Provo • BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill just finished up scheming for KJ Jefferson, Arkansas’ dynamic all-SEC quarterback.
And for an encore this week, Hill will now have to turn his attention to what he believes is the best the Big 12 has to offer: Kansas signal caller Jalon Daniels.
Asked if there is any comparison between the two, Hill said Daniels might just be better than Jefferson.
“I would say he is more elusive,” Hill said. “... There is a reason why he was the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year. We’ve got to go out and contain him.”
Cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford agreed, calling Daniels “an absolute baller.”
“For me, I’m a little biased. He is from the same town I’m from,” Gilford said. “But, yeah, there is no doubt he is probably the best that we’ve faced. So we are going to have to prepare like it.”
Daniels was on the Heisman Trophy watch last season before he got hurt midway through the year against TCU. He still threw for more than 2,000 yards and had 18 passing touchdowns. He added 425 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground.
Through three weeks this season, Daniels is averaging just under 290 yards passing and has a quarterback rating of 169.
In a Big 12 full of explosive offenses, he might be the most explosive playmaker with his ability to run and throw.
“He does a great job getting the ball out of his hands in the [run-pass option] game,” Hill said. “He doesn’t hold on to it very often but when he does, you have to catch him when he is scrambling. He brings a lot of problems to the field.”
So the question is, what will be the game plan on Saturday?
Against Jefferson, a bigger quarterback but also a threat to run, BYU brought multiple tacklers to get him to the ground. The Cougars blitzed at times in the second half, but also got home with a four-man rush late in the game.
This week, though, Hill said BYU might have to adjust the strategy a bit. Daniels is quicker and more nimble in the pocket. Plus, Kansas pairs Daniels with running back Devin Neal, who had a 120-yard game two weeks ago and is averaging over 100 yards a night. He is arguably the best running back in the league. It will complicate how BYU attacks Daniels and the Jayhawks.
“They execute their scheme, the throw game, at a very high level,” Hill said. “I mean this is really the best offense in the Big 12 for the last two years. Statistically, it’s not close. They throw it well. They run it well. They execute their schemes. I love their quarterback and their running back.”
So this week, Hill said he might resort to some preparation tactics he’d use against a military academy.
“It is a little bit like playing Air Force,” he said. “It is going to have to be very assignment sound. It’s what we are going to have to be. We are going to have to execute what we call very well. We just have to make sure we are not giving up anything cheap down the field.”
Hill will still bring his trademark blitzes. One last week, with cornerback Eddie Heckard coming off the edge, forced a Jefferson fumble. But he will have to mix it up a bit more, too, with different coverage looks.
“We’ve got to do some things that cause him some consternation,” Hill finished. “Some disbelief in what he is trying to do based on our coverages and our blitzes that we are bringing at him.”