5 things that stood out as Kansas football opened fall camp this year

LAWRENCE — Talk to Kansas football coach Lance Leipold and his players, those who’ve been around since he took over in 2021, and it’s clear how far the program’s come since then.
Leipold mentioned a night-and-day difference Tuesday, following the Jayhawks’ first practice of fall camp in 2023. Not only does the coaching staff know its personnel better than it did at this time in 2021, but the players have a better understanding of the coaches, system and expectations, too. Comfortability seemed to be a common theme as players compared the first fall camp practice this year to the first fall camp practice two years ago.
“It felt faster,” Kansas junior defensive lineman Jereme Robinson said. “It felt like we know what we’re doing now. We have some expectations of ourselves.”
Senior linebacker Rich Miller added: “It felt way better. You don’t have to worry about a lot of people not knowing what’s going on. Today you just — you say one thing, everybody knows what’s going on.”
Here are five things that stood out as Kansas opened fall camp:
The first practice went well
Leipold said he loved the energy his players had. People understand what they’re trying to accomplish and the pace they need to have. There’s a process to the progression that’ll unfold over the coming weeks, but the efforts to improve are already underway.
“Don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves on day one,” Leipold said. “But, again, we didn’t spend a lot of time having to coach effort and putting the ball way and doing those things that many times you have to really harp on in first days.”
Kansas football’s roster health is looking good
Although Leipold wants fall camp to be physical, he also noted Kansas has to stay healthy. Right now, he said, the Jayhawks are looking good in that regard.
Redshirt junior running back Billy Conaway, a walk-on, will miss the season due to a non-contact injury suffered during the summer. But Leipold didn’t mention any scholarship players in a similar light.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman James Livingston will be limited most of camp, with the hope he’s back full-go in early September. Redshirt sophomore running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. is someone whose reps they’ll monitor, as he continues to make his way back after suffering a season-ending injury in 2022.
“Guys that missed the spring — Marvin Grant, Kenny Logan (Jr.), Mike Novitsky — those guys are all back and ready to go,” Leipold said.
Grant is a redshirt junior safety, Logan a senior safety and Novitsky a redshirt senior offensive lineman.
The physical transformations players have made are noticeable
The work director of sports performance Matt Gildersleeve and his staff have done the past couple of years hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“It’s been crazy,” said Robinson, who’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds. “When I first got here I was like 270-something. And that was just, like, freshman fat. So, coach (Gildersleeve) has gotten us right these past two years and I can’t do nothing but thank him.”
Even since the spring, there are players who’ve made improvements who have caught Leipold’s eye.
Grant is among them. So, too, are junior safety O.J. Burroughs, redshirt senior defensive lineman Devin Phillips, junior defensive lineman Caleb Taylor, redshirt junior offensive lineman Spencer Lovell and more.
The wide receiver's room will feature a lot of competition
Leipold’s discussion about the wide receivers started through the lens of junior Quentin Skinner’s potential. But while Leipold highlighted that, especially if Skinner remains healthy, he did pivot to talking about how competitive that position group will be overall. Leipold said associate head coach/offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki and wide receivers
coach Terrence Samuel are determined to give guys who’ve earned opportunities those opportunities.
Junior quarterback Jalon Daniels highlighted the three main contributors from 2022 who are back. That means Skinner and two more juniors — Luke Grimm and Lawrence Arnold. From Daniels’ perspective, Skinner is a deep-ball threat who’s one of the fastest guys on the team, Arnold is someone who can catch any ball you thrown his way and Grimm is a jack-of-all-trades talent.
Rich Miller has an idea on how to make fall camp successful
Miller said in order to make this preseason camp successful, everyone should find one thing every day to improve upon. Then, over time, those improvements will build upon each other.
“Today, I was like I’m going to cause at least one turnover — I did that,” Miller said. “I’m going 100% effort on every play and I’m going to be 100% in alignment and assignment. So, that’s my thing for today.”
The turnover, Miller said, was making Daniels fumble during a play at the goal line.

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