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KU football roster racking up national attention

All-Big 12, national honors, comeback accolades and more are in play for several Jayhawks this fall

4 min read
Kansas football players gather together during preseason camp at the indoor practice facility on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. [Chance Parker photo]

With just one week remaining before Kansas kicks off the 2023 football season against Missouri State at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, the Jayhawks are prepared to enter the season with as much momentum as any KU team in recent memory.

Fan interest in opening day and the season as a whole is at its highest since the Mark Mangino days. The players themselves are brimming with confidence. And the coaching staff, which now has completed three spring sessions and three preseason camps appears to be operating in attack mode rather than still laying the foundation.

All of it has brought serious hype and expectations for the 2023 season, and several individual Jayhawks have seen some of those expectations land at their feet, as well.

Here’s a look at the various Jayhawks who were added to one watch list or another during the preseason.

Junior QB Jalon Daniels

  • Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (top upperclassman/senior QB on track to graduate)
  • Manning Award (best QB)
  • Walter Camp Player of the Year (top player)
  • Maxwell Award (top player)
  • Davey O’Brien Award (top QB)
  • Wuerfell Trophy (community service)

There are plenty of reasons to think the Jayhawks could take another step forward this fall, but few of them are as convincing as KU having its quarterback back. Daniels is poised for a monster season and his charisma, condition and can-do attitude appear to be at all-time highs.

Junior RB Devin Neal

  • First team preseason all-Big 12
  • Doak Walker Award (top RB)

The leading returning rusher in the Big 12 is stronger and more motivated than ever and carries as much belief as anyone on the roster that the Jayhawks are just getting started.

Junior RB Daniel Hishaw Jr.

  • College Football Comeback Player of the Year
  • Doak Walker Award (top RB)

After missing most of the 2022 season with a second consecutive serious hip injury — following a stellar start — the junior from Moore, Oklahoma, is 100% healthy again and determined to return to the player he was and help this offense reach new heights. The early indications are that Hishaw has been running as hard as ever. If he can stay healthy and put up the same kinds of stats he was last season before the injury, he could be a real threat to win the comeback award.

Junior CB Cobee Bryant

  • First team preseason all-Big 12
  • Chuck Bednarik Award (top defensive player)
  • Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back)
  • Bronco Nagurski Trophy (national defensive player of the year)

Bryant will have to have a monster season — while also putting up some serious stats — to earn consideration for the national defensive player of the year award. But he, like many of his teammates, is far more worried about doing whatever he can to help the team win first and thinking second about whatever individual honors might come his way as a result.

Senior TE Mason Fairchild

  • John Mackey Award (top TE)

The veteran Kansan was a second-team all-Big 12 pick last season and he’s eyeing a first-team nod this season. It’s hard to know if the targets and total numbers will be there for him to be in the hunt for the Mackey Award by season’s end, but if he keeps getting open at the rate he did last season, Daniels will likely find him and then you never know what can happen.

Senior OL Mike Novitsky

  • First team preseason all-Big 12
  • Rimington Trophy (top center)

The anchor of KU’s O-Line, Novitsky is back for one more season and hoping to see his group deliver similar results as last season, when they were among the best front fives in all of college football at keeping the quarterback clean.

Senior S Kenny Logan Jr.

  • Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player)

Logan could probably play five or six different positions if the KU coaches needed him to. But he’ll have to stick with his role as hard-hitting safety and kick returner. That’s enough to make him eligible for this award, but he’ll have to take a couple of kicks back for touchdowns and maybe add a pick-six or two, as well, to really draw the attention of the voting committee.

RS-Senior K Seth Keller

  • Lou Groza Collegiate Place Kicker Award (top kicker)

The first-year Jayhawk who had a strong season at Texas State in 2022 figures to be a significant — and much-needed — upgrade for the KU special teams. Keller has hit 37 of 43 field goal tries in his career to this point and he’s connected on all but one extra-point opportunity. The Jayhawks should no longer have to wonder about how risky it is to send out the field goal unit on fourth-and-long inside the opponent’s 35 the way they did a season ago and that should have a positive effect on both the point total and how KU’s offense can operate once it crosses midfield.

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