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What it would take for KU QB Jalon Daniels to be in the Heisman race

He was in the conversation early on in 2022; can he get there again in 2023?

6 min read

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels would be the first person to tell you that individual accolades and honors don’t mean much to the players on the current KU football roster.

They’re nice, to be sure. And those that come often are the result of the team having a fair amount of success, which is the top priority for every player, coach and staff member in the program.

But while winning is the No. 1 goal for the Jayhawks, it also tends to lead to more individual recognition. That means watch lists, early award trackers, weekly honors and more.

We saw some of that last year and could see more this year.

Daniels will likely be at the core of most of that, just as he was a year ago when, through five weeks of the 2022 season, he had become a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

Odds for the 2023 Heisman winner came out this week, and Daniels was a pretty deep long shot at 100-1.

According to odds posted at FanDuel Sportsbook, USC QB Caleb Williams is the heavy favorite at 5-1. Williams won the award in 2022 by a wide margin. No other player is even in single digits for the 2023 trophy, and only five players have odds that are better than 18-1.

The whole thing got me thinking about what it might take for Daniels to actually win the award.

The first thing is wins. Lots of them. Everyone knows that. While the Heisman is an award that honors individual performance, it very rarely goes to a player on an average team. The four or five guys who wind up getting invited to New York City for the Heisman festivities typically are on the nation’s best teams.

So, the Jayhawks are going to have to win — and win big — for Daniels to even be mentioned in the conversation. At 5-0 a year ago, they were on pace to do so, and his numbers, both through the air and on the ground, made him a legitimate player to add to those early-season Heisman watch lists.

Now, let’s take a look at the numbers Daniels would have to post to have a real shot to win the award if the Jayhawks do actually wind up winning enough to put him in the mix.

It’s long been known that the Heisman Trophy has become a QB award. Six of the last seven winners were quarterbacks. And, dating back to the year 2000, 19 of the 22 winners this century also have been quarterbacks, with only Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (2020) and Alabama running backs Derrick Henry (2015) and Mark Ingram (2009) taking home the hardware from another position.

So, let’s look at the last six QBs who won the award to see what kinds of numbers they posted. They’re pretty eye-popping and Daniels is going to need to get close to them or exceed them in order for (a) Kansas to win a bunch of games and (b) him to be in the mix for the award if the Jayhawks do win.

2022 – Caleb Williams, USC
4,537 yards passing, 42 TDs, 5 INTs, 67% completion rate
382 yards rushing, 10 TDs, 113 carries

2021 – Bryce Young, Alabama
4,872 yards passing, 47 TDs, 7 INTs, 67% completion rate
0 yards rushing, 3 TDs, 81 carries

2019 – Joe Burrow, LSU
5,671 yards passing, 60 TDs, 6 INTs, 76% completion rate
368 yards rushing, 5 TDs, 115 carries

2018 – Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
4,361 yards passing, 42 TDs, 7 INTs, 69% completion rate
1,001 yards rushing, 12 TDs, 140 carries

2017 – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
4,627 yards passing, 43 TDs, 6 INTs, 71% completion rate
311 yards rushing, 5 TDs, 97 carries

2016 – Lamar Jackson, Louisville
3,543 yards passing, 30 TDs, 9 INTs, 56% completion rate
1,571 yards rushing, 21 TDs, 260 carries

As you can see, those six QB Heisman winners recorded a per-year average of 53 combined touchdowns, 4,600 passing yards and 600 rushing yards. That’s a MONSTER year.

Even if you took the low end of all of those stats, you’d still be looking at 3,500 passing yards and 30 TDs with another 3-5 touchdowns and 300+ yards on the ground. Oh, and you’re talking about an average completion percentage of 68%. And, let’s face it, in order to put up yardage and TD totals like those, you have to be pretty damn accurate.

So, how does all of this relate to Daniels and the pace he was on last season before the injury? Not terrible, not great.

Before he was injured late in the first half of Game 6, the KU QB was on a four-game pace to finish the regular season with 2,670 passing yards, 33 TDs, 3 INTs and a completion rate of 71%.

Add into that his ability as a rusher and you could’ve projected another 978 yards and 12 TDs on the ground on roughly 114 carries.

All combined, if Daniels had continued at his four-week pace and not been injured, he would’ve finished with just over 3,600 total yards and 45 TDs. Those are obviously good numbers, but they fall a little short of Caleb Williams’ 2022 numbers and well short of the per-year average of the six most recent QBs who won the Heisman.

It’s worth noting that Daniels saved his best for last last season, lighting up the Liberty Bowl for 544 yards passing and 5 touchdowns with another TD on the ground. And it’s also worth mentioning that Daniels is stronger, faster and more experienced/confident entering this season than he was a year ago.

Still, it’s going to take monster-type numbers for Daniels to play his way into the Heisman conversation again in 2023. And even bigger numbers for him to stay there through the end of the season.

Interestingly enough, one of the QBs not named Caleb Williams who enters the 2023 season with the best odds to win the Heisman is LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, who is listed by Fan Duel as a 10-1 pick at No. 2 on the list.

Aside from how close their names are to one another, KU’s Daniels has another connection to the other Daniels. Current KU offensive lineman Spencer Lovell played with Jayden Daniels at Arizona State during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

“Jalon kind of reminds me of (him),” Lovell said of Jayden Daniels this spring. “You’ve got that dual threat, too. And that’s really nice to have. That takes big pressure off the O-Line. The difference with Jalon is Jalon’s able to command the huddle and stuff. His ability to lead is something that really stands out to me.”

They don’t necessarily give out trophies for that last part, but that can lead to wins. The rest will be up to what Daniels does with his arm and legs.

The Jayhawks are set to open the 2023 next Friday night versus Missouri State at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

Fresh off of a 6-7 season in 2022 and the program’s first trip to a bowl game in 14 years, the Jayhawks will enter the 2023 season picked to finish ninth in the 14-team Big 12 Conference standings and with an over/under win total number of 6.5 at FanDuel.

After next week's opener, the Jayhawks will host Illinois the following Friday and travel to Nevada on Sept. 16 to round out their non-conference slate.

KU will open Big 12 play against conference newcomer BYU on Sept. 23 in Lawrence and will close out September with their final trip to Texas to take on the Longhorns on Sept. 30.

— For tickets to all KU athletic events, visit

2023 KU Football Schedule (all times central)

Sept. 1 – vs. Missouri State, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

Sept. 8 – vs. Illinois, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Sept. 16 – at Nevada, 9:30 p.m. (CBS Sports)

Sept. 23 – vs. BYU (Time and TV TBA)

Sept. 30 – at Texas (Time and TV TBA)

Oct. 7 – vs. UCF (Time and TV TBA)

Oct. 14 – at Oklahoma State (Time and TV TBA)

Oct. 21 – BYE

Oct. 28 – vs. Oklahoma (Time and TV TBA)

Nov. 4 – at Iowa State (Time and TV TBA)

Nov. 11 – vs. Texas Tech (Time and TV TBA)

Nov. 18 – vs. Kansas State (Time and TV TBA)

Nov. 25 – at Cincinnati (Time and TV TBA)