Heisman winner Desmond Howard, on ESPN’s GameDay panel, praises KU Jayhawks’ offense

Gary Bedore, KC Star

Former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard didn’t expect to be taking recommendations for Lawrence restaurants — such as Johnny’s Tavern, and ice cream shops like Sylas and Maddys — during Week 6 of the 2022 college football season.

The 52-year-old ex-Michigan wide receiver and 11-year NFL veteran, who is a part of ESPNs GameDay crew, figured he’d be situated this weekend in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the Alabama-Texas A&M game, in Dallas for Texas-Oklahoma, or perhaps in Athens, Georgia for Auburn-Georgia.

Instead, here he is on KU’s campus for Saturday’s telecast ahead of a highly anticipated 11 a.m. contest between KU and TCU.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Howard said Friday, speaking to reporters from the ESPN GameDay set outside Booth Memorial Stadium, where the No. 19-ranked Jayhawks (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) on Saturday will play host to the No. 17 Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0).

Howard, Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, David Pollack and Lee Corso will be panelists on the GameDay telecast, which is scheduled to run from 8-11 a.m. Saturday before a marquee Big 12 showdown between undefeated teams.

“When you look at the season schedule and look at the games this week, no one anticipated us coming to Lawrence, Kansas,” Howard said. “But the special thing about College GameDay is we love going to new venues. It’s great when we can give programs the type of recognition they earned and deserved.”

Howard said he’s been preparing a GameDay look at KU’s explosive offense — one that has averaged 41.6 points and 422 yards per game. TCU averages 48.5 points and 550 yards per contest.

“Explosive, dynamic, fun to watch, very creative,” Howard said of the KU offense. “I love what I see. Fun offense.”

He said KU junior quarterback Jalon Daniels’ season has “been fantastic. It’s been outstanding. He’s surprised a lot of people.”

Asked about Daniels’ Heisman chances, Howard was a bit more reserved.

“It’s early in the season,” he said. “To be completely honest with you, as a (Heisman) fraternity member and as a (Heisman) voter, there are probably only three games throughout a whole season where you can really prove you belong in that fraternity. Tomorrow is going to be one of those games for him.”

Daniels, a 6-foot junior from Lawndale, California, has thrown for 983 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 335 yards and five TDs this season. TCU senior QB Max Duggan has passed for an almost-identical 997 yards and 11 TDs and rushed for 149 yards and two scores. Duggan, who stands 6-2, is from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

“There’s a lot of talk about KU, but TCU … you see them against Oklahoma, they’re kicking (butt) and taking names, too,” Howard said.

TCU pounded OU 55-24 last Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.

“They’ve got this quarterback, Max Duggan, who outran the whole Oklahoma secondary last week,” Howard said. “I’m just saying people need to start looking at the TCU team a little bit closer, too because it’s going to be a great matchup.

“Both have explosive offenses, both have great quarterbacks, dual-threat quarterbacks who can get it done with their legs and arms. As much as we talk about KU’s offense with Jalon, you have to also look at the flip side. That (KU) defense is about to go against a TCU offense which is pretty darn good too. We expect a shootout.”

Asked about the work of second-year KU coach Lance Leipold, Howard praised what Leipold has done.

“To see the quick turnaround … what we talk about may be a word that’s overused, but I think is appropriate here, is the ‘culture,’” Howard said. “He changed the culture. That’s when you get to see the fruits of your rewards on the field. Credit to Lance but his entire coaching staff, too. It’s a challenge to get kids to buy in. Once you get them to buy in, you’ve got ‘em. He got them to buy in quickly.”

KU also has a Hall of Fame basketball coach in Bill Self, and Howard was looking forward to a prime opportunity to visit with Self on Friday.

“After this (media session), we’re going to do ‘College Football Live,’ then I jet over to the basketball arena and watch the hoop team practice. I’m excited to be in Kansas. I love it,” Howard said.