Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Matt Tait’s Kansas football notebook


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.”


KU_Alumn_2000 8 years, 5 months ago

Could be a good sign hearing Torbush talk about Toben's "nose for the football". It would be HUGE if TO becomes a Ray Lewis at linebacker and helps our defense.

Can't wait to see Quigley bust through some holes on Saturday. Watch out NDSU defenders...Quigs can deliver some punishing blows to tacklers.

sevenyearhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Quigley just needs to hold on to the freaking football!

KGphoto 8 years, 5 months ago

I can only think of 2 times that Quigs has fumbled in 5 years at KU. Unfortunately he lost them both. The only reason he's getting ripped for it is because Mangino made such a big deal out of it. MM benched his leading rusher at 5.2 ypc to make a point. Which, as it turns out, is just the type of thing that got him railroaded out of town.

Turner Gill has more faith in his players. And you gotta believe that Angus is tired of hearing about those two fumbles by now. He'll be fine.

sevenyearhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Hope you're right, if not I know where to find ya ...

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 5 months ago

You don't always turn the ball over when you fumble, but even if you get it back it can be a real drive killer. I do seem to remember him having fumbling problems...and at bad times.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 5 months ago

Have you, or anyone else out there in RCT-land, ever heard of a carries per fumble stat for RB's. They do stuff like that in baseball a lot (HR's per AB) but I've been thinking it would be interesting to know how Angus actually, statistically ranks compared to other RB's, or is it just a perception that gets thrown around a lot until people believe it is true?

HawkDigestCom 8 years, 5 months ago

Deeper kickoffs -- that's one easy way to make an improvement over 2009's overall performance.

KU 8 years, 5 months ago

No doubt! I thought the same thing. It was hard to win the field position battle when your kicker could only get the ball to the 7 or 8 yard line on kickoffs. People made a big deal about Branstetter's tackling ability. My take was "if the kid would kick it in the endzone we wouldn't need to know about his tackling ability."

KGphoto 8 years, 5 months ago

Not sure why MM never tried that. Those short kickoffs are the most frustrating thing to watch. Just another reason to believe TG will succeed.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 5 months ago

Yes! I hope to see the opponent regularly starting on the 20 this year. That was very frustrating to see the ball being caught outside the five-yard-line. I think I remember one getting returned from the ten. For having a really porous Defense I cannot believe they did not solve this one last year. Really glad to see this. Will help our D immensely.

stravinsky 8 years, 5 months ago

We're certainly hearing some good things from the coaches here.

Hopefully we see some good things from Opurum. I really liked him as a running back, but if he's got the instincts for it, he certainly has the athleticism and the bruising qualities to make him a top-notch linebacker. It certainly didn't sound like he was absolutely enthused about the switch when it happens, but if Toben can make the transition mentally, he could be very, very good by the time he gets done. And with a body like that, he's probably more suited to play LB on sundays than he would be to play RB. Most NFL teams don't seem to be looking too hard for 250 pound backs.

Increasing our kickoff length certainly won't hurt. Branstetter has done some very good things for us, but if we can get more touchbacks, we'll be in a much better place defensively. We got burned far too many times by return men last year.

Hopefully Branstetter isn't too disappointed about less opportunities for him to make tackles.

David Robinett 8 years, 5 months ago

Plus, I think linebackers last longer in the NFL than running backs.

KU_FanSince75 8 years, 5 months ago

@ stravinsky---- "Hopefully, Branstetter isn't too disappointed about less opportunities for him to make tackles."

Very funny!!!!!!!

A freshman kicker, Ronnie Doherty, walk-on from Klein, TX, handling the kick-off duties---that's got to be impressive. That will be interesting how that pans out. BTW, anyone know where Klein, TX is located? Thanks!

Dirk Medema 8 years, 5 months ago

It's also the hometown for a lot of Jayhawk players.

Jennifer Nikkila Pressgrove 8 years, 5 months ago

mu looza - do you read about other football teams? until Monday, K-State didn't have a starting quarterback set. Nebraska still doesn't have a starting quarterback set and they are the No. 9 ranked team in the country. It is fairly regular to have some question marks at positions going into the first game of the season. take a deep breath and just let football happen.

justinryman 8 years, 5 months ago

Toben played LB in Highschool, at least get your lies right before you post.

Larry Smith 8 years, 5 months ago

Not only has Nebraska not named their starting QB, they have yet to name or determine all of their starters on defense. Such is the way of college football. Don't be such a tool all the time.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 5 months ago

WRT your lies: I was the "fool" commenting to you about Toben's playing time early in the season. I did NOT say whether he was close to seeing the field or not. I did try to remind you of what the coaches said when they switched Toben to LB. The coaches said they didn't expect him to see significant action until several weeks into the season. Imagine that, Toben is exceeding expectations at the position (which makes me a fool?) vs. the brilliant mind who has been spouting off about how this move is as dumb as all the other moves since before Lew hired Turner.

Fortunately, you are the only one that "gets it". It's just too bad we can't you quarentined.

KU_FanSince75 8 years, 5 months ago

@ KRichards--- After I pushed the send button, I said to myself, "wow, I could have googled that." Sometimes I wish I could get that push back. It was too late. Thanks for the valued info.

@ Mulaza--- Do us all a favor and don't post!

KUndeepTX 8 years, 5 months ago

Klein ISD is in NW Harris Co. We are about 25-30 minutes from downtown Houston on a good day. KHS is one of four high schools in KISD. Last year we made it to the semi-finals in the TX 5A playoffs and lost to the eventual champion Abilene by a touchdown. They stopped us on the one yard line as time ran out. Ronny was a big-time weapon for the team. He has a very strong leg and I believe he will do great for KU.

truefan 8 years, 5 months ago

Now those are the kind of informed comments I look forward to on There is no way that I would have been able to find any info on a walk-on kicker so it's nice that someone has seen the kid play.

You say he was a "big time weapon" so is it correct to assume that he has a pretty accurate leg, not just a strong leg? I hope we won't need his accuracy this year, but it would be nice to have a reliable kicker lined up for next season.

KUndeepTX 8 years, 5 months ago

truefan, I'll leave my response as more qualitative rather than quantitative since I don't have the stats from last season. With that said, I suspect the ratio was at least 2 to 1 of touch backs versus run backs. I was thinking that was pretty good esp. since we don't have the wind-aid much here. He has a strong leg and is a pretty good punter and FG. However it sounds like he is a backup for these roles. He was the best I saw during KHS' games last year. I think he has the ability to be a diamond-in-the-rough. I wish him the best of luck.

gongs4ku 8 years, 5 months ago

We're gonna suck this year, but I'm still excited as heck to watch this Saturday. What's more exciting than the start of football season? (ok, the start of basketball season, but besides that)

sevenyearhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

yes we are, and what makes you think that hoops will be that much better?

JBurtin 8 years, 5 months ago

seven, I'm starting to get the feeling that you've got sour grapes now that you're the biggest guy around. You were never this negative before.

I don't doubt that our football team will have some struggles this year. The lack of depth and youth at a few positions is bound to catch up to us eventually.

The bottom line is: who cares if we're all that great in a coach's first year with a team that is young due to recently graduating most of its best players? I just want to see a team that plays hard and is having fun, and want to see the staff pick up some great talent for the future.

Nothing wrong with having a young year occassionally and early indications are that the current staff will do a better job of filling in the holes and reloading than Mangino did.

As for basketball. Last year I saw a group of young guys waiting for Sherron to save the day in every game. Sherron was great, but this year's team may actually be more balanced and likely learned a few lessons from last year's embarrassing tournament loss.

Losing a great talent like Julian Wright actually made us a better team in '08 and losing Sherron may end up indirectly having the same effect in '10.

sevenyearhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

There have been a lot of changes this past year:

in the athletic department, on this site and within me.

Frankly, I've never been more embarrassed to be a Jayhawk alumnus ... from the baskeball/football player fight to the numerous ticket scandals (skimming and porn star) to the Perkins blackmail.

To say nothing of the struggles of the football, women's hoops and baseball teams ... and the completely embarrassing end to the men's hoops' season - Coach Self's third to a mid-major in the first weekend.

It could've been made better by hiring a known quantity and success story, but instead we're taking an ENORMOUS gamble on a nobody. A "nice guy" with one good season to his name - ONE.

I've talked to past and current players families and all I hear is "nice guy" but nothing concrete to convince me that Gill can coach at this level.

Coach Tuberville (undefeated in the SEC) was actively stumping for the job and Lew couldn't even give him a freaking phone call?

Tech set a season ticket record this summer ...

Finally, all the conference re-alignment nonsense has pretty much soured me on college athletics - and that's just tragic.

About all I have left are my Rays ... and they'll probably be busted up, relocated or both in the near future.

Then I'll just have are my kids' sports ...

not really that proud to be a Jayhawk anymore

JBurtin 8 years, 5 months ago


-Lew is gone after this year (likely due to the ticket scandal and blackmail case)

-The porn star thing was a random occurence and really pretty meaningless. I seriously doubt Coach Townscend knew who she was and she probably didn't come out and announce her profession.

-Turner Gill may be a "nice guy" but by getting rid of some bad apples right away he has also shown that he will not get walked over by his players. I can think of no better coach to handle some kids in need of discipline as he focuses on his players becoming positive role models.

As for coaching on this would think 18 years at Nebraska and being a part of 3 national championship teams would count for something. All the Buffalo experiment proved is that he recruits well and is a pretty solid head coach (not all assistants translate well into head coaches and fortunately he's already looked pretty good as a head coach).

  • Sure our baseball team stinks, but who would ever know.

-The women's basketball team had a tough couple of injuries that really put them behind the 8 ball last year. I'm actually relatively pround of the way the rest of the team reponded under the circumstances, and the recruiting is slowly but surely getting stronger.

-I like Tuberville as well and certainly wouldn't be disappointed if we had hired him; however, he had a total of 1 undefeated season in the SEC. That could mean that he's a fantastic coach, or it could mean that he usually had a middle of the pack team and the stars simply aligned for him in a similar way to how they aligned for Mangino in '07.

Q: if he was so great, then why did Auburn fire him? A: He wasn't consistent.

-Though every sports talk meathead wants to claim that the conference realignment is all about sports. It was much more academically driven than most of those morons could comprehend.

In the end it was much ado about nothing. Don't buy into the hype.

Honestly, it sounds like you've spent too much time on Tiggerboard defending every stupid little accusation. Every school has stupid little embarrassing problems and for each of them these stupid little problems only look big from an insider's perspective.

Nobody else really cares.

sevenyearhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

True, but all of our "stupid little embarrassing problems" happened all in the same year - when twelve months ago we were predicting and expecting an epic season for our alma mater.

Now, I'm fairly certain that you and I met once, wasn't it by the Hockey House on Alabama?

You know that I'm the "real deal" and that something pretty drastic has happened to change my attitude.

Thing is - nothing will change it back ...

KU_FanSince75 8 years, 5 months ago

@KUndeepTX--- Thanks for your response. I am familiar with that area of Texas. Been there several times. I am really amazed how big the high school stadiums are deep in the heart of Texas.

Phoggin_Loud 8 years, 5 months ago

FYI to the "we're going to suck" Crowd:

CBS Sports has KU playing Purdue in the Dallas Bowl on January 1st.

sevenyearhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Don't make your reservations quite yet!

and what the Hell is the "Dallas Bowl?"

jayhawkkav 8 years, 5 months ago

Opurum is the best running back on our team.

tical523 8 years, 5 months ago

I think D Sands is going to surprise some people.

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