Folks ... I hope you’re sitting down for this.
Kansas football might be fun again.
After what feels like ages sitting in the doldrums of college football, Kansas football might be not only fun, but competitive at the sport. The Jayhawks are 2-0 and are fourth in the nation in points per game, sitting at a tidy 52.5 points per outing.
What’s exciting, however, is the way that the Jayhawks are creating explosive and sustainable offense. Kansas head coach Lance Leipold has said before that his offense is based on effectively running the football, but also wanting to have the ability to take shots downfield. In his second year with the Jayhawks, the scheme is finally matching up with the personnel.
So let’s talk about Kansas’ offense, and why they’re making the Jayhawks must-see.
Diverse personnel pairings and varied offensive schemes
Lance Leipold is a wide zone based offensive coach. Last year the outside zone scheme made up a majority of what the Jayhawks wanted to run, but they ended up running inside zone 128 times, by far the leading concept in their offense according to Sports Info Solutions(SIS). They also only ran any option-based play once. Their EPA per run ended up being -0.171.
This year, the Kansas offense looks like they’re leaning more into the triple option (college football writers and extremely online people rejoice), but it’s not the service academy triple. According to SIS, the Jayhawks have run some form of the triple option on 22 snaps, fifth most in the nation, and the only four teams above them run a true under center triple option. Leipold and the Jayhawks are using triple option principles, but from the shotgun, allowing their stable of athletes to get out in space while also manipulating eye discipline and creating advantages through motion and different personnel.
Kansas running the triple but from the gun! pic.twitter.com/QmsDZI2yjO— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) September 15, 2022
The Jayhawks have a tough stable of backs, but what stands out is only one of them are below 200 pounds. They’re all strong runners between the tackles, but shifty enough to make you miss. Devin Neal is the star of the group, and the former Honorable Mention All-Big 12 back combines great vision with toughness between the tackles to lead the group.
The triple option principles are so cool from the gun because you can still play with defenders eyes. Against Tennessee Tech, Kansas would run the triple option multiple ways, from a full house like shown above, or with a receiver becoming the pitch man after going in motion. The Jayhawks would keep giving the ball to the back over and over, until the moment that a safety’s eyes get out of place. Then they’re off to the races.
Love how the triple forces defenders to keep eye discipline, because if you don't, this happens: pic.twitter.com/ciGcaPuFpG— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) September 15, 2022
Kansas can run this offense out of any personnel too. They use Jared Casey (he of 57-56 lore) as a fullback/H-back, digging out any second level defenders. They can get into 12 personnel (2 tight ends and one running back) and force teams to keep their base personnel on the field.
Against West Virginia, this ability to manipulate second-level defenders eyes is on perfect display. The Jayhawks line up with two backs in the backfield, and a tight end off the line of scrimmage. The Jayhawks look like they’re running the triple with split zone action, and they’re hoping to manipulate the defenders who are at the second level. This is for the linemen, and creating better angles. Those guys are circled here:
The split zone action combined with Neal (4) running behind QB Jadon Daniels moves the linebackers and the safety that’s in the middle of the field, creating a massive hole for Daniel Hishaw Jr. to run almost untouched into the endzone:
At a school where you can’t necessarily recruit every four and five star in the country, creating advantages through deception and eye manipulation is crucial, and the Jayhawks under Leipold are doing that this year.
The Jayhawks also have an offensive line that returned four of its’ five starters from a unit that allowed only 17 sacks and 133 pressures, 16th in the nation (min. 100 passing attempts). Through 2022 the unit has only allowed five pressures and hasn’t given up a sack. These guys go to WORK, and it’s fun to watch:
Kansas returned 4/5 starters from an OL that helped KU average 4.4 yards per carry and was 17th in pressures allowed. Watch these dudes go to work on GT Counter, plus Jared Casey (47, he of 57-56 lore) pic.twitter.com/GMLxQbhQTe— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) September 15, 2022
The passing game has also popped for the Jayhawks this year, and that’s mainly because...
Kansas QB Jalon Daniels is a DUDE
The 6’0, 215 pound junior played in six games last year and won the starting job in the spring, but he has full control of this offense. With the way the Jayhawk offense can manipulate eyes at the second level, it pries open passing lanes that Daniels hits with accuracy:
What stands out the most about Daniels though is how aggressive he is as a passer. Leipold himself says he wants to take shots downfield, and Daniels shows not only the decisiveness to take those shots, but the arm strength to pull it off. This is play action off of a split zone look, and Daniels sees he has his receiver in a one on one going downfield. It leads to this rainbow of a throw:
Daniels is a good football player, man. Kansas’ signal caller has the athleticism to run point in this offense, but also create for others downfield:
Kansas QB Jalon Daniels...hello pic.twitter.com/pZk0EnCvWZ— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) September 14, 2022
So far, Daniels is 23rd in the nation in total EPA and is 31st in the country in adjusted net yards per attempt, at 9.4 yards every time he throws the ball. Not only is he adding EPA, he’s doing it while throwing the ball almost at the sticks every time he drops back. Oh, and he’s also throwing an on-target pass 82.2% of the time. Seems like a good QB to me.
The Jayhawks’ schedule will inevitably get harder, potentially starting this Saturday when they play Houston. The Cougars have a fast and physical defensive line, so the offense will be tested early and often. However, should the Jayhawks come out with a win...we might have to discuss the possibility of the Jayhawks not only being fun, but ranked.
I know, crazy world right?