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What to expect from KU at Big 12 Media Days

5 min read
The Big 12 Conference, this time with four new schools, is back in Arlington, Texas this week for the annual Big 12 Media Days event at AT&T Stadium. [AT&T Stadium Instagram photo]

Arlington, Texas — There was a time, not that long ago, when Kansas football sent its collection of players to the annual Big 12 Media Days event in mid-July, knowing they wouldn’t attract much attention.

That won’t be the case this year, when Jayhawks Jalon Daniels, Devin Neal, Kenny Logan Jr. and Rich Miller join head coach Lance Leipold on Day 1 of the event at AT&T Stadium with six other Big 12 programs.

In that group, you’ve got the conference’s preseason offensive player of the year in Daniels, a preseason first team all-Big 12 running back in Neal, one of the most productive defensive backs in the conference during the past couple of seasons in Logan and a linebacker, in Miller, who brings a dash of everything from a veteran presence and more familiarity with the coaching staff than anyone to entertaining stories and good one-liners.

Those credentials alone will help the KU quartet draw more interest and be deemed worth talking to by more than just the Kansas media. But so, too, will the fact that KU football under Leipold has shown to be on a real rise during the past couple of seasons.

As Leipold prepares to take his team into Year 3, with fan expectations and anticipation at a far greater level than it was prior to either of his first two seasons in charge, the four players who accompanied him to Dallas this week will be charged with telling the KU football program’s modern-day story.

No more automatic laughing stock. No more anonymous players sitting at breakout tables by themselves. No more last-place program sitting quietly in the corner, trying as hard to prove it belongs at the conference’s preseason hype party as it does on the field in the fall.

This group carries with it a serious strut, and that confidence is reflective of the way the rest of the roster and all of the Kansas coaches feel about the program these days.

It may not mean much today. As they say, games aren’t won in July. But it’s still significant for this program as a whole, which is still trying to gain respect and convince people that things really have turned.

There’s work to do in that department this fall — and in the seasons ahead — but in the here and now, this group of Jayhawks is living in a moment that very few former Jayhawks were able to enjoy.

Pride in the program and in themselves was always there in the past, but this bunch will walk into AT&T Stadium on Wednesday with more reason than many in recent memory to say they’re proud to play for Kansas.

Here’s a quick look at the four Jayhawks who will represent Kansas football among the biggest and best-known stars the Big 12 has to offer this week:

• QB JALON DANIELS – Now entering his second full season as KU’s starter — he started games in all three of his seasons up to this point — Daniels is not only the face of the program, he’s also the top returning QB in the Big 12 and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. His 2022 season, which was bookended by a stellar five-game start and his assault on the record books at the Liberty Bowl, was a breakout of sorts, but Daniels and his coaches have much bigger goals for his play in 2023, and we’ll start to hear about some of those today. Daniels is built for the spotlight and I expect him to look like a natural as talk of his preseason honor and the team’s expectations surround him at AT&T Stadium.

• S KENNY LOGAN JR. – The super-senior safety from St. Augustine, Florida was all but gone after the 2022 season, seemingly ready to move on to his professional career. But somewhere along the way Logan had a change of heart and now he’s back as the anchor of KU’s secondary. After announcing his return, he said seeing what KU was building and stepping away from it was too tough to do and he wanted to be back for another season of raising the bar. How well the Jayhawks are able to do that will be determined largely by the results on the field this fall. But it will be interesting to hear how high the bar has been raised thus far, in the offseason, and Logan will be the perfect guy to answer that question. It’s also always fun to listen to Logan talk about how badly he wants to take an interception of punt/kickoff back to the house. There’s little doubt that will come up, too.

• LB RICH MILLER – The former Buffalo transfer, who was second on the team with 94 tackles last season (Logan had 106, which ranked ninth in the Big 12), has seen KU’s linebacking corps improve around him and he’d be the first to tell you how exciting that is to him. Miller’s got great personality and a good head on his shoulders. At this point, it’s all about winning. If that means he plays a ton of snaps, leads the team in tackles and makes play after play, he’ll do it. If that means his workload is cut down and he helps mentor younger players and watches his teammates make just as many plays as he does, he’ll be fine with that, too. Miller’s the only newbie to Big 12 Media Days among this year’s KU crew. Daniels, Leipold, Logan and Neal all represented the Jayhawks here last season and they’re old vets at this kind of thing by now. It should be fun to see how well Miller responds to the stage.

• RB DEVIN NEAL – As his nickname suggests, the Lawrence High product is “the real deal,” and if it weren’t for the presence of his QB, Neal might be the flashiest dude on this team. Like JD6, the KU running back has style, flare and charisma and he isn’t afraid to show off all of it. He’s also a beast on the field and has taken to heart the important role he has played in helping get the program back on track. It meant something more to him, having grown up watching the Jayhawks struggle. And Neal’s heart, passion, drive and fire — along with his numbers — have been a huge part of not only the Jayhawks’ success but also forcing opponents to take this team seriously. He’s pretty serious when it comes to football and it shows in the way he prepares and performs. It should be fun to see him let loose a little in this environment while still reminding anyone who will listen that the Jayhawks remain a long way away from their biggest goals.

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