Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jayhawks focused on running game

Kansas running back Toben Opurum (35) finds some open space in the first half of the Kansas-Kansas State game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 in Manhattan.

Kansas running back Toben Opurum (35) finds some open space in the first half of the Kansas-Kansas State game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 in Manhattan.


Although most of the outside world is fixated on finding out which quarterback — red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb or sophomore Kale Pick — will win the starting job this fall for the Kansas University football team, the Jayhawks, for now, seem more interested in other areas.

During last Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage, the KU offense ran about 70 plays, according to offensive coordinator Chuck Long. Of those snaps, Long said about 50 were running plays.

“We had a big run emphasis in our scrimmage,” Long said. “We wanted to find out some things about run schemes and some of our players. We’re still trying to figure some things out as far as personnel.”

In all, the Jayhawks have at least six running backs to choose from when deciding how to split carries this fall.

Sixth-year senior Angus Quigley emerged from spring drills as the No. 1 back on the depth chart, and red-shirt freshman Deshaun Sands came in at No. 2.

Beyond those two, the Jayhawks also have returners Rell Lewis and Toben Opurum as well as true freshmen Brandon Bourbon and James Sims.

KU coach Turner Gill said Monday, at KU’s annual media day, that he would like to find one running back who could handle 20-25 carries a game.

“No doubt. No doubt,” Gill said. “If we don’t have it, we’ll find a way to still move the football and run the ball. But if I had to sit here and say exactly what I would like to have, it’s having somebody that would carry the ball 20-25 times.”

Long said the reason for the staff’s desire to find a true featured back is that running backs, like quarterbacks, often need time to get into the flow of a game.

“There’s a misconception out there with running backs that if they can run just give ’em the ball, it doesn’t matter if it’s one time or 25 times,” Long said. “That’s really not true. They need the rhythm just like a quarterback needs the rhythm, and people don’t realize that. Their rhythm is the timing with the offensive line, the timing of the play. Some plays are run at a slower pace than others, and that’s what they have to get used to. That’s why you want a guy to get 20-25 (carries) because some of your best production is from carry 15 to carry 25.”

“Are we there, can we say it definitively right now, no,” Long continued. “It’s still a work in progress. But, ideally, you’d like to get to that point.”

The general opinion is that bigger backs are better suited to handle that kind of workload. That school of thought would favor Quigley and Opurum, who both stand 6-foot-1 and weigh 221 and 240 pounds, respectively.

But Long said another way of looking at things could make a case for smaller backs like Sands, who measures 5-7, 190.

“The thing that helps Deshaun is he’s quick,” Long said. “He never gets hit, it’s just glancing blows. (NFL Hall of Famer) Barry Sanders is a guy that just never got hit square on, so he stayed healthy all the way through the year. The opposite (is often) true with those big guys who don’t have the quicks, it’s just pound, pound, pound.”

Regardless of the size or style of his stable of running backs, Gill said Monday he wants the same thing from all of them.

“I want them to be a physical runner, to be athletic, make people miss, and hopefully we have a home-run-hitter that has the speed and can go the distance,” he said. “We are still evaluating and trying to figure out the best fit for our running game. We won’t have a true answer until we are in game situations. But once we get into some games, we will be able to see what our guys can really do; who are the strong blockers and what guys can really get it done. There is not a leading guy at this point.”

Fan Appreciation Day set for Aug. 22

Jayhawk fans will get a chance to see the 2010 KU football team up close and personal at Fan Appreciation Day on Aug. 22.

The event will coincide with a KU practice, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. Gates will open at 4:30, and admission is free.

Following the workout, the entire team will be available for autographs. Fans are asked to limit autograph requests to one item per player or coach.

Round 2 for two-a-days

The Jayhawks will hit the practice field twice today for the second of three scheduled two-a-day practice sessions.

The first such workout came Tuesday, when the Jayhawks practiced once in the morning and again in the afternoon in temperatures that soared into triple digits. Today’s forecast calls for more heat as the high is expected to hit 102 degrees.

KU coach Turner Gill said Monday that he liked the fact that his team was able to practice in extreme conditions now because it better prepares them for the hot and humid days of the season.

Two-a-days for most Jayhawks begin with a big breakfast around 6:45 a.m. and end around 10 p.m. after an evening film session.

KU’s final two-a-day session of the preseason is scheduled for Monday.


Sparko 3 years, 8 months ago

The running back position is stronger than its been in decades. This bodes well.


yovoy 3 years, 8 months ago

Anyone remember when we had Cornish? We ran the ball well, and when B-Mac was around we ran it pretty well. If we were inside the opponent's 5, B-Mac would get the ball, and lots of times we'd have a first down around the 15-yard line. Cornish and B-Mac would combine for a decent amount of yardage sometimes.

I like the spread (okay, I love the chance it gave us to win), AND I like to see a good running game. I'm hoping that Angus and Opurum just go crazy (they might be my favorite players on the team). I hope we can bring Sands in to do the same. I don't like having a "feature" back. I don't think our team will change as much as many of you seem to FEAR. We should see some balance like we had 2 or 3 years ago - at least on 'O'.

Can't wait for the 1st game!


Fortesque Beagleton 3 years, 8 months ago

Does anybody even remember 07-08? Man, between B-Mac and Jake we were playing plenty of ground pounding smash-mouth football, just out of the spread. The spread only works when you have an effective ground game. We had a less effective ground game in 08, and far less in 09, and look at the results in the W-L column. I miss the hell out of B-Mac (just watch the video of him at aTm in 07 on youtube). With the o-line we have returning, even down one man, we should have a pretty decent shot at racking up some serious yardage on the ground.


Mike Kendall 3 years, 8 months ago

Hey, Jayhawk Nation---- Gill is on "The Hill;" Mangino is in Florida playing Keno! Let's move on, shall we?

Can't wait to see how successful our running backs will be this season!

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk--Go KU!


jayhawkox 3 years, 8 months ago

OMG STOP ALREADY--Yes, Mangino did some great things for this program, but he is gone now, and it is by and large his own inability to understand the differences in leeway granted to coaches working professional and amateur athletes that led to his undoing. We have a new coach now, who was run versions of the spread offense his entire time coaching (as has his offensive coordinator) and I'm sure there will still be elements of that in the game plan.

It is also PAINFULLY evident that defenses have figured out how to stop the spread, and if you do not have an effective and well-established ground game when defenses have figured out how to make it hard to pass, you will lose games. I for one think winning by smashing the other team in the mouth is a heckuva lot more fun than losing by throwing the ball (aka, last year's Border War). As far as bashing Gill for his camera presence... I have never heard one other person on either side of the Mangino situation claim that Gill is not a competent talker and motivator.

My goodness, the man hasn't coached one game and was targeted in recent openings at NU and Auburn, almost leading to Auburn's alums revolting when he wasn't hired. I think he's good enough for KU football which, despite any of illusions otherwise, as only reached the heights of being considered a middling program on the national scale.

The Mangino situation is over and done with. Let it die.


Dickless Head 3 years, 8 months ago

I miss the spread already. Those were fun, fun teams to watch, even when we lost. Getting back to boring, conventional football is depressing. Not to mention we lost an incredible coach. Truly a very depressing beginning for KU football fans this year. Hopefully Gill can coach better than he can talk in front of a camera, or it's back to 1999 KU.


hawk316 3 years, 8 months ago

Hall of Famer Walter Payton attributed his success to "God and my offensive line." I like our running backs, but the big boys up front have to create some space. Our running game last year was not very successful most of the time, but I think our o-line is better than that. Here's hoping that they step it up a notch this year and make us proud.


jayhawkox 3 years, 8 months ago

I also salivate at the idea of a two-back set inside the 10 that has both Opurum and Quigs in the backfield. Either could block for the other, and would make the point of attack a lot less obvious, especially if its out of a pro-set backfield.


gojbirds 3 years, 8 months ago

I am curious how Opurum will fit into the scheme. He was very impressive last year before catching the injury bug. Will he be a 3rd down back? Will we see two-back sets? I am just surprised he's not in the top 2 on the depth chart.


rolo2383 3 years, 8 months ago

We do have depth at running back, although most of it is young, so there are plenty of options. I would love it if Bourbon and Sims are able to redshirt.


orbiter 3 years, 8 months ago

" Kansas University so that the second reference of "KU" fits."

--I know it is not your decision, this paper has been doing it for years, but that is a weak, weak reason (again, I'm sure it's not your decision). The university is called the University of Kansas with KU as the abbreviated form, that's just how it is. It is bizarre that the ljworld stubbornly keeps this up. How is being willfully inaccurate a "style"?


Ben Kane 3 years, 8 months ago

I love getting so many opinions of the assistant coaches! definitely a refreshing change.


Patrick Leiker 3 years, 8 months ago

Good article, thanks.

A request for you guys at the Journal World. Before running an article, please do a find and replace. Look for "Kansas University" and replace with "The University of Kansas". thank you.


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