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'Zero panic with Bean' in Jayhawks' season-opening victory

Years of growth and maturity put second-string KU QB in position to shine in Week 1 win

5 min read
Kansas quarterback Jason Bean prepares to deliver a pass downfield during the Jayhawks' season opener against Missouri State on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. [Chance Parker photo]

As recently as two weeks ago, Kansas football coach Lance Leipold talked about his admiration and appreciation for the growth and maturity that quarterback Jason Bean has shown throughout his time with the KU program.

Leipold did not know then that he and the Jayhawks would need every ounce of that maturity from Bean during their season-opening, 48-17 win over Missouri State on Friday night.

But, boy, did they get it.

With Bean starting in place of Jalon Daniels, who sat out because of lingering effects of back tightness, the super-senior quarterback completed 22 of 28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Jayhawks to a 1-0 start.

“You guys that are here in the room with me every week, how many times have I talked about Jason Bean’s improvement,” Leipold began after Friday’s win. “I have, haven’t I? He just continues to get better and he’s done everything we’ve asked. All those things that we challenged him to be better at, he has. Really happy for him.”

For many teams, the thought of playing the opener without their starting QB would be cause for panic. Not Kansas.

“Zero panic with Bean,” KU running back Devin Neal told R1S1 Sports after Friday’s victory. “Just because we know how confident he is and we’re confident in him. We know what he can do. We weren’t worried about anything with him.”

Like Leipold and so many other Jayhawks, Neal has grown close with Bean through the past few years and his up-close view of the QB’s development in all areas of life has been inspiring.

“I’m just proud of the man he’s become,” Neal told R1S1. “Because, for a moment, he didn’t have much confidence, but he plays with his heart on his sleeve and it’s really cool to see just how much he cares about this program. He even came back for it. (If he hadn’t), we might’ve been in trouble, with an inexperienced guy next up.”

Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki likes to tout the fact that, with Daniels and Bean at quarterback, the Jayhawks are one of what has to be just a few teams in the country to have multiple QBs on the roster who have won games at the Power 5 level.

The number is 22, to be exact.

But few programs have leaned on both of theirs the way Kansas has with these two.

That’s been of little surprise to former North Texas offensive coordinator Mike Bloesch, who had Bean when he was young and saw in him then the potential for Bean to become special.

A big part of that, Bloesch said, came from the fact that, after being hired in January of 2020 and doing most of their offensive installation over Zoom because of the pandemic, Bean showed an ability to pick up everything rather quickly.

“I think Bean’s super-smart,” Bloesch said in a phone interview with R1S1 Sports. “He was super-intelligent as a young quarterback and always very competitive and confident in his ability. Those are the things that make him such a good player.”

Bloesch said Bean’s elite speed were his most obvious strengths during the year he worked with him as a redshirt freshman in 2020. But as the years have gone by, and Bloesch has caught parts of Bean’s games at Kansas, he was not surprised by the fact that his former QB has displayed the total package as a passer and a runner.

“It initially started off with Bean being a package QB for us,” Bloesch told R1S1. “We knew he could throw the heck out of it, but what’s always made him unique is his speed and how he can move. Even then he was the fastest QB I’ve ever seen.”

And therein lies the perfect way to illustrate the growth that guys like Leipold, Neal, Kotelnicki and so many other Jayhawks have enjoyed seeing from Bean.

Despite still possessing those wheels that put him on the college football map, on Friday it was Bean’s arm, savvy, intelligence and poise that led the Jayhawks to victory.

Bean did rush for 41 yards on 5 carries. And on a night when Kansas scored four rushing touchdowns, Bean playfully joked about his disappointment that none of them were his.

Even Leipold marveled at how far the KU QB has come as a runner, noting that, two years ago Bean immediately ran laterally whenever he saw or felt any opposing jerseys get near him but now likes to attack and turn upfield.

“I’ve been through a lot here, and even just in college football,” Bean said. “I’ve played a lot of snaps and I just try to utilize those snaps and the lessons I’ve learned in the past to try to make myself that much better.”

That mindset and commitment to his craft and this team has led to Leipold’s unending praise. And both the experience and the adulation from his coach have put Bean in a place where, as KU’s backup or starter, he loves the position he’s in.

“We see quarterbacks now that are on school four around the country. This young man stayed here, and I admire that,” Leipold said. “It’s a great story and I’ll always remember (it) even when his days are done here, because the growth of Ja-son Bean — not just as a quarterback, as a young man — has really been fun to watch.”

For Bean, praise like that “means everything."

“He’s the one that allowed me to come back for another year and I’ll be forever thankful for that,” he said of Leipold. “I’ve grown so much and I’m very thankful for this year. I’ve learned a lot from him and I’ll hold onto these things that I’ve learned from him for life and I’m very thankful for the relationship that we have.”

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