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Latest KU football injury news as unfair as it gets

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Kansas University running back Brandon Bourbon (25) rushes against South Dakota State on Sept. 1, 2012, at Memorial Stadium. Bourbon, a fourth-year junior, says he feels better than ever after an injury-riddled start to his KU career.

Kansas University running back Brandon Bourbon (25) rushes against South Dakota State on Sept. 1, 2012, at Memorial Stadium. Bourbon, a fourth-year junior, says he feels better than ever after an injury-riddled start to his KU career. by Richard Gwin

My heart breaks for Brandon Bourbon.

There's no other way to put it. Few players on this Kansas University football team have been through as much adversity during their KU careers, fought through it all with determination and a smile, and still found tough break after tough break at seemingly every turn.

The most recent of those surfaced Tuesday, when it was learned that Bourbon would miss the entire 2014 season after suffering a knee injury in Sunday's team scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.

News of a season-ending injury for fellow-senior running back Taylor Cox also emerged Tuesday. Cox tore his Achilles' tendon during Monday's practice. It's not that I don't feel bad for Cox. I do. He's a great guy and an incredible teammate. It's just this deal with Bourbon is a little different because he's been with the program for so much longer.

It wasn't supposed to go this way. This was supposed to be Bourbon's year. Finally.

He fought through injuries for four seasons, kept a fantastic attitude through it all and was rewarded by spending the spring and the summer atop the team's depth chart at tailback. That's how it was supposed to go. And it was supposed to be followed by his best season as a Jayhawk and a strong finish to a tough career.

Sunday's injury had no place in the script. But it came anyway. And now Bourbon must not only rehab himself back to health again, but he also must decide if pursuing a sixth year of eligibility via a medical hardship is worth it.

I can't blame him, whatever he decides. It sounds like he's planning to persevere one more time and come back for another year if the NCAA will allow it. Let's hope they get that one right. Either way, I wish him a ton of luck with his rehab and future. He's a great dude and deserves for things to start falling his way sooner rather than later.

This is not the time to spend your days feeling sorry for the Jayhawks. Injuries are a big part of the game and a possibility for every player who steps out there. Because of that, coaches do their best to build depth and stack talent at every position. Running back is the best example of this at KU and has been for the past several seasons.

That makes the loss of Bourbon and Cox a little easier for the Jayhawks to take from a purely football perspective. All of a sudden, though, that depth that once looked excessive has been reduced to three promising newcomers (two of them freshmen) and a running-back-turned-receiver who might still be able to tote the rock a few times a game if needed.

Isn't it strange how a couple of players who, on signing day last February, looked like little more than luxuries now might be counted on big-time right away.

Juco transfer De'Andre Mann was called crazy for coming to KU with its already loaded backfield. Now he almost certainly will receive a significant workload.

Dallas freshman Corey Avery was one of the last in the Class of 2014 to pick Kansas and, when he did, Kansas looked to be so loaded at the position that many wondered if Avery would spend some time as a slot receiver. That wasn't the plan anyway, but it definitely won't be now.

The KU press release said that freshman Joe Dineen would move to running back to add depth to the position and Dineen certainly has the skills to play there. Like Avery and Mann, though, he just has no experience at this level.

For better or worse, though, those three are your KU running backs for 2014, with senior wide receiver Tony Pierson sprinkled in there if need be and, forgotten senior Ed Fink all of a sudden potentially staring at a possible goal line/short yardage role, as well. Other role players or situational-type backs also could emerge.

Those mentioned above are more than capable. And any one or two of them could be in for big seasons. But with Bourbon and Cox out now, their ability to deliver just became even more critical.

Hard to believe that KU now has lost more running backs (Bourbon, Cox, Darrian Miller and Traevohn Wrench) than it has.

Here's a quick glance at what happened to all that depth:

OFF THE DEEP END

A look at KU’s projected running back depth entering the summer and what happened to each back

Sr. Brandon Bourbon — Torn ACL, out for season
Sr. Taylor Cox — Torn Achilles’ tendon, out for season
Jr. De’Andre Mann — Competing for No. 1 spot on depth chart
Jr. Darrian Miller — Left team for personal reasons, later transferred to Northern Iowa
Fr. Corey Avery — Competing for No. 1 spot on depth chart
Fr. Traevohn Wrench — Failed to qualify academically, enrolled at Butler Community College

Kansas running back Taylor Cox warms up prior to kickoff against Rice on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Taylor Cox warms up prior to kickoff against Rice on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Kansas running back Brandon Bourbon catches a pass during warmups prior to kickoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Brandon Bourbon catches a pass during warmups prior to kickoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Comments

Chris Gilbertson 5 years, 1 month ago

Red Sox have/had curse of the Bambino, Cubs have the curse of the Goat, KU has curse of.........

Eric Mitchell 5 years, 1 month ago

Tait knows these guys and said he feels bad for both. Only natural to feel a little bit more emotion for a guy that has been around for five years instead of three.

Matt Tait 5 years, 1 month ago

Thanks, Eric. That's all this is. Cox got a bum deal here too and I think it stinks. But Bourbon has been through so much more while at Kansas.

He was a 4-star guy who came in at the same time as James Sims but watched himself do nothing but get injured while watching Sims do nothing but turn into a star. That's a tough deal that anyone would have a hard time with. Brandon really never did. At least not that he showed. He was a fantastic teammate, pulled for James every single time he touched the ball and did all he could to help his buddy and the team. He never bitched or moaned.

I'm a huge fan of Brandon Bourbon the person and am bummed for him that his path took this turn. Saying that really has nothing to do with Cox, good or bad.

John Fitzgerald 5 years, 1 month ago

Great article Tait. I agree with you 100% man. Tough break for both guys, especially Bourbon who was destined to be a beast this year. I pray he gets one more year, he definitely deserves it.

Chris Bailey 5 years, 1 month ago

Matt,

Do you see any situation where we use Cummings as a runner? I believe he has some legs. He could be in there with Cozart and both be threats to run or throw. Not sure if that's an option but with the injuries it may not be a choice. They may have to take a look and see what they have and how it can best be used. Seems to me that if he is a capable runner that could be an option. And by no means am I saying he be a feature back but it would give him some extra playing time and maybe we could use some trickery mixed in that thin backfield. What is your take?

John Fitzgerald 5 years, 1 month ago

"KU is a few injuries away from disaster" ... I remember that statement from a previous article, and although I may not be 100% on its wording, as we sit here, it can't be any more true. Tough break for these kids. But we can't spend too much time dwelling. This can't be the reason we fail this year. This can only be the reason we succeed. Every player should be thankful he can play and do whatever it takes to win for these two guys. Take nothing for granted, and take every opportunity. Now is your opportunity to shine Avery and Mann. Step up and make it happen. RCJH

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 1 month ago

This not a disaster for KU at this point. If there was one position where KU could sustain these kind of issues and potentially not even see a drop in performance, it was RB.

John Fitzgerald 5 years, 1 month ago

Disaster probably wasn't the best word to use. Maybe concern is more accurate. Either way it's a big blow.

Doug Cramer 5 years, 1 month ago

Would to see Bourbon and Cox persevere through this...and come back ready to be the man next year.

You're right Matt...this is heartbreaking.

Brad Farha 5 years, 1 month ago

So sad for both of these young men. It's been a blast to see them compete over the years, and it's been tough to see them get sidelined. Everything I've observed about them is that they are two find young men. Would love to see them on the field for Kansas next year. Of course because it would help the Jayhawks, but more so because it means they've recovered fully.

Jay Beakum 5 years, 1 month ago

Both you guys keep working and get back here next year. At the very least you should have a fully paid Masters degree, and maybe an honorary degree in sports therapy.

Mark Lindrud 5 years, 1 month ago

Sometimes things happen for a reason, and we may just find out Mann is amazing and we would not have known if it was not for this. We may find out Avery is a great change of pace back until he can get the size to be an every down back. We may discover that by leaning on the passing game more that Cozart is a potential star in the Big 12. I pray for a great recovery for both Bourbon and Cox in the meantime.

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