Daniels reiterates readiness, eagerness for 2024 season

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

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels looks to make a throw during practice on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lawrence.

Las Vegas — Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels has received the same question innumerable times in recent months, from teammates, family and denizens of Lawrence: “How are you feeling?”

“I try not to ask Jalon Daniels more than once a week how (he is) doing,” head coach Lance Leipold said on Wednesday at Big 12 media days. “Because I know everybody asks him that.”

Daniels said he actually appreciates the question, because it shows just how much people care about his well-being. But the curiosity from the public mounted over the course of last season, during a campaign that saw Daniels, the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year, miss nine regular-season games due to recurring back tightness, the second year in a row an injury caused him to miss significant time.

So, one more time, how is he doing?

“I feel like right now, I’ve already ramped up to where I would be if I was playing a game tomorrow,” he said.

Daniels emphasized that he no longer experiences the episodes of intense pain that plagued him throughout last season: “That’s exactly why I’m glad to be where I’m at today, 1,000% better than where I was during the season. It was a lot going on, but mentally, physically, emotionally, I’m here today.”

Daniels, who spoke to assembled reporters for the first time since September on Wednesday at Allegiant Stadium, said he felt “almost everything” discussed in the public about him during his injury absence was wrong.

“I never had intentions on leaving the program,” he said. “Never had any ill will towards any of my teammates. If I was able to be there for my team, I would have been there. People had questions about me not traveling to certain games; physically I couldn’t travel to certain games.”

He added: “I’ve always said I didn’t go to college football to not play college football. Nobody goes through all the offseason workouts, all the offseason meetings and everything that you have to go to, (in order) to on Saturday, when you’re finally doing everything that you did to play, to not play the game.”

The outcome should be different during the 2024 campaign, when his head coach expects him to be consistently available.

“Our goal and our expectation is that Jalon will play every snap he’s able to play, dictated by score more than health,” Leipold said.

Leipold also expressed the belief that “if there would be an instance that Jalon’s not available, the growth of especially Cole Ballard, who got thrown to the fire last year, is going to put us in a good position.”

Daniels has had a front-row seat for much of that growth. He said he watched film with Ballard (then a freshman and a former walk-on) last season and tried to play the role that former KU quarterback Miles Kendrick had for Daniels during Kendrick’s own injury in 2021.

“That kid has a mind of his own,” Daniels said of Ballard. “He knows exactly what’s going on, when it’s supposed to be going on.”

Daniels has also been extremely complimentary of early-enrolling freshman Isaiah Marshall, from Detroit, who has received frequent comparisons to Daniels himself.

“Isaiah came in asking me all the questions in the world, making sure he hits my phone up,” Daniels said. “… And quite frankly, I like the fact that he can lean on me that way. Because I didn’t necessarily feel like I was able to do that my freshman year.”

Ballard and Marshall may represent the future of the program, but Daniels is firmly ensconced in the present after working his way back into action over the course of the spring.

“It was a wonderful feeling to be able to get back grinding with the guys again,” Daniels said. “As a competitor, it sucks not being able to compete, especially with the guys around you, because at the end of the day, you’re out there, blood, sweat and tears with those guys. And when you can’t be out there with them, (it) kind of hurts.”

photo by: AP Photo/Lucas Peltier

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels answers questions from the media during Big 12 NCAA college football media days in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

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