With Big 12 media days quickly approaching, and momentum on the side of the Kansas Jayhawks, what are some of the top storylines heading into Big 12 Media Days? Let’s take a look at five things that stand out for the Jayhawks heading into 2023.
Will Jalon Daniels Take the Next Step?
Jalon Daniels had a breakout season in 2022, despite being injured halfway through the season and missing several games during the middle of the campaign. Through the first four games of the season, Daniels even jumped into the Heisman Trophy race. After being injured in Week 6 against the TCU Horned Frogs, he sat out the next month of the season before making a return against Texas and Kansas State in late November.
Daniels’ ability to pass from the pocket or create plays on the move makes him an incredibly tough quarterback to stop. In those final two regular-season games against the Longhorns and Wildcats, he never looked fully comfortable running the offense. After having another month of practice and time to fully heal, Daniels exploded in their bowl game against Arkansas. He set a Liberty Bowl record with over 550 total yards and six total touchdowns. That is the type of performance Jayhawks fans wanted to see from their quarterback and it sparked everyone’s interest heading into the 2024 campaign.
So what can Daniels do to take that next step? He needs to be more consistent as a passer. He was absolutely dominant in that bowl game, but he did have two interceptions. He needs to take care of the ball and take care of himself when he’s on the run. He can’t have another injury that takes him out for a month or more of the season if the Jayhawks want to continue their ascent in the Big 12 and nationally. If Daniels can stay healthy, he has what it takes to have a 40 total touchdown season and be in the race for the Heisman past Halloween. That would be a big help for Daniels and the Jayhawks to take the next step in 2023.
The Kansas Jayhawks are returning 17 starters on offense and defense heading into the 2023 season. KU returns 91% of their offensive production, good for second-best in the nation. They also return 80% of their defensive production, good enough for 10th-best in the nation. When you have that much talent returning on both sides of the ball, the continuity is bound to help the Jayhawks continue to thrive. After head coach Lance Leipold got an extension, it showed the university is all in on this coaching staff and building the program to go to even greater heights. During a time when the transfer portal takes more and more kids each offseason, Leipold was able to keep his team together and put forth his vision of building a contender in Lawrence, Kansas. Experience matters, and the Jayhawks have plenty of that as the 2023 season draws closer.
Break Out Candidate: Logan Brown
It isn’t a sexy pick, but Logan Brown is a breakout candidate for the 2023 Kansas Jayhawks. Brown was brought in as a transfer from Wisconsin during the offseason and has been playing both left tackle and right tackle for the Jayhawks during spring practice. Brown was a five-star recruit out of high school in 2019 and has two years of collegiate eligibility left. The 6’5”, 305 lb offensive tackle should step into one of those starting roles right away, whether it be left or right tackle. If Brown performs up to his ability, he will provide the necessary protection to keep Daniels healthy and give an extra push up front for the dynamic running back room to have another excellent season. Keep Brown on your radar as a potential breakout candidate in 2023!
Win Total and New Competition
During Leipold’s first season at Kansas, the team won two games. During his second season, they won six games and went to a bowl game. In season three is it acceptable to expect that trend to continue and see the team win even more games in 2023? I think so.
This will be the last season with Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12, but this will be a unique season where there will be a crossover with the new teams joining the conference as well. It’s never safe to assume, but let’s say Kansas gets off to a 3-0 start, winning all of their non-conference games like they did last year.
This year, their conference opener is against their new Big 12 opponent, BYU. They kick off conference play at home before heading to Texas the following week. After Texas, they’ll be back home against UCF (University Central Florida). It isn’t until the fourth conference game when they will play a familiar Big 12 foe that isn’t one of the new teams or a team on their way out. That team is Oklahoma State. Then they go on a run against Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State before wrapping up the season at Cincinnati.
It is not an easy conference schedule by any means, but if Kansas can stay healthy and continue pushing their potential, they should increase their win total in 2023. The experience of the team on both sides of the ball, Jalon Daniels taking the next step, and Logan Brown being a breakout player would all feed into that.
2024 Recruiting Class Looks Solid
The 2024 recruiting class is currently ranked in the Top 40 by all of the major recruiting outlets. They’ve secured prospects at each level and have more in the pipeline who should be making verbal commitments soon. Kansas is currently slated as having the second-highest-rated 2024 recruiting class in the Big 12. Having a solid recruiting class for 2024 will only build on the foundation that Leipold has built in Lawrence even more.
The Kansas Jayhawks used to be the laughingstock of college football, but they are quickly turning into a respectable program under the direction of Leipold. Big 12 media days should showcase what the Jayhawks are building.