Sunday, August 21, 2011

Running wild: Backs Bourbon, Pierson stand out

Running back Brandon Bourbon (25) tries to break cornerback Greg Brown’s tackle during the open scrimmage that was part of the Family Fun Fest held at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, August 20, 2011.

Running back Brandon Bourbon (25) tries to break cornerback Greg Brown’s tackle during the open scrimmage that was part of the Family Fun Fest held at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, August 20, 2011.


All offseason, Kansas University football coaches raved about their talented stable of running backs and how much the group would help improve KU’s offense this season.

Saturday, at the open-scrimmage portion of the annual Family Fun Fest, the Jayhawks received serious contributions from a couple of those backs.

Red-shirt freshman Brandon Bourbon scored two touchdowns from inside five yards, and true freshman Tony Pierson added another TD from just outside the red zone. Both were on the short list of players who stood out Saturday, and KU coach Turner Gill afterward talked about what he saw from his two explosive tailbacks.

“Brandon did some good things today,” Gill said. “He shows some flashes in practice, and then there’s always something that will come up with a little nick or an injury. It was good to get him some reps. We saw some impressive runs. He ran hard. He ran through some tackles. That was good to see.”

As for Pierson, who ripped off two of the day’s longest runs — both in the 20- to 25-yard range — Gill said his ability to contribute immediately centered on one thing.

“Obviously with him, it comes down to speed,” Gill said. “He can turn the corner, outrun some people out there and make some things happen. He brings that speed and explosiveness to our football team and to the offensive side of the ball. He did some good things there (today) too. He’s not a guy that is going to be an every-down back, just because of his size, but whenever he touches the football, he has the chance to go the distance.”

James Sims, Deshaun Sands, Ryan Burton and Josh Smith also received carries. Sims took limited snaps, and Blue Springs, Mo., freshman Darrian Miller was held out entirely as a precaution. Gill said Miller was fine and lauded that his offense was able to move the ball without big contributions from the top two players on the depth chart doing much.

“I think it just solidifies what we’re talking about,” Gill said. “We have a good, solid core of running backs that are going to help our football team this year. You need quite a few of those guys because they’re going to get banged up during the course of the season. But I feel like we have quite a few guys that, if they’re called on, they can produce.”

Although the scrimmage was more like a practice and less like a game, it did feature full contact, except for quarterbacks; first-teamers against first-teamers, for the most part; and a full crew of referees. The KU pep band, spirit squad and a few hundred fans in the stands also made it seem as close to gameday as possible in mid-August.

One day after being named the team’s starting quarterback, sophomore Jordan Webb showed why. During his first two drives, he led the first-team offense to two touchdowns.

Webb looked decisive and comfortable in the pocket, more in control on the move and in complete command of the offense.

“(He had) good execution,” Gill said. “But he has room to get better. He did some good things, and that’s why he’s our guy. He’s definitely been ahead of everybody from start to finish. I wanted to see him come back this fall and be more consistent, and he did that.”

In addition to Miller’s absence, five or six other regulars sat out Saturday’s scrimmage. Asked if there was a reason for holding out Tunde Bakare, Tim Biere, Christian Matthews and Chris Omigie, among others, Gill calmed all fears.

“Just precautionary,” he said. “If we were playing a game, they would’ve played. They’ll be ready to play. Just some bumps and bruises, nothing really major. Again, we’re getting ready for Sept. 3.”

That’s the day the Jayhawks open the season against McNeese State at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Competitiveness shows

Late in the scrimmage, freshman defensive back Adonis Saunders intercepted a pass from freshman QB Michael Cummings. The pass was intended for transfer wideout Neal Barlow but was underthrown, which allowed Saunders to make a play on it.

The two Jayhawks wrestled for possession as they fell to the ground, but the fight for the ball didn’t stop there. Long after the whistle had blown, Saunders and Barlow battled for the ball.

Gill and his coaches have talked a lot about their team’s competitiveness during the preseason. And while there were a few other plays and players who showed it Saturday, few demonstrated as well as the two in the late scrum.

Pick a prized possession

Throughout August, KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long has said that the Jayhawks would use junior wide receiver Kale Pick all over the field. Saturday, fans got a lot at what he meant. Pick lined up inside and out and caught balls near the sideline, over the middle and in traffic. He and Webb appear to have good chemistry. Look for Pick to be a big part of KU’s offense this fall.

What about the other QBs?

Senior Quinn Mecham looked about like you’d expect a back-up to look during his drives. He was efficient and effective but showed nothing spectacular. Mecham led KU to back-to-back field goals on his first two drives. The rest of the snaps went to reserves Cummings and Blake Jablonski. Both had good and bad moments throughout the scrimmage and showed that the gap Gill had talked about between his top two QBs and the rest is very real. Colorado freshman Brock Berglund was not in uniform.

Kickers on display

True freshman Alex Mueller handled most of the kicking duties. Mueller connected on field goals of 35 and 24 yards before missing from 42. Later in the day, Ron Doherty, whom Mueller is battling for the starting job, hit from 45 yards on his only attempt. Seconds later, from the other hash, Mueller made one from 47. It was as if the kicking battle were playing out in front of fans’ eyes.


texashawk10 6 years, 10 months ago

It sounds like KU's run defense is as bad as last season which could mean a lot of long Saturdays if the offense isn't really improved. It sounds like KU's lack of size of up front is going to open up a lot of running lanes for opposing offenses. I've been trying to be optimistic about the defense this year, but I haven't seen a lot of positives about the DLine this offseason and combined with the switch to the 3-4 and the injuries KU has already had on the DLine, KU better be good at forcing a lot of turnovers or KU's ppg allowed will not be improved by much, if any this season.

baldwinjhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

Ok class. Let's start at the very beginning. The Kansas Board of Education has to claim responsibility for the horrible football in high schools in the state of Kansas. Let's base our rules on Texas high school football. If kansas would repeal the stupid rules that hinder coaches and kids from doing everything to get better. ie: Limited 7 on 7 tourneys, supervised summer workouts , limited number of games. limited number of quarters etc. KU would have a better selection of in-state recruits to choose from (see the cornholers) Nebraska has allowed little league football starting for second graders since the 70's, If we start the culture of football with our kids young here in Kansas, it will translate into better football for our state schools.

Marc Frey 6 years, 10 months ago

In Texas, my son would report to school at 6:00am for "early PE" and play tennis until first period which was PE and since PE was tennis, he played tennis all year. The same with the Football Team. The loophole is that Texas Schools can allow teams to use the PE class for their sport year around.

Chris Bailey 6 years, 10 months ago

My son starts kindergarden this year and is playing football in Hutchinson. It's flag but I think regular football starts in 2nd or 3rd grade. My nephew has been playing football for at least 3-4 years and he is a 7th grader. I don't know about the 7 on 7 stuff but like I said we're playing in Hutch. I guess that with 6 state championships we must be doing something right with our kids here granted we've only had a handful for D1 kids but it's better than it has been.

justanotherfan 6 years, 10 months ago

The difference is not in the instate players. Hutch has some great players, no doubt, and their titles prove that. The difference is between the development of in state players and out of state players. Simply put, the rules here in Kansas keep Kansas kids from developing at the same rate as kids from Texas, Georgia, Florida, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc., where they allow more 7 on 7 and coaching contact during the summer. I'm sure if Hutch's coaches could work with their returning players during the summer months, those kids would improve even more rapidly than they currently are improving. Also, Kansas' restriction on travel - not allowing teams to play anyone that is further than 450 miles from the border (the approx. furthest distance you can travel in state) keeps teams from being exposed to teams from other states (Hutch being an exception to that since they traditionally pick up one out of state game).

Unfortunately, the smaller schools in Kansas don't want that to happen. Since many smaller schools have coaches that coach 2-3 sports, it would be a huge burden on them to have to coach their athletes in the summer. And travel would be tough as well, especially since generally only the larger, powerhouse schools travel. It would mean that a kid from let's say Spearville, Ks, if he were exceptional, would choose to go to Dodge City instead so he could travel out of state, or a kid from Nickerson decides to play at powerhouse Hutch if they are traveling to Texas or Arkansas for out of state showdowns.

This levels the playing field in state, but unfortunately, when it comes to college recruiting, it leaves Kansas players behind on the development chain.

texashawk10 6 years, 10 months ago

Even if Kansas adopted a similar set of rules regarding HS football, there just isn't the population in state to support 2 BCS conference schools with enough talent to be competitive. Houston and DFW are each double the size of the entire state of Kansas and both are about the same size as the state of Missouri. There's just not the numbers in either state to allow those schools to do the majority of their recruiting at home. Updating the rules for the state of Kansas would also take a several years to see any real change in the caliber of recruits from Kansas. It would be nice though to see the state of Kansas be able to produce some farmboy linemen because that is how Nebraska was able to build their program into a powerhouse.

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 10 months ago

I agree. There needs to be some changes made.

Ashwin Rao 6 years, 10 months ago

Hopefully the first stringers didn't practice yesterday.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 10 months ago

You apparently missed the sentence about 1's against 1's.

Sounds like a healthy OL and the new RB's & WR's are ahead of the D. As always with scrimmages, we really won't know what's what for another 2 to 6 weeks.

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 10 months ago

Wow. I don't think I would read that into the performance of our running backs and I don't see how you get that from this article. Now, if you were at the scrimmage and that is what you witnessed, but then you didn't say that. This is also a concern of mine but don't see how that concern has yet to be demonstrated.

minipman 6 years, 10 months ago

Look at the glass half full. Maybe our o line and runnings backs are amazing

Chris Bailey 6 years, 10 months ago

Thanks Matt Tait! Thanks for giving my boy Josh Smith props! Glad to see his name in an article! Doesn't mean his a big player but he's on the team and obviously playing well enough to get a few carries. I can't wait for the first game! Bought my tickets yesterday and also for the Baylor game! Gonna be a fun season. Glad to hear Webb was playing well and that he is much improved. Let's hope the offense was really good yesterday because it sounds like they moved the ball at will on the defense.

John Randall 6 years, 10 months ago

This season has the makings of a watershed year. It will be tough to do more than avoid embarrassment with nine games in the number 2 or 3 conference in the land (four teams in pre-season top10).
Winning early is crucial for confidence, and getting a few breaks (like happened in '07) could be key.
With such a young and thin defense, I don't see Jayhawks winning any games without a decided edge in offensive snaps, so O-line will be the bellweather. Staying on the field is more important than anything else – both for this year's record and for overall team growth.

Rock Chalk! Go 'Hawks!

troutsee 6 years, 10 months ago

Being able to make first downs consistently takes the pressure off the defense. Hopefully our defense surprises us. I have a fairly good feeling about this team. We'll see.

Cmill1221 6 years, 10 months ago

But he is such a nice guy!! And what a great recruiter!!!!

Chris Bailey 6 years, 10 months ago

How about you stop with the comments until after the season is underway and if he sucks then you can have your time in the spotlight. Right now I think he has upgraded our team and we are improving.

Chayse Patrick 6 years, 10 months ago

why don't you run away for the next 3-4 months??? SOU YUCK!!!!!!!

Laurence Cooley 6 years, 10 months ago

I still think we are going to surprise a few teams. im optimistic!


Jayhawk1116 6 years, 10 months ago

Really happy to see Kale Pick successfully transitioning to wide receiver. I was looking forward to him being the heir apparent to Reesing. Looks like he's (hopefully) going to be Meier's heir instead. I still say keep him practicing with the quarterbacks. I love the idea and possibilities of having two guys who can throw the ball on the field at the same time.

Eric Williams 6 years, 10 months ago

I think the highlight is 2 different kickers making a 45 and 47 yard field goal... maybe we won't have to go for it on the 30 every time.

Mike Kendall 6 years, 10 months ago

613---Totally agree. It is nice to know we have two reliable field goal kickers. Six points is better than a field goal but if we have consistent FG kickers, those guys can be weapons, especially in the fourth quarter with the game tied. Love to see how these guys pan out. Rock Chalk!

Dirk Medema 6 years, 10 months ago

Sounds a bit like the bug-boyz from the 80's, when their 3rd string TB (Ahman Green?) would rush for 200 yds in the 2nd half. Okay, just a little bit. It will help to get a few more classes full of 6-5, 300lb HS OL.

It also sounds like this staff may use Kale even more diversly than Meier was used. I'm recalling comments during last year's camp about Kale being the more active leader through last summer. Really glad to have that leadership on the field beyond the QB.

TaskForce 6 years, 10 months ago

Tait must have been on a long bathroom break as many in attendance at the scrimmage thought Blake Jablonski had a very impressive showing yesterday. Jablonski drove the team down the field passing 3 for 3 on a 70 yard scoring drive (longest drive of the day). Jablonski then drove his unit 50 yards down the field ending in a field goal. Not quite sure what "bad moments" Jablonski might have had as he looked very sharp out there and was in command. It is encouraging to know that when Jablonski is called upon, he can move the team down the field and score. He did it in the Spring Game on two long drives and then yesterday again on two long drives. Also, it was nice to see the band charged up on both of those long drives yesterday.

troutsee 6 years, 10 months ago

Brock's heart is not in playing college FB.

troutsee 6 years, 10 months ago

No. Not at all. Just a gut feeling from the wayhe has approached his college FB career. Sure, he has the assault charge, but there has to be something else going on inside his head to account for his lack of committment to FB. Maybe he'll come around, but his body language says otherwise. Lord I want him to, as we need a big time QB and he seems to have the ingredients to be that guy if he wants to be. I don't see the "want to" in this guy yet. Sure hope he pulls through this.

KGphoto 6 years, 10 months ago

It's hard to tell until you play the games, but there is no doubt we are a better running team than last year.

Last year: Sims Sands Beshears

This year: Sims Miller Bourbon Pierson Sands Beshears

We upgraded at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th RB slots. That's ridiculous!

Obviously the D is looking soft because of all the speed at Turner's disposal right now. The Bonneville Backfield is gonna give a lot of teams fits this year. And all the talk of moving Bourbon to RB is finally, rightfully, starting to quiet down (Keegan). No way do they pull a guy with that kink of running ability out of there. I can definitely see him doing kick returns in addition, but not exclusively. I can't wait for that first complete breakaway. Blue Flame baby!

Dirk Medema 6 years, 10 months ago

You even forgot that Rell Lewis would have been the second RB last year if not for the injury, and he probably pushes Sands down a notch, while Beshears really isn't even in the RB picture anymore.

KirkwoodHawk 6 years, 10 months ago

Dagger, if you are thinking about the same game I am, it was I.M. Hipp or Jarvis Redwine that 100 in the 1st Qtr, the other had 100 in the 2d Qtr, and Roger Craig had 200 in the 2d half, including a 99 yd TD.

Funhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

Lawrence Journal World, Thursday, October 11, 1979. Johnson Still Can't Move Up by Chuck Woodling, J-W Sports Editor. Not much has changed at Nebraska. Craig Johnson is still the Cornhuskers' third string tailback. Johnson, you may recall, is the fellow who ran wild on Kansas last year, gaining 192 yards in 10 carries and catching a 78-yard touchdown pass. Now a junior, the 6-1, 180-pound Johnson hasn't been able to move ahead of veteran I. M. Hipp and transfer Jarvis Redwine in the Nebraska tailback pecking order. If Johnson were at Kansas, chances are he'd be No. 1. He knows that, too. But the Omaha high school product made his decision. "Kansas was the first school to contact me," Johnson explained, "and the first school I visited. I'm a business major and KU has a good business school. I liked it. Probably the only thing missing was a winning team." Two days later, Craig Johnson, the third string tailback, had 138 yards on nine carries. Final score = NU 42, KU 0.
Roger Craig was to be a starter in 1982, but Mike Rozier was a complete surprize and took Craig's starting position. Rozier eventually won the Heisman in 1983. Turner Gill was the quarterback at this time. Probably more than you ever want to know about Husker football, but the big bully on the block has left our conference.

Phoggin_Loud 6 years, 10 months ago

What's your point?

That article was not fun.

Funhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

Reply to KirkwoodHawk's post, and no, it was not fun.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 10 months ago

As my ignorance shows, I had tried to block that stuff out of my memory - thanks for the painful remider. :-)

okiedave 6 years, 10 months ago

The Tulsa World Football section today were listing for players to watch for each team. Not one player was listed for Kansas. The lack of respect irritates me. I hope we surprise many teams this year and earn some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

kureader 6 years, 10 months ago

I can promise you that your irritation is nothing compared to how the players and coaches feel.

I expect a few surprises, too. We'll be much better at the skill positions this year, simply because we'll have more speed.

Injuries will probably be an issue again. We not very deep. And, freshman just aren't ready to handle the physical punishment they'll take against teams on our schedule.

Regardless, I'll be bringing my friend, Jack Daniels, to the games. I intend to enjoy them.

Jeff Coffman 6 years, 10 months ago

I hear your irritation, but can you give me a player on our team who is a top 3-4 player in their position for the conference? I didn't read the article, but I assume it is 1st, 2nd, and honorable mention style.

I think we have some potential surprises, but I'm not sure if they are proven like some of the other teams have. I think our RB has some potential (However, Finch from OU is better). It would be hard to rate anyone from our O-Line from their performance last year, but there is hope this year. Our WR right now don't compare to Blackmon or Boyles. Our TE same thing, but that might be the closest point we have. On our Defense, last year had a lot of injuries and so it is hard to assess us better than the rest, when we still have questions. Opurem might surprise. Our LBs last year were not the best performers, although it might be a strength this year. Even our kickers are new this year.

Finally, keep in mind this is the Tulsa World located in Oklahoma. I'm guessing that since both OU and OSU are ranked in the preseason Top 10, that there would be some bias towards those two teams. I would like to think the Kansas City Star and the LJW would have some of those same biases for Kansas, but usually don't.

Gregor Southard 6 years, 10 months ago

Hey Tait! Yahoo sports doesn't have Albert Collins with any NFL team. What did I miss?

David Lara 6 years, 10 months ago

The only Albert Collins i know is a blues guitarist. Perhaps you are talking about Anthony? I just read he is backing up in that black hole of a football franchise, the Bungles. The guy ahead of him is a prospect they drafted high and can't quite accept that he isn't going to get the job done. Collins is expected to win the job whenever the staff finally accepts reality. Good thing Briscoe got outa there when he did. Found himself a nice little situation in TB as well!

Gregor Southard 6 years, 10 months ago

Thanks Wiseas**! He's not listed on the roster, that's why I asked

Mike Nicco 6 years, 10 months ago

SI has us going 1-11 overall and 0-9 in conference. How about that for a lack of respect!!

Mike Kendall 6 years, 10 months ago

It won't take much motivation to look at the SI piece and stick a copy of that on each player's locker at Memorial Stadium. I am looking for some surprises, too, kureader.

DevilHawk 6 years, 10 months ago

I wouldn't call that a lack of respect, because it's a very real possibility. There are several perspectives over at RCT, under the heading "4. Record prediction. Who do you have the Jayhawks beating and any toss up surprises?":

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 10 months ago

I for one will be really happy to see us under center for 3rd and short, not in a shotgun formation, as though the only way we can possibly get three yards is to throw it. Even when we had Reesing and the spread it was always an embarrassment. Now, we will line it up and stuff it. Anyone remember when OU was in the redzone against Florida in the NC game and they were running it out of the shotgun? They start with a QB five yards deep and all they need is three or four yds for the TD. I was thinking, wow, the mighty Sooners can't line up and punch it in from three yards out? Mark my words, when we can do this and do it well a lot of things are going to fall into place! I get it Coach Gill. Keep on.

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 10 months ago

I will be satisfied if we take high risk. If a team is going to march right down the field and score at will (like we have had to witness a lot even during Mangino's last two years) I figure you might as well risk giving them a home-run by intensive pass rush, creative pass defense. I like what Cleveland did last year. Can't remember what that D is called. They had their down linemen dropping back and had a couple of linebackers rushing. I like a lot of guys in the box, hands up, batting balls, rush feints, stunts and any kind of D trickeration. Create confusion and uncertainty, burst of power and attack on each play like this play is going to be the opponent's last in this series. If you aren't jacked each play, get off the field and let someone else who is jacked up play. That is what I liked in watching the film of our recent D recruit, cant remember his name, but man he was jacked. Those guys are contagious.

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 10 months ago

Absolutely, that has been one of the most ridiculous calls that I see lots of teams beside ours make. Drives me crazy. You only need 3. I have seen QB sneaks get that kind of yardage. Yet, we want to take the ball back five yards via the snap and basically then have to get 8 yards from there for the first down. That would be a good definition of insanity. It would be like being in a hopeless debt situation and going out and borrowing twice what you owe so that you can catch up on your payments.

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