Kansas running back Dylan McDuffie fitting in well with new team this spring

photo by: Matt Tait

Kansas running back Dylan McDuffie chats with reporters after the team's seventh practice of spring football on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

One of the biggest indications of the turnaround Lance Leipold is building with Kansas football surfaced during a recent interview with new KU running back Dylan McDuffie.

A 6-foot, 220-pound redshirt senior from Buffalo, New York, McDuffie came to Kansas to rejoin the head coach and coaching staff for which he played from 2018 to 2020 at the University of Buffalo.

But it wasn’t just the familiar names and friendly faces that enticed McDuffie to join the Jayhawks.

“I would definitely say winning was a big factor for me,” the running back said during a media session following the seventh practice of the spring on Monday. “That’s something I want to do. I’ve experienced winning with coach Leipold before so I know the possibilities of what he can do when it comes to putting a program and putting a team in a position to be successful.”

For years, players of all shapes, sizes and talent levels revealed that they chose KU because they hoped to be part of the group that restores winning in Lawrence. Now, players are coming to Kansas because of the winning that has taken place.

There’s still work to be done in that area, of course. Leipold and McDuffie, along with the other 100-plus people associated with the program today would say verbatim that this program is nowhere near where it wants to be.

But it’s closer to that point today than it was before Leipold arrived, and McDuffie has seen that firsthand in his reunion with his former coach.

“I think the coaches did a great job of getting everybody already assimilated to the culture by the time I got here,” he said Monday, when asked if players on the current Kansas roster have picked his brain about how this coaching staff works.

Buffalo running back Dylan McDuffie (8) scores a touchdown over Coastal Carolina safety Alex Spillum (10) during the first half of an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 in Amherst, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Leipold on Monday said that adding a player like McDuffie has been helpful in more ways than one. In addition to already knowing the playbook and the personal styles of several KU coaches, KU’s newest running back arrived on campus already familiar with the expectations within the program.

While that helped him dive right in, it also has served the team well while McDuffie has, at times, been the only fully healthy scholarship running back available for spring drills.

“His work ethic, his understanding, he understands what we expect in practice as far as our pace, our tempos, our finishes and he’s been outstanding,” Leipold said of the Georgia Tech transfer, who played one season at GT after four years at Buffalo. “The week before spring break he was the only scholarship back available and he took a boatload of reps and that kind of helped him acclimate himself to this offense again.”

But it wasn’t just carries or a heavy workload that McDuffie was seeking when he decided to leave Georgia Tech. In fact, Leipold recently told the story about the physical running back sending him videos of him excelling on special teams rather than with the ball in his hands, hoping that would convince his old coach to save him a spot.

It worked, and now, with Devin Neal and Sevion Morrison limited this spring, it may pay off in more ways than anyone could have imagined.

If nothing else, McDuffie figures to bring depth to the Kansas backfield. But he also hopes that the work he puts in during the next five months will lead to a spot alongside Neal, Morrison and the other Kansas running backs when the 2023 season rolls around.

On Monday, he pointed to his “multiplicity” and ability as a runner, pass catcher and blocker as the things that bring value to the team. But make no mistake about it; it’s the physical part of the game that gets him most excited.

“I like running guys over and I love contact,” he said. “I want to get them filthy four yards we need on inside zone consistently and be a guy that can break big plays when that defense is wearing down, and they don’t feel like tackling no more, just break it loose and ice the game away.”

While any program has an adjustment period to go through when new faces arrive and veterans leave town, McDuffie said his ability to bond with his new teammates has gone great, particularly with the other running backs.

“Definitely welcoming,” he said. “Aside from all the football stuff, those guys are my brothers already. All of them. We’re a talented group, we’re a deep group so we’re just going to keep pushing each other to get better and consistently striving to make KU the best team in the country.”

Leipold said creating that peer appreciation was a key part of any successful program.

“They have to earn it through the coaching staff but they also have to earn it through the locker room,” the KU coach said. “And I think Dylan’s been able to do that in his short time here with the program.”

McDuffie credited the entire KU roster for making him feel at home quickly, noting that his familiarity with the coaches and even a couple of other former UB players made him feel right at home.

“I tell them that all the time,” he said. “It’s a different place, different jersey, different logo, but the culture’s the same, the energy’s the same, that’s why I expect to win pretty big this year.”


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