AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s another situation Saturday where the Texas Longhrons are preparing for uncertainy to a certain degree, and that’s in the form of two Kansas quarterbacks who are both very good at operating the Jayhawks’ offensive scheme.
Jalon Daniels, Kansas’ first-string quarterback, injured his right shoulder during a game against TCU on Oct. 8 and hasn’t played since. The backup, Jason Bean, has filled in admirably but the Jayhawks went from 5-0 to 6-4 with him running the offense. Daniels is close to returning, Kansas head coach Lance Leipold said earlier this week, and Bean was a limited participant in practice this week due to an injury he suffered against Texas Tech.
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Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian is going to find out who the Jayhawks will start at quarterback when everyone does, so all week his defense has been preparing for Kansas’ spread triple-option running and play-action passing game that has potential to give the Longhorns fits.
“They can tax you in the run game with the option to where you have to be very disciplined in defending every phase of the option game, and they do a nice job with their play-action passing game off of that,” Sarkisian said. “It’s that fourth layer to their offense where they get those chunks plays down the field.”
He said both quarterbacks can run well, but Bean, a transfer from North Texas, has better “straight line speed,” but said Daniels “has a really good feel for the game of football.”
“I think Bean may be faster, but Daniels has a knack for layering throws down the field and he’s very elusive and can slip out of tackles to extend plays,” Sarkisian said. “We have to prepare for the system, but it’s important to know in-game which quarterback is in there and how to defend them as the game goes on.”
Kansas is No. 2 in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 36.9 points per game, and they have the No. 4 rushing offense in the Big 12 with a 209.6 yards per game average. Kansas running back Devin Neal, along with whoever is playing quarterback, makes the Jayhawks’ rushing attack one of concern to opponents.
“Neal is a home run hitter,” Sarkisian said. “It feels like once a week he gets a big run. We pride ourselves on minimizing explosive plays … so this week is going to be the same way. He can hit a big one on you if you aren’t assignment or gap sound in the run game.”
Neal is fifth in the Big 12 in rushing average with 95.1 yards per game, but he has the longest touchdown run of any qualified running back in the conference at 80 yards. He also has the Big 12’s season-high for rushing yards in a game when he piled up 224 yards on Oklahoma State.
It’s a must-win for the Longhorns if they want to even have a shot at playing in the Big 12 Conference championship game, scheduled for Dec. 3 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. TCU clinched its spot with last week’s 17-10 win over the Longhorns, and Texas is in the logjam of teams trying to earn their way to JerryWorld.
While Sarkisian wants to make sure the team keeps its focus on the current week, or more specifically, what’s in front of them a certain day, he also realizes that he needs to address the big picture.
“I like to do that with the guys because I don’t like them to act like I’m not aware with what’s happening,” Sarkisian said. “But then I turn right around and I drill right down to what’s the most important thing now, and that’s this week’s game and then what’s important to this week’s game, and that’s today. Today is the most important day.”