Kansas QB Jalon Daniels ready to play after missing most of '23 with back injury

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels says he could be ready to play a game now

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels said he would be ready to play a game now. Coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks just need him to be ready for the season.

Daniels missed most of last season because of a back injury, playing in only three games before the end of September.

“I try not to ask Jalon Daniels more than once a week how is he doing because I know everybody asks him that,” Leipold said Wednesday during Big 12 media days. “He wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t think he was going to be ready to go for this season. I can tell you that.”

The Jayhawks were picked fourth in the Big 12 preseason media poll, much of that certainly based on the expectation of Daniels being healthy. They open the season Aug. 29 at home against FCS team Lindenwood.

Daniels threw for 2,014 yards with 18 touchdowns and ran for another seven scores in 2022, but was limited to 705 yards and five TDs passing with none on the ground last season.

“I’m excited to see what Jalon will do this season for us," Leipold said. “He’s doing everything that doctors, trainers, strength coaches are having him do, and I can’t wait to get to August.”

Mountaineers finish better

West Virginia coach Neal Brown and his team remembers being picked last year to finish at the bottom of what was then a 14-team league.

The Mountaineers instead went 9-4 overall, with a 6-3 record in the Big 12.

“There’s no question we rallied around that. I stood up here a year ago, and we were picked 14th and I said we wouldn’t be there. And our team proved me right,” Brown said Wednesday. “And I said that a year ago because I knew what we had on both fronts.”

West Virginia, which finished last season on a three-game winning streak, is now picked seventh in the expanded 16-team Big 12.

The coach believes people may be underestimating his team once again.

“Now it’s similar .... with a team that finished strong last year that returns a lot of production, that has one of the most dynamic players in all of college football in (quarterback) Garrett Greene,” Brown said. “I think there’s a similar dynamic that works with this team, too. And, more importantly, to me on a personal level, I believe some of our players are undervalued.”

Big 12 Alumni Council

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Andre Ware are among 32 former student-athletes who will make up the first Big 12 Alumni Council.

The council announced Wednesday includes two former athletes, one man and one woman, from each of the 16 schools that will make up the league when Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah officially become Big 12 members at the start of August.

“As we enter into a new chapter as a 16-team league, the insights and perspectives of the Big 12 Alumni Council will be an incredible resource," Commissioner Brett Yormark said.

Other council members include gold medal-winning softball pitcher Jennie Finch, who was part of a Women’s College World Series championship at Arizona, and Cincinnati alumnus Kevin Youkilis, who won two World Series with the Boston Red Sox.

Before Young was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, he threw for 7,733 yards and 56 touchdowns in 34 games for BYU from 1981-83. Ware was the 1989 Heisman winner with Houston after throwing for 4,699 yards and 46 TDs that season. Griffin took home that award at Baylor in 2011, when he had 4,992 total yards and 47 touchdowns (37 passing/10 passing).

The Big 12 said council members will provide guidance and insights on a variety of topics, including but not limited to brand building, athlete relations, storytelling and digital content.

Homecoming for Fritz

New Houston coach Willie Fritz is already getting requests for tickets when he gets to play a Big 12 game close to home.

The Cougars play Oct. 19 against Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. That stadium is less than 20 miles from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, where Fritz was born and attended high school.

“Well, it’ll be fun. I’ve had, I don’t know how many people ... I just got back from Kansas City a few weeks ago, and I’ve had hundreds of requests for tickets when we go up there and play," Fritz said. “I’m sure that’ll be a busy weekend for my wife doling out all the tickets.”

Fritz has been a head coach for 31 years, the last eight at Tulane, but now at 64 is coaching in a power conference for the first time. He replaced Dana Holgorsen, who was fired by Houston after a 4-8 record in the school's inaugural Big 12 season.

“I went to Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, and they were also nicknamed the Cougars. I guess this was going to come to be one way or the other,” he said.

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