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Archive for Thursday, April 5, 2007

Keegan: Size Sharp’s one issue

April 5, 2007

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Question a talented athlete who has been called undersized about whether he can do something, and he'll tell you he can do it, and he'll tell you with interest.

If the Kansas University football team needs Jake Sharp to become a 15-carry-a-game back next fall, can he do it?

"I think I can be a 30-carry-a-game guy," Sharp said. "Anything they ask me to do, I'm going to go out there and give it my all, and I don't think I'm going to have a problem as far as having the toughness to do it."

Speed and toughness never have been the issues for Sharp in terms of whether he can become an every-down back in the Big 12. Just size, and that question mark shrinks as his body expands. Sharp said he weighed 180 pounds during his freshman season and is up to 190 pounds.

Is he as swift?

"Swifter," Sharp said. "I haven't put on any fat. My body fat was like 7.5 percent."

That's a small number for a guy now eating like a fat man.

"I'm a trackster," Sharp said of the difficulties of adding weight. "I've never really bulked up. Coach (Chris) Dawson's staff is doing it for me. I eat breakfast every morning with them. We get bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast, then I'll take two protein shakes to class. And that's just breakfast. Breakfast lasts about 21â2 hours. It's just constant. I never stop eating. I eat like three or four big meals a day, and in between that, it's anything I can get my hands on."

Some guys have all the luck.

"You need to be up around 195, almost 200, in the Big 12, I believe, as a running back," Sharp said. "I'm looking to get there by the fall, where I can bang a little more on the goal line."

Pass protection is a huge part of any Kansas running back's job. It was the last thing to come together for Jon Cornish to earn him every-down status as a senior.

"My blocking's definitely improved," Sharp said. "It took me awhile to figure out that if you're going to be a Division I running back all the time, it's blocking, running and doing other things that's going to make you a good one."

KU coach Mark Mangino said of Sharp's blocking: "It's a work in progress. The pass protection stuff for him, he's much, much improved over last year. He's gotten better through eight practices. At one time you would call that a liability for him. I think right now, he's gotten to a point he's getting comfortable with it. He's probably as consistent pass-protecting as any back we have, with the exception of Brandon McAnderson."

Mangino said he believed Sharp could develop into an every-down back.

"He's a hard charger," Mangino said. "The guy plays hard. He hits the hole. He's tough. He's durable. He can take a lot of shots for a guy his size, and I have to say he's put on some more muscle. He looks good. He's gotten thicker and heavier and hasn't lost a step. I'm real pleased with him. He's got the mentality to be a good running back, that's for sure, and he's got the tools."

Sharp, who averaged 6.1 yards on his 21 carries as a freshman, will compete for carries with McAnderson, Angus Quigley and Donte Bean.

Sharp set a state record with 63 touchdowns as a senior at Central High in Salina. He has not found the end zone in college.

Not yet.

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