KU football provides sneak peek of 2024 at Spring Showcase

photo by: Chance Parker/Special to the Journal-World

The Kansas offense huddles during the spring showcase at Rock Chalk Park on Friday, April 12, 2024.

The Kansas football team introduced fans to its 2024 squad at the annual Spring Showcase on Friday night, treating a crowd of loyal fans to a cycle of practice drills followed by about an hour of scrimmage action.

The event was held at KU’s soccer complex at Rock Chalk Park, at one of the four fields on which the Jayhawks have practiced this spring with David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium under construction (to put it lightly).

“I thought it was neat,” head coach Lance Leipold said. “Nice environment, great crowd, band did a great job, nice intimate setting, something different. Really, for these (types) of events at this time of year, I thought it was great. Something I wish we would have thought of sooner for games on grass and things.”

While the action represented, by design, only a very loose approximation of what the Jayhawks will look like in the fall — and in fact, the imminent spring transfer window could reshape them even further — it still provided some highlights and some relevant personnel information to the public.

Daniels takes the field at last

KU starting quarterback Jalon Daniels took meaningful reps in a public setting — albeit a casual one — for the first time since his back injury sidelined him for the final 10 games of the 2023 season.

After tossing the ball around with reserve quarterback Ben Easters and taking some seven-on-seven snaps alongside fellow first-teamers Devin Neal, Trevor Kardell, Luke Grimm, Quentin Skinner and Trevor Wilson (Lawrence Arnold was on the sideline with his leg in a cast), Daniels opened up the first 11-on-11 drive with KU’s first-team offense.

“Amazing just to see him back out in action, getting him around the team more and all the action back,” the wide receiver Skinner said. “It’s good to have 6 back in the mix.”

On that initial series, in one of the highlights of the night, Daniels uncorked a deep ball to Skinner down the right sideline for the sort of impressive diving catch that Skinner often makes routine.

“He had some reps yesterday, got him some more today,” Leipold said. “He’s been throwing all spring, and for him to get out in front of people, I’m sure, I think makes a lot of people a little less (inclined to) speculation of things. He’s throwing, throwing it deep, throwing it all over.”

Daniels was replaced by Cole Ballard later in the series, which ended with a short field goal by Charlie Weinrich.

“Inside of practice, I’ve seen his attention span go to even sharper things,” Skinner said of Daniels. “He may not be able to take snaps but he’s guaranteed right behind Coach (Jim Zebrowski) or Coach (Jeff) Grimes, behind someone, still going through reads, still helping the young quarterbacks too, doing everything he can in his possible power to where he’s getting back fully healthy and getting back fully and back in motion.”

New faces get first-team reps

While it may be difficult to put too much stock in Spring Showcase personnel groupings, the offensive-line combinations were worth noting given the ongoing center battle between veteran Michael Ford Jr. (typically a guard) and Tiffin transfer Shane Bumgardner.

Ford snapped the ball to first-team quarterbacks Daniels and Ballard in the early going, although perhaps most notable was the choice of longtime reserve Nolan Gorczyca over Iowa State transfer Darrell Simmons Jr. as the first guard playing adjacent to him.

Gorczyca later played some tackle as well, with Simmons joining him in the lineup.

“I think we’re finding some answers upfront with the departures that we’ve had and finding the moveable pieces,” Leipold said.

Safety Jalen Dye, who only had the chance to play sparingly last season, got action early and often in the defensive backfield, including when Marvin Grant was working, as promised, in the hybrid Hawk or “Cinco” role against opposing three-wide receiver packages. (Dye has also spent some time at Cinco himself.)

Dye made one of the event’s best defensive plays when he wrestled the ball away from walk-on wideout Hunter Luke on a quick hitch route from Isaiah Marshall and took it back the other way for a touchdown.

“I sat at the sticks, he broke out like six yards, came, made the tackle — well, (I) was about to tackle him, the ball was right there so I stripped it from him, started to run,” Dye said.

Alex Raich, a redshirt senior and former JUCO transfer from Switzerland, also saw some early snaps at Hawk.

Weinrich kicked field goals for the first-team offense, though he and fellow kickers Tabor Allen and Owen Piepergerdes were pretty much perfect on the night. Of note, starting punter Damon Greaves held for Weinrich, whereas last year backup punter Grayden Addison served as the primary holder.

Leipold said the kicking game has become “a little more consistent” in recent days.

“Charlie’s done a really nice job here, and it’s pretty close in, really, percentages,” Leipold said. “Tabor Allen has been more consistent than he’s ever been in the field goal area, and then Owen’s got the strongest leg of the group. He’s found his rhythm a little bit better here in the last couple practices.”

Veterans see minimal action

As promised, Leipold, who has frequently questioned what utility a hardcore spring scrimmage experience could possibly provide for some of his veteran players, did not give them many reps Friday night.

Daniels was just one of a handful of KU veterans who saw little to no time on the field, including running backs Neal and Daniel Hishaw Jr., cornerbacks Cobee Bryant and Mello Dotson and safeties O.J. Burroughs and Marvin Grant.

By the time the Jayhawks reached the closing minutes of the scrimmage, both sides were fielding walk-on- and freshman-heavy lineups.

“I think we got a lot accomplished,” Leipold said. “Had a chance to see some young players play in this type of environment under the lights. Again, a great learning environment for another practice-slash-scrimmage.”


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