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