Both KU and UCF have to wait and see at quarterback
photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World photo
Four possible combinations of starting quarterbacks could take the field Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and not one of them would be particularly surprising.
Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels had his recurring back tightness flare up Saturday at the team hotel in Austin, Texas, not long before the Jayhawks were slated to take on No. 3 Texas, and longtime contributor Jason Bean started in his place on less than an hour’s notice. It was the second start this season Daniels has missed due to his back.
Head coach Lance Leipold said that Daniels didn’t practice Monday and added that the training staff has described it as a “day-to-day situation.”
“I know he’s working at it, he and I had multiple conversations yesterday and today already, and (we’ll) see where it takes us,” Leipold said.
Meanwhile, down in Orlando, Florida, UCF’s starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is set to take his first 11-on-11 reps since suffering a leg injury late in the Knights’ win over Boise State on Sept. 9. Timmy McClain, a transfer from South Florida who like Bean has past starting experience (in his case, nine games as a true freshman for the Bulls in 2021), has started three games since Plumlee went down, a win over Villanova and losses to Kansas State and Baylor.
Fans could find themselves watching teams led by Daniels and Plumlee, Daniels and McClain, Bean and Plumlee or Bean and McClain. That adds another level of unpredictability to the showdown between a pair of elaborate, dynamic offenses.
In the two games against Big 12 Conference foes, McClain has gone 27-for-49 passing with five touchdowns and a pair of picks, along with 18 carries for 32 yards and a score on the ground. UCF offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw said Sunday that McClain needs to “play the position and not freelance and keep his eyes on his keys and what he’s supposed to be looking at.”
“(Plumlee) did some 7-on-7 last week,” UCF head coach Gus Malzahn said in a press conference Monday. “We’ll just see how he is looking. Timmy continues to improve in a lot of areas, so we’ll probably make a call probably Wednesday about what that looks like.”
Both Leipold and Malzahn, coming off losses, are now facing the unenviable task of preparing two quarterbacks while simultaneously preparing for two opposing quarterbacks. Malzahn, for his part, said that “every week you got to expect you’re getting the starter.”
Leipold characterized both Plumlee and McClain as extremely athletic. Indeed, Plumlee ran for more yards than any other quarterback last season, which dovetailed with Leipold’s overall praise of the Knights’ speed and quickness.
“I don’t know if he is 100%, if he’s going to be right there to let it loose or not, but we have to prepare for both,” Leipold said. “… You got to go back and study all film and all tendencies, have the differences between the two, and maybe what was different in the offensive game plan. But again, we only have ‘X’ amount of hours with our guys.
“It’s the same thing with us — ‘What are they going to do?’ ‘Which quarterback are they (going to use)?'”
Bean didn’t play well at Texas when thrust unexpectedly into the starting role — he went 9-for-21 with 136 yards and a touchdown — and Leipold said Bean wasn’t happy with his performance Saturday.
“So he gets a chance to get more reps and get him some work and prepare for whatever happens,” Leipold said.
But as UCF defensive coordinator Addison Williams pointed this weekend, Bean has a history of acquitting himself quite well for KU. Bean was the starting quarterback for the Jayhawks for most of 2021, took back over in 2022 when Daniels hurt his shoulder and beat Oklahoma State to clinch bowl eligibility, and had won the season opener over Missouri State on Sept. 1 after Daniels’ back tightness prevented him from taking sufficient reps during the week.
“At the end of the day we expect to see both of them at some point on this Saturday in Kansas,” Williams said.
The two teams face off at 3 p.m. in Lawrence.
photo by: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
photo by: AP Photo/John Raoux