Originally published August 29, 2011 at 03:37p.m., updated August 30, 2011 at 01:54a.m.

Junior among KU’s four captains

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum smiles as he and his teammates stretch out during practice.

Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum smiles as he and his teammates stretch out during practice.


For the first time since Todd Reesing in 2008, Kansas University’s football team lists a junior among its team captains.

According to the weekly game notes released by the football program Monday, defensive end/linebacker Toben Opurum, a junior from Plano, Texas, will join seniors Tim Biere, Jeremiah Hatch and Steven Johnson as the team’s permanent captains for the 2011 season.

KU coach Turner Gill said last week the team would vote for its captains over the weekend. Opurum’s inclusion on the list shows just how far the 6-foot-2, 249-pound athlete who occupies the top spot at KU’s “Buck” linebacker position has come since moving to defense from running back at the beginning of 2010.

Unaware of his upcoming captain status and, for the most part, unconcerned about it, Opurum said earlier this summer that leadership always had been one of his strengths.

“It’s what I’m used to,” he said. “I’ve always been a leader no matter if I was a freshman or if I was a senior.”

Although KU’s captains during the past five years typically have been seniors — 18 of 21, to be exact — Opurum’s extensive playing time and lead-by-example mentality clearly have earned him respect from his teammates. Although the former running back who led the Jayhawks in rushing as a true freshman in 2009 admits to feeling a little on the old side, he said his first two seasons at Kansas had flown by.

“It’s weird,” he said. “I feel like I got here yesterday. I really do remember my freshman year just like it was yesterday. But I definitely feel like I’m one of the older guys now, and I feel like I gotta step up and be a leader and help the young guys out and even help the older guys out who don’t have as much game experience.”

Including this season, KU has fielded four team captains five times since 2000. That includes a stretch of four straight seasons from 2006-09. Last year, Gill’s first at KU, the Jayhawks went with five captains — all seniors — for the first time since 2005. Interestingly enough, during that same 12-year time span (2000-2011), KU has gone with five team captains five times, as well. The only seasons in which KU had a number other than four or five came in back-to-back years when Terry Allen’s last team (2001) rolled with seven captains and Mark Mangino’s first team (2002) went with three.

Depth chart update

Also in Monday’s game notes was an updated version of KU’s depth chart. Although many of the positions were nailed down and known prior to last weekend, a handful remained up for grabs, and those appear to be settled heading into Saturday’s season opener against McNeese State, which is slated for a 6 p.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium.

Among the highlights of the new depth chart were:

• KU’s base offense lists just two spots for wide receivers. Senior Daymond Patterson (5-9, 173) and junior D.J. Beshears (5-8, 174) are listed as first stringers with junior Kale Pick (6-1, 208) and sophomore Christian Matthews (6-1, 186) listed behind them.

• Sophomore James Sims (6-0, 206) is the team’s starting tailback. He’s backed up by red-shirt freshman Brandon Bourbon (6-1, 208) and true freshman Darrian Miller (5-10, 181), who both were listed as second team.

• Two true freshmen will be vital to KU’s kicking game this fall, as place kicker Alex Mueller (5-10, 160) and long snapper Tanner Gibas (6-2, 200) both are slated to start during their first season on campus. In other kicking news, sophomore Ron Doherty (5-11, 206) is listed as KU’s top punter, while Beshears and Patterson are listed as the team’s kickoff and punt returners, respectively.

Gill ready to roll

Gill said Monday he was excited the season was near.

“It’s here now,” he said. “We’re excited about this season and we’re ready to go. I don’t worry about (all that other stuff). They hired me to coach this football team here at the University of Kansas, and no matter what conference you’re in or what opponent you’re playing, you gotta bring your best to beat that team and that’s always going to stay my focus.”


Dillon Davis 6 years, 10 months ago

I really hope freshmen Tony Pierson, JaCorey Shepard, and Marquis Jackson get some PT although they're not listed on the depth chart. Especially Pierson, he just seems to make everybody miss.

waywardJay 6 years, 9 months ago

Too many running backs to get him carries ? Ok let's stick him on the perimeter and let him play "percy Harvin"

and What do we do with DJ Beshears and Daymond Patterson who essentially hold the same position....

Little guys, who play on the perimeter who can break big plays..... Oh right.... SO back to the only viable Option....

The answer is to Red-shirt him.

CardHawkFan 6 years, 10 months ago

Pierson just needs to add size. Saw him in action during the scrimmage. He is a flat out burner!

Andy Hess 6 years, 10 months ago

So our two starting WRs are 5'9" and 5'8". Awesome.

KGphoto 6 years, 10 months ago

That's two home run hitters right there. And Beshears is probably one of the toughest receivers in the conference.

waywardJay 6 years, 9 months ago

Both are also more than willing to throw themselves at a Dback to help Sims ( Or anyone else ) get a first down.....

So we cannot through Jump balls to them in the ENdzone.... That's why we should bring in Omigie on the goal line anyway....

Andy Hess 6 years, 10 months ago

i was at every open practice, and I've heard the hype. I know they're good, but we need tall receivers to have a legitimate deep threat. It's hard to be a big target when most of the corners are going to bigger than them. To paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien, "I don't doubt their heart. Merely the reach of their arms."

Jeremiah Holcomb 6 years, 10 months ago

That means low center of gravity which works great for run blocking against cornerbacks! Can lead to some bigger runs...

Ashtin Meerpohl 6 years, 10 months ago

Thats what I'm saying. I thought he was supposed to a key part of the offense. Freak athlete I thought.

Andy Hess 6 years, 10 months ago

word is his fall camp was less than stellar, hence the omission.

KGphoto 6 years, 10 months ago

The biggest omission I see is Colin Garrett. It seems like he's been the biggest defensive surprise this year, and I bet he cracks the two deep before long.

You know what else I'd like to see? A special teams starting roster. Kickoff team, punt team, and both kick and punt return teams. Not just the return man, but the blockers too. Give them a little accountability. A little pressure to stay atop that chart.

Stan Unruh 6 years, 10 months ago

Tunde Bakare is a starter! Can't wait for Saturday!

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 10 months ago

I hope we can just pound the rock and throw a few change-ups for our next game while honing a few skills. Keep some cards close to the vest and just overpower McNeese State. And Lord, please bless our special teams this year!

Becca Farish 6 years, 10 months ago

hey dose anybody know if the first fb game is going to be on tv

johnnyhrdwd 6 years, 10 months ago

If it's not on the tube anyone have an internet feed?

Jeff Coffman 6 years, 10 months ago

I'm confused. I've heard for the past year, how great our incoming freshman class is and how they have speed and ability and....

And after all this the only two named is the punter and the long snapper? Were we actually just a good punter away from being really good last year?

No replacement at QB, RB, WR, OL, DL, CB, LB, etc. I guess we have a couple JC transfers and the guy from Buffalo, but I thought that these freshman were so much better than what we had. That's what I've been told since signing day.

I questioned what positions have we significantly improved in, and somebody said I must not be a KU fan if I didn't know.

Please help me understand.

vd 6 years, 10 months ago

OK. did you notice? LT, LG, 3 LBs, K, LS,Safties, DEs, FB. Maybe you should read today's article on our FORMER starting safety.

mjhawkchalk 6 years, 10 months ago

Actually we have two players from Buffalo starting. Darius Willis (MLB) and Nick Sizemore (FB). But nobody ever thought these Freshman would start right off the bat. They are just adding depth to each position.

vd 6 years, 10 months ago

I realize you probably believe we lost alot of talent from last year's team. Our 6 year starting RB, who had 300 yds. for his career is a major blow.

Kman_blue 6 years, 10 months ago

I assume you have to be talking about Angus Quigley, but you got your stats way off on him. He had 669 yards rushing in his career with a 4.6 yard per carry average over his career. He also had 929 yards of total offense during his time at KU. Not out of this world or anything, but I'd say they're quite solid numbers, especially the 4.6yds./carry, considering all of the injuries and other issues (being in the former coaches' doghouse much of the time) he went through in his time at KU.

I do agree though that the stable of RB's on the team this year look to be more talented than AQ was as a RB. Hopefully that holds true for in-game performance too!

johnnyhrdwd 6 years, 10 months ago

You can have your gobstopper but you can't have it right now. The best thing coach Gill can do is redshirt some talent.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 9 months ago

Are you asking about change from last year, new personnel, freshmen starters, or freshmen on the 2-deep who will see PT. Those are all really different issues.

RB has 2 freshmen listed of the 3 in the 2-deep, plus 2 new FB's OL has 3 freshmen listed in the 2-deep, and 3 starters returning from injuries DL has 1 freshmen on the 2-deep and 1 returning from injury LB has only 1 (2 counting TO) returning from last year out of 8. S has 2 returning from injury, 1 new starter, and 1 freshmen in the 2 deep.

So what part of a change from last year are you missing?

justanotherfan 6 years, 9 months ago

The biggest change can be seen in one five letter word - DEPTH.

Last year, when Huldon Tharp went down, we knew we had no answer because we had zero depth. This year, if any LB goes down, we have several able replacements.

That DEPTH causes competition, which means that every single player is focused on every single play because there is somebody on the sidelines that has been working their tail off all summer that is itching to play if the opportunity presents itself.

The difference between good teams and bad ones is often depth. The starters on good teams are pushed by their reserves every day. Bad teams don't have that internal competition, which means their starters aren't pushed to new heights or replaced by reserves who outwork and out play them.

We didn't have depth last year. This year, every position not only has better starters, but has capable reserves, something that we could not say last season.

That's a huge improvement.

waywardJay 6 years, 9 months ago

Well.... I think the rub of this was...

We never really doubted our receivers,just the quarterbacks who threw to them... Our line was lost two players before the season even started. We started a True Freshman Tailback all 12 games. We started the Season with a Quarterback who is now a wide receiver, we won two of three games and then the Backup got hurt....

On Defense, Our best pass rusher was projecting to be our starting Tailback in Spring drills. Our Best Linebacker last year went down before the season started. We dismissed one of our better DEfensive Lineman and one of our better pass rushers because of off the field issues, while in Summer workouts.Our two starting safeties this year were both playing offense last year. We played a ton of Freshman and Sophomore's intregal minutes....

We played flat out uninspired Football for all but 4 games last year ( and we still got rolled by Mizzou ), We played out of shape for most of the season.....

All of these things appear to have been major points of emphasis in the off season, So wile recrutiing-wise us not Starting true freshman may seems like we did nothing, but in actuality we have done much to shore up these positions.... DOn't underestimate the Impact of Having MacDougald and Terry back in the Secondary, If they are as good as other teams projected them to be.... we Might have the best secondary in the Conference.

Kevin Studer 6 years, 10 months ago

We are starting a 256 pound defensive tackle. Yeah. This year is going to suck.

Ethan Berger 6 years, 10 months ago

because it is the 3-4, he will be playing as an end. I don't know of any three 3-4 that play a 2 dt one de. I thought it should read to DE, and NT.

texashawk10 6 years, 10 months ago

It's a hybrid 3-4 that uses 4-3 personnel. The Buck position where Opurum and Walker are listed is a hybrid DE/OLB position where they will usually be a down lineman. It sounds like this will be more of 4-3 than an actual 3-4 defense based on what I've read about the defense.

Ethan Berger 6 years, 10 months ago

From where they are putting guys, it seems we will be rushing Toben and Tunda will be a normal old. 256 still is small for a 3-4, but it seems that it will be more on betting the line with speed not strength.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the reminder. They also still list Hatch at 330+, tho there have been articles listed about him being 300

KGphoto 6 years, 9 months ago

If you check the other Big 12 school's depth charts you'll find zero 320 NTs. (Babtiste is 318 but he was the only one over 310) I was surprised too, but college DL just aren't as big as you think. With the exception being Phil Ford last year.

I posted all the depth charts we'll play against this year in the "A numbers game" article.

Billy Derringer 6 years, 10 months ago

+1......I am with the above, i too have been wiating an expecting more change then this with the in coming class, or even some guys that were redshirted last year. I have been totally patient with the Gill project, but i seriously didnt think we was in that bad of shape when he got here. In his hiring interview he said he did think it would take long to make us a winning program again. as a fellow jayhawk would say "some times you just got to let your nuts hang". Coach Gill crack that whip, man this boys up!

Andy Tweedy 6 years, 10 months ago

The RBs are fast and the OL is big and healthy (couldn't say that last year). Not sure what to expect from the defense, but I'm optimistic things are moving in the right direction. I just hope I'm not heading out to mow the lawn at halftime this year!!! Hopefully, the lawn will have to wait this year...

Topcitykid10 6 years, 10 months ago

It's the first depth chart and the first game is Saturday, this depth chart will not last all season long. How about we see how Gill uses the players on saturday before already throwing in the towel. After a few games then we can talk about the depth chart but let's see how the team plays first

KGphoto 6 years, 9 months ago

Ryan Broyles is 5'10" 188, and I think Oklahoma runs it a little bit.

KGphoto 6 years, 9 months ago

Well then you go tell Beshears he's little and can't block!

temjay 6 years, 9 months ago

Short receivers? No problem. Don't forget we've got a hulking, 6-foot quarterback throwing to them!

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