With Daniels’ return, Grimm has chance for breakout campaign

photo by: MIke Gunnoe/Journal-World photo

Kansas wide receiver Luke Grimm pulls in a catch for a touchdown against BYU on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

One of the most potent aspects of the Kansas receiving corps under Lance Leipold and Terrence Samuel is that even with the same players remaining in fairly well-defined roles for years at a time, any player can have a breakout game at seemingly any moment.

In the 2022 Liberty Bowl, Luke Grimm had 10 catches for 167 yards after combining for nine catches for 91 yards in his previous three appearances. At Oklahoma State last season, Quentin Skinner had two catches for 91 yards, both for touchdowns, after going two weeks without a catch. And at Iowa State, Lawrence Arnold put up the Jayhawks’ only 100-yard receiving performance of the regular season, including a game-changing 80-yard touchdown.

But that’s not to say that every receiver has been operating under totally identical circumstances from game to game or season to season.

After leading KU in receiving in 2022 with 623 yards, Grimm took a step back to 555 in his fourth season in Lawrence on 19 fewer catches. Also worth noting, though, is that in 2022, Jalon Daniels started nine games at quarterback for KU, compared to just three in 2023.

And over the course of the last three seasons, Grimm has consistently received a higher quantity and share of targets when Daniels is at quarterback, which means that if Daniels can stay healthy in 2024, Grimm, during his final year of eligibility, should be one of the primary candidates for a breakout season on the offensive end.

According to Pro Football Focus, in 14 games started by Daniels since the beginning of 2021, Grimm has received 86 targets, compared to 74 in 21 games not started by Daniels (primarily catching passes from Jason Bean).

That’s more than two and a half additional targets per game when Daniels is starting.

For comparison, Arnold, Skinner and tight end Mason Fairchild have received nearly identical quantities of targets in Daniels and non-Daniels games. Arnold has gotten about 0.7 more targets per game with Daniels, Skinner 0.4 and Fairchild has drawn a nearly identical 2.6 targets regardless of starting quarterback.

One of the only players with the opposite trend is reserve wideout Trevor Wilson, who received more than double the number of targets per game when Daniels was out of the lineup (3.4 vs. 1.6). Wilson and Bean frequently talked about their special connection; on an October edition of the “Hawk Talk” radio show, Wilson said, “We’ve been friends for a while. We were roommates once. Just (from) late-night practices with Bean, he just knows exactly where it’s supposed to be.”

This year will be Grimm’s last chance to take advantage of his own particularly potent connection with Daniels.

It was on full display last year during the Illinois game, and especially in the final moments before halftime when the quarterback escaped three pass rushers, rolled all the way to the right sideline and delivered on the run to Grimm for a 48-yard contested catch.

“Honestly, it wouldn’t be the first time I took a one-on-one decision with Luke Grimm,” Daniels said after that game. “I have all the faith in that guy to be able to make the play no matter who is guarding him.”

Daniels ended up playing just two more games on the year due to a frequently reaggravated back injury, but so far all indications out of KU are that he will be ready to go when the season rolls around. Leipold said on a recent edition of 810 WHB’s “The Program” that Daniels “went through everything that we wanted him to do this spring” and that the offense will not be limited with him returning to the starting role.

That sets up Grimm quite nicely for success after another offseason of improvement, particularly focused on seeing the game from different perspectives.

“All of us (are) just getting more mature, understanding each other’s games, understanding the offense,” he told reporters during the spring. “Really this year, once we get out there, we’re understanding what the defense is doing, where years before, it’s like we’re trying to master our offense. Now it’s like we’ve got it there, we’re four years into this, and so we’re trying to study film of DBs, the defense that we’re playing.”

Samuel, the receivers coach, also mentioned in spring practice that his charges are beginning to understand their own offense on a deeper level. He has given the veterans a chance to sit in on quarterback meetings.

“You would only do that with guys that you know care, they want to get better, they want to have aspirations,” he said.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Journal-World photo

Kansas wide receiver Luke Grimm strikes a pose for the cameras after scoring a touchdown against BYU on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.


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