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Kansas Jayhawks Give Fans Sneak Peek of Potential


QB Isaiah Marshall of the Kansas Jayhawks
© Evert Nelson/The Cap/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Kansas Jayhawks played their Spring Showcase this past Friday at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence. Roughly 6,000 fans attended the showcase to get a sneak peek of what the Jayhawks are up to this Spring.


While the Spring Showcase is not necessarily a full Spring game, the Jayhawks do have an open practice, where they do game situations and other drills for the public to see. It gives fans a good look at who will potentially be out there when Kansas opens the 2024 season against Lindenwood on Aug. 29.


Here is what stood out from the Showcase and what Jayhawk fans should watch for in the fall.



QB Jalon Daniels is Back

The 2023 Big 12 Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year saw his season cut short last year after nagging back issues sidelined him for the season. Many speculated, without any real evidence or credibility, that the then-sophomore would transfer and was simply sitting out, to the point where Daniels had to make a video announcing his commitment to Kansas and return to the university's football program. Daniels would redshirt and Jason Bean would play out the rest of the 2023 season while the Jayhawks awaited his return.


Those rumors about leaving were put to rest in their entirety when Daniels was spotted at spring practice and at the Spring Showcase, where he impressed in both 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills with his passing and rushing capabilities. One of his first plays was a beautifully thrown deep ball to wide receiver Quentin Skinner, who was a top target last year and is anticipated to be a top target once again with his catching prowess and deep ball play. While we only got to see a little bit of Daniels, what we did get to see was promising and just like the Daniels of old. You can read more on the expectations of Daniels this season here at College Football Dawgs.



There is Depth to This Kansas Jayhawk Squad

Kansas has never been a fan of showing their hand too early, much like most schools. Their starters did not see much playing time in 11-on-11s or 7-on-7s, however, that doesn't mean there was a shortage of fireworks still from the guys that are considered role players and non-starters.


The offensive line has its fair share of position battles this season and it showed throughout the showcase, where we saw many combinations along the line. Michael Ford Jr. and Tiffin transfer Shane Bumgardner traded off reps at center. The guard positions were generally held down by Nolan Gorzyca and Iowa State transfer Darrell Simmons Jr. Linemen like Logan Brown, Bryce Cabeldue, and others who are projected to start outright didn't see the field as much, but did still get reps.


We also saw a lot of shakeup at the defensive back positions, where players like Cobee Bryant, Marvin Grant and Mello Dotson made way for Jalen Dye (son of former MLB player Jermaine Dye), Alex Raich, and others. Dye made one of the better plays of the entire showcase, wrestling a surely completed pass away and taking it back for a score. The defensive line also got great pressure from many different players, which is encouraging given the loss of Austin Booker and Gage Keys.



Finally, at quarterback, the battle for the backup position heated up as Cole Ballard and freshman Isaiah Marshall both made highlight throws throughout the showcase. There is a ton of depth, probably more than realized, with this Jayhawk squad and it was on full display this past Friday.


There are going to be a lot of really good position battles as we get closer to the fall and potentially a few surprises that could potentially make their way to starting spots, which is what you like to see from a program that is on the rise. There is no shortage of talent that is loaded for bear.


QB Cole Ballard makes a throw
© Evert Nelson/The Cap/USA TODAY SPORTS

Offensively, It's (Funny) Business as Usual

Many feared that with the departure of Andy Kotelnicki to Penn State, the Kansas offense would lose its creative spark. Kotelnicki was the driving force behind the versatile, tricky playcalling Kansas was becoming known for throughout 2022 and 2023. Those anxieties were soothed somewhat with the huge performance the Kansas passing game put on in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl against UNLV, where two different receivers had 3 touchdowns en route to a 49-36 victory.



Interim offensive coordinator and now co-offensive coordinator Jim Zebrowski showed that Kansas, while known for their ground game, could air it out too and still kept many trick plays in rotation. Not much later though, former Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes was hired to be co-offensive coordinator with Zebrowski. The reservations behind the hiring of Grimes resonated throughout the winter. Baylor's offense wasn't the same as Kansas's, as Grimes' style of attacking and physical play didn't exactly match the versatile, trick-play offense that Kansas was used to, and many speculated how good of a fit Grimes would be with this Kansas team.


Those fears have seemingly been put to bed as well though, as Grimes and Zebrowski complemented each other very well throughout the showcase and still showed a lot of "trickeration." A balance of passing and rushing was also compiled with passing plays that ran out of the "Wildcat" formation, direct snaps to many different players and reverses from every angle. If this is what is being shown in the spring, then the fall should bring even more tricks up the sleeves of the Grimes/Zebrowski tandem.


It can be assumed they did not show their full hand in a glorified public Spring practice, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses. Do not expect this Kansas offense to be short on versatility this season.



Conclusion

Kansas looks to pursue Big 12 title hopes this season, and with what we're seeing during the Spring practices, as well as this past Spring Showcase, there's plenty of reason to believe they can make a run.


Daniels looks like his old self so far, there's a ton of depth at basically every position and the offense is still just as versatile and perhaps more talented than in years past. The Jayhawks aren't coming, they're already here, and they're ready to give it their best shot at a conference title and College Football Playoff berth.


This is truly masterclass work from a program that just three years ago did not win a single game.



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