Nine Jayhawks have caught TD passes from QB Daniels in four wins: ‘I can believe it’

Gary Bedore, KC Star

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels completed passes to a season-high 11 receivers in a 48-30 victory at Houston during week three of the 2022 college football season.

He connected with nine pass catchers in each of KU’s three other games — wins at home against Duke last Saturday and Tennessee Tech on Sept. 2 and at West Virginia on Sept. 10.

In all, nine Jayhawks have caught passes for touchdowns through four games — the variety of targets certainly causing headaches for opposing defensive coordinators who have seen the Jayhawks average 48.5 points a game heading into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. home game versus Iowa State.

“I can believe it,” redshirt sophomore receiver Lawrence Arnold said of the Jayhawks’ large number of receivers catching passes in games, “because our receiver room … we all can go. Everybody in our receiver room can run. We can all block. We all have the same attributes but are used differently.”

Luke Grimm, a 6-foot-0 junior from Raymore, Missouri, leads the receiver room with 15 catches for 162 yards and two TDs through four games. Arnold, a 6-3 sophomore wide receiver from DeSoto, Texas has 14 catches for 194 yards and a TD and Quentin Skinner, a 6-5 sophomore receiver from Claremore, Oklahoma seven catches for 124 yards and a TD.

“Even our running back room, Torry has a receiving touchdown,” Arnold said of Torry Locklin, a 6-2 junior from Rockdale, Texas, who has one catch for a 60-yard TD. “The tight ends have receiving touchdowns. Everybody who runs routes ... we have touchdowns in every room as far as receiving. Coach K (Andy Kotelnicki, offensive coordinator) knows his offense. He knows the guys and what we can do. He uses everybody in the offense well.”

Indeed, KU’s tight ends have accounted for four TD receptions. Mason Fairchild, a 6-5 senior from Andale, Kansas, has four catches for 20 yards and two TDs; Jared Casey, a 6-0, 255-pound sophomore from Plainville, Kansas five catches for 55 yards and a TD and Trevor Kardell, a 6-5, 250-pound sophomore from Lee’s Summit four catches for 61 yards and a TD.

Running backs Daniel Hishaw and Devin Neal each have caught a TD pass and each have three receptions in four games — Hishaw for 95 yards and Neal 31 yards.

Other targets who have caught passes from Daniels but have not yet scored TDs: receivers Tanaka Scott, Kevin Terry (three catches apiece) and Steven McBride (two) and running backs Ky Thomas (two) and Sevion Morrison (one).

“The things we run are not meant to get one specific person open. The plays we run are meant to get everybody open, to exploit the defense,” Arnold said. “He (Kotelnicki) uses all the receivers. He uses us in different ways. I like that.”

Daniels on target in 2022

Of course it takes Daniels to successfully execute the offense.

Daniels, a 6-0, 215-pound junior from Lawndale, California, has completed 66 of 93 passes for 890 yards and 11 TDs in undefeated KU’s four wins. He also leads the team in rushing with 320 yards on 38 carries for an 8.4 yards per carry average.

KU’s 48.5 points per game scoring average is fourth-best in the country.

“We have a quarterback who can get out of the pocket and look downfield,” Arnold said of Daniels. “J.D. goes through his progression well. He reads the defense well. We all find our own zones. The routes we are running now … they are going to be open.”

Arnold said Kotelnick’s offense also is unpredictable. The Jayhawks’ running game has accounted for 14 TDs, seventh best mark in the country. The Jayhawks have gained 246.0 yards on the ground per game, eighth best mark in the land. KU is averaging 7.8 yards per play which ranks third in the country. The Jayhawks have punted seven times all season, which is tied for the third fewest punts nationally.

“There’s never a doubt in my mind about what Coach K is going to call. I know it’s going to work,” Arnold said of Kotelnicki. “In my head, 100% the play is going to work. If one side of the play is not working, the next progression of the play is going to work. I love being in this offense. Playing with J.D. ... for a receiver it’s a dream come true, playing with a quarterback who can do everything.”

Offensive coordinator praises QB

Kotelnicki on Wednesday praised Daniels’ work through four games and the squad’s many practices..

“He still approaches every day with, ‘I want to get better.’ And so, diving into what the game plan is, the calls, protection checks, all those kind of things, the details that you have to be really well versed on week to week because it resets every week,” Kotelnicki said.

“He comes in every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday with the idea of, ‘OK. today, what are we doing to get better?’ We talk about it all the time when our meeting’s called — it’s called’ tilling for snakes.’ It worked for a guy way back in the day who was with Hayden Fry for all those years at Iowa, and he said Hayden Fry used to say all the time: ‘We’re tilling for snakes. We’re looking for some small detail, some small, minute thing that gets us all on the same page that helps us win a football game on one snap. Because you never know when that one snap is going to come up.’

“So his (Daniels) constant tilling for those snakes, his constant drilling for, ‘OK, what about this? How are we going to handle this? What do you want here? OK.’ He continues to do that every week.”

“There’s always stuff to get better at,” Daniels said. “I feel I’ve done a pretty decent job this season but there’s a lot of stuff on film I can clean up. To see we’ve been able to do this and there’s more to be able to do, is exciting. To be able to get better pocket presence, being able to see when the blitz comes, different pressures.”

Daniels can count on help from a plethora of players, a plethora of pass catchers as the season progresses.

“You have to always add and evolve,” Kotelnicki said of the offense. “You add tweaks and you look for inspiration, or other ways to make sure that you’re moving forward as an offense. And like I said, you’re not being stale and you’re not doing the same things over and over again.”

With as many receivers KU has implemented, being stale obviously has not been a concern.