Expectations near all-time high for KU

LAS VEGAS (KWCH) – The Kansas Jayhawks are looking to take the next step in their program-building journey, going from a mere bowl qualifier to a Big 12 championship contender.

While the Jayhawks return some crucial pieces on both sides of the ball, all eyes are on center where one of the nation's top signal-callers returns after an injury-shortened 2023 campaign.

In Las Vegas this week, quarterback Jalon Daniels is among the Jayhawks representing KU at Big 12 Media Days. Daniels spoke about the importance of staying focused on the daily tasks to improve, not dwelling on past failures or looking too far ahead.

As he looks forward to returning to the field for the Jayhawks' home opener on Aug. 29, Daniels spoke about his role last year, doing what he could from the sidelines to help his team succeed.

“The ultimate competitor in me was absolutely hurt by that because you see your guys going out there, you see them going out there every Saturday playing their hearts out and there’s not much you can do except be that vocal guy and try to be there as much as possible when you can’t be there physically,” he said.

Kansas' backup quarterback play has kept the Jayhawks in contention for most of the 2023 season, capped by a record-breaking performance from Jason Bean in the Jayhawks' 49-36 Guaranteed Rate Bowl win over UNLV. But with Daniels on the bench, for some fans, there was a sense of “what if.”

The 2024 season brings expectations for KU that the program hasn't had in more than a decade. A preseason poll of media members ranked the Jayhawks fourth in the Big 12 standings. A schedule in which the Jayhawks will be favored in most games suggests a top-three finish.

Another key element that justifies the increased expectations for KU is the return of All-Big-12 running back Devin Neal. At Big 12 Media Days on Wednesday, Neal said he and his team are accepting of the expectations and hope to reach the expanded College Football Playoff.

“It’s been extremely difficult, but we love pressure, we love challenges and we tackle them head on. We embrace those challenges and I know we’re all very excited,” Neal said. “We’re hungry, we’re determined for the season because there’s a lot more to come out of this season than just a nine-win season or a bowl game. We want to go to the Big 12 championship, a playoff spot and so on. So I know we’re very hungry and determined, for sure.”

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