similar to Kansas, Texas Tech has had troubles picking a quarterback and keeping him healthy in 2020. Alan Bowman began the season as a starter, but was sidelined midseason by an injury. Utah State transfer Henry Colombi took over and played well, though both signal callers eventually played in the same game against Baylor.
Due to an injury to Colombi, Bowman started last week against Oklahoma State and had a strong performance. Bowman was 31-of-46 through the air for 384 yards to go along with three touchdowns and one interception. In his lone career start against KU, Bowman threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns in Texas Tech’s victory in 2018.
Running backs — Under Matt Wells, the Red Raiders want to create a nice balance with an emphasis on the ground game. Sophomore running back SaRodorick Thompson is leading the way for the Red Raiders with 593 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 20 catches for 116 yards thus far.
Thompson reached the 100-yard mark again last weekend against Oklahoma State, as he rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Thompson has really good footwork for the position, and has a nice stop-start ability that could lead to him finding a role at the next level.
Receivers — Sophomore Erik Ezukanma is having a true breakout season, establishing himself as one of the better receivers in the conference. Ezukanma ranks second in the league in both receptions (44) and receiving yards (728), which trails only Tylan Wallace of Oklahoma State.
Ezukanma was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list Monday after catching seven passes for a career-high 183 yards against Oklahoma State.
KeSean Carter has 30 catches for 290 yards and four scores this season. Ja'lynn Polk has hauled in 26 receptions for 251 yards and two touchdowns, while T.J. Vasher has grabbed 19 balls for 227 yards and two scores.
Offensive line — Based on the team’s depth chart in the game notes, Texas Tech is trotting out sophomore Ethan Carde (LT), sophomore Weston Wright (LG), junior Dawson Deaton (Center), junior Jack Anderson (RG), and senior Josh Burger (RT) along the offensive line.
According to PFF’s Premium Stats, Texas Tech is sixth in the Big 12 with a pass-blocking grade of 64.3 and seventh in the league in run blocking with a mark of 63.4.
Defensive line — One senior and two sophomores are listed as the three starters along the defensive line. Senior Eli Howard, who is 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, is the team’s starting defensive end. Jaylon Hutchings (Nose) and Tony Bradford Jr. (DT) are also starters as sophomores.
Howard, who has missed the last three games for TTU, has 16.5 career sacks and was a preseason All-Big 12 pick. His availability could be the difference between a good (relatively speaking) or bad day for KU's offensive line.
Linebackers — The Red Raiders have a veteran group at the linebacker position, with seniors Riko Jeffers (SAM) and Colin Schooler (WILL) cracking the opening lineup. Junior Krishon Merriweather is the team’s starting MIKE linebacker as well.
Merriweather, who is a junior-college transfer, currently leads the team for total tackles (63) and is tied for second in tackles for loss (4.5) this season.
Secondary — Texas Tech’s most-experienced group is on the back end. And while some players might end up coming back, it is worth noting that it is senior day for all four starters in the secondary: Zech McPhearson (CB), DaMarcus Fields (CB), Thomas Leggett (S) and Eric Monroe (S). McPhearson enters the weekend tied for the Big 12 lead with four interceptions this year.
That said, that level of experience has not necessarily translated to success this year. Texas Tech’s PFF coverage grade of 57.0 ranks ninth in the Big 12. That mark is only better than the Jayhawks, who have a coverage grade of 36.9 in 2020.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Junior Jonathan Garibay is the placekicker for Texas Tech, while sophomore Austin McNamara is the team’s punter. Garibay made his debut against Baylor, and went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts in that game. McNamara, who has the longest punt in Big 12 history with an 87-yard boot against West Virginia earlier this year, is averaging 45.9 yards per punt this season.
VEGAS SAYS… On this week’s edition of Kansas vs. the spread, the winless Jayhawks are considered a 26-point underdog against the Red Raiders on Odds Shark. That seems like a lot of points, considering the fact that Texas Tech is also one of the bottom-tier teams in the Big 12.
I'm taking the points, but I certainly don't feel great about it.
Prediction: Texas Tech 35, Kansas 14
A 59-23 loss to TCU on Saturday might have been KU’s first game in three weeks, but it was the first time we really learned anything about this team in nearly a full month.
Well, at least that’s what I’m telling people because I haven’t done this exact film room blog since the Iowa State game. Don’t worry, though, there weren’t any big lessons from KU’s 62-9 loss to Oklahoma in early November.
That said, there were certainly things worth breaking down from a lopsided matchup between the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
It was a game that was never really in doubt after the first quarter.
KU (0-8, 0-7 Big 12) was actually in a 24-0 hole within the opening 12 minutes of the game thanks to a pair of busted coverage plays on defense. And that is precisely where we should start in the three things we learned from the latest Kansas football game:
KU’s defense has a TE problem
Admittedly, the use of the word problem might be a stretch here considering tight ends only do so much in the passing game at the collegiate level. Yet all three of TCU's wide-open touchdowns went to a tight end.
I made a video to show all three of these plays in a row, which includes an incredible angle on the replay for each of the three scoring plays. Seriously, major shoutout to the FS1 broadcast for showing this angle, because the back end of the secondary tends to not make the screen in the regular broadcast version.
Without knowing the exact play call, it is hard to know for certain what went wrong with all three of these plays. But we can make our best guess based on what we see with our own eyes.
It looks like the Kansas defense is supposed to be in Cover 3 on the first touchdown. The Jayhawks actually run Cover 3 a decent amount, so that’s honestly a safe guess. For a breakdown of the Cover 3 defense, or really any football terminology, check out Inside The Pylon.
Basically, in this defensive concept, cornerback Kyle Mayberry was responsible for that portion of the zone coverage. Ben Leber even said as much while showing the replay on the FS1 broadcast.
The second score is a bit tougher to dissect, however.
If KU is in man defense, then my guess is that linebacker Gavin Potter was responsible for Carter Ware on the 26-yard touchdown connection. If the Jayhawks were running a zone blitz, then it is easy to see how it caused some confusion even though both teams had three players on that side of the field.
TCU overloaded its two tight ends on one side to catch KU off guard on the third score. There is reason to believe the touchdown was caught by Potter’s man on this play, too. There was also a safety blitz on the other side of the field, so Potter might have just forgotten there was no help behind him.
Again, without knowing the play, I hate to fully blame anyone. It merely highlighted an ongoing issue for the Jayhawks.
Seven of the 20 touchdown passes surrendered by Kansas have gone to a tight end. KU has allowed multiple receptions in a game to the tight end position in five different contests this season.
Breakdown of KU vs. tight ends in 2020
Coastal Carolina — 3 receptions for 47 yards and 1 touchdown
Baylor — 1 reception for 8 yards
Oklahoma State — 0 receptions
West Virginia — 3 receptions for 21 yards
Kansas State — 5 receptions for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns
Iowa State — 5 receptions for 61 yards and 1 touchdown
Oklahoma — 0 receptions
TCU — 3 receptions for 96 yards and 3 touchdowns
It is worth noting that Oklahoma only has one tight end listed on its official roster. In addition, a lot of those big plays have come when there was blown coverage assignments by KU.
To be honest, it is an issue that really began in Week 1 against Coastal Carolina.
Look at that play, and then watch the three touchdowns again. It is hard to believe such issues would still be showing up this late in the season, especially when Kansas had three weeks to prepare for its matchup against TCU.
So maybe problem was the right way to describe KU's ability to defend opposing tight ends.
Jayhawks took more deep shots and good things happened
Kansas made a concerted effort to threaten the TCU defense over the top last week, which often led to some of the better moments by the offense. True freshman quarterback Jalon Daniels delivered his first collegiate touchdown pass on a 48-yard completion to Kwamie Lassiter II.
There was a lot to like about the play design as well. There was a fake reverse to keep the defense honest, while the offensive line slid its protection the opposite way. And there were multiple receivers downfield.
This might have been the biggest highlight of the night, but it was an obvious plan of attack by KU’s offense.
Daniels attempted four passes of 20-or-more yards, while Miles Kendrick had five such pass attempts. They went a combined 3-for-9 on these plays, with two of those passes resulting in touchdowns.
But on that fourth offensive possession — the one that ended with Daniels’ touchdown strike to Lassiter — KU showed what could happen when an offense takes shots down the field. TCU was called for multiple pass interference penalties on that drive, which is honestly a big argument for attempting big plays through the air.
It is no secret that an offensive line has to hold up long enough for these routes to develop. That said, there are plenty of quarterbacks at all levels that have success throwing the deep ball behind a bad offensive line. This is where I point in the direction of Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.
Most of all, it helps keep a defense honest and they can’t simply load up the box. Those early deeps shots probably played a big part in KU freshman running back Amauri Pesek-Hickson recording 100 rushing yards on 22 carries against TCU.
According to PFF's NCAA Premium Stats, Daniels and Kendrick both rank near the bottom of the Big 12 in percentage of deep-ball attempts. Daniels ranks eighth in the league with 14.4% of his attempts being deep passes, while Kendrick is listed at ninth with a deep-ball percentage of 14.3% this season.
The Jayhawks don't need to take a bunch deep shots in every game by any means, they just need to do it enough to keep the opposing defense honest. And good things might actually happen when KU does try to do that.
Daniels needs to improve his footwork
The first drive of the game illustrated what has led to some of Daniels’ limitations as a freshman.
Kansas threw the ball twice on the team’s first offensive possession of the night, which ended up being the first of three three-and-outs to begin the game. Both passes by Daniels were short of his intended receiver, and that’s really because he never set his feet on either throw.
The first pass:
The second pass:
Simply comparing it to Daniels’ touchdown throw would show what went wrong on these two throws. On the first play, Daniels didn’t take the time to ever move his feet before throwing the ball. He fires the pass with both of his legs side-by-side and under him.
Daniels rolled left on his second pass, and just didn't take the time to get in position before throwing the ball. Maybe he felt like he didn’t have the time to do so, but it was the reason the pass had no shot of being completed.
These are just two plays that help highlight a recurring issue for the freshman signal caller. I don’t really know the reasoning behind it either. Daniels could just feel like he doesn't have the time to get his feet set before throwing, and maybe the game is faster than he expected.
It is easy to see the raw ability of Daniels because he does have a strong arm. Yet his passes have a tendency to sail when he doesn’t point his lead foot in the direction of the receiver. As you saw with these two plays, some passes can’t get there at all when he’s doing nothing with his back leg.
These are issues that will almost certainly be corrected when Daniels has a full offseason and spring ball to work with. But it could explain some of Daniels’ inconsistent play during his first year as a Jayhawk.
Despite having three weeks off, things pretty much stayed the same for the Kansas football team. KU got in a big hole early and never really had a shot in a 59-23 loss to TCU Saturday night at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
The Jayhawks remain winless on the year, dropping to 0-8 overall and 0-7 in Big 12 action. TCU, which had two weeks off before this week’s game, improved to 4-4 on the season and has only faced league opponents in 2020.
Particularly during this season, I've decided that not every game deserves a take and there is not always some big lesson each week. As such, you will notice that this blog is labeled three observations and not three takeaways for the first time all year.
The premise is still the same. These are three things that stood out to me, but might not always be some groundbreaking analysis. It might just be an interesting play that was worth pointing out. There is a good chance that I’m going to call this particular blog three observations for the rest of the year, so I just wanted to explain why real quick.
Now that we got that all cleared up, let’s get to it.
KU’s run defense was dreadful
So the first one really is a takeaway, and one that is pretty obvious for anyone that watched the game.
TCU ended up using six different rushers to pile up 337 yards and two touchdowns on 41 attempts against the Kansas defense. The Horned Frogs averaged 8.2 yards per rush. It marked the most yards per run that the Jayhawks have allowed in a single game since they gave up 9.2 yards per run against Oklahoma on Nov. 22, 2014.
In case you somehow forgot what happened that day, OU running back Samaje Perine set an FBS record with 427 rushing yards on 34 carries against Kansas. As a team, the Sooners finished with 510 rushing yards on 55 carries that day.
So Saturday’s showing was not good to say the least. TCU was trying to attack the perimeter on a lot of its runs, but it was using plenty of zone concepts and misdirection to do so. There were a number of runs where the guard pulled the opposite way that the play was going.
What’s more, quarterback Max Duggan wasn’t even really a factor in the run game other than his 58-yard touchdown scamper late in the first half. Duggan actually entered this weekend as TCU’s rushing leader through seven games.
True freshman running back Zach Evans, who got his first-career start, notched his first 100-yard performance on just 12 carries. He helped set the tone for the Horned Frogs, who picked up at least five yards on five of their seven rushing attempts during the game’s opening drive.
Perhaps the worst particular performance by the Kansas defense came midway through the third quarter. On 3rd-and-18, TCU went with a give-up run to Darwin Barlow and he ended up netting the first down on a 21-yard run.
But, honestly, all of it was just as bad.
Luke Grimm’s impressive footwork on TD grab
Late in the third quarter, freshman receiver Luke Grimm delivered arguably KU’s biggest highlight of the night.
Grimm was on the receiving end of a 21-yard touchdown connection with quarterback Miles Kendrick. Grimm showed excellent footwork, while demonstrating a perfect toe-tap to ensure the score.
I’m not so sure this play needed to be that difficult, considering how open the receiver was, but it was an impressive play nonetheless.
This was Grimm’s second touchdown of the day, both of which came from Kendrick. Grimm finished with four catches for 72 yards and two scores in the loss. On an offense that has lacked much reasons for optimism, Grimm has really started to emerge as a viable playmaker for KU.
While commenting on the replay of that touchdown grab on the FS1 broadcast, analyst Ben Leber credited Kendrick for providing a spark for the Kansas offense. At the time, Leber said “it’s pretty evident” that Kendrick was the best of the three quarterback options for KU.
Kendrick threw a pick-six on the very next play. He later fumbled it, leading to a scoop and score for the Horned Frogs.
If one of those three signal callers does end up taking control of the quarterback position, Grimm is looking like a reliable receiving threat.
Garrett Jones might have a career in acting
Let’s have some fun with this last one. Freshman Garrett Jones, who got the start at center, had a few memorable plays on the night. But this one is worth highlighting for obvious reasons.
It’s a tough life being a lineman. They typically only get mentioned when they mess up, so it was worth showing this incredible sequence. It tells me that the 6-foot-2, 307-pound freshman isn’t afraid to have a little fun with this game.
That said, Jones did have some snapping issues in the loss to TCU. On multiple occasions, Jones fired a shotgun snap over the quarterback's head that essentially gave the offense no shot on a drive. This came after I noticed some low snaps by Jones in the Iowa State game.
Still, the offensive line as a whole appeared to do a better job after making some tweaks along the starting unit. It is hard to say for certain before watching the game film, but having a 100-yard rusher in Amauri Pesek-Hickson would suggest there were some running lanes created by the offensive line.
It has been three weeks since the Kansas football team stepped on the field for a real game.
So what’s a few extra hours of waiting?
Kansas is slated for an evening matchup with TCU tonight at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. It has been 21 days since the Jayhawks (0-7, 0-6 Big 12) suffered a 62-9 loss to Oklahoma.
How much the extra rest will help (or hurt) KU remains to be seen. Over that stretch, Les Miles fired offensive line coach Luke Meadows and promoted senior offensive analyst John Morookian to take over that spot on an interim basis. So that unit will definitely be worth monitoring in this matchup.
TCU, meanwhile, enters this matchup with a 3-4 overall record and all of its games have come against Big 12 foes. It has been two weeks since the Horned Frogs were handed a 24-6 road loss to West Virginia.
Since beginning Big 12 play in 2012, TCU is 7-1 against Kansas in this head-to-head matchup.
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BREAKING DOWN TCU:
Quarterback — Max Duggan is under center for the Horned Frogs after getting his first-career start in Week 3 of last year. He became the second true freshman signal caller to ever start at QB under Gary Patterson. Duggan has completed 63.7% of his passes this season, which is currently the fifth-best single-season mark in team history.
For the season, Duggan has gone 121-of-190 through the air for 1,274 passing yards and five touchdowns. He has also added 348 yards and six scores on 90 rushing attempts. Duggan has actually led TCU in rushing in six of his 19 career games.
Running backs — TCU has run the ball on 284 of its 502 snaps (56.6 percent) this season. The Horned Frogs have a young backfield, with junior Emari Demercado being the lone non-freshman running back on the team. Demercado caught four balls for 66 yards at WVU.
Darwin Barlow, a redshirt freshman, has started four of the last five games. Over the last three games, Barlow has 193 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries. He has 53 carries for 304 yards and three scores on the year.
Receivers — Taye Barber leads TCU with 30 receptions for 320 yards and two touchdowns this year. Barber has a catch in 12 consecutive games, the longest active streak on the team. Redshirt freshman Blair Conwright (17 receptions) and true freshman Quentin Johnston (14 caches) are second and third on the team in terms of targets in the passing attack. Johnston is averaging a team-best 17.1 yards per catch.
Offensive line — TCU’s offensive line has been changing throughout the season, but it is starting to come together. Left tackle T.J. Storment and left guard John Lanz have both been the starters in each of the last four games. Steve Avila has started at center in four consecutive contests, while Andrew Coker has held down the right tackle spot all year.
TCU’s right guard position has featured five different players, however. So watch that matchup closely in this one.
Defensive line — DE Ochaun Mathis, DT Terrell Cooper, DT Soni Misi and DE Khari Coleman have made up the four-man front in each of the last two games for the Horned Frogs. TCU has recorded a season-high five sacks in two of the last three games, which doesn’t bode well for a KU offensive line that has struggled this season. Mathis has a team-best 5.0 sacks.
Linebackers — Garret Wallow and Dee Winters have held down the starting linebacker spots all season for TCU. Wallow, who is the anchor of that strong defense, has led TCU in tackles in 14 of the last 19 games. Wallow has 261 career tackles, while the next-best defender on the team has 114 career tackles.
Secondary — TCU’s secondary also remains the same as it has been all year. Trevon Moehrig, La’Kendrick Van Zandt, and Ar’Darius Washington have all made up the safety unit in 2020. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson has started every game at cornerback.
Hodges-Tomlinson tops the Big 12 and is tied for fifth nationally with his team-best 10 pass breakups. Van Zandt leads the defense with three takeaways this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Sophomore Griffin Kell is 10-of-14 on field-goal attempts this season and 13-of-18 in his career. Three of his four misses this season have been blocked. Jordy Sandy, from Traralgon, Australia, is in his second year as TCU’s punter.
VEGAS SAYS… Kansas vs. the spread is the real game this season, because there is no evidence to suggest that this team can win a Big 12 contest. According to Odds Shark, KU is a 23.5-point underdog against TCU at home. It is a lot of points, but the Jayhawks simply can’t score enough to justify picking them to cover — especially against this TCU defense.
Prediction: TCU 42, Kansas 10
Despite making back-to-back starts for the Cincinnati Bengals, rookie offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji won’t allow himself to think about what could be at stake over the final seven weeks of the 2020 campaign.
Adeniji, a former Kansas standout tackle, has made the most of his opportunity as of late while the Bengals have been dealing with injuries along the offensive line. Adeniji has played 100% of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps over the last two games, and could earn more playing time over the final stretch of the season.
During his media availability in a zoom call with local reporters on Thursday, Adeniji was asked if he viewed this sudden snap increase as a chance to audition for a bigger role in 2021. But the sixth-round selection wasn't interested in discussing what could happen next year.
“I haven’t even thought about 2021, hopefully we make it out of 2020,” Adeniji said in a video that was made available via All Bengals over at Sports Illustrated. “It’s been a crazy year.”
The Bengals are starting to get healthier along the offensive line, so there is no guarantee that Adeniji will even continue to see the field as much as he has. Left tackle Jonah Williams (neck stinger) had multiple days of being a full participant in practice in the week leading up to Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Football Team.
Per Pro Football Reference, Adeniji started and played all 65 snaps at left tackle in last week’s 36-10 loss to Pittsburgh. It came after he practiced at right tackle, according to the video call with reporters. Cincinnati left guard Quinton Spain started at right tackle last weekend after Williams did not play.
Even backup right tackle Fred Johnson came off the COVID list on Friday.
As a result, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor wouldn’t name a starter at right tackle for Week 11. But don’t expect there to be a rotation when he does decide who will be the team’s right tackle on Sunday at WFT.
"No, you really want to get a guy into a rhythm," Taylor told Bengals.com. "That's one of the positions where there's a feel for the game, a feel for a rusher. Communication with the guard next to you if you're a tackle or whatever the position is. Ideally you'd rather get a guy in there and roll with him."
Adenji, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds, has certainly been afforded the opportunity to get into a rhythm over the last two weeks.
During a 31-20 win over Tennessee in Week 8, Adeniji played all 73 of Cincinnati's offensive snaps. Prior to these last two outings, Adeniji had played a total of seven offensive snaps through the first seven games of the season.
Naturally, Adeniji believed he was more comfortable in his second start compared to his first.
“I think the biggest thing was the game slowing down for me,” Adeniji said. “I know my first game, everything was kind of flying. But this past game, I kind of settled down more and I was able to just get into a rhythm a lot more easily and communicate better.”
There have obviously been adjustments for Adeniji. For one, he has had to play and practice at multiple positions along the offensive line. Adeniji noted that he is no longer getting reps at guard, but he has been asked to get familiar with both tackle positions.
Adeniji, who made 48 starts for the Jayhawks at the collegiate level, admitted that his natural position is left tackle. So there has been an adjustment to playing on the right side without a preseason or much of camp due to an offseason that was impacted by the pandemic.
“Just kind of the biomechanics of you know how your body is,” Adeniji said of the difference between the two tackle positions. “The muscle memory, you get so used to kind of doing one thing and performing different functions with different hands. This leg or that leg might be more apt to doing this or that. That’s really the biggest thing.”
Either way, Adeniji is already off to a better start than most probably expected when he was selected with the 180th overall pick.
According to Pro Football Focus, Adeniji has an overall offensive grade of 52.9 so far this season. He has a pass-blocking mark of 55.5 and a run-blocking grade of 52.1. Both of those marks have him ranked firmly inside the top-five along the Bengals’ offensive line.
Protecting rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, will be a top priority for the Bengals in the upcoming offseason. And Adeniji could factor into that long-term plan based on his recent play.
But Adeniji isn’t concerned with any of that. He plans to continue to make the most of this opportunity, no matter how long it lasts.
“This is what I’ve dreamed about doing my whole life,” Adeniji said. “The only pressure on me was just to be myself and not try to feel like I had to to be anyone else or do this or that. Just be myself and trust my game and trust my preparation.”
Kickoff between Cincinnati (2-6-1) and Washington (2-7) is slated for 12 p.m. Sunday and will be televised on CBS.
After what can only be described as terrible offensive line play in 2020, it is clear that Les Miles and company are putting an emphasis on adding reinforcements to that group.
The Jayhawks added their fourth offensive lineman to the 2021 recruiting class Tuesday night, when Corey Robinson II announced his verbal commitment via his personal Twitter account. Robinson, who is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals, is listed as a 6-foot-5, 270-pound offensive tackle from Roswell, Georgia.
Benton Smith, our Kansas football beat reporter, wrote about the commitment when it happened. Smith noted that KU was the first Power Five program to offer Robinson a scholarship.
But don’t let that fool you. There is plenty to like about Robinson if you look at his game film.
The first play that stood out to me occurred at about the 45-second mark of Robinson’s 10-minute highlight film, which was posted on Hudl recently. It was a play that was labeled “first pancake of 2020” and really illustrated some of Robinson’s best qualities.
In the red zone, Roswell High School chose to run the ball out of a shotgun formation. Robinson really impressed me with his ability to get to the second level on a zone run after shedding the initial defender. Robinson was able to reach the second-level defender and execute the block in space.
Robinson even drove the linebacker to the ground, showing his mentality of playing until the whistle. In fact, that level of competitive toughness was on display throughout Robinson’s highlight film. The defender appeared to be shaken up after the play, as well.
It was just one play, and Hudl is typically only a place for highlights, but it stood out to me because it really showed Robinson’s best attributes at this point in his career. Many of Robinson’s signature moments came in run blocking, and for good reason. He not only has a distinct size advantage, but he was aggressive at the point of attack.
That specific play in the red zone highlighted Robinson’s willingness to finish blocks. At the beginning of the video, Robinson made note that he had 49 takedowns in 2020. That doesn’t simply come from being bigger and stronger, although that certainly helps.
Many of those defenders ended up on their back because Robinson almost always finished the play. If he does ultimately play at KU, Robinson is probably going to have more success as a run blocker early on his career.
Robinson appears to have a nice reach, which is promising for a potential offensive tackle. He does a solid job of getting to set points. I also liked that he seemed comfortable being in either a 2-point or 3-point stance.
Robinson will likely need to develop in pass protection before he ever plays a meaningful snap. However, Robinson has the potential to make an impact down the road when he does improve his technique in pass pro.
Regardless, it is the latest example of the Jayhawks’ commitment to adding more players for a position of need.
KU currently has four linemen in its upcoming recruiting class, which includes a trio of three-star prospects. Along with Robinson, De’Kedrick Sterns, Christien Hawks and Larson Workman are all verbally committed to KU.
In the Class of 2020, offensive linemen Armaj Adams-Reed, Garrett Jones, Bryce Cabeldue, Nicholas Martinez and Jackson Satterwhite all signed with Kansas. Three of those players have already played at some point this year for the Jayhawks, who have PFF’s worst pass-blocking grade in all of college football.
Only time will tell if KU’s efforts in recruiting can eventually fix these issues up front.
The Kansas football team is officially entering the home stretch of the 2020 campaign.
Following its final bye week of the season, Kansas is still seeking its first win of the year even though that might be easier said than done at this point. The Jayhawks (0-7, 0-6 Big 12) will likely be big underdogs in each of their final three games.
In fact, KU opened as a 29.5-point underdog against Texas (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) on FanDuel's Sportsbook. This week's matchup is slated to take place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
As a result, the focus for the Jayhawks will continue to be about developing their young players who have flashed potential at times this fall.
Before those final three games, however, let’s take a moment to highlight a few standout Kansas players in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — from the first seven contests.
All statistics for this blog are made possible by NCAA Premium Stats over at Pro Football Focus.
Offensive player — Freshman RB Daniel Hishaw Jr.
Let’s start with the offense, which hasn’t found much success in Year 2 of the Les Miles era. Freshman running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. has been one of the few bright spots on that side of the ball, especially of late when he's been asked to embrace a bigger role.
Hishaw has a PFF offensive grade of 69.8, which is the fourth-best overall mark on the team. Of players who have had at least 40 snaps on the year, Hishaw actually is second on the squad and only trails an offensive grade of 72.9 recorded by running back Pooka Williams Jr.
Williams’ decision to opt out for the remainder of the season opened the door for Hishaw over the last few games. Hishaw had a season-high 10 carries last time out against Oklahoma. Hishaw also played 55 snaps against OU, which was 31 snaps more than his previous best mark of the year.
Prior to this recent three-game stretch, Hishaw hadn’t carried the ball more than five times in a game and he didn’t play more than 10 snaps in a contest. For the season, Hishaw has 30 rushing attempts for 142 yards and one touchdown on the year.
Nearly one-third of Hishaw’s carries have come in the direction of the right end, according to PFF’s rushing direction metric. He has nine such carries for 70 yards and one touchdown, while recording three first downs in the process.
It will be interesting to see if Hishaw can keep up this level of efficiency as his role continues to increase over the final three weeks.
Defensive player — Senior LB Kyron Johnson
KU’s defense has performed better than its offense, which is mostly due to major contributions from several young players. That said, senior linebacker Kyron Johnson’s play deserves some recognition here.
Johnson’s overall defensive grade is 65.7, which trails five other Kansas defensive players. But Johnson has been especially impressive in the pass-rushing department, and has firmly led the way in that area this season.
Of players with at least 25 pass-rushing snaps, Johnson has the best PFF pass-rushing grade of 75.1. He has been used as a pass rusher on 115 of his 414 total snaps this season. For comparison, Johnson has also been utilized in coverage on 95 snaps.
Through seven games, Johnson has a total of 11 pressures to lead the Jayhawks in that category. He has registered five quarterback hurries, three hits on the signal caller and officially been credited with three sacks.
Johnson tallied two of those sacks in the loss to OU, becoming the first Jayhawk to record multiple sacks in a single game in over two years. It will be up to Johnson to continue that momentum over the final three contests.
Special teams player — Junior RB Gayflor Flomo
It feels like the only time the special teams unit has really been mentioned is when it had poor showing in punt coverage against Kansas State. So let's change that.
Junior Gayflor Flomo, who is in his first year with the program after transferring from Iowa Western Community College, is having a solid season as a member of KU’s special teams unit.
According to PFF, Flomo has the best special teams grade on the team with an overall mark of 76.6. Flomo has played a total of 122 snaps on special teams, which trails only Hunter Kaufman’s mark of 140 snaps.
Flomo has played 59 snaps on kick return, 43 snaps on punt coverage and 20 on kick coverage so far this year. Flomo has been credited with five tackles on special teams this year, besting the next-closest individual mark by a total of two stops.
It really is an important part of the game, and Flomo has made the most of his opportunities thus far for KU.