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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Keegan

Column: Pierson should play RB, not WR

Kansas running back Tony Pierson shakes Texas Tech defensive back Bruce Jones during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Tony Pierson shakes Texas Tech defensive back Bruce Jones during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

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The closer it gets to college football season, the more I think about ways to get the ball in the hands of Tony Pierson more often. (I know, I really should get a life).

Think about it, though. He’s the team’s fastest, most exciting player and leaving him at wide receiver requires two things to happen for him to showcase his big-play abilities.

No. 1, Pierson has to master all the things that go into getting open and catching footballs thrown to him. Too often, he looked like a running back playing wide receiver last season.

No. 2, Montell Cozart has to throw an accurate enough ball to hit the smallish target on target, on time.

Move Pierson back to running back and all you have to do is pitch him the ball or hand it to him. Look at it this way: If you’re a Big 12 defensive coordinator, do you spend more time preparing for and sweating over Pierson if he lines up at running back or wide receiver?

Pierson’s small frame doesn’t lend itself to the sort of workhorse load James Sims carried, but even with Darrian Miller’s departure, the Jayhawks have ample depth at running back to make a job share that plays to everyone’s strengths work for them.

Seniors Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox have battled injuries at various times during their careers, but even if just one of the two is healthy at any given time, that should suffice.

Pierson has averaged 6.2 yards per carry,

Bourbon and Cox 5.2 yards apiece.

And we haven’t even discussed the player some believe could lead the team in rushing. Running back wasn’t on the board as a recruiting need when junior-college talent DeAndre Mann entered the picture.

Mann turned down an offer from the Miami Hurricanes to play for KU. Would you trade Mann, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound back, straight up for Jake Heaps? I wouldn’t.

He rushed for 1,760 yards and 30 touchdowns for Hartnell College and has the power Pierson lacks.

That’s three backs complementing Pierson. They won’t all stay healthy because the position they play lends itself to injury. Enter freshman Corey Avery from powerhouse (Dallas) Carter High. He turned down Nebraska and Texas to sign with Kansas and in so doing told Dallas reporter EJ Holland, “Kansas is a program that needs to be turned around, and I think I’m going to personally turn it around.”

Doesn’t sound like a guy too interested in red-shirting.

On the other hand, someone familiar with the recruitment of Gardner-Edgerton High’s Traevohn Wrench told me shortly after he signed that it would be wise not to include him in 2014 projections. I was told Wrench had a lot of ground to make up to qualify academically and even if he did would probably need five years to graduate.

Given Miller’s departure, the injury histories of Bourbon and Cox, the uncertain status of Wrench and the different look Pierson brings, might as well toss Pierson the ball instead of throwing it to him.

Comments

Jim Stauffer 6 years, 1 month ago

I rarely read an article where the writer puts a paragraph in there that completely destroys his own hypothesis.

Pierson has one weakness. He was limited last year because of injury. O.K. let's now put him in a spot where Keegan says it is likely a player will not stay healthy.

Great idea. Put Pierson in as a RB so he can be out for the season after the non-con, when we could get him 5-7 touches per game as a slot receiver. The reason his YPC are high is because he goes for 0 yards on one carry and 35 on the next. You need consistency at RB to move the chains. I.E. Bourbon, Cox, Mann.

Leave the kid where he is and let him catch the ball in space and demonstrate his athleticism not try to show muscles he does not have.

THAT’S THREE BACKS COMPLEMENTING PIERSON. THEY WON’T ALL STAY HEALTHY BECAUSE THE POSITION THEY PLAY LENDS ITSELF TO INJURY. ENTER FRESHMAN COREY AVERY FROM POWERHOUSE (DALLAS) CARTER HIGH. HE TURNED DOWN NEBRASKA AND TEXAS TO SIGN WITH KANSAS AND IN SO DOING TOLD DALLAS REPORTER EJ HOLLAND, “KANSAS IS A PROGRAM THAT NEEDS TO BE TURNED AROUND, AND I THINK I’M GOING TO PERSONALLY TURN IT AROUND.”

Terry N Tom Denner 6 years, 1 month ago

I also see Pierson as a slot back/ receiver and used in screen plays and short shots over the middle and very few touches at running back.

Micky Baker 6 years, 1 month ago

Pierson was injured playing the WR position that he got being tackled on part of the track that is going to be removed. That part of the track I believe was there for the long and/or triple jump. He didn't get tackled hard but his helmet hit right on the track part, not the turf. That's why he got hurt.

Jeff Suther 6 years, 1 month ago

The correct answer is to have different sets with him at both positions.

Last year, even when he was healthy, he was wasted at wide receiver in that train wreck Weis called an offense. Let's hope this year our WR can be better utilized.

Martin Rhodes 6 years, 1 month ago

Let him go back to a running back and he can catch passes out of the backfield as many backs do if we now have a QB that can make this touch pass. He never seemed to get into being a receiver and his injury last year might make him a little hesitant to go across the middle, whereas, coming out of the backfield rarely exposes a player to that blind-side head-hunting hit. He made a lot of big plays as a running back and can do so again.

Mark Lindrud 6 years, 1 month ago

We have depth at running back, and players with talent. We have Nick Harwell at wide reciever so that argument stinks. However, putting Pierson in motion for screens, sweeps and reverses I'm for. Can even motion him to make a split backfield so I think of him more as a potential hybrid who can also be a decoy.

Micky Baker 6 years, 1 month ago

If Pierson is going to be a running back, then he needs to be back there with another back. We are pretty deep at running back and you don't want to make it predictable so the defense knows he's getting the ball. Though, someone will have to be assigned him at all times. A little deception like faking the ball to the other back going one way, Pierson going the other on a wheel route and a quick pass as soon as he gets past the first level to force a safety or linebacker to vacate the middle to cover him. That would be the kind of way to use him out of the back field. Then, run the same play later, but give it to the other RB off tackle where the linebacker had to vacate to cover Pierson. You get a guy like Bourbon, Mann, or Cox(not to dismiss Wrench), past the first level quickly where they can use a little speed to get some big running plays would be huge. The most important thing is to be consistent with execution. Execute these kinds of plays consistently, and other defenses will be off balance all game long.

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