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Kansas Jayhawks: A New Era Full of Great Opportunity


Kansas Football
© Alex Blackburn/College Football Dawgs

The Kansas Jayhawks are Big 12 Conference contenders for the first time in 15 years, getting Big 12 title first-place votes for the first time since 2009.


An era of darkness for the program has seemingly lifted after the efforts of coach Lance Leipold, athletic director Travis Goff and the entire Kansas football program.



A "new era" of Kansas football has entered, an era that looks to have staying power.


Ad Astra: The Stars Align

During Big 12 Conference Media Days in Las Vegas, Leipold detailed how this program, from top to bottom, has been "the best alignment I have personally gone through, from football coach to athletic director, and then athletic director to chancellor, that I have been a part of."



Leipold began his head coaching career at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he won a whopping 6 Division III National Titles from 2007-2014. He would then jump from Division III to Division I FBS when he took the head coaching job at the University of Buffalo. Leipold won 2 Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) East Division titles and was a 2-time MAC Coach of the Year. In 2021, he would get his chance to move up to the Power Four, where he would take over a struggling Kansas program.


During his time at Kansas, in just 3 years at the helm, Leipold would take a program that went winless twice in a decade and make them bowl-eligible in just his second year on the job. In 2023, Leipold would build on that success, going 9-4 and winning the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Leipold would earn a restructured contract as well as an extension during that time and is now a finalist for the Bobby Dodd Award for best coach. Now, expectations are higher than they've ever been, with the Jayhawks being in Big 12 title contention.



This also would not be possible without the work of Travis Goff and Chancellor Douglas Girod though, of which Leipold details in his previous quote. Goff came in just weeks before Leipold and exhibited a bullish, progressive attitude toward Kansas Athletics, specifically football.



"With the Ad Astra Society, we created a platform for supporters to invest in the future of Kansas Athletics," Goff detailed in an interview with KU Endowment. "I think about giving through the society as the fuel that will allow us to tackle our most important factors. At my press conference when I was hired, I said philanthropy is going to be the driving force. It’s how we’re going to invest in our student-athletes’ experiences and transform KU."


Goff announced the Gateway District Project in August 2023, which detailed an expansion of football facilities as well as a brand new stadium for the Kansas football program. He has said time and again that the time is now to invest in football and "reach for the stars" in developing this program into a juggernaut. With the help of Chancellor Girod and the success of players and coaches on and off the field, that looks to be coming in full force.


Kansas Jayhawks: A New Era

Speaking of the players of this program, this is perhaps the most talented team the Jayhawks have had since the historic 2007 season, where the Jayhawks would win the Orange Bowl and feature future NFL All-Pros like Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Devin Neal spoke of the impact that those players have had on their current roster.


"We want to replicate that, if not be better than that team," Neal said. "That was a legendary season, we want a legendary season."



Neal is projected to be one of the best running backs in college football and looks to make a name for himself in time for the 2025 NFL Draft. Not only is he a marquee player in this program, but starting quarterback Jalon Daniels has also made waves as one of the best and brightest players nationally.


If Daniels can stay healthy, then the sky really is the limit for Kansas. A dual-threat, dynamic player that exhibits excellent maturity and leadership skills, Daniels and Neal are the leaders of this team. Top that with underrated but still excellent players like Luke Grimm, Lawrence Arnold and Daniel Hishaw, as well as new transfers like center Bryce Foster, and you have a recipe for one of the strongest offenses in college football.



Finally, on defense, the corner duo of Mello Dotson and Cobee Bryant highlight this defense that took major steps forward in 2023. While the loss of EDGEs Austin Booker and Gage Keys loom, players like Jereme Robinson, transfer Bai Jobe and true freshmen phenoms Deshawn Warner and Dak Brinkley will fill in the gaps nicely. This Kansas defense will play fast, aggressive defense that will look to get to the quarterback and force bad throws for this great secondary to capitalize on.


Conclusion

The Jayhawks have made leaps and bounds since the doldrums of the 2010s. The cohesion, talent, coaching and overall confidence all seem to be there and the Jayhawks look to turn that into a Big 12 title.


In a very competitive league top to bottom, that is easier said than done. But with an easier schedule, a healthy roster and perhaps a little bit of luck, the Jayhawks will be in Arlington come December.


Follow College Football Dawgs for more Big 12 Conference Media Days stories and updates.



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