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Keegan: Don’t freak out yet

September 8, 2008

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KU shuts out Louisiana Tech in rainy matchup

Well Mother Nature didn't make it easy, but on Saturday the Kansas football team recorded it's 11th straight victory at Memorial Stadium. Enlarge video

Two games into the season, the Kansas University football defense has allowed three points, the receiving unit looks as if it could become known as the best in school history, the punt-return team has transformed from a horror show into a highlight show, and the Jayhawks are ranked 13th in the nation by the Associated Press.

Sometimes it pays to pause and soak in all that before returning to freaking out about the state of the running game.

In 2007, KU averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 2.3 rushing touchdowns per game. Thus far, those numbers have been 3.7 yards per carry and .5 rushing touchdowns per game.

Jocques Crawford is 1,951 yards shy of his stated goal of having a 2,000-yard rushing season, and he trails teammate Angus Quigley by 82 yards. Jake Sharp averaged 5.6 yards a carry last season, 3.7 this season. Clearly, the running woes involve far more than just what the guys carrying the football are or are not doing.

Tackles Cesar Rodriguez and Anthony Collins started 68 games between them. Red-shirt freshmen Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch, their replacements, have started three games. Both have high ceilings, but it takes time to learn all the shortcuts and nuances of playing the position at the collegiate level.

Tight end Derek Fine, who never stopped improving his blocking, works for the Buffalo Bills now. Expecting a comparatively inexperienced player to fill his blocking void is not realistic. Sophomore Bradley Dedeaux, red-shirt freshman A.J. Steward and true freshman Tim Biere have shared the position. Steward appears to have the most potential, at least as a receiver.

Thanks to Daymond Patterson's flashy start to his career, injured Dexton Fields hasn't been missed as a receiver, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been missed in the running game. Fields is KU's best blocking receiver, and he was more than responsible for springing Brandon McAnderson free for bigger gains than he otherwise would have gotten.

McAnderson's instincts and experience enabled him to know how to use blockers. His vision let him to know when to make his sharp cuts. So far, nobody has mirrored his style, but Quigley (6.2 yards per carry), the team's third-string running back and leading rusher in both games, has come the closest. He's been the toughest to bring down, and not all of that can be attributed to carrying the ball often against worn-down defenses.

Coach Mark Mangino said to expect Quigley to play earlier in the game Friday against South Florida, a 3.5-point favorite, according to the oddsmakers.

In order to improve its red-zone offense, Kansas will need to improve its running game, but it won't necessarily have to be as good as last year's for KU to be as good a team. Patterson and Dezmon Briscoe give KU such dangerous yards-after-catch receivers, and both are deep threats as well. Meanwhile, few teams have as automatic a third-down target as Kerry Meier, who has a knack for running his routes just past the first-down marker and catches everything thrown his way.

Plus, the defense that lacks the star power of last year's could be even more effective.

So even though the Jayhawks aren't running well yet, it's not as if they're walking the plank.

Comments

alobos9 6 years ago

Didn't Jocque say "anyone" can be replaced... apparently McAnderson is missed a lot more than what they planned?

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Leprechaunking13 6 years ago

How about both teams that KU has played had a stack the line defense and blitz heavy package that makes it more difficult to run the ball. Mangenius himself said that the teams should be looking to stop the pass, which Florida international and louisiana tech both DID NOT do. As soon as a team tries to actually stop the pass the run game will open up. I think Keegan is the only one freaking out.

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