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Kansas QB Jalon Daniels ready to play after missing most of 2023 season with back injury

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels said he would be ready to play a game now. Coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks just need him to be ready for the season.

Daniels missed most of last season with a back injury, playing just three games before the end of September.

“I try not to ask Jalon Daniels more than once a week how he’s doing because I know everybody asks him that question,” Leipold said Wednesday at Big 12 media days. “He wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t think he was ready for this season. I can tell you that.”

The Jayhawks were ranked fourth in the Big 12 preseason media poll, largely due to the expectation that Daniels will be healthy. They open the season Aug. 29 at home against FCS team Lindenwood.

Daniels threw for 2,014 yards with 18 touchdowns and ran for seven more touchdowns in 2022, but was limited to 705 yards and five TDs passing with none rushing last season.

“I’m excited to see what Jalon does for us this season,” Leipold said. “He’s doing everything the doctors, coaches and strength and conditioning staff are asking him to do, and I can’t wait for August.”

Climbers finish better

West Virginia coach Neal Brown and his team remember being picked last year to finish at the bottom of what was then a 14-team league.

The Mountaineers instead went 9-4 overall, with a 6-3 mark in the Big 12.

“There’s no doubt we rallied around that. I stood up here a year ago, and we were picked 14th and I said we’re not going to be here. And our team proved me right,” Brown said Wednesday. “And I said that a year ago because I knew what we had on both fronts.”

West Virginia, which finished last season on a three-game winning streak, is now ranked seventh in the expanded 16-team Big 12.

The coach believes that people are perhaps underestimating his team once again.

“It’s the same thing today … with a team that finished strong last year, has a lot of production and has one of the most dynamic players in all of college football in quarterback Garrett Greene,” Brown said. “I think there’s a similar dynamic that works with this team as well. And, more importantly, for me, on a personal level, I think some of our players are underrated.”

Big 12 Alumni Council

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Andre Ware are among 32 former student-athletes to make up first Big 12 Alumni Council.

The council announced Wednesday that it includes two former athletes, one male and one female, from each of the 16 schools that will make up the league when Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah officially become members of the Big 12 in early August.

“As we enter a new chapter as a 16-team league, the ideas and perspectives of the Big 12 Alumni Council will be an incredible resource,” said Commissioner Brett Yormark.

Other board members include gold medal-winning softball pitcher Jennie Finch, who played in Arizona's Women's College World Series championship, and Cincinnati alumnus Kevin Youkilis, who won two World Series with the Boston Red Sox.

Before becoming a three-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, Young threw for 7,733 yards and 56 touchdowns in 34 games for BYU from 1981-83. Ware won the Heisman Trophy in 1989 with Houston after throwing for 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns that season. Griffin won the award at Baylor in 2011, when he threw for 4,992 total yards and 47 touchdowns (37 passing/10 receiving).

The Big 12 said council members will provide advice and insight on a variety of topics, including but not limited to brand building, athlete relations, storytelling and digital content.

Homecoming for Fritz

New Houston coach Willie Fritz is already fielding requests for tickets to a Big 12 game near his hometown.

The Cougars will play on Oct. 19 against Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. The stadium is less than 20 miles from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, where Fritz was born and attended high school.

“It’s going to be fun. I’ve had, I don’t know how many people… I just got back from Kansas City a couple weeks ago and I’ve had hundreds of requests for tickets to play there,” Fritz said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a busy weekend for my wife handing out all the tickets.”

Fritz has been a head coach for 31 years, the last eight at Tulane, but now, at age 64, he is coaching in a power conference for the first time. He replaced Dana Holgorsenwho was fired by Houston after going 4-8 in the school's inaugural Big 12 season.

“I went to Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, and they were also called the Cougars. I guess it was going to happen one way or another,” he said.

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