3 takeaways from Lance Leipold’s press conference ahead of Kansas’ Big 12 opener vs. Baylor

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas coach Lance Leipold watches the team during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C., Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

LAWRENCE — Maybe Lance Leipold is superstitious, or maybe he was just having a little bit of fun, but before Kansas’ head football coach answered the first question of his press conference Tuesday he tapped the podium he stood behind multiple times.

The move came after Leipold was asked what he thinks has allowed the Jayhawks’ offense to play turnover-free football through the first two games. And later on, when asked how important not turning the ball over is, he went right back to that move. So one has to wonder now, when Kansas opens Big 12 Conference play Saturday against Baylor, whether or not that’ll be enough to keep that streak alive.

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The Bears’ first touchdown of the season, which came in a season-opening win against Texas State, was a pick-six by a safety named JT Woods. Woods, the reigning co-defensive player of the week for the Big 12, is coming off of a win against Texas Southern this past weekend during which he returned a fumble for a touchdown as well. Should the ways the Jayhawks emphasize ball security and good decision-making continue to have a positive effect, they won’t have to worry about Woods or any of his teammates celebrating in the end zone at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

But the topic of turnovers — or rather, lack thereof — wasn’t the only topic of discussion for Leipold, and it wasn’t the only one that carried with it a level of importance. For a team with as slim of a margin of error as Kansas (1-1) has, and for one that hasn’t won a Big 12 game since 2019, there are a number of areas that’ll figure to be critical if Leipold and company are going to topple the Bears (2-0). And so, there are a few others worth addressing that Leipold talked about.

Here are three takeaways from the press conference:

Kansas isn’t looking for moral victories

As Leipold talked about how there are going to be positive things at times that occur that won’t always show up on the scoreboard, he stopped short of allowing himself to champion moral victories. In fact, he clearly stated that the Jayhawks can’t let themselves think those are good enough.

After the 49-22 loss this past Friday on the road against now-No. 18 Coastal Carolina, Leipold thought he could sense disappointment within his team. That’s what he wants to see. And in response to that defeat, the first of Leipold’s tenure at Kansas, he said he’s seen his team be responsive to what needs to happen to improve so it can be in a position to add to its win total.

“For those of us that are new, it’s hard to really gauge,” said Leipold, asked how the team responded to its first setback of the season, “and I’m trying not to get into heavy comparisons — especially when we weren’t there. But … I like where we’re trending.”

Leipold said he hasn’t thought about if he would have wanted more time before Kansas played its conference opener. He’s dealt with conference games happening in different parts of the schedule before while at Buffalo. He just hopes the fans who were there for the season opener are back in force.

The quarterback room’s supportive atmosphere will continue to be critical

As Leipold watched the film back of the game against Coastal Carolina, one of the things he found encouraging was redshirt junior quarterback Jason Bean’s play an how Bean’s athleticism showcased itself. It wasn’t all perfect, of course, but the game served as another indication of what’s possible with the Jayhawks’ offense as the season progresses. And there was also the point when sophomore Jalon Daniels had to come in for Bean when Bean was affected by a hit, and how Daniels played over a more extended period later on.

Leipold didn't think Daniels flinched in the moment.

So, while it's important to keep Bean healthy as Leipold would say, it's also important that the supportive atmosphere that's been said to exist among the quarterbacks continues. There's no telling when Daniels, or even redshirt senior Miles Kendrick, might be needed again in an unforeseen situation. And one could only venture to guess that the way Daniels and Kendrick have been supportive for Bean would pay off if that was Daniels or Kendrick starting as well.

After a possession, Leipold said you can always find that group conversing with each other.

Kansas is going to get the experience it needs, with Big 12 games on the line

There are a number of areas where the Jayhawks continue to need game experience as they attempt to make strides toward where they hope to get to as a team. There's the offensive line, which was affected by injury again this past week. There's the quarterback position and young secondary. The list goes on.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” Leipold said, “as we know.”

Now, starting Saturday, Big 12 games are going to be on the line as that experience is gained. It starts with Baylor, and then after another non-conference game continues with No. 14 Iowa State and others. And in the Bears squad Leipold sees an experienced team that seems more comfortable in the second year of head coach Dave Aranda's tenure there.

Coastal Carolina's experience, which was evident this past week as well, got the better of Kansas. It's just a matter of what he Jayhawks can do this time around.

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.