Kansas football coach Lance Leipold let the cat out of the bag in Phoenix, after the Jayhawks’ bowl win over UNLV, when he sat at the podium with Jason Bean, Lawrence Arnold and Luke Grimm and said, “two of these three will be back” while answering a question about what’s next for the program.
On Tuesday, the two players he was referring to — Arnold and Grimm — made it official with announcements that fit both of their personalities.
First was Arnold, who announced his plans to return via Twitter with two simple words: Unfinished business.
A few hours later, Grimm followed with a similar no-frills type of announcement. He chose to use three words, though: Run it back.
Both announcements included a photo of themselves from last month’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl win in the desert, which gave the program nine wins for just the sixth time in Kansas football history.
With that, the Jayhawks are now guaranteed to be returning their top two receiving threats from the recent 9-4 season — Arnold led the way with 782 yards and 6 TDs on 44 receptions and Grimm was second with 33 catches and 6 TDs for 555 yards.
Fellow-wideout Quentin Skinner, who has not officially made any kind of announcement about his future, finished second in receiving yards, with 587, third in receptions (29) and fourth in touchdown receptions (2).
If all three are back, the Jayhawks will have four of their top five pass catchers back for Jalon Daniels in 2024. Running back Devin Neal, who reportedly has told the coaching staff he will return in 2024, was fifth on the team in receptions (25) and receiving yards (217).
“It means the world,” Leipold said of those types of players returning to the program for another season. “In today’s college football world, it’s very easy to hit the eject button. And I hope some of (our) stories are maybe the good story about what this can be if you just stay with it. Good things will happen.”
It’s rare for a record-setting quarterback like Jason Bean to be leaving and the expectations for the offense to stay as high as they were with him.
But that’s exactly the case with this Kansas team, with former starter and one-time Heisman Trophy candidate, Jalon Daniels, coming back and expected to be healthy.
Daniels will have weapons galore to work with during his expected return to the starting lineup next season. And while many of them will be familiar faces who he has fed the ball to in the past, all of them will be more experienced, more talented, more dynamic versions of their former selves.
All of that should make life easier for new KU offensive coordinator, Jeff Grimes, who is replacing Andy Kotelnicki and will work closely with longtime Leipold assistant and co-offensive coordinator Jim Zebrowski.
Grimes was hired in mid-December and he attended the bowl game in Phoenix. On his Twitter account, a couple of days after the win over UNLV, Grimes made it clear that he likes what he has in that trio of wide receivers at the top of the stat sheet.
In response to a video replay of one of Arnold’s three touchdowns against the Rebels — which showcased both Grimm and Skinner blocking downfield to get Arnold into the end zone — Grimes wrote:
“In a very short time, I’ve seen that these dudes (for me, “The 3 Amigos” if you’re old enough to know) love each other & play for each other. This type of bond is special!”
Having all three of them back with a player like Daniels running the show and Neal beside him in the backfield should make this Kansas offense one of the best in the country entering the 2024 season.
There will be some rearranging that needs to be done on the offensive line, but that group will have experience, too. And with tight ends Jared Casey and Trevor Kardell back, as well, the loss of senior tight end Mason Fairchild should have a minimal effect on the offense, as well.
These weren’t shocking announcements by Arnold and Grimm. But they were big nonetheless.
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