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A deeper look at Kansas basketball’s 2021-22 conference slate

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) and Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) box out Baylor forward Flo Thamba (0) during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) and Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) box out Baylor forward Flo Thamba (0) during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas basketball fans got an early present in their stockings on Wednesday, when the Big 12 Conference released the full schedules for the 2021-22 season.

For many Jayhawk fans, that meant plans to attend games — home or away — finally could be finalized.

For some, that means nailing down the dates for that one road trip a year with friends. For others, it means splitting up season-ticket packages and seeing if the games match up with their schedules.

It may seem a little strange to compare schedule release day to the holidays, but you’d be surprised how many times I get asked about the schedule each year. From mid-June on, people reach out to me weekly, sometimes daily, to see if I know anything or have heard anything about when a certain game might be or when the schedule might come out.

Now that it’s here, and all of those people and countless others are feverishly lining up their plans, let’s take a quick look at a few things that stood out about this year’s schedule.

We already knew the dates and games for the nonconference slate. So, as enticing as it is to rehash how great two trips to New York, the renewal of the series with Missouri, a trip to Colorado and a Thanksgiving week tournament in Orlando will be, the focus today will be solely on what jumped out at me about KU’s Big 12 schedule, which officially opens Jan. 1 at home against TCU.

• No matter how the first half of the conference race goes, this thing is going to come down to what happens in February. Kansas plays both Baylor and Texas TWICE between Feb. 5 and March 5. And those two programs, which are both projected as top-10 preseason teams and contenders in the conference, also play each other twice in a 16-day span in February. Getting off to a good start in the conference race is crucial any season if you want to be in the hunt at the end. But it may be less important than ever this season because of that back-loaded schedule.

• Nastiest stretch? Let’s go with the five-game run between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7 that starts with a home game against the always-tough Texas Tech defense and ends with a road game at Texas, two days after hosting Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse. In between Tech and UT, KU also will play Kentucky at home in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The only game in that stretch that figures to be against an unranked opponent comes Feb. 1 at Iowa State. Who would’ve thought five years ago that a game at Hilton Coliseum would qualify as relief during a murderer’s row section of a future schedule.

• Easiest stretch? There are no real prolonged runs without some kind of tough challenge. Such is life in the Big 12 Conference these days. But it’s not the hardest start for Kansas in 2021-22. Home against TCU should be a layup and another home game against Iowa State in Game 4 should be, as well. Sandwiched between that are road games at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, though, and no one has ever called those two venues easy to play in. There’s pretty good balance to this schedule, both in terms of tough challenges and easier matchups and the home/road layout.

• I always like looking at the gap between playing teams and there’s a pretty big one this season. After opening with TCU at home on New Year’s Day, the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs don’t meet again for two months, March 1 in Fort Worth, Texas. That’s the second-to-last game of the regular season and could be critical in the Big 12 race. Rather than leaning on what they just saw a few weeks earlier, KU may have to restart the scouting process from the beginning with the Frogs heading into Round 2.

• The Big Monday balance is pretty good, too — two at home and two on the road. The first is Jan. 17 at Oklahoma, where the Jayhawks will get their first taste of new OU coach Porter Moser. After that, it’s home for Texas Tech on Big Monday the following week (Jan. 24), at Texas two weeks later (Feb. 7) and home against Oklahoma State on Feb. 14. There have been times in the past when the schedule has featured KU four times on Big Monday but only given the Jayhawks one of those at home. It makes sense for ratings and to inspire teams that don’t consistently sell out their venues. But the 2-2 split seems much more fair.

• The conference did KU no favors in early February, when by far the toughest back-to-back of the season takes place. After squaring off with Baylor at home on Saturday, Feb. 5, the Jayhawks will head to Austin, Texas, for a Big Monday battle with Texas. That’s basically one day to get ready for the Longhorns after an emotional showdown with the defending national champs.

• Both Sunflower Showdown games take place on the 22nd of the month they’re played in — KU at K-State on Jan. 22 and KSU vs. KU in Lawrence on Feb. 22. I’ll have to look up those dates, as well as the 22nd in general, to see if it holds any significance in the rivalry.

2021-22 KU men's basketball schedule

Nov. 3 vs. Emporia State (exhibition)

Nov. 9 vs. Michigan State (Champions Classic, New York City)

Nov. 12 vs. Tarleton State

Nov. 18 vs. Stony Brook

Nov. 25 vs. North Texas (ESPN Events Invitational, Orland, Fla.)

Nov. 26 vs. Dayton OR Miami (ESPN Events Invitational, Orland, Fla.)

Nov. 28 vs. Alabama, Belmont, Drake or Iona (ESPN Events Invitational, Orland, Fla.)

Dec. 3 at St. John's

Dec. 7 vs. UTEP (Kansas City, Mo.)

Dec. 11 vs. Missouri

Dec. 18 vs. Stephen F. Austin

Dec. 21 at Colorado

Dec. 29 vs. Harvard

Jan. 1 vs. TCU

Jan. 4 at Oklahoma State

Jan. 8 at Texas Tech

Jan. 11 vs. Iowa State

Jan. 15 vs. West Virginia

Jan. 17 at Oklahoma

Jan. 22 at Kansas State

Jan. 24 vs. Texas Tech

Jan. 29 vs. Kentucky

Feb. 1 at Iowa State

Feb. 5 vs. Baylor

Feb. 7 at Texas

Feb. 12 vs. Oklahoma

Feb. 14 vs. Oklahoma State

Feb. 19 at West Virginia

Feb. 22 vs. Kansas State

Feb. 26 at Baylor

March 1 at TCU

March 5 vs. Texas

Reply 2 comments from Scott MacWilliams Dirk Medema

This week’s big question: What awaits Kansas football at Memorial Stadium in Week 3?

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks take the field for kickoff against South Dakota on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks take the field for kickoff against South Dakota on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World) by Nick Krug

Two games into the 2021 college football season, the Kansas Jayhawks sit at 1-1 and with an equal number of reasons to be encouraged and frustrated.

What that means to the long-suffering Kansas fan base that showed up in force for the season opener two weeks ago will be revealed at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, when the Baylor Bears come to town for the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.

First-year Kansas coach Lance Leipold knows what he’s hoping to see. So do the players, first-year Athletic Director Travis Goff and the rest of the KU administration.

“It’s a chance for us,” Leipold said Tuesday. “I’m just glad to be at home again, and hopefully our fans — and of course the students — that were so impactful in the first game of the year come back out and watch. And hopefully they see that this group is working hard and that they can be an impactful thing for our conference opener.”

The Bears enter Big 12 play at 2-0, with a 29-20 win over Texas State in Week 1 and a 66-7 shellacking of Texas Southern in Week 2.

Given the opponents, those outcomes are almost as drastically different as KU’s first two outings, which produced a close-call win one week and a 27-point road loss to a ranked opponent the next.

Leipold said Tuesday was the first time he had even considered whether he wished KU had another so-called tune-up game before jumping into Big 12 play. But the numbers show in might not have been a bad thing.

KU will play at Duke (1-1) in Week 4 on Sept. 25, and the Blue Devils enter Week 3 ranked 77th in the FBS in total defense and 22nd in team offense.

KU, meanwhile, is 71st nationally in total defense and 103rd in total offense.

Baylor’s numbers? The Bears rank 16th in total defense and 11th in total offense. So, yeah, maybe that Duke game to close out the non-con schedule this week wouldn’t have been so bad after all.

Then again, this coaching staff and this administration are not wired to determine the health and hope of the Kansas football program by how things look today.

“We’re going to have positive things happening that aren’t always going to show up on the scoreboard that are going to be signs of progress,” Leipold said Tuesday, voicing a popular refrain from the past decade.

But then he added the key part.

“And we have to balance those and keep working on those but not get into moral victories and think that’s going to do it for us," he said.

Win or lose, finding a way to keep the stadium full and rocking the way it was during the opener into the meat of the season would qualify as a moral victory in its own right. And that would be one worth celebrating.

Now it’s time to see if there’s anything the Jayhawks can add to it.

Reply 7 comments from West_virginia_hawk Njjayhawk Matt Tait Gdkadjayhawk Dirk Medema

Class of 2022 SF Aidan Shaw to announce college choice Friday

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Aidan Shaw, a 6-foot-8 small forward from nearby Blue Valley High has announced Friday as the day he will reveal his college choice.

Shaw, who played AAU ball this summer for MOKAN Elite, is down to a final five of Kansas, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa and Oklahoma State.

He recently told recruiting analyst Joe Tipton, of On3.com, that KU’s family environment stood out to him on his visit back in June.

He said that his introduction to KU strength coach Ramsey Nijem was one of the highlights of his trip and added that he enjoyed watching KU’s playing style during practice.

“You kind of just go,” he said.

Earlier this summer, Shaw told various recruiting analysts on the AAU circuit that he was looking for a school that could both develop his game and provide him with an atmosphere of elite team chemistry among the players and coaches.

Ranked No. 57 overall in the 2022 class by Rivals.com, Shaw is a four-star prospect who spent time during his junior season ranked in the Top 50.

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Boot camp 2021 gets under way for Kansas basketball program

None by Kansas Basketball

The Kansas men’s basketball program’s famed boot camp began bright and early Monday morning, with the 18 players on this year’s roster running through the first day of two weeks worth of conditioning drills.

Senior forward Mitch Lightfoot, who has been through five of these before, announced the arrival of the end of an era on social media by posting, “Beginning of the end! Boot camp year 6! Let’s get it.”

Former Jayhawk Jamari Traylor, who went through his own round of demanding boot camps during his playing days, responded to the message with a little humor.

“The feeling of that LAST spring gonna be UNMATCHED,” wrote Traylor.

Before the whole thing got going, KU staff member Fred Quartlebaum hopped on social media, under the cover of darkness, to drop a little information on what the team tries to get accomplished during the 10-12 grueling, early-morning workout sessions that never feature a basketball and always feature players dripping with sweat and bent over in exhaustion.

“Time for some chemistry building, some culture building, some connection building, some caring building,” Quartlebaum said in his social media video.

While building those traits is the goal each year and with every team, it appears to be particularly important this year, with the Kansas roster featuring 10 new faces — eight new scholarship players and two new walk-ons.

Their first taste of boot camp will demonstrate that KU’s work in the preseason is as much about the mental side of the game as it is proper dribbling, shooting and defensive technique.

The Jayhawks are expected to host boot camp through late next week. After that, Late Night in the Phog arrives on Oct. 1, ushering in the countdown to the official start of the 2021-22 season.

KU’s lone exhibition game is slated for Nov. 3 against Emporia State at Allen Fieldhouse. The regular season opener will tipoff on Nov. 9 against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in New York City.

Reply 2 comments from Mallory Briggans Bryce Landon

Kansas coach Lance Leipold not apologizing for close-call win over South Dakota; just the opposite, in fact

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold signals to an official during the second quarter on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold signals to an official during the second quarter on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World) by Nick Krug

Before diving into Kansas football coach Lance Leipold’s breakdown of KU’s Week 1 victory after watching it on film, let’s start with the most important thing Leipold said during Monday’s press conference.

“There’s not a position on our team that we can’t get better at,” he said.

If that does not give you a clear look at exactly how KU’s new coach hopes to build this thing, you might never get it.

There were plenty of players and even position groups that performed well during last Friday’s season-opening victory over South Dakota. But those performances are now yesterday’s news.

In order for those outings to matter, Leipold wants to see those same guys perform that well again. And again. And again. And again.

His players themselves and the rest of the coaching staff are seeking that, as well.

If KU gets to the point where enough guys are doing that enough of the time, then there may be reason for optimism in Lawrence.

Until then, the Jayhawks are still just one track into recording something they hope will sound more like a Top 40 hit and less like the kind of death metal that comes pouring out of an angry teenager's bedroom.

No one is going to brag about KU’s three-point win over an FCS program. More, bigger and better was the goal.

But when you consider that wins have been so tough to come by at KU in the past decade, the fact that Leipold and his program have openly embraced that 17-14 victory as a good first step is also a sign of how they plan to build this thing.

Humbly celebrate the successes, no matter how big or small. Work hard to fix and eliminate the failures. Do that until the tally marks in Column A far outweigh the number of tally marks in Column B. And then keep going.

In Week 1, the mere fact that Kansas found a way to win after going down 14-10 with 5 minutes to play is good enough for a mark in Column A.

“The thing that I was most proud of is the things that I maybe saw on film last year when things didn’t go right, and how we responded and overcame that,” Leipold said Monday. “And yeah, you can say. ‘It’s an FCS team’ or whatever. All those other things that I’m not going to worry about right now.

“The fact is, this team came from behind when it had to, and it had a fourth and 10 and other things, and we found a way to win a football game.”

Fans and foes alike speculated after the game that many Kansas teams in that same scenario in recent years would have found a way to not get it done.

Leipold was asked Monday if he saw anything specific on that last offensive drive that illustrated why this team came through in that situation last Friday night.

While acknowledging that he wasn’t in the huddle, the first-year KU coach pointed to a few things he believed were factors.

Quarterback Jason Bean’s composure and center Mike Novitsky’s positivity topped the list.

“Hypotheticals are always tough, to say whether or not it would have happened in another year,” Leipold said. “I'm just awful glad it happened Friday.”

The Jayhawks are going to have to improve a lot — remember that opening quote? — before anyone is going to predict them to be competitive the rest of the way. After all, Vegas listed Coastal Carolina as a 27-point favorite when the line for this Friday’s game first came out.

But Leipold and company are hoping that a little confidence from their early success combined with the new mentality of several fresh faces may expedite things a bit.

“There is enough newness in some of the personnel that hopefully can help change things as we go through this season,” Leipold said.

This week, KU travels to No. 17 Coastal Carolina on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff that represents one heck of a test and an even better opportunity.

Reply 19 comments from Dale Rogers Rodney Crain Doug Roberts Matt Tait Adam Bengtson John Strayer Richard Wright Dirk Medema Jeff Coffman Njjayhawk and 1 others

Realignment Today: Reports indicate Big 12 zeroing in on making a serious push to expand with 4 schools

In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, a Big 12 pylon marks the end zone at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas State in Austin, Texas.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, a Big 12 pylon marks the end zone at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas State in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

It had been building steam throughout the past couple of weeks, but it now appears to be nearing lock status.

According to multiple reports, the Big 12 Conference has zeroed in on BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida as four top candidates for expansion.

In fact, Brett McMurphy, of Action Network, reported Friday that a source with knowledge of the Big 12’s thinking told him that there are currently no other targets.

A Thursday report from The Athletic noted that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby paid a visit to the Houston campus to discuss expansion plans.

And several other reports dating back to last week indicated that the Big 12 had zeroed in on BYU as its top choice in potential expansion.

All four programs bring good football, national brands and the potential for growth.

Cincinnati, Houston and UCF all have played in at least one New Year’s Six bowl game in the past six seasons. And BYU, which finished 11-1 in 2020, ended last season ranked No. 11 in the final Associated Press poll.

A source told McMurphy that the Big 12 decision makers viewed TV audience, football status and market size as the three most important factors in their discussions of which schools to add. But, McMurphy also reported that each school’s basketball brand carried significant weight, with the Big 12 putting 75% of its considerations toward football and the remaining 25% on basketball.

Even combined, however, they’re not likely to be deemed as valuable as Oklahoma and Texas, which are planning to leave the Big 12 in 2025 upon the expiration of the current grant of rights agreement among the 10 teams in the conference today.

Still, for a conference on shaky ground, moving quickly to bring stability with four pretty solid schools can only be viewed as a win. For now.

The long-term impact of these moves remains unknown. While Bowlsby said this week that the Big 12 ADs expressed a desire to stick together and focus on rebuilding a strong Big 12 for the future, the potential for any of the existing members to look to move elsewhere figures to remain in place for at least a little while.

For one, none of these moves to add the top four candidates will be effective immediately. McMurphy’s report indicated that formal invitations to the four schools could go out this month. But even that would not pave the way for them to be in the Big 12 anytime soon.

BYU, as an independent in football and a member of the West Coast Conference in other sports, may have the easiest time transitioning if things do in fact go this way.

But in order for the other three schools to leave the American Athletic Conference, they would need to go through a process similar to the one OU and UT are currently facing, with required notice, exit fees and more.

McMurphy’s report said a source told him that BYU could be in the Big 12 as soon as 2022, with the other three schools possibly joining a year later.

All of that would leave time for the current Big 12 schools to field offers, explore options and even sell themselves to one of the other power conferences that likely will move into the new era of college athletics significantly ahead of whatever the revamped Big 12 looks like in terms of dollars and TV contracts.

That’s not to say the Big 12 couldn’t be a safe space. It probably won’t come close to the $35-40 million member payouts currently enjoyed under the existing television deals. But it’s possible that this new group could find a partner (or perhaps multiple partners) that deem the new-look league to be worth $20 million annually or so.

For Kansas, and the rest of the remaining eight, that would be a better outcome than falling into the Mountain West Conference or even the AAC, but obviously not as good as landing a spot in one of the four other power conferences.

The question moving forward will be simple: Do those other conferences (a) want or (b) feel the need to expand.

Time will tell on that. And the answer may very well be no. At least for a while.

If that’s the case, KU would do well to get on board with this Big 12 expansion for stability's sake while protecting its own interests by quietly continuing to explore what options are available and by keeping any new TV contract to a minimum if they need to sign one at all.

It’s likely that any new deal or agreement with a television partner would include a composition clause of some kind to protect the interests of the Big 12 against future departures by any of its members.

Adjustments to and renegotiations of media contracts has been a regular part of the college athletics landscape in recent years, and, for the Big 12, it almost has to be a part of the equation moving forward.

Reply 19 comments from Lee Stanford Ted Hume Rodney Crain Robert  Brock Eric TheCapn Kenneth Johnson Karen Mansfield-Stewart Kevin Woods Brian Skelly Dirk Medema and 4 others

Report: Marcus Garrett to sign two-way contract with Miami Heat after strong summer

Utah Jazz guard Trent Forrest (3) passes the ball away from Miami Heat guard Marcus Garrett during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas.

Utah Jazz guard Trent Forrest (3) passes the ball away from Miami Heat guard Marcus Garrett during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. by AP Photo/David Becker

After creating the kind of defensive havoc during the NBA’s Summer League that he did for four years at Kansas, former KU guard Marcus Garrett received his first reward this week.

According to a tweet from NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Garrett has signed a two-way contract with the Miami Heat.

Wojnarowski got the info from Garrett’s new agent, Mike George of One Legacy Sports, which also represents NBA star Jamal Murray along with former Big 12 players Naz Mitrou-Long and Tariq Owens.

After going undrafted in July, Garrett quickly signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Miami Heat. The contract, which guaranteed very little, simply gave Garrett an opportunity. He did the rest.

From the opening game of the NBA’s Summer League on, Garrett showcased the kind of defense he became known for during his days as a Jayhawk.

He hounded ball handlers and picked their pockets clean. He also played the passing lanes and picked up easy baskets off of his defensive anticipation.

That led to pretty good offensive numbers, as well.

Garrett appeared in four Summer League games with the Heat, averaging 11 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 1.5 assists per game.

He also carried a +9.3 plus/minus number and shot 65.4% (17-of-26) from the floor and 43% (3-of-7) from 3-point range while helping the Heat record a 4-0 record.

The former Naismith Award national defensive player of the year scored in double figures in each of the four games and recorded 10 steals in two contests at the California Classic in Sacramento.

The two-way contract keeps Garrett’s rights with Miami and the Heat G League franchise in Sioux Falls, S.D., for the 2021-22 season.

He’ll be able to freely jump up and down between the two levels as the front office and coaching staff see fit, and he will not count against Miami’s 15-man roster limit.

In the games he plays with the Heat, Garrett will make NBA money and in the games he plays with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, he’ll make G League money.

That typically amounts to a salary of roughly $125,000 per year for standard players on two-way contracts.

Garrett’s goal now, of course, will be to make an NBA roster full-time. But, for an undrafted player, the opportunity to show what you can do on a two-way contract in Year 1 is about as good as you can ask for.

None by Adrian Wojnarowski

Reply 7 comments from Robin Smith Scott MacWilliams Barry Weiss Rodney Crain Dale Rogers Blake Brown Brian Skelly

Realignment Today: Big 12 talks lead to further commitment, desire for conference to stay together

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks during NCAA college football Big 12 media days Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Arlington, Texas.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks during NCAA college football Big 12 media days Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Arlington, Texas. by AP Photo/LM Otero

Leaders of the eight remaining schools in the Big 12 Conference remain focused on staying committed to one another and the conference they have called home for more than two decades.

After two days of meetings this week with athletic directors from what the Big 12 is calling the eight “continuing members of the Big 12 Conference,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby shared the tone of the talks.

“The eight ADs remain committed to furthering the Big 12 as one of the nation’s premier athletic conferences, and look forward to working with our presidents and chancellors to strengthen the league,” Bowlsby said Wednesday night in a statement released by the Big 12. “Future exploration by the group will continue to center on options that best position the long-term strength of the conference.”

The Big 12 is in this position, of course, because of the recent decision by Oklahoma and Texas to announce their plans to leave the conference for the SEC after the grant of rights agreement expires in 2025.

Whether the two powerhouse programs remain in the conference that long remains to be seen and could depend largely on what the eight members they’re leaving behind do in the coming months and years.

Shortly after OU and UT announced their future departures, the three other power-five conferences in college athletics announced that they were forming an alliance.

Leaders of the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 held a joint press conference to announce the alliance and they said then that the Big 12 was not included in it because of the general instability the conference is currently facing.

Speculation about Big 12 expansion, and which schools (and when) the Big 12 might add in an effort to regain stability and offset some of the losses of Oklahoma and Texas, has run rampant in the past couple of weeks.

But while he did not give a specific timeline of any kind, Bowlsby’s statement on Wednesday makes it clear that nothing is imminent.

BYU above all, along with Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, have gained the most traction in expansion talks and rumors. But at least half a dozen other schools have been floated in recent weeks as universities the Big 12 might — or even should — consider adding.

The conference’s preference for patience likely comes from the fact that OU and Texas would face stiff exit penalties for leaving the conference, therein bringing even more money to the pockets of the eight remaining members.

But while financial stability may be a reality for at least a couple more years, the future of the conference beyond that seems to be viewed as being on rocky ground throughout the rest of college athletics at the present time.

Reply 51 comments from Jdwilhm Pamela Shanks Shimsham Krohnutz Vern58 Karen Mansfield-Stewart Robert  Brock Tony Bandle Jeff Coffman Brett McCabe and 5 others

Picking a starting quarterback for the Kansas football program in 2021 comes down to how much risk coaches are willing to take

Kansas quarterback Jason Bean talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility.

Kansas quarterback Jason Bean talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility. by Nick Krug

First-year Kansas football coach Lance Leipold still has until Friday night to reveal the identity of KU’s starting quarterback, but it seems like several people following the race already have made up their minds.

So I figured why not join them?

For me, this battle has come down to two Jayhawks — senior Miles Kendrick and sophomore transfer Jason Bean.

Before I go any further, let me remind you that my opinion is based almost entirely on what I’ve heard and learned from talking to people and not from watching the competition play out in practices, the bulk of which were closed to the media.

All three QBs vying for the starting nod, including sophomore Jalon Daniels, have traits that make them appealing choices. You’ve surely read or heard plenty about those. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said he'd be comfortable with any of them playing.

But it’s two of those strengths that have me down to Kendrick and Bean.

Kendrick’s ability as a game manager could be ideal for the kind of offense KU wants to run in Year 1. Rely heavily on the ground game, ask Kendrick to throw it 12-15 times a game — high percentage throws at that — and allow him to use his maturity and poise to lead the offense and avoid trouble.

Bean’s speed and ability to hurt opponents by taking off and running make him an intriguing option, especially given the fact that KU is expected to feature its ground attack this season.

Highlighting those two is in no way intended to be a knock on Daniels. Remember, he’s still just 18 years old — he won’t turn 19 until Oct. 29 — and, in a sense, he’s still just a freshman.

The experience he gained last year, though important and real, came under such duress and took place in extreme circumstances that extended beyond just football.

Giving him a more natural chance to develop may benefit him a great deal in the future. And because of his age, he still has the potential to be a two- or three-year starter down the road.

Confidence and personality are not issues for Daniels. So let him spend the year competing, working, growing and improving while staying ready to roll in case he’s needed.

It’s entirely possible that he will be, even if he starts the season on the bench.

If you’re asking me to bet on who the coaches will go with, I might lean Kendrick. If you’re asking me who I’d go with, I’d probably lean Bean.

Choosing between the two is kind of like playing the lottery.

If you go big, and you go with Bean, hitting the right numbers could bring life-changing money. But if you’d rather play it safe and you want to go with a $5 scratcher ticket, don’t be surprised if even a win only brings you 50 bucks.

No matter which QB the Kansas coaching staff picks, none of the three probably changes the win/loss record all that much this season. So you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

But Leipold has talked a lot about getting games to the fourth quarter and being more consistently competitive than KU has in the recent past, win or lose.

Kendrick and Bean, in different ways, seem best suited to do that. And, of the two, Bean brings the more exciting skill set and greater potential to the field.

Reply 10 comments from Andy Godwin Dale Rogers Dirk Medema Jim Stauffer Karen Mansfield-Stewart Jeff Coffman Brett McCabe Matt Tait Glen

While Kansas football wins might still be tough to come by, better effort, execution in opener could be a sign of better days ahead

Kansas safety Kenny Logan Jr. talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility.

Kansas safety Kenny Logan Jr. talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility. by Nick Krug

It’s game week for the Kansas football program, and we’ll know soon enough whether things really do look and feel different for the Jayhawks under first-year head coach Lance Leipold.

Up to this point, they certainly have. But hearing tales about things being done differently from one coach to the next is a tired exercise for KU fans.

They want to see it. And this team, with its new coaching staff and combination of new and returning players, has an opportunity to show Jayhawk Nation what it has been longing to see for more than a decade now.

The Jayhawks are a little more than a two-touchdown favorite against visiting South Dakota on Friday night. So it’s more than just the 100 or so players inside the Kansas locker room who believe that this team will start the 2021 season on a high note.

But it has to be about more than just winning the game.

Believe it or not, the Jayhawks are actually 7-4 in their last 11 season openers. But only once (2011) did a win in the opener lead to a 2-0 start.

And let’s not even talk about what season-opening losses to Coastal Carolina (2020), Nicholls (2018), South Dakota State (2015) and North Dakota State (2010) did to the hope for those seasons.

You can’t build momentum without getting off to a good start. And even in many of the games they won in the last 11 season openers, there were enough concerns that showed on game night that left doubt and leveled confidence heading into Week 2.

So, what constitutes a good start, one that might actually make fans feel like things are different with this program?

A 31-7 victory? You bet. Scoring 50-plus points? Maybe. Playing a clean game free of self-inflicted mistakes and miscues? Absolutely.

While those are the types of things both Jayhawk fans and Leipold and his staff will be watching for on Friday night, the players themselves will be focused on one thing and one thing only — doing their jobs.

If that sounds a little too Bill Belichickian for your liking, I understand. But, boy, that sure would be a good mantra for this program to follow as it officially opens up another try at rebuilding.

The players know that. This coaching staff has lived it. And, as the Jayhawks prepare to move to 1-0 for just the fourth time since 2015, there appears to be some synergy at work that hasn’t always been there in the past.

Junior safety Kenny Logan, who has charisma for days and is right at home in his role as one of the team leaders, says he can’t wait to get back out there in front of the fans on Friday night. But it’s not because of the energy and the excitement that he hopes will fill the stands. Instead, he wants to show them that this team is worth watching.

Senior linebacker Kyron Johnson is so motivated to do things differently during his last go around in college football that he has reverted to things he hasn’t done since his high school days — more work before and after practices, with or without his teammates.

That’s how much he wants this coaching staff to succeed and to be a small part of the reason it does.

There are dozens of other stories of buy-in with this bunch, aided in no small part by the addition of former Buffalo coaches and players who already have been to battle with Leipold in the past.

The tough schedule and the fact that this version of KU's rebuilding adventure is still just starting sounds like a 2-10 season to me. But there should be enough on display — perhaps as soon as Friday night — to make you think that better records are ahead under Leipold.

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