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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.

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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.”

Comments

temjay 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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Ferd Magellan 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure how I feel about Patterson and Beshears as our starters at WR if we want to run the ball more this year. I know Beaty says DJ is strong, but those guys are so small.

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Topcitykid10 2 years, 7 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

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Andy Tweedy 2 years, 7 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...

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Billy Derringer 2 years, 7 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!

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Kevin Studer 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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jhawkrulz 2 years, 7 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.

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johnnyhrdwd 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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Becca Farish 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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Randy Bombardier 2 years, 7 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!

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swunruhawk 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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KGphoto 2 years, 7 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.

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Andy Hess 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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CardHawkFan 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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Dillon Davis 2 years, 7 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.

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