Defense, Leipold buzz make headlines at Kansas Jayhawks spring game

Defensive dominance and new coach Lance Leipold headlined the Kansas Jayhawks football spring game on Saturday afternoon, with one cruising on the field and the other fielding plenty of questions as he steps into a new role.

The White team, the defensive squad, beat the Blue team 74-42 in a scrimmage with modified scoring and timing. The defense rose to the occasion early and often, forcing four turnovers with three interceptions and a fumble recovery, plus another forced fumble.

The highlight of the game was a pick-six by freshman cornerback Jacobee Bryant, one of the most highly touted freshmen on the KU roster.

Offensively, the Jayhawks never got in much of a rhythm, scoring just one touchdown in the scrimmage

“A lot of us were turned up, we had a lot of energy,” senior linebacker Nate Betts said. “We had, like, five people to the ball every time they ran the ball.”

While defense was the big story of the game action, the transition of power from interim coach Emmett Jones to new coach Lance Leipold was also a centerpiece of the day’s events.

Jones coached the game itself while Leipold was in attendance after officially being hired on Friday. Leipold spoke during the ESPN+ halftime show during the game about why he wanted to get the KU job.

“Everybody that has told me about Lawrence and everything has always just been such a stellar report on lifestyle and those other things,” “And of course, the opportunity to coach in the Big 12, Power 5 football, is something to embrace.”

Leipold also mentioned that he liked that he’ll get the chance to come into the program alongside new KU director of athletics Travis Goff. Goff chimed in on his new football coach during halftime, too, calling him an “incredible man of character,” adding “He’s a program builder. He’s a proven winner and program builder. Done it at multiple levels and he’s done it multiple ways as well.”

The players got a chance to meet Leipold for the first time late this week right before the spring game, and immediate returns were positive from the Jayhawks.

“The impression I got from (Leipold) is he’s ready to go, and that’s what I like,” Betts said.

Junior tight end Mason Fairchild also chimed in on the new Jayhawks coach and how he resonated with the team in their initial meeting.

“I feel like he’s going to be a really great fit for us, the way he spoke really seemed like it clicked for some of the guys,” Fairchild said.

With the coaching transition underway, this was the last time Jones will be in complete control over the KU roster. There was a strong push by players, including on social media, to get Jones the full-time job, but Betts said after the game that the goal now is to win and move on.

“There’s a lot of emotions, but the main thing is moving forward,” Betts said. “[Jones] always tells us to look at what we’ve got in front of us.”

The next time the Jayhawks take the field will be on Sept. 4 when they open the Leipold era at home against South Dakota.