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Tale of the Tait

Unbeaten Kansas and TCU both utilizing ‘game changer’ Just Play software to train their athletes

Kansas coach Lance Leipold talks to redshirt sophomore Cornell Wheeler (44) during the first day of practice on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022.

Kansas coach Lance Leipold talks to redshirt sophomore Cornell Wheeler (44) during the first day of practice on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. by Chance Parker/Journal-World photo

As No. 19 Kansas and 17th-ranked TCU set to battle for the early leg up in the Big 12 Conference football race, the goal, as it is each week and with every matchup, will be for each team to try to outsmart and outlast the other.

But there’s one thing the two unbeaten Big 12 programs have in common that figures to make doing that a challenge for both sides.

And it has everything to do with the way they prepare.

It goes without saying that Kansas (5-0) and TCU (4-0) go through a lot of the same steps and processes that most teams do while preparing their weekly game plans. Watching film is a must. Self-scouting is constant. And hard work on the practice field by both the players and the coaches, is automatic.

One of the ways the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs keep that preparation organized and efficient, however, is a bit unique.

Both teams utilize software from a company called Just Play Solutions, and the goal is for the teams to streamline every second of coach and player effort and interaction to get the most out of their training and teaching.

On its website, the company dubs its workflow software as an “all-in-one solution for coaches to prepare faster and connect with today’s athlete.”

The root of the Just Play philosophy is to help teams win more games by helping coaches improve the way they prepare, teach and engage their players.

One example of this is the platform’s testing capabilities.

Coaches can upload clips and game plans into the platform and then quiz their players on the details being emphasized and the schemes and fundamentals being coached. Based on their players’ answers, coaches then can identify potential issues before they even step onto the practice field, giving them a better feel for what their players understand and what might need work.

Coaches can use the platform to create content, integrate data and video and share it directly to a player’s device. That allows players to study and learn as much as they want — anywhere and anytime — even after they step away from the practice fields.

All of this is designed to improve the way players absorb and retain coaching, therein significantly reducing the preparation time for coaches.

Just Play is currently working with more than 250 NCAA Division I and professional teams. And they’ve been working in the space for the past handful of years across multiple sports and with 900 total teams.

Four of Division I college football’s 16 remaining unbeaten teams, including KU and TCU, use Just Play, and three of the four — KU, TCU and UCLA — are ranked in the Top 25. According to a news release from the company, those three increased their usage and reliance of the platform this season.

At Kansas, it took Lance Leipold and company a year to get their culture establish to dive more into the Just Play way. At TCU, first-year coach Sonny Dykes brought it over from his time using it at SMU.

“Being able to teach our playbook visually is a game changer,” Dykes said in a company-provided coach testimonial. “This is a phenomenal coaching tool.”

Founded by former KU football kicker Austin Barone in 2015, the company has more than just one KU connection.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self and his staff have used it to train the defending national champion Jayhawks.

“It helps our staff teach our guys faster,” said Self in another company-provided coach testimonial.

And former KU football assistant coach John Reagan, who had two stints with the KU program, including one under Mark Mangino, recently teamed up with Barone as the company’s Vice President for Football.

Reagan, who coached at both Penn and Maryland after leaving KU the second time, is a 25-plus-year veteran of college football coaching, and he said he was nearly as passionate today about what Just Play can do for the game of football as he was when he coached it.

“My entire coaching career was dedicated to helping players develop with the hope that they would become the best versions of themselves on and off the field,” Reagan told the Journal-World on Thursday. “Just Play provides coaches with the opportunity to become more efficient and precise teachers and gives players an easy-to-use platform to maximize their athletic ability by becoming more effective learners.”

Current Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire first started using the software back when he was coaching at high school powerhouse Cedar Hill in Texas. Back in 2015, when reviewing the platform with Barone, McGuire said, “Innovation, to me, is the most important thing when you’re dealing with kids who are visual learners. It is important to keep their attention and keep their minds active, and Just Play does that because it is so hands on.”

KU and TCU will face off at 11 a.m. Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. While you won’t see any actual evidence of Just Play Solutions at work while the action is unfolding on the field, just know that both programs probably would not be able to do as much as they’re doing out there without it.

Reply 2 comments from Dirk Medema

Thanks to football buzz, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self sensing Lawrence as the ‘cool place to be’

Kansas fans in the student section go wild during the kickoff in the first quarter against Iowa State on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas fans in the student section go wild during the kickoff in the first quarter against Iowa State on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self knows that his teams have been responsible for bringing some serious parties to Lawrence over the years.

He just wasn’t ever there to see them, always celebrating with his team at whatever site or venue the Jayhawks picked up their biggest wins, most notably Elite Eight games, Final Four wins and the 2008 and 2022 national championships.

Today, it’s the 5-0 Kansas football team that currently has Lawrence in party mode, and Self has been around to soak it up. He rather seems to like it, too.

“This is the most juiced I’ve seen Lawrence since I’ve been here,” Self said this week in an interview with Nicole Auerbach and Kris Budden for SiriusXM’s College Sports Talk. “I wasn’t around when we won the national championships, and I know it was juiced then, but this is fun. I mean, it’s become kind of the cool place to be.”

That’s not just for Kansas fans either.

ESPN’s College Gameday is coming to Lawrence for Saturdays 3-hour preview show and it will mark the first time the showcase television event has been in town for a football game.

Beyond that, KU is riding three consecutive sellouts and interest in the program — both locally and beyond — seems to be growing by the day. Self has seen that up close and personal and he believes it has made KU sort of the center of the college sports world at the moment.

The fact that his own team is one week away from hosting its annual Late Night in the Phog season tipoff event as the defending national champs (6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14) certainly adds to that. But, at least right now, most of the buzz is on KU’s football program.

“People that don’t have tickets are still coming to hang out, still coming to tailgate, be on the hill,” Self added in the recent interview. “I’m sure businesses are booming compared to past autumns, especially Saturdays. The economy feels like it’s doing well. But the interest level (is way up), and you can just tell by just day to day walking through the hallways.”

While Saturday’s Gameday appearance will be essentially one giant promotional piece for the KU football program and Lawrence in general, you can bet at least part of it will mention Self and the Kansas basketball program.

It wouldn’t shock me to see Self stop by the Gameday set between 8 and 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. And sprinkled in among all of those live shots of all of those people on Campanile hill surely will be some images of Allen Fieldhouse and a nod to KU’s rich basketball tradition as well.

Self — like countless others — has talked for years about how much of a lift a good football program and excitement on Saturdays can give a university.

He’s now seeing it firsthand for the first time in a long time, and he appears to be loving every second of it.

“There’s a good energy here that makes this place a kind of a fun place to be a part of right now,” he said in the SiriusXM interview.

Saturday’s football game between No. 19 Kansas (5-0) and No. 17 TCU (4-0) is slated for an 11 a.m. kickoff on FS1.

And with the Gameday bus expected to pull into town around 2 p.m. today, it sure looks like it’s going to be a wild 48 hours in Lawrence, Kansas.

Reply 6 comments from Brad  Watson Rodney Crain Mallory Briggans Jayhawkengineer94 Bryce Landon

KU’s third consecutive football sellout is by far the most significant of the three

Big Jay waves the Jayhawk flag near midfield in front of a packed house on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, when Kansas knocked off Duke 35-27 to move to 4-0.

Big Jay waves the Jayhawk flag near midfield in front of a packed house on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, when Kansas knocked off Duke 35-27 to move to 4-0. by Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics

The Kansas football program on Wednesday night officially announced a sellout for Saturday’s 11 a.m. matchup with TCU at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

The news came as no surprise, but it was significant for a couple of reasons.

First, it marks the first time in 13 years that KU has had three consecutive football sellouts.

Second, this week’s announcement was the earliest of the bunch. The announcement for the Duke sellout two weeks ago did not come until Friday of game week. Last week’s sellout was announced on Thursday, two days before the Iowa State game. And this one came late Wednesday afternoon.

That progression makes sense given the role that momentum plays in all of this. KU fans are fired up about what this team is doing and they’re all believers now. Starting out 2-0 was cool and 3-0 was even better, but 5-0, with two Big 12 wins and two road wins — not to mention a No. 19 national ranking — is a clear sign that this is a good football team.

Just how good will be determined over the next several weeks, as the schedule continues to get tougher and the grind of the season starts to increase.

Second-year head coach Lance Leipold said this week that he thought this team still had a lot of room to improve.

“And that’s what’s exciting,” Leipold said. “Because you haven’t kind of hit what you can be. We know this (week’s game against TCU) is the biggest challenge so far in many different ways. So, it'll be another good measuring stick, that’s for sure.”

While all of that has contributed to the increased interest and support around the program, perhaps the last reason this week’s sellout is significant might be the biggest and most important.

In each of the past two weeks, KU had some sort of activity aiding attendance. For the Duke game, it was Family Weekend, meaning hundreds and hundreds of parents and siblings were in town ready to make the football game one of the focal points of their trip to Lawrence.

Last week was Homecoming, which likely attracted an even bigger group of people to return to Lawrence, once again all with the idea of building their plans around the football game.

There’s none of that this weekend. In fact, not only are there no additional celebrations inspiring people to come to town, there’s actually one that’s encouraging KU students to leave town — fall break. We’ll see how that impacts the crowd in the student section, but, from the sound of it, it’s not going to be an issue.

The expectation is for 47,233 fans to fill Memorial Stadium for the third week in a row. And with ESPN’s College Gameday in town and KU’s administration making progress in improving the concessions situation as best they can, this one has the makings of being the best home atmosphere yet.

After this, the Jayhawks are on the road for two games — at Oklahoma on Oct. 15 and at Baylor on Oct. 22 — and then they have their bye (Oct. 29) before returning to the Booth for their next home game against Oklahoma State on Nov. 5.

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Reply 14 comments from Micky Baker Dale Rogers Dirk Medema Brett McCabe Jayhawkengineer94 Rodney Crain Brad  Watson Plasticjhawk

Kansas football reveals location for ESPN’s College Gameday set on Saturday

A wide-angle image of KU's football stadium from the Campanile hill leaves a lot of sky in the frame.

A wide-angle image of KU's football stadium from the Campanile hill leaves a lot of sky in the frame. by Mike Yoder

“Fill the hill,” they’re calling it, and they want Kansas football fans to do it on Saturday for a couple of hours before they Pack the Booth.

The KU football program on Tuesday evening officially announced the location of the College Gameday set for this weekend’s top-20 showdown between No. 19 Kansas and 17th-ranked TCU.

The set for the Saturday morning ESPN preview show will be located smack dab in the heart of the Campanile hill setting.

Based on the map put out by the KU football Twitter account, the set will actually be between KU’s regular white tailgating tents on the hill and the KU practice fields to the southeast of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

There, ESPN camera crews and the cast of Gameday — host Reece Davis along with Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso — will put a 3-hour spotlight on Lawrence, the KU campus and the Kansas football program leading up to the 11 a.m. kickoff between the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs on FS1.

The Gameday set will face cameras at the bottom of the hill, with the Campanile bell tower and Kansas fans in the background.

Saturday will mark the first appearance in Lawrence by the Gameday crew for a Kansas football game. The college basketball version of Gameday has, of course, made several trips to Lawrence for Kansas hoops action.

This time it’s football they’re in town for, and the Jayhawks, led by second-year head coach Lance Leipold, are off to an improbable 5-0 start to the 2022 season, which has featured back to back home sellouts and a return to the national polls.

All signs point to Saturday’s game marking a third consecutive sellout for the Jayhawks.

Gameday will conduct the first two hours of its pregame show outside of the stadium, near the hill, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., before moving inside the stadium for the final hour leading up to the 11 a.m. kickoff.

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ESPN's College Gameday is coming to Lawrence, Kansas for a football game for the first time ever on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

ESPN's College Gameday is coming to Lawrence, Kansas for a football game for the first time ever on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. by Matt Tait

Reply 11 comments from Plasticjhawk Matt Tait Dale Rogers Dirk Medema Brad  Watson Keithii Sean Edmiston Phil Leister

Kansas football coach Lance Leipold reiterates he’s ‘extremely happy’ at KU

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks get ready to take the field against Tennessee Tech on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks get ready to take the field against Tennessee Tech on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

There’s been no shortage of speculation about Lance Leipold’s future this college football season, and the topic came up again on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

Just two days removed from landing on a list of possible replacements for the recently fired Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, Leipold on Tuesday was asked how he handles such distractions with his team.

Earlier this season, Leipold’s name landed on a similar list for the Nebraska opening and he remains a popular figure in Lincoln, as well.

Before his response on Tuesday, Leipold offered a disclaimer.

“Paul Chryst is a friend,” he said of the now-former Badgers head coach. “I’ve known Paul since probably high school. I knew his late father. That’s a good family, good man, and it’s just unfortunate with guys who average nine wins a year getting let go. But it’s part, I guess, of what we’ve signed up for these days, and it’s a changing world in a lot of ways and that’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for locker rooms and I think we lose that, as well.”

He continued: “There’s a lot of components, and I’m not questioning anyone’s decision because there’s a lot of factors that go into (it) that none of us really know.”

Those words would have rang true for Leipold even if he was nowhere near the UW lists. As it stands, though, the Wisconsin native is expected by many to be a serious option for the Badgers, even while Leipold has no interest in discussing any of it.

“I'm focused on this,” he said of his job at Kansas, repeating similar words he uttered when he was asked about the Nebraska opening a few weeks ago.

Given the fact that he has led KU to a 5-0 start and back into the national polls for the first time in 674 weeks, Leipold spent most of the day Sunday looking ahead to this week’s game with TCU and searching for ways to move the Jayhawks to 6-0.

“We’re in film rooms and other stuff; I don’t even know what’s going on,” he said Tuesday. “I didn't even know some of the stuff that was going on Sunday until later in the evening. All of a sudden, I got all these text messages.”

Those messages no doubt sought his reaction to Chryst's firing and may have included inquiries about whether he would have interest in the job.

Leipold has made it clear that he’s not talking about any of that, though, and he’d prefer to keep his focus on the job at hand. “Be where your feet are at,” is how he phrased it when talking on Ryan Leaf’s “The Straight Line” podcast recently.

The more KU wins, the more the distractions figure to mount and the more interest Leipold will attract from Nebraska, Wisconsin and who knows where else.

Regardless of which school is next or how long the questions linger, you can expect to hear Leipold say the same things whenever he’s asked.

“We’re extremely happy here,” he reiterated Tuesday. “We have no plans of going anywhere, and anything like that is just, you know, rumors.”

Reply 18 comments from Brjam Benny Armstrong John Strayer Rodney Crain Plasticjhawk Brian Skelly Navyhawk Ryan Mullen Dale Rogers Doug Roberts and 3 others

Those who were there say concession stand issues at KU’s Memorial Stadium much less of a problem in Week 5

One of the new cash-only concession stands located in the outer concourse area at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium is shown here about an hour before KU's recent home game against Iowa State on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.

One of the new cash-only concession stands located in the outer concourse area at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium is shown here about an hour before KU's recent home game against Iowa State on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. by Matt Tait

It may be hard to believe, but it was just one week ago when issues with KU’s concessions stands at a jam-packed David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium were just as big of a topic among KU fans as the Jayhawks’ red-hot start to the season.

The Jayhawks’ remained hot over the weekend and there was a favorable response from fans to the improvements KU made to address the concessions issues during the second sold-out game of the season.

As a result, the Jayhawks’ national ranking, 5-0 record and an upcoming visit from ESPN’s College Gameday are all far bigger topics today than the stadium’s concession stand issues.

I didn’t see it for myself. But there were plenty of people willing to share their opinion of how things went in Week 5 compared to the mess they encountered just one week earlier.

For what it’s worth, I did take a couple of laps around the stadium concourses during the pregame last Saturday, both to see how packed it was and to see where they put the new points of sale, and things looked pretty calm then.

It sounds like it stayed that way in most areas. It’s important to note that nobody said it was perfect and it looks like there were still a few issues. But the response was pretty positive, and it’s clear that KU fans appreciated the efforts the KU administration made to try to make KU’s concessions stands operate as quickly and pain-free as possible in an imperfect venue.

Today, the most popular complaint seems to be with how poor the cell phone service is during games at DBKMS, but that seems to be as much an issue with Verizon, T-Mobile and others as it is a KU problem.

Here’s a look at some of the concession-stand feedback I received from fans who were there for KU’s 14-11 win over Iowa State:

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Reply 6 comments from Inteldesign Rodney Crain Dirk Medema Jayhawkengineer94 Matt Tait

Why Wisconsin might have just become the biggest threat to the future of Kansas football

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold glances at the game clock during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones 14-11 to remain unbeaten.

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold glances at the game clock during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones 14-11 to remain unbeaten. by Nick Krug

I know there are a lot of Kansas fans out there who are tired of hearing about the Nebraska job opening and whether Lance Leipold might be a candidate there at some point.

I also know that Leipold, on several occasions now, has said he and his family are happy in Lawrence and plan on being here for a long time.

And while that certainly appears to be true today and might very well wind up staying that way for a long time, the landscape changed in a fairly significant way on Sunday, and, like it or not, we have to take a look.

The Wisconsin coaching job is now open, and, as was the case when the Nebraska job opened up after the firing of Scott Frost last month, Leipold’s name was immediately tossed out as an option for the Badgers in their upcoming search to find a replacement for fired coach Paul Chryst.

Uh oh.

There were (and still are) several reasons that Leipold being linked to the Nebraska job made sense. There are even more reasons he makes sense at Wisconsin.

That, of course, does not mean that he’s gone. But it does mean that this is a situation worth monitoring and it likely will remain that way for the next couple of months.

I haven’t sensed much concern or worry about Leipold leaving Kansas from the powers that be in the KU athletic department during the past few weeks. I think the belief on the inside has always been that they can and will do enough to inspire Leipold to stay right where he is for years to come.

But I suspect this Wisconsin news has at least started to make a few KU administrators a little nervous.

Here are the facts. Leipold is a Wisconsin native — from a town called Jefferson — and he enjoyed an amazing run of success at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he won six national titles as a head coach and also played quarterback from 1983-86.

He started his coaching career at his alma mater and then went on to spend three years with the Badgers as a graduate assistant from 1991 to 1993.

That all happened a long time ago, of course, but there’s no disputing that Leipold’s Wisconsin roots have always played a huge role in the way he coaches, how he lives his life and how he builds his programs.

One would think that getting the opportunity to coach football at his home state’s flagship school — in the Big Ten Conference, no less — would be awfully appealing to him.

If it is Leipold that Wisconsin chooses to pursue, there will be big dollars involved, both in terms of the salary they offer and the dollar signs dancing in one’s eyes from the school’s status as a part of the Big Ten. That could be hard to beat. And that’s true at Nebraska, as well.

I do think KU would get as creative as possible in order to entice Leipold to stay. A raise would be a given. As many years as Leipold wants on his contract also could be in play. And it would make sense to load up any new contract with all kinds of retention bonuses and achievement compensation, just to sweeten the pot as much as possible.

Beyond that, KU would have to both show and convince Leipold that a serious stadium renovation is coming soon.

Leipold’s current contract with Kansas, which features a $5 million buyout owed to the school if Leipold were to leave, is solid.

Not only was he given a 6-year deal worth a total of $16.5 million when he signed on with the Jayhawks in the spring of 2021, but the school even added a year to his deal — along with more money — before the first game of the current season.

After KU’s red-hot 5-0 start, though, and given what Leipold already has been able to show as a master rebuilder at Kansas, it seems safe to say that KU officials absolutely would be willing to draw up a brand new deal to keep Leipold in town for a long, long time.

The guess here is that KU would like to get a new deal done with Leipold immediately. Yesterday, in fact. Last week even. As soon as humanly possible.

But this is a business we’re talking about, and as much as Leipold is a football coach through and through, he has people around him who are well versed in handling the business demands of being a college football coach. In a situation like this one, where your client is quickly becoming one of the hottest commodities in the sport, it makes the most business sense to wait to make any kind of move.

So that’s likely what will happen.

Leipold will go on coaching up the Jayhawks, trying to avoid these types of distractions and working as hard as possible to deliver more wins to Lawrence and get Kansas back into a bowl game for the first time since the 2008 season.

Meanwhile, the rumor mill will continue to churn, Leipold will remain linked to the Nebraska and Wisconsin jobs and probably will wind up on a few other lists, as well.

None of those other schools should worry Kansas fans. And, at this point, I’m not even all that sure that Nebraska should. But Wisconsin’s a different animal. So those of you who want to keep Leipold in Lawrence would be wise to root like crazy for Wisconsin’s interim head coach, Jim Leonhard, to win big during the next couple of months.

If he does that, it would be incredibly likely for Leonhard to become the top name in the Wisconsin coaching search, perhaps even a lock to get the job. Leonhard played at Wisconsin in the early 2000s, Badger fans already love him and he has been an assistant coach there since 2016.

Fun fact: Leonhard’s name came up briefly during the past two Kansas football coaching searches.

So, there you have the latest version of success bringing a whole other set of problems for the Kansas football program.

For the past 12 or 13 years, it was winning that was the biggest challenge at KU. Now that the winning has returned, it seems that the man behind it has become an awfully popular name in college football coaching circles. Go figure.

If you’re the silver lining type, and you’re looking for one here, it’s that all of the biggest challengers to steal Leipold from KU appear to be surfacing at the same time.

Put another way: If Leipold stays at KU while head coaching jobs were open at both Nebraska and Wisconsin, it likely would mean he’ll be here until he’s done coaching.

Time will tell how all this shakes out. In the meantime, don't forget that No. 19 Kansas will play host to No. 17 TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday, with ESPN's College Gameday in Lawrence for a football game for the first time in history.

A win would make the Jayhawks bowl eligible for the first time since 2008 and keep alive one of the best stories in all of college football this season.

Sheesh. Talk about sensory overload for Kansas football.

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Reply 58 comments from Brad  Watson Jayhawkinaustin David Robinett Dirk Medema RXDOC Matt Lindaman Doug Roberts Dale Rogers Ryan Mullen Plasticjhawk and 10 others

ESPN’s College Gameday feature on Kansas football

Kansas fans pack David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for the school's first football sellout since 2019 on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

Kansas fans pack David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for the school's first football sellout since 2019 on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. by Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics

ESPN's College Gameday did not come to Lawrence to host their hit college football preview show this week, but they did send a crew to campus to do a feature on the 4-0 Jayhawks.

Longtime ESPN personality Gene Wojciechowski sat down with more than a dozen people connected to the KU football program in some way or another and put together a 4-minute feature on the Jayhawks' fast start and sudden turnaround.

Gene asked me to sit down with him on camera to talk about the context of the start and this season and what Lance Leipold has been able to do during a short period of time in Lawrence and quite a bit of the interview was used in the piece.

It's always fun to do those sorts of things and this was certainly one of the more enjoyable ones. For one, it landed on a pretty big show with a massive reach. For two, Gene elected to use my old reference to KU fans raking leaves on Saturdays in the segment.

Too funny. I did not expect that to make it in, but I'm glad it did (a) because it was good comedy and (b) because it really does convey where this program was and how amazing back-to-back sold-out crowds really is this early in Leipold's time with the Jayhawks.

Anyway, here's the Gameday feature if you want to check it out. Thanks to Gene and the folks at ESPN for letting me be a part of it.

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Things are about to get tougher for Kansas football, but it’s hard to pick against the Jayhawks right now

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels throws during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Duke Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels throws during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Duke Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

As the University of Kansas trends toward a second consecutive sold-out football game at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, the talk around campus and Lawrence in general is all about these Jayhawks.

Don’t get me wrong, basketball’s still on the minds of KU fans — that’s the case 365 days a year — but these days even the talk about Kansas basketball seems to be directly tied to the football team’s 4-0 start.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say, “Can you believe we’re not talking about the basketball team yet,” while others have said, “It’s sure nice to not be counting down the days to Late Night.”

Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is, both KU programs are deserving of a ton of attention right now. Lance Leipold’s football team is doing things we haven’t seen in more than a decade. And Bill Self’s squad is headed toward a preseason top-5 ranking as the defending national champs.

That alone, along with the ring and banner festivities planned for Late Night in two weeks, would be enough to send the Kansas fan base into a frenzy. But the fact that the football team is finally doing its part again shows us what’s possible.

Self and others have said for years that nothing energizes a college campus quite like a good football team in the fall. We’re starting to see that again, and Leipold, though possibly a little biased, is in complete agreement with Self’s thoughts and happy to be contributing to the vibe of excitement throughout the KU community.

“I’ve always felt strongly about that,” Leipold said of football’s role as a tone setter. “I think that’s true in the high school ranks. High school administrators and principals talk about what it does to hallways of a high school when the school year gets kicked off and your high school football team is playing well.”

Leipold continued: “We are very unique because of our rich tradition in basketball. They’ve been carrying the torch for so long. We understood (the challenge) when we arrived, but understanding what it can do for a community, and coach Self has been very supportive in that. We are just trying to do our little piece in this thing.”

So far, they’ve done that and more. This Kansas football team all of a sudden has a few players who are household names. And that list seems to be growing by the week.

That fact shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is room for more than one successful

Remember the year when there was so much drama on campus that members of the football team and basketball team actually were involved in a bit of brawl?

There’s nothing even close to that happening today. Self’s players have been as supportive of Leipold’s 4-0 football team as anybody, and coaches and athletes from other KU programs also have provided serious support, both by showing up on gameday and by showing love on social media.

It’s clear that this athletic department is in sync again and that everyone connected to it fully understands the importance of a good football program.

For years, support for football has been the missing ingredient at Kansas. That’s no longer the case and now it’s up to Leipold and company to show that they can sustain this type of success.

That doesn’t mean they have to win every game. But they need to stay relevant and competitive and continue to put on the kind of show that people want to cheer for and buy tickets to watch.

KU’s staring at a golden opportunity to do just that, with back-to-back home games against Iowa State and TCU, both of which look like they’ll be single-digit favorites over the Jayhawks.

Win both games and the roof comes off. Win one of the two and KU fans will still be buzzing.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Iowa State will be the toughest test the Jayhawks have faced so far this season, and there’s a lot about this matchup that makes it look like an absolute dog fight is coming on Saturday.

But it’s hard to pick against the Jayhawks right now, especially with Memorial Stadium actually being a real homefield advantage and this offense rolling.

So, I won’t do it.

Kansas 35, Iowa State 34.

Reply 6 comments from Jayhawkinaustin West_virginia_hawk Matt Tait Rodney Crain Metaljhawk Len Shaffer

In Jalon Daniels, KU has a quarterback again and it’s not just his play that illustrates that

Junior quarterback Jalon Daniels talks with senior QB Jason Bean during the Kansas Football Spring Preview at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

Junior quarterback Jalon Daniels talks with senior QB Jason Bean during the Kansas Football Spring Preview at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 9, 2022. by Chance Parker/Journal-World photo

So, Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels was on SportsCenter the other night, talking about his game, the Jayhawks’ 4-0 start and all things Kansas football.

My how fast things can change.

I’ve been doing this long enough to remember a time when former Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing used to come to every media availability opportunity and disappear into a circle of huddling cameras and recorders.

I was young back then, still covering high schools for the paper, but I wanted to be there every Tuesday to get a taste of what it was like to cover Kansas football.

That often led to me writing about much less important angles or shagging quotes for the beat writer at the time. But it was cool to be there all the same, and I can’t tell you how many Tuesdays came and went where I never even saw Reesing even though he was there.

That memory — and others like it — was my first of covering Kansas football, and in the decade that followed it took a downturn in a big way.

No matter how bad it got, the quarterbacks always seemed to draw the most attention, but sometimes that attention was limited to two or three reporters around the starting QB at a time. Other times, the QB didn’t come at all that week, either because he wasn’t requested or because he wasn’t made available.

The list of names is too long to write here. But if you’re reading this you probably remember a lot of those guys.

That’s not a knock on any of them, more a commentary on just how far things fell for the Kansas football program.

Fast-forward to today and things are drastically different. Daniels shows up to meet with the media every Tuesday, and he often walks into the room straight off the practice field and with the same kind of strut and swagger that he carries on gamedays.

Daniels is the quarterback — the face of the program — and Kansas is finally operating like all of the rest of the programs do with their quarterbacks again.

In fact, Daniels is the only player on the roster who regularly gets his own time at the podium. There are a couple of reasons for that.

First, the interest in talking to him is too great to spread him around the room in the breakout sessions, so it’s easier for them to put him up front and let him field questions from everyone in the room until the questions run out.

Second, this stuff is all recorded via video and put on KU’s website these days. We were putting video on our site back in the Reesing era, but not everyone followed suit and video clips and watching full press conferences was not as prominent then as it is today. Not even close.

So there Daniels sits in the front of the room, head held high, smile beaming, ready to answer whatever questions come his way. You don’t have to worry about not seeing him because of a horde of people around him. He’s up there, front and center, smiling for the cameras and representing the program off the field the way he does on the field.

Who knows where Daniels is headed from here. He wants to play in the NFL. He’s been mentioned as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. And he’s still got eligibility at Kansas, both today and beyond. He also still has eight games remaining this season and is hoping to lead the Jayhawks to even greater heights than this 4-0 start.

Regardless of how that goes, though, you can expect to see him dutifully making his weekly media appearance inside Mrkonic Auditorium at the Anderson Family Football Complex, talking about the team’s successes, shortcomings and next opponent.

After all, that’s what quarterbacks do. And Kansas is in the game again.

__

In case you missed Zac Boyer’s preseason story about Daniels’ work in the offseason, that link is below, along with a few other recent features on JD6 from around the country:

• Boyer talked to Daniels’ LA-based QB coach Sam Fisher about how he could learn and grow at Kansas.

• This one, from Brady McCullough in the LA Times, looks at Daniels’ path to Kansas.

• This one looks at Iowa State coach Matt Campbell’s thoughts on Daniels and the Kansas offense.

• Daniels has become a fixture in all kinds of Heisman Trophy watch lists and is a legitimate contender to stay in the race for the iconic trophy.

Reply 1 comment from Bill  French

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