Archive for Friday, August 29, 2003

We have each other’s backs’

Running backs tight group

August 29, 2003


So much for a running back controversy for Kansas University's football team.

Heck, the starter didn't even know he was starting until he was told by a member of the media a day after it was announced.

Better yet, though, is how the backs bonded during two-a-day drills creating a brotherhood, not bad blood.

"We're all in this thing together, and we have each other's backs," said true freshman John Randle, who is listed as the second-string tailback for Saturday night's opener against Northwestern at KU's Memorial Stadium. "We're really like brothers."

In that case, Randle's older brother is sophomore starter Clark Green. And despite his shy ways around the media, Green shared more than just rushing secrets with Randle.

"He's really been like my brother," Randle said. "They're (running backs) all like my brothers, my family. They really help me out.

"I can't just run the ball anymore," said Randle, who rushed for 1,757 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall as a senior at Wichita Southeast. "You gotta find the holes and different reads, and different things you gotta look for in the defense coming at you.

"They tell me everything will be quicker. Bigger guys out there, bigger guys to block, more people come swiping at the ball, coming from different directions at you."

Green would know -- last year he was the Jayhawks' leading rusher. After beating out incumbent starter Reggie Duncan, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound freshman rushed for 813 yards and caught 37 passes for 408 yards. His 37 receptions were the second-most on the team and broke the KU single-season record for receptions by a running back.

Yet, none of those accolades guaranteed Green the starting job this season because Randle and red-shirt freshman Jerome Kemp (Randle's teammate last year at Southeast) pushed Green during preseason drills.

"You got to go out there and play no matter who's starting," Green said. "Whether it be John or Jerome, or fortunately for me, I am right now. But you got to go out there and play."

Green wasn't worried about who started.

"Whoever's in there, if they have a good play, we're going to tell them good play or bad play," he said. "You have to tell them what's wrong, what they did wrong, because one of us is going to be on the sideline and going to see it. That's all you can do, and just help coach them."

Unlike last season, when Green and quarterback Bill Whittemore were KU's primary ball carriers, Mangino said Randle would get in the mix.

"We will play it by ear," Mangino said. "He will play and will get some carries. He will be out there. How much time, we don't know. We have to see the situation, how the game progresses, and what our needs are from the tailback in the game as it plays out."

Just playing is enough for Randle, who said KU coaches never talked to him about taking a red-shirt season.

Randle also said Jayhawk fans should not forget about his childhood friend, Kemp.

"He's been playing, getting his reps," Randle said of Kemp, who didn't play during the last two open practices. "If he works hard and keeps working, he's going to see the field, too. We're all capable of going out there and making plays."

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