Kansas head football Lance Leopold and his football team landed in Memphis Sunday night intent on having some fun.
The Jayhawks (6-6) got in their first on-site practice on Monday with Wednesday’s clash with Arkansas (6-6) looming in the 64th AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
It will be Kansas’ first game since a 47-27 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 26 in Manhattan, Kan.
“It’s finally arrived,” Leipold said. “It’s been a while since we’ve played. I know our guys have been excited to kind of work through the holiday and do things like that, but to see their faces and kind of the little change in body language — now we’re excited to get here. We’re excited to get down to playing and excited for a great few days.”
While it is Kansas’ first bowl in 14 years, there are 17 Jayhawks who have played in bowls at previous schools.
That includes senior linebacker Rich Miller (6-3, 225), who previously played for Leipold at Buffalo.
“When we were on the plane, I told everybody, ‘All the practices are over; now the fun starts,’” Miller said. “This is what we worked for all season and now it’s time (for it) to pay off.”
Kansas’ unquestioned offensive leader is quarterback Jalon Daniels (6-0, 215) was 115 of 175 passing for 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns this season and rushed for 404 yards rushing and six additional trips to the end zone.
Daniels was at the helm of the Jayhawks as they won their first five games this season and got into the Top 25, but was injured in game six and making it back to play in the final two regular season contests.
He was 37-of-58 passing for 398 yards and two touchdowns and ran the football 10 times for 63 yards and a score in those final two games – a 55-14 loss to Texas and the loss at Kansas State.
“First of all we hope these will be experiences that will be positive and last a lifetime,” Leipold said. “Some of the things that they get out of this will make them want to strive for this on a year in and year out basis.”
Kansas was 2-10 in Leipold’s first season in 2021 as he began to revive a program that had lost 51 of its previous 60 games and had just four Big 12 victories in the last seven seasons.
Kansas senior safety Kenny Logan Jr., the Jayhawks leading tackler this season, arrived in Memphis with a boot on his left foot and Leipold said the star defener had been limited in practice.
Logan had 96 tackles this season with 65 of those being unassisted stops. While playing a team-high 795 snaps, he also had two interceptions, six passes broken up and a forced fumble.
“Kenny has been highly limited here of late,” Leipold told the Kansas City Star upon his arrival at the team hotel. “We hope he is available. I’ll expect he will do everything he can to be there. It will be something that we will see, but right now our goal is that everyone that has played here at the end of the season will be available.”
Logan had praised Arkansas in an earlier interview.
“Arkansas is a great team, they play at a high pace,” Logan said. “They have great skill guys. So we just got to make sure we’re in a good position and paying attention to our keys.”
Kansas will apparently be without redshirt sophmore tailback Daniel Hisahw, Jr., who has not played since a 14-11 win over Iowa State on Oct. 1.
Hishaw rushed 44 times for 275 yards and five touchdowns before going down injured in that win over Iowa State that pushed the Jayhawks to 5-0, only to lose six of its last seven outings.
“I don’t think Daniel will be playing in this,” Leipold said. “I don’t see it happening.”
Kansas starting tailback Devin Neal, who rushed for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns this season while also catching 19 passes for 160 yards and another score.
“We’ve seen all the talent that they have, all the NFL guys,” Neal said. “They’re really physical, really tough. We respect those SEC teams and we know what they’re about. So we’ve just go to match their intensity and match their physicality and I’m really confident in our ability to play as well.”
Cornerback Cobee Bryant knows Kansas is 63-70-10 all-time against SEC teams and does not have a win over an SEC program this century, but feels confident a win is coming.
“We’re going to beat an SEC team, I know it’s coming,” Bryant told PHOG, Kansas’ 247 sports site. “Just beating an SEC team, is just going to make our program feel like we can beat anybody. Anybody we play has to be ready.”
Kansas receiver an former Desoto, Texas, prep star Lawrence Arnold has family living n Arkansas.
“This is a big moment for us right now,” Arnold said. “I think we are just coming out here to show everybody that it is going to be bigger than this. This is just one part.”