Thursday, October 29, 2009


Opurum may be equalizer


College football offenses have come so far since the days of the Ohio State teams of Woody Hayes employing the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach. The spread offense makes defenses cover the entire field. Scoring has soared.

Teams that run the spread generally use the pass to control the ball. They make their way to touchdowns quicker than offenses from a bygone era. More than ever, the quarterback carries the brunt of the pressure. Kansas has an excellent quarterback, Todd Reesing. He’s the biggest reason KU has a 25-8 record in the past three seasons.

Yet, in sports, teams that rely too heavily on their best player tend to reach a point where they pay for that approach. Kansas appears to have reached that point. Everything opposing defenses do is aimed at slowing down Reesing. It’s getting mighty hot in Reesing’s kitchen, with defenses hemming him in, at once taking away his East-West scrambling opportunities and blocking his vision at the line.

One means of relieving the pressure on Reesing hasn’t really been tried, at least not in a stubborn way. One teammate just might be Reesing’s salvation and he is neither a receiver nor a lineman. He’s a running back made to run between the tackles.

The easy answer to why it wouldn’t make sense to open the game handing it three consecutive times to true freshman Toben Opurum from Plano, Texas, is that the defense would catch on, bring an extra defender to the line, and stop him. Easier than it sounds. Opurum is a powerful back. He hasn’t often shown an ability to cut in a Brandon McAnderson way that makes tacklers miss, but he does drag defenders with him. He doesn’t run backward. He’s the sort of back who can keep the chains moving forward. And if he does, he could open things up for Reesing and his receivers and make Jake Sharp more dangerous as the change-of-pace home run hitter.

He could bring the balance Kansas hasn’t had in the Big 12. In three conference games — KU had to play catch-up in two of them — Kansas has attempted 145 passes and 84 rushes.

Opurum, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound back gifted with sure hands, has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and rushed for eight touchdowns. Many of those carries have come in short-yardage situations, bringing the average down. He also gets high grades for pass-blocking, receiving and a mature mental approach.

“Really like what he brings to the game,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “... He’s done a nice job, even in big games in crucial situations. We’re just real pleased with him. He just keeps getting better and better. I thought he made some really nice runs on some third downs (against Oklahoma), really moved the pile and converted for us.”

Making tacklers miss regularly will come, Warinner predicts.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit of us just wanting to have a physical approach with him and let Jake be the change-of-pace guy,” Warinner said. “But I think he can make guys miss in practice and he’s shown it in a couple of the games.”

It would be interesting to see what Opurum could show Saturday in Lubbock as the focal point of the offense.


Dirk Medema 10 years, 2 months ago

Until Jake gets enough speed, etc back to be able to average at least 3 ypc, Toben needs to start and get the bulk of the PT. Otherwise Jake only hurts the team he so longs to help.

Eurekahwk 10 years, 2 months ago

Yes, nobody wants to admit it. But teams have neutralized the short Todd Reesing by simply keeping him in the pocket. He can't see over his linemen, so he doesn't know Wilson or Sharp are wide open in the flats while everyone is pressing on Briscoe and Meier. It will continue to be a problem until he grows 5 inches, or we show that we can run the ball. The line is good enough to keep defenders out of Reesing's backfield, but they aren't big enough to push anyone forward. Thus Sharp is no good. This is where Opurum comes in. So long as the line holds ground on short yardarge, Opurum will bulldoze the pile.

rastameta 10 years, 2 months ago

I actually agree with you Keegan. Our offensive coaches need to be more balanced, providing they can run it effectively. I will take 4 or 5 yards a carry any day. It would help the defense as well.

Also, I would like to point out something. The other teams have come up with defensive schemes to stop our offense and they have worked pretty well for them for the the most part. Why is it that no matter what we do on defense and no matter who we play, we can't seem to scheme to stop their offense?

It might be do to a lack of talent mentally (can't handle the schemes or read offenses, or take coaching well, or don't have the right mental make-up for defense), but it isn't because a lack of physical talent why we can't stop anyone in the Big 12. Other teams with less talent seem to be able to stop our offense and everyone thinks our offense does have a of talent.

You cannot honestly tell me that Iowa St. and Colorado have as much talent on their defense as we do on our offense, yet they did a lot of good things against our offense to confuse them and create some stops. Granted they weren't world beaters and we still scored 30 or more, but they did enough to get stops against one of the better offenses in the Big 12.

IMHO, it is a glaring sign of some inadequacies in our coaching staff. I like a lot of the coaches and I do think Mangino has done wonders for our program, but it is time to take it to the next level and you can't do that if your coaches and/or coordinators are holding you back.

Robert Brock 10 years, 2 months ago

No matter what our offense does Saturday we cannot allow TTech's offense to do to us what they did to us last season. That was brutal.

Michael Leiker 10 years, 2 months ago

Dude did Keegan just read everybody's posts yesterday and write an article about them?

leikness - "but Toben is just such a nice change up for our offense that it kills me to not see him get the ball a ton. Having a hard straight ahead runner to compliment our passing game just seems like such an obvious benefit that you have to have the blinders on to not see it."

Keegan - "Opurum is a powerful back...He doesn’t run backward. He’s the sort of back who can keep the chains moving forward. And if he does, he could open things up for Reesing and his receivers and make Jake Sharp more dangerous as the change-of-pace home run hitter."

Total paraphrasing :)

Michael Leiker 10 years, 2 months ago

By the way does anybody else have this syndrome where they just completely forget the fact that we ever play Oklahoma and Texas? I can't help but catch myself thinking the last game was the Colorado game. Selective recall. It's like they're just too good and it doesn't even count.

gojbirds 10 years, 2 months ago

Completely agree. Opurum's lack of touches in the CU game lost the game for us. Not only can he open things up for reesing, it will open things up for Sharp. Does anyone see a problem with a few plays with both of them in the game at the same time?

sdoyel 10 years, 2 months ago

Sorry Sharp, but Toben should be getting 20 carries a game.

NebraskaJayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

Maxhawk, that is the dumbest comment I've read all year.

Two back set. Get it done.

pmohr13 10 years, 2 months ago

gojbirds, I have been saying a split back field is what we have been needing the whole time. Last year we rant he ball 5 of 6 plays on Oklahoma and scored easily because we had Angus Quigley lead blocking for Sharp. After that drive the two back set has disappeared never to be seen from again. It has irritated me for about a year now. Just my observations and my two cents.

slantrox 10 years, 2 months ago

What am I missing? OU, the best D in the USA, slows us down and now we suck...Reesing sucks? GIVE ME A BREAK! Todd throw a bad pass at CU and got sacked and fumbled at CU...shoot happens! He still had a zillion yards. OU has some picks, ONE off a tip and suddenly he can't see over the line?

Have we come so far over the years that the only stories we can find are the ones we make up?

Both this and the headline story make me sick. We have gotten behind before and played catch-up. Hard to do against CU, nearly impossible against a true team like OU. Don't let OU's record fool you. They lost to top 15 teams by a total of 5 points in 3 games. WE ARE FINE PEOPLE! We don't need anything new...just execute what we have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nathan Mattison 10 years, 2 months ago

Before everyone jumps ship with Sharp. How about we give him ONE GAME, just one game, where he gets at least 20 carries. Toben has over 40 more carries than Sharp (partly as a result of injury). Sharp has a slight edge YPC and he is more of a boom or bust running back, give him a good amount of carries and he will bust a few. Also, in watching games, and despite conventional wisdom given the size difference, Sharp is a much better pass blocker... i encourage anyone to watch them during the games if they disagree with the blocking statement.

Kenneth Hillman 10 years, 2 months ago

How does Warriner say what he says above and NOT give TO the ball more?

gojbirds 10 years, 2 months ago

I'm not ant-Sharp. I just think our ground game would be more robust with a dual threat. We don't even need them both in at once, although I think it could be effective.

jayhawkintx73 10 years, 2 months ago

Max, yes he has, and that one against Oklahoma set the tone for the day. Not necessarily the first one, but the 2nd one when if he would have simply just pump faked and then threw the ball away. We would have had at least 3 and the score would have been 7-3 at worst, but instead it was 14-0. That was a big time turning point when we were threatening to score. He doesn't have to make a play every single time to be a great QB.

But this should be something that if the coaches are looking at this on film and see how the corners and linebackers cheat up on one of those plays, design a play that exploits that. pump fake, let the linebacker of corner bite, then throw it right behind him to the same receive and he would have walked in for the tying score.

mdfraz 10 years, 2 months ago

jw, you really think it was ONLY Reesing that brought us back? Not Dez? Not Kerry? Not the line who protected for him? And are you really going to try to blame an O lineman, whose job it is to block his man from getting to the QB, for Todd's fumble? Yes, Spikes and Reesing collided, but I ask you two things: 1) Who was in better position to see what/who was around him, including other players, Todd or Jeff? 2) Who actually had the ball in his hands and has the responsiblity to protect it? Spikes got beat by his man, his man stepped back to try to get around, and Spikes moved with him. That's his job as an O lineman. It's not his job to have eyes in the back of his head to make sure he doesn't bump Todd.

Eurekahwk 10 years, 2 months ago

Reesing CAN'T see over his line. If he could, we should have scored 60 against Northern Colorado. At least 50 against UTEP. We didn't score at all in the 4th against USM. We always down play it. But when we line up against the upper echelon, it becomes a huge factor. Yes, I know its OU and Texas. But isn't that the whole point. We go from winning the Orange Bowl against VT to mediocre in just a couple of seasons. Aren't we trying to be better than just a basketball school? If we aren't, they need to hold off on that Gridiron Club. I see next year's attendance having a huge drop off.

yovoy 10 years, 2 months ago

lots of issues i'm seeing:

we live and die with reesing. when he's not himself, for whatever reason, we die. when he "does his thing" we live - WELL. the year we pulled his shirt, he didn't have as much talent around him as he does now, and he made plays. he hasn't looked like himself lately. is that our play-calling, opponent's d prep/gameplan, or something else? i don't care about why. my money is still on reesing. any smart money should be. he's the equalizer, and i don't care who we're playing.

from what i've seen of opurum, and since 'in todd we trust' hasn't been himself, why not waste the opponents' preparation by running the ball a bit more? if we get the 3 or 4 yards we need, we become more than a spread team, and d coordinators have to actually work to stop us andandand reesing gets to operate a bit more. we also gain more control of the clock/ball. of course we need to make that yardage. until sharp is healthy, we can't do that, and i'm not sure we can. i LOVE the kid, and if he gets enough touches he IS going to bust one, but all we have is a passing game until he gets healthy and/or until he busts one. i'd rather move a bit of the load to opurum. he's healthy, he's big, he moves forward. run a draw w/ 2 backs when they aren't rushing a bunch or when the safety is up? oh, we'd rather set up the run w/ the pass. i like that, but when it doesn't work...

i hate to look back for where this team slipped, but i'm just going to put this out there. the day that bill young left, we LOST more than we could imagine. think about that one for awhile. if we were down at half, we knew that he was going to go in at half, hatch a plan, and the d was going to just get stiff, do their job, and if the offense did what they were capable of, we'd have a chance to win. we don't have that now. was it solely young? no, but he was a big part of the success we had - and we had pretty decent linebackers. our lb are small and slow.

grandpa 10 years, 2 months ago

Jwliddell: For once, I can say you have said something sensible. Reesing himself said that the penalty on Wilson was wrong. Reesing said"we have done that many times with no penalty"I disagree that the fumble was the fault of Spikes. The quarterback should be watching for something like this to happen. It was probably 50-50 if you want to pick a fault. We have got to think positive. Reesing has made up with his fat girlfriend and we are going to beat TT. I will see you at the game!!!!!Thanks for your interest, I just got checked and I don't have Altzheimers

mdfraz 10 years, 2 months ago

"spikes caused the fumble in boulder not reesing"........a direct quote from you jw. Who's pointing fingers and blaming? I responded to your claim that it was Spikes' fault. And I still maintain that the O lineman's job is to worry about the defender trying to get to the QB, not worry about whether the QB and he bump, possibly causing a fumble. I also noted that it was just "one of those plays" that happen sometimes, but ultimately the responsibility is with the guy toting the ball, not anyone who happens to bump into him, whoever caused the contact.

As for whose "fault" losing at CU was, I completely agree that it is a team game and there is plenty of blame to go around. However, as QB, right or wrong, the offensive performance tends to center around the man taking the snaps. As has been said by Warriner (and many, many others) the QB probably gets too much credit and probably too much blame. It's the nature of the position. If the O line could have blocked better, we wouldn't have had negative rushing yards. If Dez reels in that last ball (in triple coverage, jumping high in the air) we win. If the refs didn't fcuk us over on the OPI, we have the lead with 4 minutes to go. If the defense would have prevented even ONE of the third and longs from being converted, perhaps it's a totally different ballgame. There are at least 22 guys that have major impact on the game, plus the kicker, punter and all the substitutions. No it's not ALL Todd's fault, any more than it was ALL his doing when we mounted our comeback.

I'm not sure if you were addressing all your comments to me, but there's my response.

Larry Smith 10 years, 2 months ago

The reason we lost the game in Boulder is because we had first and goal at the three yard line and we didn't give it to TO four times.

John Percival 10 years, 2 months ago

86 - nice post. The pass interference was b.s., but why not man-up and run the ball down their throats (at least once)? I don't read everything, but didn't TO limp off the field in the CU game? Haven't seen or heard anything about it. Perhaps that's why we didn't run it there.

John Percival 10 years, 2 months ago

I think most would have OU, TT & UT as losses, that why CU hurts so bad. Tech looks beatable now. Take care of business in Lubbock and we'll ok. Hate to use pop-psyche, but it's time to move on. Wonder if Memphis people are still posting "man, if we had just hit those free-throws." The horse has been beaten.

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