Liberty Bowl- Leipold celebrates TD

Head coach Lance Leipold celebrates a touchdown in overtime at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. The Jayhawks lost to the Razorbacks in a thrilling overtime match 55-53.

After a historic season in 2022, head coach Lance Leipold and his staff have finalized the roster for the 2023 season. The roster boasts 13 transfers, 13 incoming freshmen and the return of redshirt-senior quarterback Jason Bean. The additions have led Kansas to fill the 85 scholarship players on its roster for the first time in a decade.

The additions from the transfer portal on the defensive side include sophomore cornerback Damarius McGhee from LSU. McGhee joins a cornerback group headlined by sophomore Cobee Bryant.

“[He’s a] very talented guy, with great cover skills,” Leipold said on McGhee. “Somebody that has played good snaps at a high-quality program, so we hope that’s gonna help our depth, and he’ll push for time and be in different packages.”

Senior defensive lineman, Devin Phillips from Colorado State and junior defensive lineman Gage Keys from Minnesota bring reinforcements up front for Kansas.

“We’ve gotta be better against the run and be better as a defense at being able to put pressure on the quarterback,” Leipold said. “We feel that those are definitely going to be nice additions.”

On the offensive end, one player to highlight is redshirt-junior running back Dylan McDuffie from Georgia Tech. Leipold and staff are familiar with McDuffie, as they spent three seasons together at Buffalo. McDuffie joins a running back room with sophomore Devin Neal and redshirt-sophomore Daniel Hishaw Jr., but he has shown he’ll do anything to get on the field. 

“When Dylan decided to commit, he sends me four clips from last season when he was at Georgia Tech, and they weren’t him carrying the ball. It was him on the punt team,” Leipold said.

The incoming freshmen that have been brought in exemplify how Kansas is beginning to turn around its football program and start building its culture. 

“How much of this class committed during the summer?” Leipold said about the recruiting class. “Even before we played, even before the sellout or College Gameday or a bowl bid. These guys wanted to be here. They’ve been able to see the program and what’s happening and how we go about it.”  

Cornerback Jacoby Davis is an example of a player recognizing Kansas’ growing football culture. The three-star prospect from Houston snagged offers from huge programs such as Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Tennesee but chose to come to Kansas. 

The return of Bean also points to the program building of Kansas football. When the Jayhawks struggled in football, successful players would turn to transferring rather than returning to Kansas.

“We’re definitely in a good position of where this program used to be as far as attrition, especially major attrition,” Leipold said about Bean’s choice to return. “That’s something I’m proud of. That’s something our staff is proud of.”

Bean brings a lot to the Kansas roster, stepping up when junior quarterback Jalon Daniels got injured and being versatile in the offense.

“[We’re] extremely excited about what he can add to our team in different ways,” Leipold said. “He played so well in August and had good games during the season.”

Leipold and his staff have taken Kansas a long way since they arrived on campus in 2021. The 2023 roster will look to continue the growing success of the program.