Monday, March 22, 2010

Kansas football RB Bourbon fast, elusive


Though he was careful to point out that the comparison was made in a relative sense, Potosi High football coach Mark Casey delivered mighty high praise for running back Brandon Bourbon, a four-star senior signee from Potosi, Mo., who will join the Kansas University football team this summer.

“The first person that I think about comparing him to is a player like (Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson because he does run so hard, but he’s also elusive enough and fast enough to make people miss,” Casey said. “But until a couple years ago, we didn’t really realize how good of a player he was going to be.”

It didn’t take long for people in the Class 3 Missouri town of just under 3,000 people that sits 56 miles southwest of St. Louis to figure it out. Bourbon, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, credits his family for that.

“My sophomore year, I was a little timid,” Bourbon said. “But in the offseason, my dad and my uncle told me, ‘Dude, just run.’ So that’s what I started to do. And that’s the only way to go — as hard as you can run every play from the time you get the ball to the time you’re on the ground. I don’t like to go slow when I have the ball.”

There aren’t many who can go faster.

With a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash, Bourbon decided to join new KU coach Turner Gill’s first recruiting class late in the process after initially committing to Stanford. Bourbon said he elected to pass on Stanford for many reasons.

By the end of his senior season at Potosi High — during which he ran for 2,406 yards and scored 34 touchdowns — he still had not been accepted by Stanford and also was turned off by the fact that Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh had brought in a new running-backs coach. Still, Bourbon continued to keep Stanford in the back of his mind, but ultimately chose Kansas because of one reason.

“Went on my official (visit) to Stanford, and my parents weren’t allowed to go, and then I went on my official to Kansas, and my parents could go, and that just kind of summed it all up,” Bourbon said. “(Coach Gill) was just a down-to-earth guy who I feel has good beliefs and values, and I think I’m going to like the way he conducts his team.”

Bourbon said the KU coaches told him throughout his recruitment they’d like to have options in the running game. Bourbon will compete for carries with sophomore Toben Opurum — the top returning rusher from last season — junior Rell Lewis, red-shirt freshman Deshaun Sands and senior Angus Quigley. Despite the crowded backfield, Bourbon has high hopes for his first season in Lawrence.

“I’m definitely shooting for some playing time, and I think I have a shot to get some,” he said. “I don’t want to seem cocky or anything like that, but I definitely have some things that I’m wanting to get done next year.”

That came as no surprise to Casey, who often marveled at the way Bourbon pushed himself in high school despite being “a man amongst boys.”

“Just his strength alone would’ve gotten him through,” Casey said. “But when you add that 4.4 speed to it, he was pretty unstoppable at times.”

Bourbon averaged 13.8 yards per carry during his senior season. He’s not foolish enough to believe that the number will stay there when he suits up for Kansas, but he’s not willing to concede that it won’t.

“At Oklahoma, when Adrian Peterson was there, (offensive coordinator) coach (Chuck) Long was there, too, and they ran out of the I-formation, they ran some single-back, and they did some shotgun, too. They ran kind of a mix of things, which is what I’m used to.”

Bourbon said the injured back that plagued him during the entire 2009 season would not hinder his transition to the college level. He has received treatment on his back for the last few weeks and was told by doctors that he would be able to start lifting and strengthening the back again soon.

“I’ll definitely be ready to go by the time I get there,” he said.


Jonathan Allison 12 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the look at Bourbon, Matt!

Are there any new players for KU that made it to campus for this spring semester to take part in spring practice?

jaydee909 12 years, 2 months ago

Great article. Thanks for the additional insight on Bourbon. No mention though of James Sims competing for carries?

JHawkins 12 years, 2 months ago

Thanks. More Football articles please, more distractions!!!

mondhawk 12 years, 2 months ago

Thanks I also need more football articles,spring game, recruiting, i am so excited about recruiting news this year.

Dyrk Dugan 12 years, 2 months ago

"Thanks. More Football articles please, more distractions!!!"


distractions? THIS is the story now. hoops is over....(well, the women are making another run in the WNIT). mens hoops is over, precisely.

all of our attention should be on this football team now...we have spring ball right around the corner....our first game is in early Sept....THIS is the main thing.

Coaches all the time talk about next play, next play....mens bball is done. no need to keep lookiing back and needing "distractions."

rockchalkxii 12 years, 2 months ago

Matt, these articles about the recruits are great. Keep em coming. Could you post highlight links in articles of the kids though?

Rivethead 12 years, 2 months ago

Matt: the oversite by not mentioning fellow recruit James Sims is huge.

IMHO, Sims will end up being the better back. Sure Bourbon had a great career, but there is a huge difference between competing against slow farmboys in MO and Dallas, Texas metro aread talent (like Sims did).

number1jayhawker 12 years, 2 months ago

"Thanks for the look at Bourbon, Matt!

Are there any new players for KU that made it to campus for this spring semester to take part in spring practice?"

The answer would one guy. QB Quin Meachum, the Junior College transfer.

Matt Tait 12 years, 2 months ago

Good call, number1jayhawker...

Tom Keegan did a column about Meacham a month or so ago. He's been on campus for a while now and will participate in Spring ball. We'll catch up with him again soon.

Here's Keegan's column, in case you missed it:

As for the Sims deal, I'm in the process of trying to get ahold of him and I think you're right, Rivethead, he could have a huge impact right away.

The reason I went after Bourbon first was because he's a four-star guy (Sims is a three-star guy)... But my goal is to get all of them because, outside of Opurum, the RB position is wide open right now and, from the looks of it, is one that will be much more important than in the past few years.

MitchumMan 12 years, 2 months ago

Thanks Matt! I thought it was pretty obvious why you chose Bourbon instead of Sims, although Sim's 'could' have an impact. My guess is that he'll redshirt but you never know until you get him here and see what kind of shape he's in. I've read a lot of good things on Sands and think he could definitely be that change of pace guy. I honestly see Sands and Bourbon getting used the most this year besides on short yardage situations where you throw in Opurum. I like Opurum, but he only runs one direction (which is the best direction) but he's not a big play type of guy. But then again, he has a year under his belt and maybe he's ready to show us he has more stuff in his arsenal.

Matt Tait 12 years, 2 months ago

Personally, I'm very excited to see what Toben can do. First of all, he's a year older and a year more experienced. But second of all, and probably most importantly, he should be healthy heading into the season, which wasn't the case last year.

I doubt he'll ever be a home run hitter. He's more of a power guy and less of a speed guy, but I think he could very easily become the same kind of back that Brandon McAnderson was.

Sands could be a huge surprise this year. The coaches are very high on him and he obviously has good genes!!!

This position is just one of several that's going to be very exciting to follow this year.

MitchumMan 12 years, 2 months ago

Now let's hope that our O-line can stay healthy and dominate so we can have that power running game.

johnnyphoton 12 years, 2 months ago

I'm trying to understand what kind of offense this is going to be. Does this coaching staff want to have a 50/50 run and pass offense, for example? Apologies if I've missed the obvious . . .

CrimsonPhoenix 12 years, 2 months ago

Toben Opurum looks like he could be a Shonn Greene kind of guy, which I am absolutely okay with, having grown up in Iowa and being an Iowa football fan on the side. :)

gardenjay 12 years, 2 months ago

Please get these infernal men's b-ball brackets off the f-ball page.

KU b-ball needs to take a humility lesson from KU f-ball, and not push itself into every pore on KUSPORTS.COM.

I would like to forget b-ball for a while, unless you report on any of them getting their college diplomas and walking down the hill. That is the next b-ball article worth anything. If X and Cole take off, that deserves one sentence for both: "X and Cole are taking off". If I hear someone complain again about NIU being 'essentially a European Pro Team' then what's the difference with our NBA team attitude? If they start getting degrees, like Danny 'The Man' Manning, then you can call that collegiate.

Jonathan Allison 12 years, 2 months ago

Thanks Matt, I do remember reading Keegan's article about Meachem now.

wow gardenjay. Just let it all out. Release all of your frustration.

OK now, breathe deeply and recognize that the team that you picked to win it all still has a chance, so your bracket is not as screwed up as most everyone else's.

Now let's all pray for a peaceful coexistence between football and basketball.

gardenjay 12 years, 2 months ago

OK, breathing deeply...and kind of embarrassed. I am pretty sure I selected UK as in 'University of Kansas'.....oops! Oh, well; maybe I get another T-shirt.

KURocksChalk 12 years, 2 months ago

So looking forward to football season. I am still pretty optimistic about the direction and results for next year. Still think 6-6 is doable and quite good for first year. Where I am expecting big results is in the recruiting arena. Looking for some really big fish in future years and a couple of five-stars. The character of this staff is going to win out with recruits and parents. Players want to be part of a real team, not some assemblage of players who simply rack up W's for some guys on payroll. If all a coach or fan, for that matter, cares about is winning and does not take the time or has the interest in a player's personal life and growth, he shouldn't be coaching.

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