The average football fan hears the name Charlie Weis and immediately thinks about quarterbacks and pass-happy gameplans.
In reality, Weis banks more on the run than the typical Big 12 offense, which counts on keeping the defense in retreat with quick snaps and quicker plays.
Weis’ offense keeps the defense feeling as if it’s behind by frequently changing personnel groups and uses the run to set up the play-action pass.
Even with the loss of promising sophomore Darrian Miller — he was booted from the team for not meeting high discipline standards — Weis appears to have enough depth at the position to make the running game go, especially once James Sims returns from a season-opening, three-game suspension.
And the name of KU’s leading rusher will be?
“That is an interesting question,” running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said Tuesday at Camp Charlie, Day 6. “I don’t know who is going to be the leading rusher because you don’t know what personnel groupings he’s going to use from game to game. I think he’s going to spread it around.”
Guessing the back who will lead in yards per carry can be forecasted with greater accuracy.
“That’d probably be Tony, just because he has a better chance for big plays,” Mitchell said of sophomore Tony Pierson, offensive MVP of the spring game.
Weis reiterated Pierson, who stands 5-feet-10-1/2 inches and has been dunking a basketball since seventh grade, will not be an every-down back because of his slight frame, which carries, at most, 170 pounds. Like the illegal Pinewood Derby cars weighted in the front with lead fishing sinkers hidden by fake wood and paint — or so I’m told that’s how to beat the system — Pierson’s built for speed.
A less-structured Stephen Strasburg approach makes sense for Pierson.
The native of East St. Louis studies films of NFL running backs Chris Johnson (5-11, 191) of the Tennessee Titans and Jamaal Charles (5-11, 199) of the Chiefs. When Pierson plays Madden, he’s either giving the carries to Johnson or Charles.
As with most football fans his age, for Pierson the NFL is where fantasy meets reality. Weis was a big deal in the NFL, and then at Notre Dame until things headed south. Pierson’s words about playing for such a big name portend well for KU’s recruiting.
“Seems like a dream coming true,” Pierson said. “I always watched Notre Dame. Just looking at coach Weis, knowing that he’s our head coach and offensive coordinator, it’s like a dream coming true, and I’m playing under a Super Bowl-champion coach.”
A stab at odds for this season’s leading rusher: Pierson 3/2; James Sims 3/1; Brandon Bourbon 10/1; Taylor Cox 30/1; Marquis Jackson 50/1.