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Archive for Saturday, August 27, 2011

Buffalo transfer Nick Sizemore eager to add new element to KU offense

Kansas University's Nick Sizemore participates in a drill in this 2011 file photo from spring practices.

Kansas University's Nick Sizemore participates in a drill in this 2011 file photo from spring practices.

August 27, 2011

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All Kansas University fullback Nick Sizemore ever wanted to do was play linebacker.

Back at Manheim Township High in Lititz, Pa., Sizemore was an all-state selection after finishing his senior year with 111 tackles and 5.5 sacks. For his career, he finished with a school-record 311 tackles while earning letters each season.

Even with all of the stops and all of the hits, Sizemore signed at the University of Buffalo as a fullback. As one of three true freshmen to play for UB in 2009, Sizemore received a taste of his old position on special teams, where he made four tackles in 12 games. While clinging to his dream, Sizemore began to see that his new position might not be so bad.

Although he didn’t carry the ball during the ’09 season, he started to realize that playing fullback the way he played linebacker not only was possible but also was a lot of fun. With Sizemore leading Buffalo’s tailbacks into the holes and past the offensive line, he found out that knocking heads with the guys who played his old position had become an effective part of the UB offense. And he loved it.

“I’m going for the linebacker the whole time,” he said. “I’m picking the biggest one. That’s always been my thing, picking the biggest one and knocking him down.”

Just when he started to get comfortable on offense, his coach, Turner Gill, left for Kansas, and the coaching staff that came in behind him switched Sizemore to offensive line.

“At first I was gonna stay and stick it out and see what happened,” Sizemore said. “But then I got moved to offensive line, and they told me to put on a bunch of weight, and I wasn’t interested in doing that.”

So he left, not knowing for sure where he would end up. A quick phone call turned into a visit. A visit turned into an eye-opener. And Sizemore turned into a Jayhawk.

“Once I left Buffalo, I got in touch with coach Gill again and came out for a visit,” Sizemore said. “I fell in love with Kansas right away. I mean, he’s a great coach, but I really fell in love with the school. It really fit me well. Playing for my old coach and a few guys I knew already just made it better.”

Two years ago, Sizemore was just happy to find a place to play college football. Now, he’s playing in the Big 12. While reuniting with Gill and moving to Lawrence were dream-come-true scenarios, Sizemore said jumping into one of the best football conferences in the country forced him to pinch himself a time or two.

“That was part of it, too,” he said. “I mean, would you rather be an offensive lineman in the MAC or a fullback in the Big 12?”

After transferring to Kansas, Sizemore sat out the 2010 season. He played fullback on the scout team and did his best to adjust to a new level of football.

Now, with his first season of college football in two years just a week away, KU’s first-string fullback is eager to get on the field and make a difference. His teammates have been waiting.

“I think the fact that we weren’t able to use him last year kind of hurt us, and he’s going to be a strong asset to our offense this year,” said KU junior Toben Opurum, a former fullback who now plays on the defensive line. “Nick Sizemore’s tough. He’s a guy that not a lot of guys want to be across from at the line of scrimmage. He lays the wood, and he’s done a really good job on his pass-blocking and run-blocking.”

Although Gill has talked about his desire to feature a strong ground game since his arrival, circumstances and the lack of a true fullback dictated more passing than running during 2010. But the Jayhawks expect things to be different in 2011. For starters, Gill’s squad features four tailbacks with serious talent. Each is a little different and brings something unique to the offense. The one thing they all have in common? They all love playing behind Sizemore.

“I know he can open up holes,” projected starter James Sims said. “He’s a good fit, and he’s gonna be in there a lot, so I’m excited about that. When he hits you, he’s gonna hit you real hard.”

Several of KU’s defensive players have learned that the hard way.

“He comes at me,” Opurum said. “He’s not scared of anybody. He’ll take the chance to hit somebody whenever he gets it.”

According to Sizemore, that’s the linebacker in him.

“I’m not scared of contact at all,” he said. “That’s what you’ve gotta have to play the position. You don’t necessarily have to be crazy, banging your head into lockers or anything like that. Close. But not all the way.”

Added junior cornerback Greg Brown: “He’ll take on anybody. He’s a big, quick guy, and he’s a big part of our offense. He can even run the ball, too.”

That last part is a little secret that the Jayhawks hope will surprise opponents this season. With so many defenses geared to stop Sims or freshmen Brandon Bourbon, Darrian Miller and Tony Pierson, Sizemore may sneak a carry or two the way his idol, former Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott, used to.

When he does?

“He’ll be a weapon,” KU quarterback Jordan Webb said. “Don’t be surprised if he finds the end zone this year.”

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