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Kansas's Jalon Daniels: A Story of Unfounded Controversy and Proving Doubters Wrong

Jalon Daniels vs. BYU
© Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY SPORTS

The offseason has brought a lot of interesting conversations regarding teams and players to watch for this upcoming year. The debate of who will compete for the Heisman, which team will make a run at their respective conference titles, who will be competing for a College Football Playoff spot, the works. One conference of note where the debate seems especially hot is the Big 12, which will welcome Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado to the league this upcoming season. They have fit right in regarding their participation in this discourse, as Utah, Arizona and even Colorado fans have made their case for their players and teams. One team though in the Big 12 that seems to be lost in the discourse is the Kansas Jayhawks, who went 9-4 last year and look to be even stronger this upcoming year, returning much of their starting lineup. This is a team that could also compete for a title in the new-look Big 12, given a fairly easy schedule and a low roster turnover. A major piece of said returning lineup though has also been the subject of much debate, and that is junior quarterback Jalon Daniels.

The Story of Jalon Daniels So Far

Jalon Daniels out of Lawndale, California began his career with the Jayhawks in 2020. The Jayhawks were in the final year of Les Miles's tumultuous tenure, and Daniels was thrust into the starting role for multiple games in his true freshman season. He would finish that year going 76/152 for 718 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions. This coupled with a season without a single win did not bode well for Daniels's young college career, however, Kansas would make some changes that would turn that tide rather quickly. The Jayhawks would fire Les Miles and in his place hire former Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold in 2021. Leipold had a long history of winning and developing wherever he went, and when he got to Kansas, that was his #1 priority. To make Kansas Football a winning product, starting with developing his young quarterback. Daniels would start the majority of games once again in 2021, where he threw for 81/117 for 860 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. While the Jayhawks would still finish 2-10, it was a much better campaign that showed a lot of promise. Finally, in 2022, Kansas made the turn for the better, mainly off the backs of a stellar run game and the play of their quarterback Jalon Daniels. Daniels would go 152/230 for 2,014 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions, however, would get hurt during the Iowa State game in the middle of the season. Daniels would sit out roughly half the season but be back for the Liberty Bowl against Arkansas, where Daniels had the best game of his career, throwing for 37/55, 544 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 2 picks.

It was anticipated that Daniels would continue his exceedingly stellar play going into the 2023 season with him winning Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, however, a back injury would sideline him for most of the season. You can read more about that here at College Football Dawgs. This injury would stir controversy galvanized by rival "insiders" and fanbases. Rumors of him transferring, sitting out due to disagreements with the team, and other unfounded controversies would plague his 2023 season to the point where he had to come out and make a video promising that he was here to stay at Kansas. You can read more on that controversy here. Now though, it's Jalon's turn once again, and he is part of why the Jayhawks have quietly inserted themselves into Big 12 title and College Football Playoff contention.

Contender or Pretender?

Jalon Daniels, on paper, is not exactly impressive. His season totals are average for a run-heavy team's quarterback, nothing really catches the eye, and frankly, if you've never watched Daniels play but look at his stats, you're probably going to discount him entirely from any sort of conversation regarding potential top player conversations. However, if you've watched him play, you realize why he's in these conversations. Daniels is electric when he can play, both on the ground and in the air. Watching highlight tape of him gives flashes of many dual-threat quarterbacks that play on Sundays such as Lamar Jackson. Given he has his top three receivers returning, his top two running backs, and a large portion of his offensive line, the tools are there for him to have the season we expected from him last year before his injuries.

However, this brings up a key point that many point to concerning his chances at earning awards this season, and that's his health. Daniels has now suffered two major injuries in his college career, one on his throwing shoulder and one on his back. These injuries for quarterbacks can prove to be detrimental, however, given that he had his best game fresh off of his shoulder injury against an SEC defense, he has plenty of time to recover from his back injury, and he has this much talent returning for him to utilize as well as his own talents, staying healthy seems to be the only reasonable concern people have. It is a big "if", yes, once a player gets injured like Daniels did it is easier to get injured again, but should Daniels stay healthy he has every right to be in not only Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year conversations, but Heisman and other national awards conversations as well. He has the ability also to put Kansas in title contention and College Football Playoff contention with this roster, which a lot of people seem to ignore as mentioned before.

Jalon Daniels: Why He is Worth the Hype

Jalon Daniels is a proven player who has been hardened by the controversies and injuries he's had to battle through, which has made him all the more formidable. Yes, health is a concern, but frankly, it's the only concern that detractors can point to. He has an excellent chance to prove doubters wrong this year and has every ability to do so. Time will tell, but as of now, he deserves to be included in the player of the year conversations as does Kansas with regard to the Big 12 title and College Football Playoff contention. The controversy surrounding him has been heavy due to rival fanbases overblowing unfounded rumors and detractors not actually watching his play. The strength of the roster surrounding him, the coaching supporting him, and what he has shown already has proven that Daniels has the ability to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country, all he needs is a chance to solidify his place among those names.


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