Two RBs stand out
After switching Toben Opurum to linebacker and watching Rell Lewis go down with a knee injury, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill was left with four running backs in his regular rotation.
Tuesday, at his first weekly news conference of the season, Gill revealed that two of those four were ahead of the game.
“I think for sure two guys are going to (get) the majority of (the carries), (Angus) Quigley and (Deshaun) Sands,” Gill said. “After that, we will just kind of see how it all goes. Whether the freshmen (Brandon Bourbon and James Sims) get in and play, we are still working through that this week.”
When naming the true freshmen who were likely candidates to play this season — Gill said defensive end Keba Agostinho definitely would play — Bourbon and Sims both made Gill’s list of “three to four guys” who could get reps during their first season on the sideline.
As for the top of the depth chart, Quigley, a sixth-year senior, remains the team’s No. 1 back and Sands, a red-shirt freshman, seems to be in position to get plenty of touches.
“They’re different backs, there’s no question about that,” Gill said. “I think we want to get a sense of feel for each game. We’re all still trying to feel our way out. We don’t know yet how guys will respond in a game.”
Toben on track
Speaking of Opurum, Gill also said the running-back-turned-linebacker was in line to log significant action during Saturday’s opener.
“I can’t sit here and say how many reps we are going to play him,” Gill said. “I know he probably isn’t going to play the majority of the game, but yes, he is planning on playing and we will go from there.”
Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush took that a step further, saying he expected Opurum to play between 10 and 20 snaps.
“We’ve tried to keep it as simple as we possibly can,” Torbush said. “We’re trying to teach alignment, assignment and technique, but he does have an outstanding nose for the football, he uses his hands very well, he’s a big guy that’s physical, he looks like a linebacker. In my mind there was no question that the day he moved over there he helped us get better at linebacker.”
Just for kicks
KU special teams coordinator Aaron Stamn confirmed Tuesday that walk-on kicker Ronny Doherty, a freshman from Klein, Texas, would handle kickoff duties in place of senior Jacob Branstetter for the Jayhawks in Saturday’s opener against North Dakota State.
“Ronny has a very, very strong leg,” Stamn said. “Jake’s done a real good job, too, but I think the best thing right now for us is having Ronny be our kickoff guy, because he can give us a good chance to get the ball deep. I think he can be an excellent, excellent kickoff guy.”
Doherty also will serve as the backup place kicker, behind Branstetter, and is listed as the second-string punter behind senior Alonso Rojas.
Movers and shakers
With a couple of minor changes to the depth chart being made public Tuesday — Quintin Woods and Kevin Young are now tied at the top of the defensive end spot opposite Jake Laptad and several second-stringers have moved ahead of the competition behind them — the Jayhawks are down to just a couple of spots in which players still are wondering if they’ll start Saturday.
“We’ll tell ’em here probably Thursday or Friday as far as officially who’s going to start in the game and then go forward,” Gill said. “We’ll let ’em know ahead of time, we’ll always try to do that.”
The most hotly-contested battles remain at the second defensive end spot and at cornerback, where junior Isiah Barfield is trying to hold off senior Calvin Rubles to start opposite senior Chris Harris.
Start time’s just fine
Asked Tuesday if he wished Saturday’s contest was scheduled to kick off earlier since it’s the first game of his KU career, Gill delivered a direct response.
“No. No. No,” he said. “I’ve got my team ready to play at 6:10. 6:10. Not 11:00.”