Originally published July 24, 2009 at 05:20p.m., updated July 24, 2009 at 06:34p.m.


Crawford’s departure creates opportunity at RB


With the recent news that Jocques Crawford has left the Kansas University football team, a door officially opened with a path that leads to being Jake Sharp’s backup.

OK, so it might not be the most glamorous job on the team — being the backup running back and all — but filling the spot will be extremely important.

That’s because the days of the workhorse back are long gone.

Sharp — though I love how he plays, respect his blazing, effortless speed and think he could rush for 1,000 yards this year — won’t be carrying the rock 20 times a game in 2009.

Consider Sharp averaged 14.3 carries a game last year as a junior. The Salina native had 186 (42 percent) of the Jayhawks’ 440 total carries on the season.

Point is, there will be more carries to go around, and someone needs to step up. Who will it be?

We know it won’t be Crawford, who fell 1,768 yards short of his goal of a 2,000-yard season last year. It won’t be former back Angus Quigley, who made the switch this spring to linebacker.

That leaves Rell Lewis, Toben Opurum, Deshaun Sands and juco transfer Daniel Porter.

Lewis, a 5-foot-10, 201-pound sophomore from Muskogee, Okla., impressed in the spring scrimmage with a game-high 66 yards on 14 carries. He’s a converted wide receiver.

Opurum, more of a bruiser at 6-2 and 229 pounds, could also spell Sharp. The freshman out of Plano, Texas, would be more of a contrast to the speedier Sharp. But hey, thunder and lightning with Opurum and Sharp has a certain ring to it. Certainly, the gimmick has worked at KU before with Brandon McAnderson (1,125 yards, 16 TD’s) and Sharp (821 yards, 7 TD’s) in the Orange Bowl season of 2007.

Sands’ father, Tony, ranks second all-time at KU in career rushing yardage (3,788) and in single-season rushing yardage (1,442). Deshaun Sands, a three-star recruit with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, rushed for 1,486 yards and 13 scores last year at Monarch (Fla.) High.

Porter played in college last season at College of San Mateo (Calif.). He’s 6-0, 195 pounds and runs a 4.38 40-yard dash.

One of the four needs to lock this spot down. Take a look around the Big 12. With the exception of Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter, effective rushing attacks come in pairs. Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray for Oklahoma. Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille for Nebraska. Brown and Murray each rushed for 1,000 yards at Oklahoma last season, and both will return this year. Helu Jr. and Castille could flirt with 2,000 combined yards this season for the Cornhuskers.

Colorado has the deepest corps of running backs in the conference, and the Buffaloes will feature a quartet of Darrell Scott, Rodney Stewart, Brian Lockridge and Demetrius Sumler in 2009.

The Jayhawks are going to be explosive on offense, but they’ll need someone to spell Sharp every now and then.

The door’s wide open.


truefan 10 years, 6 months ago

Very good article and good point. I really think Jocques could have been more productive this season, but I will have no problem "settling" with the thunder of Opurum, Lewis' shifty speed, or the name Sands on the back of a jersey that could continue the legend and once again haunt opposing defenses. They will all compete for the starting spot after this coming season, and I wouldn't mind seeing any of the three getting announced on the jumbo tron.

kw11b2p 10 years, 6 months ago

What about occasionally running a two back set. Didn't we do this against Oklahoma in the third quarter when we took the ball and ran it down there throat to score. Regardless, I think having a talented bruiser like Opurum will take some of the load off Sharp and probably make him a more effective runner as defenses try to adjust to an offense that relies on two primary backs.and opposed to one--Sharp. Also hope Sharp has worked on his lateral speed and transition to make him a more complete back.

Omari Miller 10 years, 6 months ago

Don't sleep on Daniel Porter, either. He's a blaszing fast RB that I've been able to see in person out here in the San Francisco Bay Area. He's legitimately in the high 4.3s. Hopefully he'll be able to transition into the speed of the D1, FBS game quickly and see good playing time in some role that will make good use of that speed. He's got to be the fastest on the team now.

kw11b2p 10 years, 6 months ago

By the way, don't believe the "story" about Crawford leaving Kansas. He was suspended after running over a teamate while intoxicated after having a racially motivated altercation with the other player. You run over a teamate with your car while drunk and are still able to play ball anywhere.......simply amazing. And yes this is the real reason, I know a member of the coaching staff.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

kw11b2p - He ran him over, or the other player fell off his car? The former is much more Crawford's fault. The latter makes you wonder what a person is doing on top of a car while it is moving.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

"Sharp — though I love how he plays, respect his blazing, effortless speed and think he could rush for 1,000 yards this year — won’t be carrying the rock 20 times a game in 2009. Consider Sharp averaged 14.3 carries a game last year as a junior. The Salina native had 186 (42 percent) of the Jayhawks’ 440 total carries on the season."

Consider that the average includes te first 4 games - before Mangino gave him the chance as a starter, when he averaged 6.5 cpg. After he became the starter in week 5, he avg. 18 cpg, and 21+ if you discount the 3 South games when we spent the entire game trying to keep up. Jake can carry the ball 20 pg if necessary. He won't likely get much more - only one time last year did he have more than 22 (31 against CU), but then hopefully we'll be able to develop the others and keep him fresh.

kw11b2p 10 years, 6 months ago


He intentionally ran over the teamate because Crawford was drunk and apparently the other guy was pretty racist. It was a clean cut case of drunken retaliation.

jchief40 10 years, 6 months ago

spell spell spell spell spell spelly spell spell spell spell spell spellecatucious

Yakihawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Toben Opurum is coming in hot, I would bet my house on it. But please, let's never refer to him as T.O., that monicker is reserved for a certain prima-donna in the NFL that I wish would disappear as fast as Michael Vick's career. (yeah it rhymes, get over it.)

panalytic 10 years, 6 months ago

I have confidence in Sharp.

If we are talking backup, it was interesting to hear that somebody runs a 4.38 forty. Wow, that sounds awful fast. I don't know anything about that guy but I hope to see him flying around the field this year.

KGphoto 10 years, 6 months ago

He doesn't just run a quick 40, he runs the play out. He gets the most out of his attempts. Running or receiving. He understands the defense. He understands the situation. He understands what the team needs to win.

Jake is NFL ready. He's Warrick Dunn. Most likely, he won't get near that credit, and he'll have to prove himself all over again, just like Warrick. But Jake is a Grade A football player. He'll get a chance at the next level. Mark it.

GrayHawker 10 years, 6 months ago

The facts on Lueken getting hurt are not at all as described by these comments. Lueken jumped on Crawford's vehicle and Crawford naturally hit the brakes. Lueken slid off the hood and hit his head on the pavement. The responsibility was with Lueken.

He was not "ran over" and it was not retaliation. Crawford was suspended in the spring before this happened and it was for team policy violations.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

kw11b2p - Grayhawker's comments above are consistent with the "reliable sources" posted on If you have something authoritative, please post.

My guess is that you are mistaken concerning the incident. We know that Crawford was at least detained after the incident. If he were drunk, the police would have been obligated to arrest and prosecute him - They don't mess with DUI's - neither happened. Alcohol may have been involved, but Crawford wasn't drunk.

It is understandable that you could be confused, since what you are saying is similar to the initial media representation of the incident. Time seems to have shed more light on the incident. You might want to catch up with current info before you start posting.

KEITHMILES05 10 years, 6 months ago

Crawford had not been with the team for months due to violation of team rules.

bradh 10 years, 6 months ago

I'm looking forward to seeing Sands against MU. Hope for a little deja vu.

mikeowens 10 years, 6 months ago

"We know it won’t be Crawford, who fell 1,768 yards short of his goal of a 2,000-yard season last year." Nice. I know you want your boy Opurum to take the job, Sorrentino, despite the fact that he came from East.

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