How quarterback Jaylon Daniels leads Kansas to surprise undefeated showdown against Duke

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The key to college quarterback success is stored in Brent Dearmon’s laptop. That’s where it holds the proprietary next-level analytics — if you think of a basic next-level Microsoft Excel file, proprietary and analytic.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard that,” said Dearmon, FAU’s offensive coordinator. “I’m a mathematician.

This is a good place to start for this week’s best underground rags to riches success story.

It’s Dearmon, a former Kansas offensive coordinator who is largely credited with discovering Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels. It’s Daniels who is largely responsible for leading Kansas to its first 3-0 start in 13 years.

The season’s best feel-good early story, this side of the Appalachian State spreads out from there, like Crimson and Blue ink spilled on a white tablecloth.

It features a string of failures at a basketball school that just needed a football program to be proud of.

Featuring Les Miles, Charlie Weis, David Beaty and Turner Gill. And the loss. So much waste.

“People probably didn’t expect it,” second-year KU coach Lance Leipold said of the Jayhawks’ comeback. “It’s uncharted waters for them.”

So much so that the first sellout at Memorial Stadium in three years will witness a showdown between undefeated teams that looks more like the Final Four: Kansas vs. Duke.

So much so that Leipold himself is seen as a shortstop should Nebraska come.

So much so that Durmon, who worked under Miles, saw things that others did not. There are 12 quarterback traits tracked by Dearmon in this Excel file. Of 12 features. The numbers are exploding of version of the general’s hit, which these days should be as good as anyone’s.

So much so that Daniels — an undersized, little-known prospect with a smile that could light up the world — certainly has the game to carry a program.

“JD, when I put in all the numbers, he ranked up there with some of the fours and fivesstar quarterbacks in the country,” said Dearmon, who made his breakthrough as a KU senior offensive consultant in 2019.

“I loved him, I took him [his tape] to the offensive coordinator. I took him to the recruiting coordinator. Everyone’s catch was, “Is he tall enough?” The ball comes out of his hand unlike any man I’ve ever seen. He escapes.”

Daniels is out of Lawndale High School, located just miles from LAX and Los Angeles Beach. He was in the same recruiting class as California signal callers Bryce Young, DJ Uiagalelei and CJ Stroud. Somehow, it was overlooked. As a three-star prospect rated No. 2,305 overall by 247Sports, maybe that’s Why was overlooked.

“In that Los Angeles area, it’s kind of under-recruited because there are so many of them [great quarterbacks]Dearmon said. “I thought it got lost in the shuffle because of all these big names.

Durmon heard about Daniels from Sam Fisher, a private quarterbacks coach in Southern California who couldn’t get the kid off his mind.

Lawndale had won a state championship with Daniels in 2018, but Daniels ended up starting just two seasons. His only “West Coast” offers were from Eastern Washington and New Mexico State. Daniels knew he would have to leave home to make it, eventually committing to Middle Tennessee.

“I’ve never seen a ball travel 70 yards that fast in my life,” Fisher said. “Jalon was grinning from ear to ear; that smile has never left. Nothing was happening. I was completely shocked.”

This Excel file? Dearmon tracks basics like touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also watches the victory. It was enough for Durmon, who played quarterback at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee.

The height issue? Durmon and Fisher can’t figure it out. Daniels is 6 feet. Young just won the Heisman Trophy at 5-foot-11. Baker Mayfield is 6-foot-1.

“The old-school West Coast guys were like, ‘Oh, we want a 6-4 kid,'” Dearmon said. “That grew on you.”

It was all enough to keep Durmon on top of Daniels, who traveled from MTSU to Kansas just two days before signing his National Letter of Intent.

Daniels grew up in Kansas. When he started as a 17-year-old in 2020, he was putting balls back in his face and, figuratively speaking, his mind was kicking in. After the worst decade in program history (21-99 from 2010-19), the Jayhawks went 0-9 in Miles’ second and final season in 2020.

A few months later, Dearmon announced he was leaving for Middle Tennessee. The man standing at the table for Daniels in the staff room was now leaving his work behind.

Durmon looks back with sadness. If Daniels had stuck with his original commitment to Middle Tennessee, they would be together today.

“He kept it 100 percent with me the whole time,” Daniels said of Dearmon.

Now, some of the same offensive line protectors who surrendered a combined 63 sacks the past two seasons have allowed none of 70 attempts in 2022.

The Jayhawks enter Saturday in the top five in scoring (3.0 points per game, fourth), third-down conversions (68.6%, second), rushing yards (13, fourth) and yards per rush (7.13, second only in Alabama).

The only “Coach K” associated with Saturday’s game is Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki. It added a triple-option element to Daniels’ game.

Maybe you’ve already noticed. Jalon Daniels outplayed one of those California quarterbacks — former No. 1 overall recruit JT Daniels — in an overtime win at West Virginia. Jalon both ran (123 yards) and threw (three touchdowns) all over Houston last Saturday in a 48-30 upset.

Those wins marked the program’s first back-to-back wins since 2007.

But there were signs along the way. Daniels led one of the biggest upsets of 2021, throwing the game-winning two-point conversion in overtime to win at Texas. That snapped a 13-year, 56-game losing streak in Big 12 play. In that game, we saw what Daniels could become as he threw a career-high three touchdowns and ran for a then-high 45 yards.

The game was also a programming turning point for another reason. It was Daniels’ fourth game of the season. Due to a recent NCAA rule change, he could have finished his season there and retained an additional year of redshirt eligibility.

Instead, Daniels finished the season. That’s a big reason why the Jayhawks are where they are right now.

“She was one of the most selfless [program] things you’d like,” Leipold said. “It’s not common today. [Players say] ‘Where’s mine?’ He saw the big picture. To be where we need to be, it was a huge message.”

“If I quit like that,” Daniels added, “all momentum would have stopped.”

Leipold embraced it all. Twice this week he said he would stay at Kansas despite deep coaching roots in the state of Nebraska (Nebraska and Nebraska-Omaha from 1994-2006).

Leipold had gone 3-0 in previous stops at Wisconsin-Whitewater and Buffalo, but going 3-0 in a Power Five — even one like Kansas — is different. He and his players have been in demand in the national media this week.

In the past two weeks, former KU coaches Gill, Glen Mason and Mark Mangino have all arrived together.

All three know what it’s like to lose 10 games at Kansas, but Mason and Mangino finally turned the corner with the Jayhawks. win at least 10 games. In fact, Mangino — the last coach to start 3-0 — stays in touch with Leipold regularly by text.

Here’s one of them from Mangino: If you win in Kansas, they’ll be crawling on their heels for you.

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