The Kansas Jayhawks offense wasn’t pretty for most of its debut Friday night against South Dakota—although tight end Mason Fairchild’s one-handed catch was an “oh wow” moment. But a bright spot had to be redshirt freshman Lawrence Arnold’s breakout performance.
Arnold showcased a classic quality-over-quantity display, only catching three passes for 33 yards, but turning two of those receptions into touchdowns and six points each, including the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute left in the game.
Arnold’s two-touchdown performance was a rare occurrence for the Jayhawks of late. Since 2010, Kansas has only had a receiver score two touchdowns in a game 15 times, and those were accomplished by just nine players. And five of those were Carter Stanley connecting with either Andrew Parchment or Stephon Robinson in 2019.
It’s still too early to know exactly what this performance means or will turn into down the line. But it’s a reason for optimism. Arnold came to Kansas as a three-star recruit who had offers from Boston College, Cal, Colorado, and Harvard and whose 6-3 frame makes him a large and imposing target. We didn’t get to see enough of him last year as he only played three games—and caught six passes for 45 yards—before a shoulder injury ended his season.
Yet, even after his shoulder kept him out several practices last month, Arnold showed up when it mattered most on Friday. One game is too small of a sample size, but early returns are that Arnold and Fairchild (6-5, 250 pounds) could be big, reliable targets (Kwamie Lassiter and Steven McBride are listed at 6-0 while Trevor Wilson is 5-11) for new quarterback Jason Bean.
The offense would receive a huge boost if this is the case, especially while Bean tries to get settled and confident in this new offense. That boost is amplified if Arnold’s success in the red zone continues. It will be hard enough for the Jayhawks to get deep into opposing territory that they can’t waste opportunities once they get them.
Part of this year is looking for areas of development and building blocks for future years. A Bean-Arnold connection could be one of those areas that makes fans excited about the future.