LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels, the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year, is expected to start the Jayhawks' opener against Missouri State on Friday night after dealing with a back injury that limited him in fall camp.
Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold made the announcement Monday while revealing the team's first depth chart of the season.
“We just released the two-deep, and that's kind of where we're at right now and where we're going,” Leipold said. “He hasn't practiced a lot, but he went through everything today, and yeah, we're planning on playing everyone who is available.”
Daniels generated some Heisman Trophy buzz while leading Kansas to five straight wins to start last season. But he hurt his shoulder the following week against TCU, sidelining him the next four games and putting a halt to that momentum.
Daniels returned to lead the Jayhawks to their first postseason game since 2008, a 55-53 triple-overtime loss to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl. He threw for 544 yards and five touchdowns while running for another score in the game, once more showcasing what made him one of the most entertaining players in college football early in the year.
Daniels finished with 1,014 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and four picks while running for 425 yards and seven scores.
He was limited throughout spring football by the shoulder injury, then the back tightness popped up in fall camp. Leipold said it didn't prevent Daniels from practicing entirely, but it was enough to limit his reps ahead of backup Jason Bean.
After the Jayhawks open against Missouri State, they face a significant step up against Illinois. But the risk of aggravating Daniels' injury against a team from the Football Championship Subdivision that Kansas is heavily favored to beat apparently was not enough to dissuade Leipold and offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki from sitting him Week 1.
“That's the balancing act we have to do here,” Leipold said. “We're getting him as much work as we can, as many different ways as we can. He's been getting work; he's been doing things. To make it sound like he's never practiced the last two weeks is not accurate, either. We're confident. Unfortunately for him, it's something he's gone through before, getting little reps and where he is at, but I think we're in a good spot with him.”
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