Daniels reiterates readiness and enthusiasm for 2024 season | News, Sports, Jobs

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels attempts to throw a ball during practice on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lawrence.

Las Vegas — Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels has been asked the same question countless times in recent months by teammates, family and Lawrence residents: “How are you feeling?”

“I try not to ask Jalon Daniels more than once a week how he’s doing,” head coach Lance Leipold said Wednesday during Big 12 media days. “Because I know everyone asks him that.”

Daniels said he actually appreciates the question, because it shows how much people care about his well-being. But the public’s curiosity grew over the course of last season, a campaign in which Daniels, the preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, missed nine games with recurring back pain, the second straight year that an injury caused him to miss significant time.

So, one more time, how is he doing?

“I feel like I’m already at the level I would be at if I were to play a match tomorrow,” he said.

Daniels stressed that he no longer experiences the episodes of intense pain that plagued him throughout last season: “That’s exactly why I’m happy to be where I am now, 1,000% better than where I was during the season. A lot happened, but mentally, physically, emotionally, I’m here today.”

Daniels, speaking to the media at Allegiant Stadium for the first time since September on Wednesday, said he felt “almost everything” said publicly about him during his injury absence was wrong.

“I never had any intention of leaving the program,” he said. “I never had any ill will toward any of my teammates. If I could have been there for my team, I would have been there. People had questions about me not traveling to certain games; physically I couldn’t travel to certain games.”

He added: “I’ve always said I didn’t go to college football not to play college football. Nobody goes through all the offseason workouts, all the offseason meetings and everything you have to go to, (to) come Saturday, when you finally do everything you did to play, to not play the game.”

That will likely be different in the 2024 season, when his head coach expects him to be consistently available.

“Our goal and expectation is for Jalon to play every snap he can, with score being more important than health,” Leipold said.

Leipold also indicated that he believes “if there is a time when Jalon is not available, the growth of Cole Ballard in particular, who got burned last year, will put us in a good position.”

Daniels has had a front-row seat to much of that growth. He said he watched film with Ballard (then a freshman and a former walk-on) last season and tried to fill the role that former KU quarterback Miles Kendrick had for Daniels during Kendrick’s own injury in 2021.

“That kid’s got a mind of his own,” Daniels said of Ballard. “He knows exactly what’s happening, when it’s supposed to happen.”

Daniels is also very complimentary of early Detroit draftee Isaiah Marshall, who is often compared to Daniels himself.

“Isaiah came in and asked me every question in the world, and made sure to call my phone,” Daniels said. “… And honestly, I like that he can lean on me in that way. Because I didn’t necessarily feel like I could do that my freshman year.”

Ballard and Marshall may represent the future of the program, but Daniels is firmly in the present after working his way back into action over the spring.

“It was a great feeling to be able to grind with the guys again,” Daniels said. “As a competitor, it sucks not to be able to compete, especially with the guys around you, because at the end of the day, you’re out there, blood, sweat and tears with those guys. And when you can’t compete with them, it hurts.”

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