Previewing the Quarterbacks: 74 Days Until Kansas Football 2024

We start the positional previews with the most important single player on the field.
Sep 23, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) throws a pass during the first half against the Brigham Young Cougars at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) throws a pass during the first half against the Brigham Young Cougars at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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We've once again reached the part of the countdown where we start breaking down the players that are on the roster for the Kansas Jayhawks. Each week, we will take a deep dive into one of the 10 main position groups, highlighting the key players to watch and giving you an idea of what to expect from the position this year. We start with a position that has both been completely unquestioned but also provided the most uncertainty in the last two seasons.

For the third straight season in a row, the Kansas Jayhawks have a lot of hype and excitement coming into the middle of the summer. Also for the third straight season, the quarterback situation is unquestionably resolved. But with injuries forcing the season's starter to miss significant time in each year of the Lance Leipold era, the rest of the room takes on some added importance.

Last Season

Kansas had three different players start a game during the season, thanks to significant injuries to both Jalon Daniels and Jason Bean during the season.

Player Name

Games Played

Games Started

Completions

Attempts

Yards

TDs

INT

Jalon Daniels

3

3

56

75

705

5

1

Jason Bean

12

9

124

199

2130

18

7

Cole Ballard

4

1

20

36

286

1

3

Once again, Jalon Daniels was the starting quarterback coming out of camp, with huge expectations as he was named the Big 12 Offensive Preseason Player of the Year. Unfortunately, he suffered a back injury in the offseason that lingered through all of camp, and Jason Bean received the first start of the season. Daniels was back to start the next three games, but was an extremely late scratch from the Texas game in Austin and was not able to play the rest of the season.

Jason Bean took over and clicked with the offense, helping to make an incredibly productive unit even more productive. But even he wasn't immune from the injury bug, taking a big hit in the first half against Texas Tech that knocked him out for the rest of the game and the next week against Kansas State.

Cole Ballard, a walk-on who worked his way up to third-string quarterback out of camp (and earning a scholarship in the process), was thrust into the starting role. He played well against Texas Tech and nearly led the Jayhawks to a victory over their in-state rival.

Cause for Concern

I feel like a broken record here, but the biggest issue for Kansas is keeping quarterbacks healthy and on the field. The third-string quarterback has had to play in each season of the Lance Leipold era, and having quarterbacks that like to run probably doesn't help with that.

Another common feature is that the Jayhawks are replacing a huge portion of their offensive line. Reliable center Mike Novitsky and starting left tackle Dominick Puni exhausted their eligibility, and Ar'maj Reed-Adams transferred out to Texas A&M. Despite all the talent coming in, Kansas is once again looking to introduce multiple key pieces that have never worked together.

Reasons for Optimism

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, starting with the electric play of Jalon Daniels. When he is able to be on the field, he has been fantastic. His command of the offense and vision on the field is in the upper echelon of the sport, and if he can stay healthy he has a real shot at a Heisman invite this season.

On the offensive line, Kansas is bringing in a LOT of talent. We'll talk more about this in the offensive line preview, but there are plenty of guys that have a bevy of talent and experience that should give the Jayhawks plenty of options to find a great combination.

Projected Two-Deep

Starter: Jalon Daniels

This one is a no-brainer. Daniels is the clear leader of the team, and while there are some talented backups, none of them have the level of experience that Jason Bean did the last two seasons when there was a legitimate question. His connections with the receivers and running ability is a huge asset that can't be ignored.

Backup: Isaiah Marshall

Cole Ballard was phenomenal in his third-string role last season, but Marshall is being talked about in ways that are very similar to Daniels when he first arrived in Kansas. During the spring showcase, the arm talent of Marshall was evident, and his running ability gave a very consistent look. If the backup does need to play in this offense, then Marshall is the natural fit.

But Ballard will likely be the third-stringer again, and he has the ability to step up in a pinch. Expect him to be the guy if Kansas needs another guy off the bench. And if something happens early in the season, he might be the most ready to step up for a short-term role.

Coaching Staff

Jim Zebrowski leads the quarterbacks coaching staff again, and his recent promotion to co-offensive coordinator won't really affect that. He has done a phenomenal job for the Jayhawks in the last three seasons and the prior four years for Leipold at Buffalo. He gets the credit for the development of Daniels and Bean, and his recruiting has brought in back to back high level commitments from Marshall this season and David Combs for the 2025 recruiting class.

Overall Thoughts

The Jayhawks do not have the clear-cut best situation in the conference this season, especially with some great quarterbacks coming into the conference in Arizona's Noah Fifita and Utah's Cam Rising. But Daniels has shown that he can be just as good as the rest of them, and the backups seem to have a very strong base in this system.


Published
Andy Mitts

ANDY MITTS

Andy Mitts is an alumnus of the University of Kansas, graduating in 2007. He previously covered the Jayhawks at Rock Chalk Talk and is now the editor-in-chief at Blue Wing Rising. He hosts the Kansas-themed Rock Chalk Podcast, and is VP of Membership of the Ten 12 Podcast Network. Follow him on Twitter @AndyMitts12.