KU football’s QB competition still TBD as Lance Leipold takes over
photo by: Chance Parker
Lance Leipold won’t have to worry about disrupting the status quo at quarterback as he takes over the Kansas football program.
There is no incumbent. No preordained starter for the Jayhawks. Not even a QB who made a claim for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart during the spring.
The status of the competition remained static from the beginning to the conclusion of spring practices, just before Leipold was hired as the new head coach.
Senior Miles Kendrick, when asked recently about the QB race, said the “biggest goal” for the QBs throughout the spring was to make one another better as they all tried to improve individually.
“Let’s all elevate everybody in the room and just compete,” Kendrick said of the collective approach among the QBs. “From the seniors, all the way down to the freshmen, let’s hold each other accountable, compete and just get better.”
Spring ball concluded for the Jayhawks just as Leipold arrived. And while Kendrick technically started at QB in KU’s spring game, the senior and sophomore Jalon Daniels split most of the reps during the open scrimmage.
Kendrick, now in his fourth season with the program, went 17-for-29 passing in the spring game, with 103 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Daniels, the second-year QB from Lawndale, Calif., completed 11 of his 23 throws, for 93 yards, with one interception and no TDs.
Veteran walk-on Miles Fallin played some during the scrimmage, too, and freshmen Ben Easters and Conrad Hawley each briefly checked in before the final seconds ticked off the fourth quarter clock.
Asked in the days leading up to the spring game whether any separation occurred in the QB competition over the course of the Jayhawks’ five weeks of practices, Kendrick revealed little in his response.
“I don’t think we’re really worried about separating one guy form another,” Kendrick said, adding the quarterbacks wanted to show improvement at every practice and put a good product on the field.
Both Daniels, who started six games in 2020, and Kendrick, who started two, may have exited the spring as co-leaders in the race. But both figure to be challenged during preseason practices by incoming transfer Jason Bean.
Involved this past fall in a QB competition of his own at North Texas, before he entered the transfer portal and chose KU, Bean started in seven of the Mean Green’s 10 games in 2020. Bean finished with a 54.5% completion percentage (79-for-145), and threw for 1,131 yards, with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions in eight appearances.
Also known for his running ability as a QB, Bean averaged 6.2 yards per carry, while rushing for five TDs in 2020.
Recruited by receivers coach and passing game coordinator Emmett Jones, Bean is expected to officially join the roster this summer.
With KU’s starting QB situation still to be determined, Kendrick said he wasn’t sure how the next few months will play out. But the veteran said the QBs will continue to hold each other accountable.
“I think this summer’s going to be big for the quarterbacks,” Kendrick said, “as far as just leading off the field, leading in the weight room and leading in those player-led practices.”
With the odd timing of KU’s coaching change, Leipold and a number of new assistants weren’t in place for the Jayhawks’ spring practices. When preseason practices begin in late summer, KU is expected to have both a new offensive coordinator, Andy Kotelnicki, and QBs coach, Jim Zebrowski — both worked for Leipold at Buffalo.
Kendrick, even before the hire was announced, downplayed the difficulties that may come with the Jayhawks experiencing staffing changes after spring ball concluded.
“There’s always challenges — new staff or the same staff,” Kendrick said. “At the end of the day you’ve still got to prove yourself, you’ve still got to work hard and you’ve still got to be a part of the team and part of the family.
“None of that changes,” he added. “The family remains the same and the goal remains the same, and that’s just to get better each and every day.”