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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Backfield to become even more jumbled

Juco transfer Crawford to join heated competition for carries

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KU football gears up for spring game

Hard to believe, but the 2008 football season is right around the corner.

Kansas University's football coaches will use spring practices as an important gauge moving forward to the start of the 2008 season.

Yet the running-back position, more than any other, has a huge hole in the competition right now.

Junior Jake Sharp is back after serving as a solid option in the backfield last season for the 2007 Orange Bowl champions. Angus Quigley and Carmon Boyd-Anderson are trying to bust down the door for playing time, as well.

But one big piece still is in Texas finishing up junior college - Jocques Crawford, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound horse considered one of the most important pieces of KU's 2008 recruiting class.

So, yeah, running-back repetitions will be helpful - especially with 1,000-yard rusher Brandon McAnderson gone to graduation.

But this spring, it definitely won't be the tell-all forecast.

"We'll see what (Crawford) can do once he gets here in the summer," offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. "But we want to continue to use Jake Sharp's ability in open space and find other ways to get him the ball. He's a definite big-play threat, and he had a good year for us."

Sharp, a Salina native, ran for 821 yards on 147 carries in 2007. But his touches decreased once McAnderson got rolling in Big 12 Conference play.

Numbers and simple logic say Sharp will be the natural successor to McAnderson's load. But KU's pursuit - and landing - of Crawford, the NJCAA offensive player of the year in 2007, can be seen as a sign that Sharp isn't viewed as an every-down back by the coaching staff.

Sharp shrugs it off, and doesn't believe Crawford's arrival this summer is anything but a positive.

"I don't think it's a competition. I think we'll have a heck of an arsenal," Sharp said. "I think each guy is going to get his share of carries, and I think it's going to work out great for us as a whole."

Don't forget about Quigley and Boyd-Anderson, though. Both have received their share of hype despite having a combined 41 career carries. Quigley has battled injuries, while Boyd-Anderson was highly regarded before running into the freshman wall and running out of chances early in 2007.

"He's got some things to prove," Warinner said of Boyd-Anderson. "He's got some talent, and he's a guy we like. We'll just see where he's at. : A lot of freshmen aren't ready to handle playing and competition and, week to week, the stress of getting ready. I think it caught up to him a little bit."

Warinner declined to say that playing Boyd-Anderson as a true freshman, in hindsight, was the wrong move.

"Early on, we didn't know what Brandon McAnderson was going to do, nor Jake Sharp," Warinner said. "Their roles hadn't really been that in the past."

It all worked out, of course. The Jayhawks had a strong ground game to complement its exciting passing attack led by quarterback Todd Reesing. They went 12-1 and ranked eighth nationally in total offense.

But the returning players stress that the start of spring practice March 12 signaled the end of the 2007 party. Ongoing competition just about everywhere on the offense except quarterback is a reminder that Kansas is back to square one in some aspects.

That includes running back, even though all the pieces to the puzzle have yet to arrive.

"There's still more out there to be achieved," Sharp said. "We still haven't won the Big 12, or a national title for that matter.

"This isn't the Orange Bowl team. This is a brand new team. We have to go out and prove it all over again."

Comments

Jonathan Allison 10 years, 6 months ago

I was surprised when they signed Crawford, because I remember all the hype around Boyd-Anderson last fall. Coach was saying that he was definitely gonna get some carries and it sounded like he was in the running for a starting role. Of course he and Sharp are both smaller and quicker type backs, but Quigley has got decent size. But when you add a guy like Crawford, you know he's gonna be the frontrunner for being the starter. We'll just have to wait and see how he fits into the offense I guess.

JBurtin 10 years, 6 months ago

Crawford is going to flat out tear it up.

Boyd-Anderson signed here because of the chance of early playing time. The coaches allow the players to decide whether or not they want to redshirt. Now that he's seen the level of competition at this level, I wonder if he would be willing to take a sophmore redshirt.

In the long run, it could be a great career move. It only takes one great year to get you drafted.

rolo2383 10 years, 6 months ago

Quigley looks like a natural runner with awesome talent. I think if he wasn't so injury prone they might not have pursued Crawford. Quigley looks like a guy who could challenge Cornish for the single season rushing title.

10 years, 6 months ago

rolo2383 - did you mean Crawford instead of Quigley in your last sentence? Unless something unforeseen happens, like JBurtin indicated, Crawford is going to put up some sick numbers this coming fall. Man, I can't wait.

Jim Jackson 10 years, 6 months ago

Crawford is going to own people. He is sick. The last time a RB in JUCO got close to his yard total was Brandon Jacobs of the Giants with about 1850 yards back in 02. Keep in mind there are alot of D1 prospects in JUCO.

rolo2383 10 years, 6 months ago

It's hard to compare a running back who played in JUCO to D1 players. There may be D1 players in that JUCO league but it's not close. I'm not saying Crawford isn't going to be a stud. I think he will be.

I was also talking about Quigley. I think Crawford will eventually be our workhorse but Quigley has awesome talent. If he was healthy his first few years here I don't see us going after Crawford. Just my opinion.

JBurtin 10 years, 6 months ago

I was a bit surprised to see us go after Crawford as well. Quigley is one of my favorite players on the field. He has a serious mean streak.

I just don't know why we would have gone after a stud Juco running back on a year with limited scholarships unless there was a real need for him. Could be academics, attitude, work ethic, injury concerns, or any other number of things.

Not trying to start any bad rumors about Quigley. After all I've never even met him and I hate it when people talk smack on people they don't know. For all I know he may have a 4.0, go to church, and bust his butt building houses for underprivelegded children on the weekends. I have no idea. I'm just saying there has to be a reason why we went after Crawford. Perhaps you're right about the injury thing.

According to Mangino, when he was asked whether they plan on starting Crawford next year he said something to the effect of "you don't bring in a Juco guy to have him learn the system". I think it's pretty clear that the coaches are thinking of him as a starter unless somebody else can give them a reason to change their minds.

You also have to remember that Crawford always was a D1 talent. He didn't go to a Juco because he wasn't good enough for D1, he went because he got in trouble. Also, there are several Juco leagues out there that are chock full of D1 caliber players. Many guys that would be high-major recruits if they could just make the grades end up in the Juco's here in Kansas, Texas, California, or Florida. Not to say that these Juco teams could necessarily compete at against the major football programs at the D1 level (the players are rotating in and out too fast to have time to build well put together teams), but Crawford is certainly playing against large amounts of D1 talent, and on a team that could probably beat many of the lower echelon D1 teams.

In short, I don't think it's all that hard to compare Juco guys to D1 players. You can look at his combine numbers and see that he is every bit the athlete that the other D1 guys are. Then you can look at the moves he's got and see if he is able to shake off talented defenders. I know many D1 defenders are better than the ones he's gone against lately, but if the moves work there, they are in general going to work here.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

"Early on, we didn't know what Brandon McAnderson was going to do, nor Jake Sharp," Warinner said. "Their roles hadn't really been that in the past."

The names could be changed to reflect the future. They played Boyd-Anderson last year because they didn't know for certain that they had a replacement for Cornish. They brought Crawford in this year (at the last minute/week) because they don't know that they have a replacement for Brandon; a prime time RB.

Oh, and it helps that he is a stud.

He won't get nearly the same #'s here as at JUCO, but that's not expected by - normal people. Will he get 1k? That's likely if he does win the starting spot. That's likely.

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