KU football roster could be depleted for Nevada game

photo by: AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

Kansas running back Devin Neal (4) gets past several Illinois defenders to score a touchdown during the third quarter of an NCAA football game on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Lawrence.

Targeting suspensions and nagging injuries are making for a depleted Kansas football roster ahead of Saturday night’s road game.

Starting cornerback Cobee Bryant and promising rotational defensive end Austin Booker will both miss the first half at Nevada on Saturday because they were flagged for targeting — essentially, going after an opposing player with forcible contact more violent than a legal tackle — in the second half against Illinois. KU’s appeals of those penalty calls to the NCAA were denied, head coach Lance Leipold said.

Leipold added Monday, which was a day off for the team, that several key offensive players were inhibited by minor ailments during Sunday’s practice.

“Jalon (Daniels) did very little, Luke (Grimm) did very little, Devin (Neal) did very little,” he said. “Today’ll be a good day for those guys and hopefully we can get some guys back. And that’s probably what you expect, and we’ll have some more of these as we go.”

Quarterback Daniels had missed the opener and wide receiver Grimm sat out part of it; both returned in full against Illinois. Neal, the starting running back, played extensively in both games, though sat out a chunk of the second half against the Illini following a hard tackle along the sideline.

Although Leipold said that backup Jason Bean took all the team reps at quarterback Sunday, he suggested that “Jalon’s able to do more” than Grimm and Neal, who are “maybe the ones more in question.”

That’s not all. He added that reserve wideout Tanaka Scott, who has not yet played, is still working his way into action, and that LSU transfer cornerback Damarius McGhee has been dealing with a back injury of his own.

That means that both position groups could look plenty different on Saturday, and KU adjusted its depth chart accordingly by moving the usual nickel back, Kalon Gervin, ahead of Bryant as the starter. Leipold noted that Gervin is experienced and Kwinton Lassiter has made plays, including the first two interceptions of his career in consecutive games, and the staff has high hopes for redshirt freshman Brian Dilworth.

The Jayhawks’ depth has proven itself so far this season; Leipold pointed out, for example, that Doug Emilien, Grimm’s direct backup, has performed well and would have had a touchdown Friday if not for a block-in-the-back penalty. However, having players miss such extended practice time taxes on-field chemistry. Leipold mentioned that the team was trying to figure out Monday morning who would run the specific route concepts that are so closely associated with Grimm if he’s unable to go.

“You lose that timing and working that you need during the week,” he said, “and we’ve got to find a way to get through that, because eventually that’s going to cost us.”

Leipold had a more optimistic outlook in another area. Taiwan Berryhill Jr., the starting weak-side linebacker for Kansas, dealt with a minor hamstring injury during fall camp and has been in and out of action since; he played a portion of the season opener against Missouri State, but not Friday against Illinois. Bowling Green transfer JB Brown has thrived in his absence. Now, with Berryhill taking on more reps in practice, the Jayhawks are hoping to get him back and even use both of them on the field at the same time.

“I still don’t know if our defense has lined up five consecutive days, really, with everybody out there,” Leipold said.


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