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Archive for Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Back on track?

KU hoping to re-establish running game

Kansas running back Jake Sharp seeks the end zone after making a catch in a September 2009 game against Duke.

Kansas running back Jake Sharp seeks the end zone after making a catch in a September 2009 game against Duke.

October 28, 2009

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KU football prepping for Red Raiders

The KU football team is preparing to travel to Lubbock to face the high-octane Texas Tech offense. Enlarge video

Jake Sharp is tough.

Just about everyone associated with the Kansas University football team will tell you so. They will tell you this any time you ask about the speedy running back, and, often, when you don’t.

In fact, if you are a reporter covering the Jayhawks, and you have been doing your job for a year or more, you probably have been subjected to at least 37 stories about how much Sharp can lift or how many hits he can take or how much pain he can tolerate — the point of all these stories being: Jake Sharp is really, truly, a tough son of a gun.

So Tuesday, when the Jayhawks’ senior running back was asked whether he was still hampered by an undisclosed leg injury that kept him out of three games earlier this season, his response was not altogether surprising.

“No,” he said, seeming a little annoyed by the question. “By no means.”

Anyone who has watched Sharp since his return, however, undoubtedly has been struck by the fact that the Salina native has yet to return to his early-season form, and comments Sunday from KU coach Mark Mangino — who indicated the player still lacked his usual explosiveness — did nothing to dispel this theory.

In two games since returning from the injury, Sharp has looked far from his old self, rushing for a combined 51 yards on 20 carries —just 2.6 yards per carry — despite averaging 113.5 through the Jayhawks’ first two games this fall.

What’s more, as the team’s top running back has struggled to regain his old form, the team’s ground game has struggled right along with him.

The Jayhawks have managed just 73 combined rushing yards in back-to-back losses to Colorado and Oklahoma — including a minus-eight-yard performance against the Buffaloes — totals that have led the team’s coaching staff to make the ground game a high priority heading into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. road matchup with Texas Tech.

“We have to be who we are, and I think we have to continue to try to establish the run game and have some balance, because if you have some balance, good things happen for you,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “That doesn’t always happen —sometimes the defense will dictate whether you have balance or not. ... But we definitely have the mind-set where we need to run the ball effectively.”

While the lack of a 100-percent healthy Sharp certainly hasn’t helped, meanwhile, the team’s recent rushing troubles can be attributed to a number of factors.

In each of their past two games, for instance, the Jayhawks have been forced to play from behind after falling into a considerable scoring hole, causing them to stray from the run game in an effort to maximize the clock.

The team is still breaking in a young and relatively inexperienced offensive line, meanwhile, and despite Mangino’s assertion that “Jake on a bad leg is better than a lot of running backs on two good legs,” the absence of a fully healthy Sharp has forced coaches to alter certain aspects of the run game.

“Certainly, Jake has an element of speed that we like to have on the field,” said offensive-line coach/run-game coordinator John Reagan. “It’s not necessarily that (his health) has been a hindrance, but certainly we haven’t had that, so we’ve had to work different directions with it.”

Last week, the different direction was true freshman running back Toben Opurum, who recovered from a two-carry, three-yard performance against Colorado two weeks ago to rush for 59 yards on 13 carries against Oklahoma, turning in an impressive 4.5 yards-per-carry average against one of the nation’s top defenses.

Based on the unpredictable nature of the Big 12 Conference so far this fall, however, it’s hard to tell what to expect for this weekend’s game. The Red Raiders have had success against two of the conference’s top rushing team’s this season, holding Nebraska and Kansas State to a combined 186 yards on the ground, but last week gave up 321 run yards to Texas A&M, a team that entered the game with an undistinguished ground attack.

What’s less questionable is this: For Kansas to put itself in position to battle for a spot in December’s Big 12 championship game, a substantial ground attack is a necessity.

“We need to go out there at the start of the game and get our offense established early,” Sharp said. “That’s a big thing, and once that happens, and if we can get our run game established, then things open up and things just start rolling for us.”

Comments

yankeevet 5 years, 1 month ago

prediction for KU ............won 5 lost 7

Jim Williamson 5 years, 1 month ago

Yankeevet is a boob.

Jake can say what he wants, but even the most casual fan can see he's a step-and-a-half slow and can't make a cut. And the only way that ankle's going to heal is for him to quit playing football on it.

If KU's going to re-establish a running game -- which they have to do to win the three winnable games left on their schedule -- Sharp's role will have to be limited and highly specialized. He's not healthy enough to be the same asset he's been in the past.

Steve Miller 5 years, 1 month ago

Out side of K. state, they will probably loose the remaining big 12 games.

Catbacker 5 years, 1 month ago

"History Awaits"... Mangino better pray to the Gods of Fat Bastards that he wins in Manhattan this year, as this was to be his most talented team ever and this is certainly the least talented team Snyder will have. If he loses this year...it could cost Clint his job.

riverdrifter 5 years, 1 month ago

Put Opurum in and leave him. He's big, has adequate speed to get to the corner and pass blocks well. Use him.

royalpain 5 years, 1 month ago

Mangino doesn't need to pray to anyone, you class-less redneck. KU wins easily again, just like the last 4 out of 5 times they've played Silo Tech. This may be his most talented offense, but no one ever said this was his most talented team. The 2007 Orang Bowl winning team had way more talent on defense. As far as Snyder getting better talent, I haven't seen it yet. Remember, he was the coach who wouldn't even drive to KC to watch Freeman play. Snyder is winning with Prince's recruits, which proves that Snyder was losing the touch when he retired. Look how crappy their record has been with the Snyder recruits that Prince tried to coach up.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 1 month ago

KU-24, TT-35. K-State 38, KU-27. With out a healthy Sharp. Leaving K-state big 12 North champs.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 1 month ago

As you all know TTs' "fat little girl friends" told them so.

Mel Briscoe 5 years, 1 month ago

jake graduated from my alma mater and went to school w/ one of my sons. yay salina central! :D

Mel Briscoe 5 years, 1 month ago

sticks and stones, wally d. walrus.... sticks and stones.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 1 month ago

Hey Mel, I am just quoting Mike Leech from Texas Tech. I think he is trying to motivate his players form last Saturdays loss to A&M. I love Jake Sharp. I love KU, it is just that without him KU is not as balanced in their offense.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 1 month ago

From Fox sports: (I just had not heard this from anywhere else; about hitting the car.) "Kansas sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor's candid attitude on the recent altercations with the football team and his Facebook postings were refreshing, but what worried me more than anything is Taylor's thumb. It was at least three times the size of a normal thumb, and I'm not sure how it won't affect him on the court. Few realize his punch missed a football player, ended up hitting a car and ultimately resulted in surgery."

Mel Briscoe 5 years, 1 month ago

i digress, wallace. i like jake too. my son said he is a nice guy as well.

funinsun1 5 years, 1 month ago

They need help on D not on the O. Clint needs to go back to special teams or to arena ball

LeBo 5 years, 1 month ago

Sharp is dull. Will the Real T. O. please run the darn ball. Why is Arist Wight not staring at LB. Drew Dudley is not better. Justin has no Springs. And how did that other guy make to depth chart?

Thank for the memories Meier, Ressing, Stuckey, and the RB formerly know as "Jake the Snake" Sharp. This season is done.

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