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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Freshman Brandon Bourbon becomes latest KU back to hit the big time

Freshman Brandon Bourbon had a big day against Texas Tech and looks forward to contributing as a member of KU's committee of running backs.

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Redshirt freshman Keeston Terry has impressed his coach and teammates with his play-making abilities despite a lack of experience.

Last week, about this time, Kansas University running back Brandon Bourbon was still a bit of an unknown.

Sure, we’d heard about the four-star recruiting tag, the awesome blend of power and speed and the great strides the Potosi, Mo., tailback had made since overcoming a broken leg that kept him out of spring practice.

Still, Bourbon had yet to show what he could do. Through three games, the red-shirt freshman had gained just 55 yards on 11 carries, good for an average of three carries and 18 yards per outing.

But then came the Texas Tech game and, in a flash, Bourbon put himself firmly into the mix at tailback.

“I saw toughness. I saw determination and good running skills,” said KU coach Turner Gill, when asked what impressed him about Bourbon’s 101-yard performance against the Red Raiders last Saturday.

With freshman Darrian Miller sidelined early on because of a hamstring injury, Bourbon took advantage of his opportunity. On his first carry against Texas Tech, Bourbon, 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, sprinted 51 yards for a touchdown, fighting off tacklers and speeding into open space along the way. The TD was the first of his career. The run was KU’s longest from scrimmage this year. It also kept alive KU’s three-year stretch in which a freshman tailback had rushed for 100 or more yards in a game.

After the game, which KU lost, 45-34, Bourbon was appreciative of the opportunity.

“Brandon was happy,” said KU center Jeremiah Hatch, who made sure to point out that KU’s running backs always thank the guys up front. “He came around the locker room and gave all the O-Linemen hugs. Even the ones who didn’t play. He was ecstatic about his big game.”

Bourbon wasn’t the only one pleased with his performance. Hatch, a senior from Dallas, also enjoyed the big day from the young running back.

“I’ve seen it,” Hatch said. “So it didn’t surprise me. But I was just happy for the kid to see him finally get it on the big stage.”

Asked if he thought Bourbon had more 100-yard days in his future, Hatch answered quickly.

“Yes, sir,” he said. “It will be there.”

Although the injury to Miller opened the door for Bourbon to log a season-high for snaps last week, Bourbon did not do anything different in the week leading up to the game.

“I was ready to go,” he said. “I’ve been preparing like I was gonna play every game this season so it wasn’t a shock to me that I got to go in there and play. I wasn’t really expecting to play as much as I did, but I still had confidence that if the right circumstances (came) I’d be ready to go out there and play.”

Credit Gill and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell for some of that. Since the spring, Gill has said that KU’s top running backs all would have a chance to play this season. Through four games, he’s found a way to make that happen.

Sophomore starter James Sims leads the Jayhawks with 339 yards and four touchdowns on 80 carries, but Bourbon and freshmen Miller and Tony Pierson each have at least 21 carries so far. Even senior Rell Lewis has found a way to get involved, rushing 12 times for 33 yards and catching two passes for 19 more and one touchdown.

“They’re all going to play,” Gill said. “We don’t get a whole lot into the depth chart. Obviously, we have to put a depth chart up and we tell them it’s a position chart. James Sims is our starter, and after that, we rotate them in and make it all work.”

Like all of KU’s backs, Bourbon handled a heavy workload throughout high school. Because of what he’s used to, he said it can be tough, at times, to sit and wait for carries. But he has a theory about why that works. It relates directly to the way he was used last weekend.

“Coach Mitchell likes to play the hot hand,” said Bourbon, who finished with 101 yards on 10 carries a week ago. “That’s their decision, not mine. I just do what I can when I get to play. We’re distributing it out pretty well. We’re all getting some touches. It’s a tough job for coach Mitchell to deal with, but he’s doing a good job so far.”

According to Gill, Bourbon’s time on the field could increase as long as he takes care of one thing.

“As long as he continues to stay healthy, you’re going to see him be an outstanding running back for us,” Gill said. “He has the talent. He has the skills and now is just trying to get it all down. When I say getting it all down, I’m talking about the blocking, pass receiving and obviously the running part of it, too.”

Comments

Keith Hummel 2 years, 11 months ago

What a great game Bourbon had Saturday. We now know why everyone has been talking about this kid. Couldn't be happier for him that he finally got to showcase his talent. Amazing how one back can come out and the one that replaces him is just as good. And to think our backs are only going to get better. If we can keep the O-Line healthy it will be fun to watch all of them this year, and in the years to come. Congrats Brandon.

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hawk316 2 years, 11 months ago

"Credit Gill and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell for some of that. Since the spring, Gill has said that KU’s top running backs all would have a chance to play this season. Through four games, he’s found a way to make that happen."

This is not an easy task and should not be overlooked (which is why Matt should be credited for mentioning it in his article). One more positive asset (among many) that Gill, Mitchell, and staff bring to the table...finding a way to get a lot of these kids on the field with a chance to contribute (and accept it when they're not on the field!).

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Phoghorn 2 years, 11 months ago

I am glad he runs a fast 40 yard dash. Not trying to play the "race" card either.

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Dan Pawlowski 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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JayHawkFanToo 2 years, 11 months ago

Did you notice that during most of the first half, the game announcers called every Tech players by his last name but hardly ever mentioned KU players names? It wasn't until the second half that they finally started to mention their names. I had to print a copy of the roster to see who was who.

This no-name-on-the-shirt non sense needs to stop. Maybe someone can start an on-line petition. Hopefully, if enough people sign, HC Gill might listen. Or better yet, stage a protest where everybody in the stadium at half time gets up, faces away from the field and chants RCJH KU...that certainly would send a strong message...

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Dan Pawlowski 2 years, 11 months ago

So why are you happy he is white? Can't you be happy he is a jayhawk with some talent. Sorry but I have not heard anything to contradict your claim you are not a racist. Being happy someone is white is racist. If you can't see that you are a racist and stupid but that is redundant. You did misspell racist so that pretty much highlights the stupid part.

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lonestar 2 years, 11 months ago

Being happy someone is white is not racist anymore than being black and taking pride in Tiger Woods accomplishments. It is pretty natural for any one of a given culture, ethnicity or race to take interest when one of their own succeeds in a field where they generally are not used to much representation or success. I was a big fan of the Celtics for years for much the same reason. Does that make me evil?

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jhawk613 2 years, 11 months ago

There is already a silent protest going on. It's called leaving at half-time and heading for the Wheel.

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Phoggin_Loud 2 years, 11 months ago

Too bad not everyone saw it. From jayhawkslant.com:

Even though Kansas held a halftime lead over Texas Tech, not all the fans decided to return to the stadium for the second half. This wasn't lost on the players.

"It's tough on us because we're beating a Big 12 opponent at halftime then we come out of the locker room and see everybody walk out, it's kind of like well thanks for the support. It's something we can't focus on," Webb said. "We have to try and play our game no matter what. It definitely hurts when you're playing well and there isn't much support."

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Whaaaaaa!

Based on our 3rd quarter performances over the past two years it would appear that the team also checks out at halftime.

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jaymar74 2 years, 11 months ago

4th quarter vs Colo?, 4th quarter vs Northern Illinois?, 4th quarter vs.TT?, ....... what do they do, check back in for the 4th quarter. It's easy to be critical, it takes effort to support. This team and this coaching staff IS getting better ,all be it slowly. These guys (18,19,20 years old) deserve our support, they don't deserve those with nothing to do but find things to joke and complain about.

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Phoghorn 2 years, 11 months ago

Does anybody know how many urinals there are in Memorial Stadium? This quite needs to be posted above every one.

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youowethehawks 2 years, 11 months ago

I had satellite and cold beer in the parking lot. If you want less people to leave, serve alcohol and don't allow in-and-outs. That said, I'm much more likely to stay when the game isn't on TV. Thanks Direct TV.

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Phoggin_Loud 2 years, 11 months ago

There you have it. It's always someone else's fault.

If they served beer, if they allowed in-outs, if the team showed-up after half time, if they took the track out, if they didn't have white helmets, if we had a better coach, if the scoreboard didn't block the hill, if the names were on the back of the jerseys, if Bill Young was the DC, If Sheahan Zenger would do something, if the game wasn't on tv, if they ran $1 shuttles, if, if, if, if, if, if, if...

If my aunt had b@lls, she'd be my uncle. And if KU fans were FANS they would stay after halftime, regardless of their selfish little excuses.

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KGphoto 2 years, 11 months ago

If I didn't live in Colorado...

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Ted Toulouse 2 years, 11 months ago

If I didn't live in Maryland...

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

If I didn't have the ability to tell the future of what was going to happen to us in the second half after watching Turner coach for a year and a half...

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Red_N_Blue_KU 2 years, 11 months ago

Amen Phoggin_Loud! Excuses are like @$$ holes. Everyone has one and they all stink. If you people were smart you would go and support your football team in order to support your basketball team... Don't worry I will explain. First, I am sure that you have heard about all the conference realignment talk. Also maybe you have noticed that all of that talk is centered on revenue from football. Notice how KU has a top 5 maybe top 3 program in basketball, yet no other conference has shown any interest in KU, that’s because it is all about FOOTBALL. Without a decent football team we could very likely end up as mid-major. And if that happens, well then you can say bye bye to Mr. Bill Self, the basketball program, and partying on Mass after we win the national title because it will never happen again if we become a mid-major. I am not saying it will happen for sure but it’s definitely possibility that without a football team KU ends up as a mid-major. So if you have tickets go support your effin football team whether you care about it or not.

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Randy Bombardier 2 years, 11 months ago

Great game for Bourban. Looking at highlights if he makes a cut outside instead of going inside he scores another long TD. He will get better with more carries. That is the one downside of running by committee. Takes too long to get a feel for the way the opposing D is playing.

As far as the comments about the fan base, maybe KU just needs more rednecks. It is no mystery to me that the SE in general and the South in particular has die-hard football fans. It corresponds directly to pickup and Budweiser sales. You travel west a few miles to Manhattan and the atmosphere is totally different. KU fans couldn't make that kind of noise if they had 80,000 seats. It is a cultural difference and I am not sure it will ever change. The fact that the team notices should be obvious. Wonder how this plays out in recruiting. It can't be good.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

Geezus, over sensitive much?!?

With no names on the jerseys and multiple running backs the announcers are not able to tell them apart. So they drop the standard "here's a run up the middle" Or "sweep to the left" and don't say the players name until the end of the play, if at all. So in my home viewing I have been able to pick up subtle differences. Sims is short Lewis also short and usually in the wildcat Miller and the other dude (see I don't even know his name) are kind of taller and skinny And Bourban is (gasp) white.

Shame on me for using skin color as an advantage to determine who is running the ball. And if I have offended any "shorter" or "taller and skinny" people in my journey to decipher who is on the playing field, I am sorry.

Anyone else think playing 5 running backs in a game is a little too much? Maybe stick with one or two and keep them in the flow of the game. Move everyone else to another position, like, I don't know, somewhere on defense!

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Phoghorn 2 years, 11 months ago

In honor of Coach Gill's no cussing policy I will advise you to buy a "flipping" program.

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KGphoto 2 years, 10 months ago

You probably still wouldn't recognize "Bourbon" on the field even if he did have his name on his jersey, and is white, because you would be looking for "Bourban" the whole time.

And Sims is 6 foot tall. How is that short? Where do you come from that has 6'4" running backs that make Sims look short? And then how do you say that Miller, 5'10", and Pierson 5'11" are kind of taller?

Here you go.

http://www2.kusports.com/football/roster/2011/

Don't hurt yourself. And get those eyes checked. Especially if you were serious about those descriptions.

I do agree about the 5 RB thing. It's ridiculous really. I honestly don't know why he doesn't stick with BB and Sims and let Miller and Pierson get about 5 a game. And Miller should be returning punts too. He's got that shiftiness in traffic.

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smartjayhawk 2 years, 10 months ago

Bourbon is the real deal. He finally got a chance to show it. No disrespect intended towards Sims, but Bourbon is the premier back, regardless of the fact that he is a freshman. As the competition in the Big 12 heats up as the season progresses, Bourbon will get even better.

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