Notebook: KU sends out two quarterbacks to open Friday’s game
photo by: Nick Krug
Kansas somehow found a way to have both Jason Bean and Jalon Daniels start Friday night, an unusual but fitting development following the last month of speculation about Daniels’ back injury.
In an extremely on-brand wrinkle from offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, Daniels came out in the shotgun with Bean at his side, faked a handoff to his fellow quarterback and hit Lawrence Arnold for his first completion of the season. By the end of the drive Daniels had also connected on his first touchdown with do-everything offensive weapon Torry Locklin, who lined up as a slot receiver.
Daniels, the junior and preseason Big 12 Conference offensive player of the year, missed the Jayhawks’ season opener with tightness in his back but saw his reps in practice gradually increase, and was healthy enough to see his first action of the year against Illinois.
Ar’maj Reed-Adams, a projected starter at guard who ended up missing last week’s game in favor of Kobe Baynes, also made his season debut on KU’s opening drive; punter Damon Greaves had to wait until early in the second quarter for his first kick of the year and only got it 37 yards down the field.
Decade in the making
Friday night’s game, the first matchup between Kansas and Illinois since 1968, was itself scheduled nearly 10 years ago back when these teams were coached by Charlie Weis and Tim Beckman, respectively. At the time, just after the 2013 season, KU was coming off a 3-9 campaign and Illinois had just gone 4-8; when it finally came time to play the game in 2023 each school had just accomplished its best season since 2007.
That lent the matchup some added intrigue, and indeed it got moved to this prime-time Friday night slot from its original Saturday date.
The Jayhawks will make a return trip to Champaign for a rematch on Sept. 7, 2024, following their season opener at home against Lindenwood (in that program’s first-ever matchup against a Football Bowl Subdivision foe).
At the time the Illinois series got scheduled, Weis said that the game took place in an important region for KU’s recruiting and its alumni base.
KU debuted its so-called “Blackhawk” uniform, with black helmet (complete with 1941 “warhawk” logo), black jersey and black pants, in Friday night’s game. The only other black football uniform the Jayhawks have worn in recent memory, from a November 2012 home game against Iowa State, featured a white helmet and white numbers and did not catch on.
Players such as Daniels, Kenny Logan Jr. and Devin Neal took to social media earlier in the week to encourage a “blackout” at the stadium Friday to match the jerseys, a message that seemed to resonate with most, though not necessarily all, of the fans. It resounded particularly well in the student section. (Many on social media complained throughout the week — including in direct response to the players’ tweets — about the lack of existing black KU gear for fans to wear, since it’s not one of the school’s traditional colors, though that did not seem to impede the majority of the attendees.)
This and that
Sean Snyder, whose official title for KU is special assistant to the head coach and who joined Lance Leipold’s staff in March, had spent the previous season as the special teams coordinator and specialists coach for the Illini. He is the son of the longtime former Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder.
The KU men’s basketball team will also take on Illinois in just under two months in Champaign, Illinois, as part of a charity exhibition to benefit relief efforts in Maui.