LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels, the preseason Big 12 player of the year who has been sidelined by a back injury, said Thursday that he intends to return to the Jayhawks next season amid speculation that he could enter the transfer portal.
Daniels emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate early last season, when he led the long-suffering Jayhawks to a 5-0 start. But he hurt his shoulder in a game against TCU and missed more than a month. Daniels returned in time to lead Kansas against Texas and Kansas State, along with a wild triple-overtime loss to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl.
Daniels threw for 544 yards and five TDs while running for another score against the Razorbacks.
Rather than his shoulder, though, it has been Daniels' back that has caused problems. It began to bother him during fall camp, forcing Jason Bean to start the opener against Missouri State, before Daniels returned to lead the Jayhawks to wins over Illinois, Nevada and BYU. Then he aggravated his back before a game against Texas on Sept. 30 and has not returned.
“Personally,” Daniels said in a statement, “it has been an incredibly difficult time being away from the game that I love, and not being able to play with my brothers in front of our incredible fans on Saturday. The adversity that I have faced this season will help me come back even stronger when the time is right. Kansas is a very special place to me and I will be back next season."
Daniels would have one year remaining unless he sits out all but one game down the stretch, which would give him the ability to redshirt this season. That would leave him with two more years of eligibility.
Bean has played well in Daniels' place, leading the Jayhawks to a 7-3 record, a 4-3 mark in Big 12 play and the No. 25 ranking in the College Football Playoff. But he also was hurt in last week's game against Texas Tech, forcing former walk-on freshman Cole Ballard to finish the game; the Red Raiders won 16-13 on a field goal in the final minute.
Bean did not practice for Saturday's game against No. 23 Kansas State (7-3, 5-2, No. 21 CFP) early in the week, but Jayhawks offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki took reps on Wednesday. Ballard would start if Bean is unable to go.
Throughout the last six weeks, Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold kept saying that Daniels was day-to-day. But his situation on game days became something of a mystery — he was dressed for one, did not travel for another, and for another game he did not come out of the locker room — and that began the speculation that he might transfer elsewhere.
Daniels shut down those rumors on Thursday.
“This season didn’t go as planned,” he said in a video he posted to social media, “but life comes at you fast and sometimes your story’s out of your control. But I guess that just means I have unfinished business. My dreams haven’t changed. My goals are still there, and my vision for my future is clear.”
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