Notebook: Not everyone forgets 2021, Sarkisian praises Daniels and more
photo by: AP Photo/Eric Gay
Austin, Texas — With the Jayhawks’ return to Austin came obligatory questions for head coaches Lance Leipold and Steve Sarkisian about KU’s stunning upset win at Texas in 2021, the first season for both coaches. Neither was too keen on dwelling on that two-year-old result, though both acknowledged its longer-term impact on the programs’ trajectory.
The Longhorns’ sixth-year senior lineman Christian Jones, who gave up a key strip-sack in that game, had more to say about it this week.
He told reporters it was a turning point in his career that caused a crisis of confidence, according to On3.
“It broke me to my core, man,” Jones said, per the Associated Press. “I just remember feeling so low and so sad during that moment, and dealing with consequences after that moment, you know, all the slander, the DMs, all that type of stuff, the crazy, wild messages.”
Jones has continued starting at tackle for Texas ever since and was an all-conference honorable mention in 2022.
Sarkisian knows a thing or two about high-level quarterback play.
As an assistant coach at USC, he coached Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, not to mention eventual long-tenured NFL players Mark Sanchez and Matt Cassel. As a head coach at Washington, he worked with Jake Locker; as offensive coordinator at Alabama, he guided Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones to success.
Saturday’s game was expected to pit Kansas’ Jalon Daniels, the Big 12 Conference offensive player of the year, against his defensive counterpart, Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford. Sarkisian had high praise for Daniels, “a heck of a player,” and Andy Kotelnicki’s offensive scheme ahead of the game.
“I think the natural thing is, we think about the runs that he has for explosive plays, but he throws the ball all over the place,” he said Monday. “They’ve got great schemes and concepts.
“It’s not, by any means, is it gimmicky. They’re running real pass concepts that stress your coverages, and then they have the run concepts with his legs as an added element to it … He taxes you both ways, so it’s not like you can just have a guy be a scout-team quarterback that’s a runner (to prepare for him).”
Any preparation for the dynamic Daniels fell by the wayside, though, when the star quarterback again suffered from back tightness ahead of Saturday’s game. Jason Bean was at the helm throughout for KU.
Assistant coach Jim Panagos’ one-year stint at Minnesota in 2019 has had a measurable impact on the Kansas roster, as his connection with defensive tackle Gage Keys, whom he had helped recruit to the Gophers in the first place, later helped him facilitate Keys’ transfer to Kansas. (Fellow Minnesota transfer Austin Booker arrived at Minnesota after Panagos left, though Panagos led Booker’s KU recruitment.)
This week, Panagos, who coaches defensive tackles for KU, saw one of his former charges on the opposite side of the field as KU took on Texas and its backup nose tackle Trill Carter. Carter was a freshman at Minnesota during Panagos’ lone season, and ended up starting 24 games in 32 appearances with 55 tackles, four sacks and an interception with the Gophers. He transferred to Texas ahead of the 2023 season and had recorded two tackles, both in the opener against Rice, entering Saturday’s game.
Texas has consistently been the most prolific state in terms of producing college football players, and KU’s roster features 15 Texans, highlighted by standouts such as Bean, wide receiver Lawrence Arnold, guard Ar’maj Reed-Adams, defensive lineman Tommy Dunn Jr. and kicker Seth Keller. However, most are from the Houston area or the Metroplex.
The Jayhawks’ Austin natives include freshman receivers Keaton Kubecka and Hunter Luke and redshirt sophomore lineman De’Kedrick Sterns. Hybrid player and special teamer Torry Locklin is from Rockdale, a small town about an hour from Austin proper. (He got his first career snap at Texas in 2019.)
Leipold alluded to Kubecka’s homecoming in particular Monday, noting that the freshman, who did not travel to Nevada because he was sick but saw some snaps against BYU, will continue to contribute going forward.
“I don’t see us pulling back and redshirting him at this time,” Leipold said. “What he has shown, really, is that he’s been able to handle the load and the moments that we’ve asked him to step in.”
KU running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. is in his fourth year with the program but had yet to play against Texas prior to Saturday, largely due to hip injuries that caused him to miss the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
“That’s actually something that I always dreamed about, playing against Texas, growing up in Oklahoma,” he said Wednesday.
Hishaw, who is from Moore just south of Oklahoma City, said he grew up as more of an Oklahoma State fan, but that he would take Oklahoma’s side in the Red River Rivalry against Texas.
The Jayhawks got him involved early Saturday and he was featured in perhaps the game’s most baffling play, as he recovered teammate Bean’s fumble and took it all the way for a score.
This and that
Texas and Kansas met for the 17th time Saturday, all since 2000, but it was the first matchup in which both teams were ranked.