Spring football notebook: Hanika out with leg injury

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas tight end DeShawn Hanika during practice on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lawrence.

One promising target for Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels will miss the rest of spring practice, as transfer tight end DeShawn Hanika is out with a leg injury, head coach Lance Leipold said Tuesday.

Hanika, a native of Topeka who previously played at Iowa State, was KU’s first pickup in the winter transfer portal window. He had received praise from offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes early in the spring as “very, very willing” and “very passionate about the game,” and was poised to emerge as a red zone threat alongside teammate Trevor Kardell.

Now his status going forward is uncertain.

“He had surgery, and that’s about as far as I’d like to go right now with that,” Leipold said.

Hanika, who is entering his final year of eligibility, had posted on X Monday night that he was “on the road to recovery.”

“Thank you to everyone that has reached out and offered their love and support!” he wrote. “Thank you to my teammates, coaches, and staff for having my back through this difficult time. I promise that I will do what I can to attack this rehab process!”

Leipold said that in his absence, players such as converted walk-on wide receiver Quinton Conley, onetime JUCO transfer Tevita Ahoafi-Noa and walk-on Dillon Mong will be called upon to step up, and that KU can also use different sets of personnel to mitigate the loss, for the moment, of one of its top three tight ends (along with Kardell and Jared Casey).

Adjustment process

Another transfer, Javier Derritt, a defensive tackle who played at North Dakota State, is taking some time to ease into action, according to his coaches. Leipold said that getting acclimated to the pace of KU’s practices and its system was “a little shocking, maybe.”

“But I’ve really continued to see him get better as well in understanding,” he added. “That’s a position that you’re going to rotate during a game and stay fresh and I think he’s definitely going to be able to help us.”

Position coach Jim Panagos said that Derritt, who had 90 total tackles and 11 sacks in five years with the Bison, has “some natural pass-rush ability you can’t coach.”

“He’s explosive, he’s got twitch, he’s got really light feet,” Panagos said.

He figures to be the main new face seeing time in a group headlined by returners Kenean Caldwell, Tommy Dunn, D.J. Withers and Caleb Taylor, after KU lost Devin Phillips and Gage Keys in the offseason.

Brown taking next steps down “weird path”

Logan Brown, a former five-star offensive line prospect, has been in college since 2019 and has played in 28 games with three career starts. Those starts came shortly before he was dismissed from Wisconsin midway through the 2022 season.

He committed to KU soon after, and could have fit in nicely behind tackles Dominick Puni and Bryce Cabeldue in 2023, but suffered an injury and eventually had season-ending surgery, as Leipold revealed following the team’s bye week. At that point Leipold said KU could seek a hardship waiver for Brown; now, he is still listed as a redshirt junior, meaning he would be eligible for two more seasons.

Brown described the injury issue as “frustrating but it was out of my control,” and credited both his grandfather and KU strength coach Matt Gildersleeve for helping get him through the adversity.

“(Gildersleeve) said something in the offseason — he said ‘Run your own race,'” Brown said. “That meant a lot to me because I’ve had a weird path to where I’m at now, so I’ve just been real focused on doing what I can do to control what I can control.”

Right now, Brown is positioned well to start at left tackle for the Jayhawks, or at least compete with local product Calvin Clements for playing time; however, Clements is out for the spring due to an injury of his own.

“Calvin started out really strong,” Brown said. “It was fun to watch him grow and do more from last season, even. It’s a shame but it’s part of the game.”

Ultimately, Brown said his focus going forward will be on continuing to get healthy. Leipold previously said that he and Cabeldue were both practicing, but not in full at all times.

“Still rehabbing from the injury,” Brown said. “I mean, you’re never really 100% anymore, so I’d say just keep my body ready … and get ready for fall camp.”

Another Leipold in the coaching ranks

Leipold’s daughter Lindsey has entered the coaching profession, despite what he did “to tell her what that’s like sometimes,” he joked Tuesday.

Lindsey Leipold played Division I volleyball at Stetson and has worked in athletic administration. Now, she will serve as an assistant coach at Florida Gulf Coast, the school announced Monday.

“I knew it might be trending (that way) when she said to me, ‘Dad, I really miss being part of a team,'” Leipold said, adding that he and his wife Kelly were “awful proud” of Lindsey.

Leipold noted that unfortunately, he won’t be able to see much volleyball because it takes place during the fall, but “it’s beginning and she’s getting in on the ground floor.”

He and Kelly also have a son, Landon, who is a wide receiver for the Free State football team.


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