Thursday, September 23, 2021
When Kansas football head coach Lance Leipold and his staff finally got to start evaluating players during practices in August, Leipold figured the Jayhawks would find a way to use Torry Locklin. He just wasn’t sure how.
“It was kind of like trying to find him a home,” Leipold said of Locklin, a redshirt sophomore who came to KU as a quarterback in 2019 and was at receiver earlier this year, when the head coach took over the program at the end of spring football.
As KU’s offense began dealing with availability and injury issues at running back during preseason camp, Leipold found his answer.
“We moved him quickly back to running back from receiver,” Leipold said.
The Jayhawks (1-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12) figure to need Locklin even more at running back now, in the wake of junior starter Velton Gardner leaving the team and entering the transfer portal. True freshman Devin Neal is most likely to become KU’s new primary running back, but the offense will need Locklin and redshirt freshman Amauri Pesek-Hickson’s help, as well.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Locklin already was contributing before KU’s depth at running back took a hit. He enters Saturday’s game at Duke (3 p.m., ACC Network) with 10 carries for 19 yards through three games. Locklin got 11 of those yards on two particular rushing attempts on one drive late in KU’s Week 2 loss at Coastal Carolina.
Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said Locklin possesses athleticism and speed, and he would like to get Locklin the ball on the perimeter moving forward.
However, Kotelnicki pointed out, KU’s offensive issues and lack of prolonged drives so far have made it hard to do that. With short-lived possessions ending in punts, many features and wrinkles within the offense don’t even get a chance to be implemented during games.
“He’s a guy, you want to be able to get him on the field more,” Kotelnicki said of Locklin. “But you get in situations where you’re not on rhythm. You’re not staying ahead of the sticks. And those are the things we’ve kind of been focusing on this week.”
Locklin’s potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by KU starting quarterback Jason Bean. When the former North Texas QB arrived on campus this summer, Locklin still was at receiver. Now, Bean said, Locklin could just as easily line up in the backfield for a carry or out wide to run a route.
“I think he’s been great. He’s answered every call when his number’s been called. He’s been doing a little big of everything,” Bean said. “I’m really excited for him. I think he’s kind of embraced the role that he has on this team. I think the potential for him is through the roof at either position, wherever he’s at.”
Leipold said Locklin's football IQ is part of what makes him so versatile. As the sophomore continues to develop, the coach added, Leipold hopes the staff can find ways to get Locklin more touches, through carries or other avenues.
“He’s a valuable player in this program. He’s one of our better special teams players,” Leipold added. “He has a great attitude. He’s a really good athlete.”
Leipold thinks so highly of Locklin and considers the third-year player from Rockdale, Texas, so multifaceted, in fact, that the head coach said Locklin could even play defense if the coaches asked him to.
“He’s needed at running back at this moment,” Leipold said.