ESPN college football analyst Danny Kanell has never broadcast a Bedlam football game. He had never even been to Oklahoma. But Kanell will be able relate to both starting quarterbacks when he calls the 2:30 p.m. game Saturday on ESPN with play-by-play announcer Bob Wischusen and reporter Maria Taylor.
A standout quarterback at Florida State from 1993-95, Kanell followed a legend in Charlie Ward, who not only won the Seminoles' first Heisman Trophy, he led the school to its first national title. In following NFL No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, Landry Jones has failed to live up to the expectations of some Sooner fans despite breaking most of the school's passing records.
“The bar all of a sudden gets raised, at some times, to an unobtainable level,” Kanell said in a phone interview. “I've watched Landry quite a bit through his career. I have always liked what he brings to the table. I think he has had an enormous amount of pressure placed on him and a lot of it he brought on himself because of the sophomore season he had.”
Kanell noted that personnel changes also have make it harder for Landry to succeed.
“The offensive line this year had some issues. He lost the all-time leading receiver in the NCAA (Ryan Broyles) and yet he has shown some amazing resiliency. And then the other thing, look at who Oklahoma has lost to this year. They have lost to two teams that are ranked No. 1. Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 now and Kansas State was ranked No. 1 a week ago. It's not as bad as people want to make it seem.”
Kanell can relate to OSU junior quarterback Clint Chelf in that he remembers being an inexperienced quarterback making his first start in the Orange Bowl against rival Miami.
“The first drive we marched up the field and I literally remember thinking to myself, ‘This isn't so bad. This isn't that big of a deal,' Kanell said. “Meanwhile, I got a little cocky and threw an interception in the red zone and proceeded to throw three interceptions on the night and get benched. The moments start to get to you.”
Kanell's advice to Chelf: Don't try to do too much yourself.
“Try to spread the ball around and make good decisions and the rest will take care of itself. If you try to go out and win the game yourself as a quarterback, it's not going to work.”
In his third season as an ESPN game analyst, Kanell is impressed with the quarterback play in the Big 12 and enjoys watching the high-scoring offenses. Even at age 39, he said he would love to direct some of those offenses.
“That's the thing that has sort of jumped out at me as I'm covering some of these Big 12 games is the quarterback play, how well these guys are executing these high-powered, up-tempo offenses,” Kanell said. “I'm jealous when I watch them, wishing I could play with some of the talent they have. It looks like a tremendous amount of fun and, of course, that is going to be a big key in this game. Not only the play of the quarterbacks, but which team can protect their quarterbacks the best.”
Kanell, who threw for 6,372 yards and a school-record 57 touchdowns at FSU, excelled in some rivalry games. Seminole fans remember him best for the “The Choke at Doak” in 1994 when he rallied FSU from a 31-3 deficit against visiting Florida with 10 minutes left to a 31-31 tie that left Seminole players jubilant and the Gators dejected.
“About half the stadium or more had poured out and left the game. They had given up on us. We managed to mount a comeback and we tied it up.”
The teams met again that year in the Sugar Bowl. In a game dubbed “The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter,” the Seminoles won 23-17.
Kanell said the highlight of his seven-year NFL career was leading the New York Giants to the 1997 NFC East title. “There weren't that many highlights,” he said.
Besides calling games for ESPN, he also hosts ESPNU's “Unite” late night show, which mixes sports, humor and pop culture.