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Big 12 Teams Finding Identities as Conference Play Looms

By Dave Skretta, AP News

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas has managed to forge an identity for itself through its first three games — all wins, surprisingly enough — as an offensive-minded team capable of putting up big points without necessarily throwing the ball all over the yard.

Kansas State has embraced the image of a physical, defense-first team that can barely score.

The rest of the Big 12 is also trying to find its identity as six teams play their first league games Saturday — Iowa State with the eighth-ranked defense in the nation, TCU with the ninth-ranked offense or top-10 teams Oklahoma and Oklahoma State that have been brilliant on offense and shown some defensive chops as well.

“Tough. Resilient. Edgy. Hungry. Never satisfied. I think those would be the best,” said first-year Sooners coach Brett Venables, when asked to describe his team. “I love the way we are developing. Our leadership and our mindset. These guys are super hungry, and they want you to coach them hard. When I say they are literally sitting on the edge of their seats in every meeting, I can’t say it any more clearly and truthful. And when we go to practice it is the same thing.”

Venables, a longtime defensive guru who arrived from Clemson added: “We are still have a long way to go, but we are making steady improvement”

The biggest surprise in the Big 12 through the nonconference portion of the season is undoubtedly the Jayhawks, and it’s not only because they’re 3-0 for the first time in more than a decade. They’ve been dynamic on offense behind Jalon Daniels, who may be the impressive quarterback in the league so far.

The league’s offensive player of the week following another big performance in a win at Houston, Daniels is doing what would get a player on a national title contender in the Heisman Trophy conversation. He accounted for 281 yards and five touchdowns in the 48-30 win over the Cougars, pushing his TD total to 10 through the first three games.

He is both the Jayhawks’ leading rusher with 244 yards and passer with 566 yards.

“We have a lot of people who are able to make plays with the ball in their hands in our offense,” said Daniels, who was fighting for playing time a year ago but seized the starting job in fall camp. “I feel like (coordinator Andy Kotelnicki) realizes that, so I feel like he does a great job of being able to put guys in situations to be able to get the ball.”

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