Sunday, April 22, 2012

Speedy running back Tony Pierson stands out in spring

Running back Tony Pierson breaks up the field during a morning practice on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Running back Tony Pierson breaks up the field during a morning practice on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.


Kansas receiver Daymond Patterson had always been the kind of guy who was unafraid to challenge his teammates.

That all changed last year when Tony Pierson arrived on campus.

“I wanted to race anybody,” Patterson said, “but now, I don’t want to race Tony any more.”

The 5-foot-10 running back Pierson has continued to stand out to teammates this spring because of his trademark speed.

“I take pride in it, because I don’t have very much weight on me,” Pierson said, “so that’s basically my best skill.”

Patterson wouldn’t argue.

The senior is used to being the fastest guy around. In high school, he was only routinely beaten in races by one teammate — and that was Lanear Sampson, who is now a receiver at Baylor and has been clocked at a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash.

So would Patterson say that Pierson is the fastest player on the team?

“By far,” Patterson said, “if not in the league.”

Pierson believes he can top his freshman campaign, when he played in 11 games and averaged 5.6 yards on 71 carries.

During the back’s first individual meeting with Charlie Weis, the new KU coach talked about all the ways he hoped to get Pierson out in space so he could showcase his quickness.

The challenge for the sophomore is now to become more durable. Though he’s only at 165 pounds, his goal is to get into the 175- to 180-pound range.

He’s on a protein diet and also does extra lifting, but when asked if it had helped so far, Pierson looked down at both his arms and laughed.

“Not really,” he said with a smile. “Still getting there, though.”

Weis has already started thinking about how to best utilize his home-run back.

“Tony has to touch the ball, but how many times he touches the ball is going to be important,” Weis said. “If you’re talking about a 12-game regular season — and you always aspire to have a 13th game — then you have to figure how many times he can touch the ball at his size and be able to be at a high level the next week. Now you’re at a Catch-22.

“On the one hand, every time he touches the ball he has a chance of scoring a touchdown, but on the other hand, if you give the ball to him too much, then you could get him beat up, and then he’s not productive the next week.”

Last year, Pierson said he learned the basics of reading defenses. It’s a skill he didn’t need in high school, when he was told to just take the football and run.

He also feels more comfortable with learning a college playbook.

KU running backs James Sims and Rell Lewis helped Pierson last season with the new sets and also with freshman anxiety.

“During my first game, I came out kind of nervous,” Pierson said. “They just told me to play with confidence. Use my skill level. Play hard and play fast.”

Pierson is showing more confidence in other ways as well.

Because of his shy nature, Pierson requested that he not be made available for media interviews last year.

In his first meeting with reporters at the beginning of April, Pierson, decked out in a blue polo shirt, calmly answered questions for about 15 minutes.

“We always joke around and mess around with him, but he’s just cool, laid-back,” Patterson said.

Fans also will notice a change in Pierson’s number. After wearing No. 23 his freshman year, he has switched to No. 3 — the same number previously worn by recent KU standouts Charles Gordon and Aqib Talib.

Ever since he arrived at KU, Pierson said he wanted to have a number in the single digits.

“I hear it all the time: Kansas is known for No. 3,” Pierson said. “I’ve got to show up with it.”

Patterson believes that Pierson will do just fine if he performs as well in games as he does in 50-meter races.

“I’ll take (on) anybody else but Tony,” Patterson said, smiling. “He hurt my feelings a couple of times out there.”


Chris Bruning 6 years ago

I know im gonna love Pierson, but i still to this day miss Darrian Miller like mad....

Brennan Keller 6 years ago

A community college somewhere in Missouri.

Doug Cramer 6 years ago

Think we have a solid core of backs going into the season...when considering the likes of Pierson and Bourbon. Love Bourbon's potential to bruise defenses.

After we get Sims back...that will be a nice committee of backs.

Kind of wondering if Weis will have Pierson line up in the slot...since he's talking about getting him out in space.

Dirk Medema 6 years ago

And Marquis Jackson as well. He was supposed to be one of our most talented WR's, so interesting that he would switch to RB when there was already a good bit of talent there. It says to me that CW saw a lot of potential there.

I've also wondered if Pierson might move outside similar to Kendall Wright (BU). It would seem that he could do so much damage in space with YAC. Definitely has home run potential. He would fill in nicely for DP & DJ when they graduate after this year.

texashawk10 6 years ago

Running back isn't a deep position right now. Bourbon is injured again and seems like he is pretty injury prone so despite his talent, he's not the most dependable guy because he can't stay healthy. Pierson is someone you don't necessarily want lined up exclusively in the backfield because of his athleticism which leaves Sims as the workhorse for now. I'm not sure how effective Jackson will be at RB for now because that is a big adjustment to learn how to read the OLine blocks as opposed the DB's. When the two new backs get here in the summer, it'll alleviate the stress of having just 3 backs for the spring, but RB is not a deep position right now for KU.

Cole Hogan 6 years ago

There is always still just that "what-if" with oporum, I really believe he could have been a really good back, especially for short yardage situations. I think he had some serious under the radar talent ruined by FHCTG (Former Head Coach Turner Gills)!!!

baldwinjhawk 6 years ago

But Tobun is the one of the best that we have on defense..... I know thats not saying much.

Brad Avery 6 years ago

A big, physical back can keep the defense off the field by moving the chains. Toben may be a good d/end but he doesn't make that much of a difference to justify keeping him on the defensive side of the field.

truefan 6 years ago

Yeah, but you are basing that off of a season where he played for the worst coaching staff in football. Maybe he'll make a bigger impact with better coaching. And to say he didn't make that much of a difference is also false. If he was one of the best players on our terrible defense last year, that means he was one of just a few players making any difference and now you want to move him to offense? Plus, you have to factor in that we didn't have another DE worth putting on the field so Toben got doubled a lot which made him a non-factor and tired him out.

Cole Hogan 6 years ago

No, no, I am not saying to move him back, I just wonder what could have been.

Dirk Medema 6 years ago

Blame TG if you wish, but the change was approved by the current staff as well.

txjhawk77 6 years ago

Go root for Liberty and stay off this board. Good to be rid of gill.

Wisconsin2Kansas 6 years ago

txjhawk77, I don't think dagger108's comment was implying that Gill shouldn't have been fired. All he was pointing out was that Charlie Weis agreed with moving Toben to DE apposed to keeping him at RB. Your comment was totally unnecessary.

Cole Hogan 6 years ago

That doesnt mean anything. It's obvious that this staff is not going to move him back. He hasn't played running back for 2 years and this is his senior season..that Is no time to be moving guys around.

vd 6 years ago

FHCTG recruited all of our backs. When is HCCW going to get a fifth year sr. in to replace these guys?

Jeff Coffman 6 years ago

Check again. The only ones that TG recruited were the ones that were freshman, all others were recruited by FHCMM. Even the first year that TG coached MM had recruited pretty much that entire class, TG was able to keep pretty much the entire class. However, after watching HCCW come in, I realized that not all of the recruits should be retained when your going from a spread offense to a pro-style...although calling TG's offense a pro-style was giving it credit for something it wasn't.

Wisconsin2Kansas 6 years ago

FHCTG recruited and signed Bourbon, Miller, and Pierson. Sims committed to Kansas while Mangino was head coach, but signed his LOI when Gill was coach. Credit is due to both coaches on recruiting Sims.

KU79 6 years ago

Congrats on getting a number that has recent history of quality play. And above the new #3 on the back of his jersey, I'm looking forward to it saying "P I E R S O N".

texashawk10 6 years ago

Except the last few people who have worn #3 have either been kicked off the team or completely irrelevant on the field.

2011: Darrian Miller (kicked off team) 2010/2009: Reece Petty (contributed nothing on the field) 2008: Jocques Crawford (kicked off team)

Hopefully Pierson has better luck with #3 than the last 3 guys who wore it.

Wisconsin2Kansas 6 years ago

Aqib Talib was pretty successful...

squawkhawk 6 years ago

I hear that Tony P. does a nice "celebration" dance so Weis just loves him.

Justin Kruse 6 years ago

Hopefully we'll see him return a few punts and kick-offs as well!

Dirk Medema 6 years ago

Rturning kicks is a good way to get beat up, so not likely to see him there for a while if ever, though the HR capability is significant.

Randy Bombardier 6 years ago

But they have to touch him to hurt him. I remember one wicked move he made last year to get around a defender it was awesome. I don't think people will get clean shots at him. His finesse at speed will help prevent injury. Good returners can be game changers more than good running backs. Besides, your whole goal is to get him into open space. Can't get him more open that that.

Tom Pritchard 6 years ago

Thanks "jayhawkcole" for your clarity of " FHCTG" I had a different interpretation..

Cole Hogan 6 years ago

Hry, I noticed multiple people using the 'F' in front of other former Head coaches after I posted that so unless I'm mistaken I just invented a new acronym piece to use. Haha

kellerman411 6 years ago

Weis has to be thinking twice about his usual throw happy offense, especially with McCay dressed in street clothes. We probably have 1 of the top 3 or 4 groups of running backs in the Big 12. Put some buffet busters in front of them and say "go get it, son". If you think we won't miss Darian Miller, you're crazy.

Bville Hawk 6 years ago

A Sunday football article! Thank you Jesse Newell.

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