Former Kansas University offensive coordinator Nick Quartaro ran a spread offense. Successor Ed Warinner ditched the huddle, spread the field even more and had a superior quarterback in Todd Reesing.
Both coordinators had productive running backs. Jon Cornish led Quartaro's offense with 1,457 rushing yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. A year later, in Warinner's offense, Brandon McAnderson rushed for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Other than having a talented running back, what factors, run-game coordinator and offensive-line coach John Reagan was asked, contributed to KU's success on the ground?
"Obviously, the offense that we're in, the ability to spread people out across the field and force them to defend the entire field is a huge part of our running game being successful," Reagan said during a Media Day interview. "We've had some really good receivers and pretty good quarterbacks who have been able to pull the trigger at the right time and put the ball out on the perimeter at the right time, where there is a concern about deep passes and our ability to dink our way down the field on the perimeter throwing the football. When you do that, you get guys farther and farther away from what we call the box, or the interior part of the field, and it allows us to run the football. Just purely schematically, our numbers match up with their numbers, and we have a pretty good chance."
Reagan credited blockers. Center Ryan Cantrell and guards Adrian Mayes and Chet Hartley return. Big-time talent Jeff Spikes and fellow red-shirt freshman Jeremiah Hatch, a combined 625 pounds, man the tackle spots.
"You've got to have an offensive line willing to work hard, work together and communicate," Reagan said. "That's probably the biggest reason, in my mind, that we've had as much success as we've had. We haven't had the most talented guys. We've had some good players, and we still do, but we have some guys that are willing to work their tails off, do a little bit extra, instead of blocking for four yards, let's block for five and let the running back get what he can get. And we've had guys who will communicate."
Reagan on Hatch: "Jeremiah's a tough, hard-nosed kid, exactly what I really like in an offensive lineman. Comes out to work and get better every single day and doesn't question anything. 'Try this out.' He gives it a try. He learns what he needs to do to get better."
Spikes has as high a ceiling as any player in the program.
"Neither one of them has stepped on the field when the bullets are flying," Reagan said of the tackles. "Both are developing. Both throughout their careers here are going to be really good players. Jeff was blessed with a lot of athletic ability and talent and size, and if he puts that to good use he'll have a great career here."
Reagan listed speed and experience as running back Jake Sharp's top strengths. Jocques Crawford is neither quite as big as McAnderson nor quite as fast as Sharp, but he's big and fast.
"I think he seems to have that competitive edge that, when it comes down to it, he's got a work ethic, he's got that edge to want to do well, and I think it'll all come together pretty well," Reagan said of Crawford.
Running the football shouldn't be a problem for KU.