Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ready to rumble

Rookie Opurum getting up to speed

Toben Opurum — at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds — thinks his size helps him compare favorably with the other running backs on Kansas University’s football roster.

Toben Opurum — at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds — thinks his size helps him compare favorably with the other running backs on Kansas University’s football roster.


Jayhawks seeking backup running back

Running back Jake Sharp is the man in the Kansas Jayhawks' backfield, but KU coaches are looking for options at backup running back.

How they stack up

Here are Kansas’ top candidates at running back, with height, weight and class:

Jake Sharp 5-10 195 Sr.

Rell Lewis 5-10 201 So.

Daniel Porter 5-11 200 Jr.

Toben Opurum 6-2 235 Fr.

Deshaun Sands 5-9 182 Fr.

The first few days of major-college football practice are enough to make any true freshman’s head spin.

That includes somebody as accomplished as 6-foot-2, 235-pound running back Toben Opurum.

“Training camp ... they install new plays every day. They throw a lot at you,” said Opurum, who rushed for 882 yards and eight touchdowns and had 31 receptions for 238 yards last season at Plano (Texas) East High.

“It’s hard to remember everything, but you’ve got a lot of people helping you out — coach Matsakis (Louie, running backs coach), Jake Sharp and Rell Lewis, people like that,” Opurum added of running-back teammates.

“They all help make things easier on me.”

Opurum, who chose KU over Florida, Notre Dame and others in recruiting, compared the first few days of practice at KU to his prep days in Plano.

“Thankfully it’s not as hot as it is in Texas. It’s still kind of warm out here,” Opurum said, speaking of recent Kansas weather in the 90s, apparently a few degrees cooler than that of the Lone Star State. “The first few days have been long. We improved as a team, so it’ll definitely pay off in the end.”

Opurum, who apparently is in the mix to contribute this season, says he’s been kept busy at practice.

“We are all getting repetitions. The opportunity is there to play,” Opurum said. “All the running backs coming in bring different styles and complement one another. I think me coming in with more size than other running backs, they expect me to complement different styles of the shorter backs. I think it (size) will help out a lot.”

A three-year starter and two-time first-team all-district selection at Plano East, Opurum says he wants to do all he can to help KU win big his rookie campaign.

“For everyone coming in here ... the big goal is to win a Big 12 championship,” Opurum said.

He has more than football on his mind.

“I picked KU because of the playing opportunity here, the education you receive. The program is top-of-the-line. It’s what I wanted in a school for academics,” said Opurum, who plans to major in finance or sports medicine.

He’s taking it day by day right now while getting adjusted to the next level.

“I’ve been so caught up with football. That is fun for me,” Opurum said. “I think I have improved since I’ve been here. I think everybody has improved. That’s what has impressed me the most — the improvement of everybody since I’ve been here.”

Coach Mark Mangino, who ultimately will decide whether to play or red-shirt Opurum this season, also likes what he’s seen at practice from his ball carriers.

“In terms of the running-back situation, Jake Sharp obviously looks good and picked up right from where he left off last year,” Mangino said. “I like that Rell Lewis is healthier and doing a lot better. Two newcomers, Daniel Porter and Toben Opurum, are really good, talented young guys.

“We have a chance to be really good and really deep at the running-back position. I think that overall some positions are going to have some depth. The defensive line will have some depth, the secondary with have depth, running back will have depth, and obviously the quarterback will have depth, but hopefully we won’t need it, but we will be deep at that position as well.”


KGphoto 10 years, 5 months ago

I never imagined Toben shirtin'. But it looks like the coaches have a big decision to make.

I hope he plays. It'll indicate the next level of Kansas pigskin. "We don't need to redshirt guys, cuz we don't rebuild, we reload."

A guy can dream, right?

I think you're gonna play Toben. Get ready.

gardenjay 10 years, 5 months ago

Please note that Kansas was a selling point, as to many of us, because he cares about his education. Where are we getting these guys now? Heaven?

Jonathan Allison 10 years, 5 months ago

"is this heaven?"

"No, this is Texas."

-Field of Dreams (kinda)

truefan 10 years, 5 months ago

Seriously gardenjay, how many wind-sprints do you think Toben got out of by making that statement? We couldn't possibly ask him to make a better statement to the media. I hope he pans out because he is the kind of guy we would all love to root for.

Michael Auchard 10 years, 5 months ago

I just got back from Texas, and according to the locals, this is the hottest summer there in years. Apparently it's been 105 degrees every day since the beginning of June. While I was there it was 105 every day. You're just constantly sweating. Makes Kansas seem like Maine in comparison.

Warren 10 years, 5 months ago

He loves the academics of KU, and wants to win a Big 12 championship. Truefan, I am loving rooting for the kid already. Even if he doesn't pan out.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 5 months ago

The RB position will not only be deep, but fast. Isn't Tobin the only one not under 4.4?

Kyle Crenshaw 10 years, 5 months ago

i just spent last week in plano... ridiculously hot every single day!!! he should like the weather here a lot more

suttonku 10 years, 5 months ago

I hope they red shirt this kid...him playing 3 or 4 plays a game will not help him any more than red shirting him...give him a year nad next year he will be a major contributor...I love his size and strength though.

rasta_meta 10 years, 5 months ago

I agree with you suttonku. Unless, he is going to get at least 10 carries a game, I think it might be better to redshirt him.

However, if he is a contributor on a couple of special team units and gets maybe 5 carries a game, it might be worth playing him as well.

troutsee 10 years, 5 months ago

Agree with the red shirt posts. Needs to play a lot. Otherwise, red shirt.

KGphoto 10 years, 5 months ago

Don't forget that a lot of this might be decided by the offensive line. It got shuffled pretty good.

Mangino obviously keeps his options open and I wouldn't be surprised by anything. The only thing I truly wish for is that we don't have to go through a non-conference schedule trying to figure out the rotation like last year.

We should be gelling before the season starts, and rolling by the time we play Oklahoma and Nebraska. Then peaking for a Big 12 championship game.

Last year we would have beaten USF if we weren't undecided at running back. Everything was disjointed until Jake nailed down our running game.

Waylon Cook 10 years, 5 months ago

This kid is going to play no doubt about it-total gamer!

NebraskaJayhawk 10 years, 5 months ago

I don't think they will redshirt him. This season is huge for the Jayhawks with all the weapons and possibilities of success for this team. I think their full intention in bringing him to Kansas, and I think a major part of his decision to come, is to use him alongside Sharp like they did two years ago with McAnderson. Everyone else wanted him for a fullback, and we wanted him for a running back. I think we are going to see a two back set this year like we saw often in 2007 and he will be that second featured back. I think Sands will get the redshirt, not Opurum.

Joseph Kuebel 10 years, 5 months ago

Yea, with the season in front of us...THERE IS NO CHANCE we redshirt this kid...the point of redshirting is to not "GET ONE EXTRA, BETTER YEAR" Its to develop your player if they cannot contribute....Toben is CLEARLY ready to contribute...If anyone thinks Toben is sitting, go watch college football and then speak, in that order. Because the majority of people on here who even considered this kid having a red-shirt must be foolish. What are we gonna "save him for next year"- when we have a ton of question marks and an inexperience quarterback? FURTHERMORE, I wouldn't be surprised if this kid leaves after his junior year of college for the draft...

Joseph Kuebel 10 years, 5 months ago


gardenjay 10 years, 5 months ago

Well, I know what you mean Truefan - don't get me wrong, Kansas having a winning program is important to me. But Mangino cannot produce a winning collegiate program without maintaining academics - an interesting system, and certainly open to abuse given the dollars involved here.

However - unless these college kids turn pro, they will need to provide for themselves in other ways. After heavily recruiting these guys to KU they become our responsibility, and deserve a positive future if they work hard on and off the field even if they do not turn pro. I just thought it was really cool how he cared about his whole future.

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