Entering last Saturday's final walk-through for the KU-Texas game, Kansas football walk-on Jared Casey had no idea that his life would suddenly be so busy in the coming days.
But there he was, after becoming a star following his game-winning, 2-point conversion catch, making commercials, doing all kinds of media sessions and still waiting for the reality of it all to sink in.
Wednesday, at KU's regularly scheduled player availability session, Casey talked about the whirlwind few days and his first dabbling with acting. He said he never was even in any kind of school play growing up and noted that, because his acting chops were a little raw, the whole experience of making a commercial for NIL partner Applebee's took a long time.
Here, in case you haven't seen it, is a look at Casey's Applebee's commercial, which was filmed in Lawrence earlier this week.
Kansas QB Jalon Daniels earned latest opportunity long before last Saturday’s win at Texas; Now, what will he do with it?
A Kansas football season that began with uncertainty at the quarterback position is on the brink of ending with at least a little clarity there.
That’s all thanks to the way both head coach Lance Leipold and sophomore quarterback Jalon Daniels handled things during the past four months.
Their poise and commitment to the process came to the forefront on Tuesday, when Leipold announced that he had left the decision whether to play or not in the final two games of the season in the hands of Daniels and his family.
Bravo, coach. After watching what Daniels did against Texas, that was the only way to move forward.
From Daniels’ perspective, choosing to play rather than aiming to preserve his redshirt was also a no-brainer decision.
Now we get to see what the 19-year-old QB from California can do with a little bit of confidence, both in himself and from his head coach and teammates.
Daniels earned the opportunity to make this decision long before leading the Jayhawks to victory over Texas, though. From Day 1 of this summer’s quarterback race, Daniels put the program first.
He said throughout the summer that, as much as he wanted to win the job, he wanted his team to win more than anything. That sentiment came to a head at media day, on Aug. 17, when Daniels was asked about battling for the job and responded by saying that if the right move was for KU to go with someone else, he didn’t want to win it.
He simply wanted the best player lining up at the game’s most important position.
As it turns out, that may be him.
Junior transfer Jason Bean won the job initially and had both good moments and bad. An injury in the Kansas State game, however, opened the door for Daniels, and rather than stepping through it with a chip on his shoulder, he sprinted through it with the enthusiasm of a kid running to the front of the line for his favorite ride at Disneyland.
We saw that same vibe from Daniels as a true freshman. But he’s a different quarterback today than he was back then.
Daniels isn’t perfect by any means. But it’s clear that the time he spent serving as the team’s third-string QB with plans to redshirt was put to good used.
He got better. He gained confidence. He improved his accuracy. He gained a different perspective. All of those were critical for a young QB who started way sooner than he ever should’ve during the 2020 season and did a lot of what you’d expect an 18-year-old, true-freshman QB to do while playing college football for the first time.
He flashed in spots and showed off his big arm at times, but also was chewed up and spit out by the biggest and best the Big 12 had to offer.
Now, he gets what amounts to a redo. It’s also an audition of sorts for his immediate KU future.
Perform as well as he did in the next two games — Saturday at TCU and home vs. West Virginia on Nov. 27 — and he might just cement himself as the Jayhawks’ quarterback of the future.
Time will tell on that, of course. But thanks to a solid and sound approach by all parties involved, we now get to find out.
And, for most still paying attention, actual intrigue around Kansas football in the month of November is as rare as beating Texas in Austin once was.
For most of the 2021 Kansas football season, one question weighed on my mind more than any other.
On Sunday, mere hours after the Jayhawks’ stunning, 57-56 overtime victory at Texas, one video may have answered it.
The question: No matter how qualified or “right” first-year KU coach Lance Leipold is for the monster challenge that is coaching football at Kansas, how is he going to get his most talented players to stick around through a treacherous rebuild when the rules allow any of them to leave for perceived greener pastures at any time?
The answer: Evidently, it’s love.
Any time that question entered my mind, my thoughts immediately went to junior safety Kenny Logan Jr., a talented and tough player who no doubt could play for just about any program in the country.
Logan’s had a great year. He leads the team in tackles, heart and personality and has been one of the true bright spots in another losing season.
There’s little doubt that Logan has enjoyed his time as a Jayhawk. But in the three years he has been with the program, the Jayhawks have won just five games — four heading into last Saturday — and been on the wrong end of so many lopsided outcomes.
There’s not a person around the KU program who would not love to see Logan finish his career in crimson and blue. But after recent drubbings at the hands of Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State — not to mention a never-in-it loss to in-state rival Kansas State — I started to wonder if Logan himself would want stick around for his senior season or if he’d go the way of Marcus Harris, Da’Jon Terry and Karon Prunty, who all entered the transfer portal in search of a new opportunity after last season.
The idea of trying to rebuild a college football program from the ground up in the transfer portal era makes it a far tougher challenge than anything anyone has ever seen. Being successful will have to be as much about relationships as it is X's and O's.
The video is just 20 seconds long, but it features a special moment between Logan and Leipold, who are shown embracing and soaking up last Saturday’s victory.
“I love you coach,” Logan says.
“I love you, too,” Leipold responds.
“I appreciate you,” Logan adds.
“I appreciate you,” Leipold replies.
The two then share their thoughts about how the win over Texas was merely a “small step” in KU’s turnaround, with Logan calling it a “stepping stone.”
“It’s just the beginning,” Leipold adds. “Now, I’ll give you a little warning; I’ll be harder on you next week than I was before. I love you, man.”
It’s that kind of bond, between a player and coach, that can make this rebuild possible.
Those two have been around each other for barely six months, and during several of those weeks, the bitter taste of losing has been the story. But Logan and Leipold have clearly developed a deep connection, and their willingness to keep grinding and trust one another led to the win over Texas.
“Kenny’s got such great personality and charisma,” Leipold said earlier this month. “He’s such a likable person and he connects with so many different people. That’s the thing that’s impressive. That’s just what he’s about. His passion for the game, and for our team to be successful, is really there.”
The strength of their relationship surfaced early, with both Logan and Leipold first sharing their respect and admiration for one another back in July and August. They’re opposites in many ways, but both are brimming with energy, optimism and a relentless spirit.
That made their bond click quickly. Their ability to show up week after week with a smile on their faces and the passion to lead others to do the same has strengthened it and this team.
Earlier this month, I asked Leipold about the importance of Logan’s role in KU’s rebuilding plans, and the first-year KU coach did not hide his perspective.
“(KU strength coach) Matt Gildersleeve and I have talked a lot with him (about) how he’s viewed and what (his) role is and what that does for our program, now and for the future,” Leipold said. “I think he’s starting to understand that more and more and embracing that.
“He is a key component (for) the rest of this season. He will be very important during the offseason and the continuation of building our program.”
Logan’s talent and leadership factored into that answer. And Leipold said Logan, as much as anyone, has shown constant growth throughout what has been another tough season.
He’s always showed up to compete. But in the past month or so, he has started to understand more about Leipold’s approach. He also has become more comfortable in KU’s defensive scheme and that has allowed him to play faster and make more plays.
Others have done that, as well. And Leipold and company are counting on enough current players making those strides to get this thing turned around.
What they weren’t counting on, though — and didn’t even know they had when they arrived — was a player like Logan to lead the effort.
Win or lose, on good days and bad, Logan presents himself as a player and a person who simply loves being around football. That kind of attitude can become contagious, and when you get enough guys thinking and acting that same way, that’s when big strides can be made.
“I think he’s kind of special in that way,” Leipold said. “He’s always around the building, he’s always around people that are in this organization. He would rather be in this building than sitting in his apartment.
“I don’t know if Kenny would like a lot of Kennys around him, though,” the coach added with a laugh. “I’m joking.”
The celebration of the Kansas football team’s 57-56 overtime victory over the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas, reached the parking lot at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium late Saturday night.
According to KUPD officers on the scene, efforts were made by some fans who wanted to storm the field and go after the goalposts. But by night’s end, the goalposts remained standing and the celebration was largely incident free.
A crowd of between 100-200 KU fans celebrated the victory near the southeast corner of the stadium, chanting and cheering the Jayhawks’ first Big 12 road victory in 13 years.
In the background, music was blaring from house parties along Mississippi Street and KU fans were cheering and honking their horns around campus. A few fireworks even soared into the sky.
Saturday's win was not just some run-of-the-mill victory for Lance Leipold's Jayhawks. It snapped a 56-game road Big 12 losing streak and a stretch of 18 consecutive conference losses. The Jayhawks, who were a 31-point underdog, won for the first time in 101 games as an underdog of 24 points or more. And the 57 points were the most in a road game in KU history.
Clearly, there was plenty to celebrate, not the least of which was the fact that this win was the second for Kansas in its past five games against UT. In their last trip to Austin, in 2019, the Jayhawks narrowly missed out on what would have been a third win in five tries.
Saturday's celebration around the stadium lasted less than an hour and included a couch fire near the southeast corner of the stadium’s east parking lot. A fire truck from the Lawrence-Douglas Country Fire Medical Department was dispatched to put out the fire and the area was mostly quiet by 11:40 p.m.
Conversations between KUPD officers on hand indicated that the celebration included “mostly good enthusiasm” and that “no one got hurt that we’re aware of.”
One officer on the scene told the Journal-World that she encouraged the students who were celebrating to send and post their videos to members of the football team to show they were there supporting them.
The victory improved KU to 2-8 on the season and dealt the Longhorns their fifth consecutive loss.
Next up, KU will play at TCU at 3 p.m. next Saturday before closing out the season at home against West Virginia on Nov. 27.
On the surface, the University of Kansas athletic department’s decision to stamp a few hands and re-open the gates to fans who want to reenter Memorial Stadium after halftime on Saturday may seem pretty mundane.
But it’s a big frickin’ deal.
And most Kansas fans know it.
At a time when the product on the field is not doing enough to inspire attendance and get people to support the program, it’s critical for athletic department leaders to find ways to entice the fan base to come anyway they can.
This move, coupled with the willingness to open the gates and let people in for free during the second half of the Jayhawks’ near-upset of No. 3 Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago, shows with clarity that first-year KU AD Travis Goff gets it.
The money “lost” from those ticket sales or even a few hundred extra halftime concessions is peanuts compared to the money that can be made down the road by attracting fans to be a part of the fun on Saturdays in the fall.
Former KU Al Bohl is often given at least part of the credit for breathing life into Kansas football again by bringing tailgating back to Memorial Stadium. And Lew Perkins, who has his own chapter in the recent downfall of the program, followed up on that by marketing the product as fun for the whole family with enticing season-ticket packages.
It's still early, and there's been no real progress made yet, but Goff appears to be gunning for inclusion on that list.
Losing is never fun. And the goal within the program remains for Lance Leipold and company to get this thing going again so that winning returns to Memorial Stadium.
Until then — and it may be a while — getting the fans back and making it worth their while is a necessary step in what KU hopes will be a successful turnaround.
This athletic administration appears to be thinking about that on an almost daily basis. No idea seems too small. And no staff member is too low-level to not be heard. That’s a great start.
This concept extends beyond ideas and execution, too.
If you haven’t yet, next time you’re up there take a look outside of the stadium behind the north bowl. There you’ll find landscaping that actually makes it look like Kansas cares.
Things like that, as well as the reentry policy and steps like it, take time, a little bit of money and create more work for a whole bunch of people. But if KU officials don’t care and aren’t willing to show it, then how can they expect their fan base to do the same?
This weekend’s weather forecast, along with the fanfare that surrounds the Sunflower Showdown rivalry, should make for a pretty good setting for college football.
And it’s now crystal clear that KU officials want you to be a part of it. Every little bit helps. And, as we saw with the Oklahoma game a couple of weeks ago, you never know what you might find yourself walking into.
One was a victory and the other a loss, but the argument could be made that Saturday’s 35-23 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium was much bigger than the home win over Texas five years ago that felt awfully similar to what nearly took place on Saturday.
Hindsight helps make that argument, of course, as we now know that defeating the Longhorns on that November day in 2016 did not bring the momentum and better days that many Jayhawks hoped it would.
Just two more coaches and a bunch more losses.
Let’s examine the two outcomes and take a look at why this one might be different.
For one, Oklahoma’s pretty good and that Texas team was trash.
The Sooners, like ’em or not, are ranked No. 3 in the nation and sit at 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Big 12 play, smack dab in the middle of the College Football Playoff conversation.
Those Longhorns? The loss to Kansas that day dropped them to 5-6 on the season and was more or less the final straw that led to Charlie Strong getting fired.
Beyond the difference in talent between the two teams, this result came in the middle of Lance Leipold’s first season and not at the end of a new coach’s second.
That might seem like a small-potatoes difference, but, before you write it off, consider the difference in the number of practices, games, recruiting visits, film sessions and offseason workouts between those two points in a coaching career.
These guys are just getting started. As history has now told us, that Beaty bunch was almost done.
One game does not a rebuild make, but given that they were outscored 100-21 in the two games leading up to Saturday’s game against the Sooners, these Jayhawks needed an outing like that.
They needed it to convince them that the work is worth it.
They needed it to convince them that the new coaching staff is capable of leading them where they want to go.
They needed it to keep the fan base from completely checking out.
The expectation, back in 2016, was that the win over Texas would provide many of those benefits, too. It didn’t.
Instead, the Jayhawks lost the very next week in a sloppy 34-19 setback at K-State and then went on to lose 11 of 12 games the following season by an average score of 41-17.
When you’re rebuilding, you’re only as good as your next game. Sure, you can stack building blocks and collect momentum along the road. But if you lay an egg the week after an encouraging effort, all of the work that went into that feel-good moment immediately — and almost entirely — disappears.
That makes KU’s 6 p.m., nationally-televised (FS1) game at Oklahoma State next weekend hugely important — far more important than it would’ve been otherwise.
Sure, the Jayhawks want to add to their momentum. And, yeah, their goal will be to try to win the game. But even just playing well and finding a way to be in the game would go a long way toward making this week’s unexpected close call against OU actually mean something.
New Kansas offensive coordinator Mike DeBord recognizes the image projected by a little gray hair, a mostly bald head and a birthday in the 1950s.
But he’s pretty comfortable addressing it.
Speaking Wednesday on a Zoom call to introduce him as Les Miles’ newest hire, DeBord was asked whether his recent stop at Indiana (2017-18), another basketball school with winning football aspirations, had prepared him for the job he has now.
DeBord said he doesn’t view schools in terms of them being known for one sport or another. Rather, he looks at them through the lens of what they are today and what he can help them become.
He spoke of KU’s basketball tradition and how it can aid the football program’s rebuilding efforts. And he name dropped legendary Kansas basketball coach Phog Allen and James Naismith’s historic peach baskets.
“I wasn’t around for that, by the way,” DeBord joked. “But I know of it.”
First impressions are a lot like judging a book by its cover; they’re not always accurate and should be met with caution.
But the one DeBord made on Wednesday was much different than what Kansas fans might have expected from looking at an image of him in the newspaper or on the Internet.
Energized, excited and undeniably eager for his next challenge, the veteran college football assistant demonstrated with clarity that he knows how to command a room. Or is it a Zoom?
DeBord’s success at Kansas will be dependent on players, performance and progress, but one of the biggest factors will be how much control Miles allows him to have.
Based on DeBord’s introduction, there’s every reason to believe that Miles is ready and willing to let his new OC run things the way he sees fit.
But even if the third-year Kansas coach is not inclined to let go of the offense entirely, it sounds like the two coaches already are enough on the same page and have enough respect for one another to make that type of interaction matter less than it has in years past.
“We talked every day and we talked at great length,” said DeBord of the conversations he and Miles had during the recent hiring process. “I had a lot of questions. He had a lot of questions. … And we were in agreement on everything. It meant a lot for him to want me.”
It’s easy for coaches to agree on the things they want an offense to accomplish in February. DeBord listed a few of them on Wednesday. Move the chains. Score a lot of points. Win time of possession. Take care of the football.
Obvious stuff there.
But it’s the way you get that done that matters. And DeBord has a plan for that, too.
He wants to install a “player friendly” system that is easy to learn and even easier to execute.
“If a kid knows what he’s going to do, he’s going to play fast,” DeBord said. “And we want to play fast.”
Miles and DeBord will collaborate. Others from the offensive coaching staff will have input, too. And Miles no doubt still will have some say in the way the Kansas offense runs.
But DeBord on Wednesday shared a key part of the framework for what that offense will look like and how it will be built.
“We’re going to put our best personnel out there to win football games,” he said. “Whatever that is.”
None of what DeBord said on Wednesday — or even how he said it — will win Kansas a football game or gain the Jayhawks a first down.
The hard work is just beginning in that area. And, like so many coaches who have come before him, on both sides of the ball, DeBord today only has a fraction of an understanding of how difficult this job truly is, even if he thinks he gets it.
The good news for Kansas fans is that DeBord has a plan and has been around some impressive programs and called games at the highest level of the sport. Put differently, he's a veteran with legit experience and a proven track record.
The better news is that his plan does not appear to be based solely on anything from his past, be it last year, three years before that or three decades earlier.
DeBord’s philosophy for building an offense is rooted in adaptation and open to fitting his offense to the personnel, not the personnel to the offense.
Despite his advanced age (he’ll turn 65 on Sunday) and the fact that his first college coaching gig came in the early days of the Reagan Administration, DeBord appears to be a coach who has grown with the game during all of his stops and years in the business.
“If you don’t change, you’re going to be left behind,” DeBord said Wednesday.
Miles believes he has brought the right man to town to help change the Kansas offense into something competitive. He said Wednesday that DeBord’s addition would make the KU program “much, much stronger.”
Heck, even Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid — the gold standard of football coaching these days — provided KU with a glowing review of the new coordinator’s ability, saying DeBord has constructed “one dominant offense after another” everywhere he has been.
Whether he can keep that streak alive at Kansas remains to be seen. And it figures to be his toughest challenge yet.