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Quentin Skinner's next step forward

After 2 years of mostly sitting & waiting, the KU receiver has improved his stats and his status, becoming a true play-maker in the process

5 min read
Kansas wide receiver Quentin Skinner gestures to the KU sideline and crowd after a reception against Sunflower State rival Kansas State earlier this month. [Chance Parker photo]

Kansas wideout Quentin Skinner has shown up an awful lot, during some of the biggest moments, in recent KU football games.

First was the two-touchdown performance in a loss at Oklahoma State.

Then, after continuing to work during the bye week, Skinner made one of the most memorable catches in the Jayhawks’ upset win over then-No. 6 Oklahoma — a grab down the field that was tipped and landed in his hands after Skinner had gone out of bounds and come back in.

He followed that up with two huge grabs in last week’s road win at Iowa State. The first, a 31-yard gain down the sideline, came early and helped set the tone for the KU offense. The second came later, when the game was much tighter, on 3rd and 8, with Skinner catching the ball while falling backwards and still managing to stay inbounds to complete the catch.

“Play-maker,” KU offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said recently, when asked what type of role a guy like Skinner fills and how important it can be. “When you look at the games that we’re playing, and they’ve all been close, that’s an over-arching theme is that you see guys who are showing up making plays. … It’s big time. And we need that.”

It also offers a very visible look at the growth made by KU’s entire offense during the last three seasons.

In the past, plays like those never seemed to go KU’s way. In fact, it was often KU’s opponents that made those types of game-changing, back-breaking plays. But now it’s the Jayhawks doing it, on top of their regular and real offensive production that comes from clean execution, elevated talent and an outstanding scheme.

Skinner’s key third-down grab in a recent road win over Iowa State (click on image below to see the play) was the perfect example of all of those things and how, when combined, they can lead to big things.

When asked about Skinner’s catch after the win, Bean said simply: “I trust those guys with my life.”

While that, to the non-sports fan, might seem a little dramatic, it’s certainly a critical part of success in college athletics. And Bean’s feelings on the matter have played a huge role in the Jayhawks’ stacking a second consecutive dream season on top of last year’s fun.

“I think it’s a good indicator of where they’re all growing together,” Kotelnicki said. “It’s a great indicator of what reps together look like on Saturdays. It’s a great indicator of what maturity and experience with one another looks like. … I think it’s a residual of practicing and doing it over and over again, being together and growing together.”

Earlier this month, Skinner was asked about that play and his fabulous catch — which wound up as the No. 2 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 that night, by the way — and he explained everything that goes into both making the catch and earning Bean’s trust.

“It was pretty difficult,” he admitted, noting that the catch came against Cover 2 Man defense.

“I ended up beating the corner, got past his shoulder, looked for it a little bit, saw the safety was playing on top so I almost kind of had to like pivot to where Bean was throwing, even before it left his hand,” he continued. “So, I adjusted my speed, saw it over my back shoulder and had to wait patiently for the ball and at the last second make the adjustment and just come down with it.”

After explaining the play in detail, Skinner went over a checklist of things he thinks about — some of them subconsciously — on every route he runs. And while that list covered everything from leverage and high-pointing the football to active hands, physicality within the route and where to position one’s feet and body to set up the toe drag near the sideline, he summed it up in succinct fashion.

“Strength, hands and toes,” he said. “Those are the three I really think of.”

So, how long did it feel like it took the ball to get to him on that particular grab at Iowa State?

“It’s a true 3 seconds,” he said, drawing out his words for emphasis before adding that the whole thing is a waiting game. “Hopefully the safety’s not moving too fast and hopefully the DB doesn’t react too quick.”

Neither happened and Skinner was able to make the highlight-reel catch en route to helping Kansas pick up an important road win.

Skinner followed up his midseason surge with 2 catches for 32 yards on 5 targets in a tough loss to Texas Tech and 2 catches for 23 yards on 3 targets in an even more gut-wrenching home loss to Kansas State. Both games came with freshman Cole Ballard taking the bulk of the snaps.

In Game No. 12 last weekend at Cincinnati, Bean returned from the head injury that knocked him out of those two games, and Bean led the Jayhawks in targets (5) and receptions (4), with his 72 yards finishing just two behind teammate Lawrence Arnold.

Throughout the season, Skinner talked about his connection with Bean and how he’s always been inspired by the way the KU QB has kept fighting and made everything he does about the team.

“Bean’s really grown as a man, he’s grown as a player, he’s grown as a leader,” Skinner said. “When he claps them hands and is ready to go, it’s on his vision, it’s his game.”

Regardless of who has been lined up at QB, Skinner has shown himself to be a reliable target for the Jayhawks this fall.

His total catches (27) and receiving yardage (507) are both up from a year ago, and his yards-per-catch average is up nearly two full yards to a whopping 18.8 yards.

Not bad for a guy who used to consider himself more of a defensive back than a wideout in high school, who walked on at Kansas and played in just two games during his first two seasons.

“Man, (it just shows what happens when) you give a kid an opportunity,” he said. “I’m just grateful and thankful for being able to play.”

As for his propensity to make those big catches, whether they wind up on highlight reels or not, both Skinner and Kotelnicki view that the same way.

“The best that we can do is put you in a one-on-one situation,” Kotelnicki said. “Can we win? And (he’s been) able to.”

Added Skinner: “In big time environments, big time games, it’s going to show the true play makers out on that field.”

He’s one of them. And he’s still got the bowl game and another season in front of him to add to his list of made plays.

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