Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jayhawks’ forte: RB James Sims returns as leader of KU’s strongest position

The Memorial Stadium crowd rises up as Kansas running back James Sims leaves Colorado linebacker Liloa Nobriga on the ground for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 at Kivisto Field. The extra point by Jacob Branstetter tied the game.

The Memorial Stadium crowd rises up as Kansas running back James Sims leaves Colorado linebacker Liloa Nobriga on the ground for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 at Kivisto Field. The extra point by Jacob Branstetter tied the game.


Coaches and analysts alike have said that running back is the strongest position on the current Kansas University football team.

There’s a reason for that. KU coach Turner Gill, now in his second season in Lawrence, believes strongly in controlling games with a sound rushing attack and steady defense.

That much he proved a year ago when, saddled with three quarterbacks with little or no experience, Gill turned to the ground game in an attempt to keep the Jayhawks in ballgames.

At times, that was a struggle. But born from that mindset was the emergence of James Sims, a sophomore-to-be who led the Jayhawks in rushing in 2010 and returns in 2011 as KU’s top threat.

Today, we give you our first installment of a weekly summer position breakdown in which KU football beat writer Matt Tait, sports editor Tom Keegan and online editor Jesse Newell rank the top five players at each position and offer up a few comments on why they voted the way they did. We’ll also tally up our consensus top five at each position.

As the summer goes on, you’ll see that these lists start to look a little different, with each of us seeing something unique in this player or that one. But our running back list is pretty consistent. For starters, only six different players were named, and each of us had Sims and freshman Darrian Miller ranked first and second.

Here’s a look at who said what about KU’s top running backs.

Matt Tait’s list

  1. James Sims: He might not wow you, but he’ll keep the chains moving and knows how to find the end zone.

  2. Darrian Miller: Could find himself in the conversation about the most exciting backs in the Big 12.

  3. Nick Sizemore: Gill wants to run. Sizemore wants to block. It’s a perfect match. And plenty of coaches have told me that this guy’s a future NFL player.

  4. Brandon Bourbon: Red-shirt freshman was really making strides before an injury this spring. Should be back to 100 percent by the start of the season and very easily could still be a factor.

  5. Anthony Pierson: Reggie Mitchell wouldn’t spend the kind of time he spent recruiting Pierson unless it’s worth it. Pierson could be crazy good.

Tom Keegan’s list

  1. James Sims: Doesn’t have break-away speed, but he has everything else.

  2. Darrian Miller: Faster in pads than on the clock, he knows how to make tacklers miss.

  3. Anthony Pierson: Fastest back in the program will work his way onto the field somehow.

  4. Brandon Bourbon: Faster and bigger than Sims, he just as easily could be ranked first. He also would make a terrific linebacker.

  5. Nick Sizemore: Teammates paint a picture of a tough-to-tackle, physical, blocking machine of a fullback.

Jesse Newell’s list

  1. James Sims: Not a gamebreaker but good at getting a couple more yards than you think he’s going to get.

  2. Darrian Miller: Showed in the spring he could be KU’s highlight back; can break tackles and has good speed.

  3. Nick Sizemore: He will help KU a lot without getting a ton of headlines; a good fullback with NFL potential should benefit KU’s running game.

  4. Rell Lewis: Hard to know what to expect because of injuries, but his 42-yard catch against Missouri in 2009 makes me think he could be good if healthy.

  5. Brandon Bourbon: Leg injury in spring a tough setback for red-shirt freshman.

Journal-World Consensus Top 5 Running Backs

Five points awarded for first, four points for second, three points for third, two points for fourth and one point for fifth.

  1. James Sims (15)

  2. Darrian Miller (12)

  3. Nick Sizemore (7)

  4. Brandon Bourbon (5)

  5. Anthony Pierson (4)

Others receiving votes: Rell Lewis (2).


JHWKDW 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah good to hear the leg break was clean and all and its healing right!I worry about that because of like I said about Garrison Hearst and the fact that him and Bourbon did it on the turf! I really hate the turf wish we played on the real grass!Hearst blames that on the turf well the turf in the dome is a bit different from the KU turf but its still turf!I wanna see them on the grass field!


JHWKDW 2 years, 9 months ago

Hey Matt Tait was curious of what kind of leg injury Bourbon had was it a ankle or just a leg break?Hope it isnt a ankle injury the name I always think of when I think of ankle injury is Garrison Hearst of the 49ers and his horrible injury hope it isnt but if it is hope they make sure to take care of it!


rockchalknation 2 years, 10 months ago

I hope we see some 8 or 9 man fronts...makes it much easier to implement the passing game. Whatever run/pass ratio we end up with, if teams are forced into 8 and 9 man fronts, our running game will have been serioiusly gashing the oppenents defense.


sevenyearhawk 2 years, 10 months ago

"Turner Gill, now in his second season in Lawrence, believes strongly in controlling games with a sound rushing attack and steady defense."

Earth to Turner ... this is the 21st Century NCAA, not Nebraska 1980/90.

Maybe the plan is just to bore the other team to sleep.

rolls eyes


mjhawkchalk 2 years, 10 months ago

Okay, everybody has known about our depth at Running Back. Now what about our Quarter Back? Can we already assume Brock Berglund is our guy? I don't see Webb nor Meachem starting this year.


newjayhawk 2 years, 10 months ago

James just keeps getting better. Each year is always better than the last. I believe this year will be one to remember. I just don't think those kids[Jayhawks] will be as bad as people project them to be.


ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 10 months ago


Remember when T-Geezy picked Sands to start over Sims? What a great evaluator of talent!


Geekinout 2 years, 10 months ago

Can have the best running backs in the world, depends on if the O-line shows up.


Randy Bombardier 2 years, 10 months ago

I just hope that we carry the ball a lot. I mean 70% of the time. When we do throw it needs to be for the home-run. Glad to see us depart from having to throw on 3rd and 3. If we run on two of the three downs at minimum we should do well. I like the strategy.


Fortesque Beagleton 2 years, 10 months ago

I just cannot believe how loaded we are at running back. Alot of people think a healthy Rell Lewis will be a playmaker. Dreamius Smith has been mentioned by scouts to be perhaps the biggest sleeper of them all. Darrian Miller will blow people's minds, but I worry because although he has already proven that he can make plays it doesn't look right now that he has the frame to take a beating at the big12 level. Looks can be deceiving though, but he may benefit from a redshirt GASP to put on some muscle, but I don't see that happening. Just hope he doesn't get injured early - knock on wood. Bourbon has all the potential and upside in the world. His injury could be another setback, although I'm amazed to hear that he should be back in time for the fall. Either way I can't wait to see him on the field. Again, however, all of this is contingent on the O-Line play. I hope they stay healthy because as of right now they seem to be more of an asset than a liability.


KU_Alumn_2000 2 years, 10 months ago

Would like to see Bourbon get a chance...that guy is a Mack truck with speed and athleticism.

Pierson may be the fastest in the program...and could see him returning kicks and punts.

There is so much talent at runningback that a couple of these guys will get disappointed with the lack of playing time.


KGphoto 2 years, 10 months ago

A glut, to be sure. I wish we could trade in a couple of the talented backs who will never see the field for an upgrade at a position of need. But just not BB.

I get tired of hearing the Bourbon to LB move. He's a breakaway threat at RB. He needs to get his opportunity before we start moving him over there in our minds (Keegan). Anyway, linebacker is more difficult to be great at than that. You can't just plug the guy in and say "Run fast and tackle" You need time to get acclimated. You need to understand coverages and schemes. Could he be great? Sure. But not this year. Probably not next year. He needs to stay at RB. Even if he's not playing, he's an invaluable asset in terms of depth. You can't move the guy before he gets to run.


panalytic 2 years, 10 months ago

Good to hear about our fullback having so much potential! That was real good news and I'm looking forward to the rest of this series. Also, I'm with the people who think Rell Lewis has a chance to be a good back.


Gregor Southard 2 years, 10 months ago

All three said our best rb is slow


vd 2 years, 10 months ago

Can we now say the Sands schollie was payback to the great Tuxedo Tony? Sometimes you have to give these to role players and players who will keep a pipeline open. Hopefully, in the future though, these players will not be RS so they use up 5 years of scholarships. Save the RS for the lineman so they can bulk up. Backs either have "it" or they don't.


5DecadeHawk 2 years, 10 months ago

Matt, I click on your articles so that I can avoid reading Keegan's mindless opinions.

You're a better writer than to team up with Keegan for something like this.


waywardJay 2 years, 10 months ago

If James Sims played that well last year behind a patchwork line, Imagine what he can do with a consistant line..... Cannot wait for football season.


Ashtin Meerpohl 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm really looking forward to seeing Brandon Bourbon on the field. I've been excited about him since we signed him. Really hopes he finds his way on to the field. I think he could be really good!


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