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Archive for Saturday, September 7, 2013

Opinion: Jayhawk running backs’ skills stack up nicely

September 7, 2013

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Tony Pierson isn’t only the fastest player at the deepest position for the Kansas University football squad, he’s the speediest on the entire roster.

So, if the other four running backs, James Sims, Taylor Cox, Darrian Miller and Brandon Bourbon, lined up to chase Pierson, which guy would finish second?

Depends, naturally, on the person answering the question.

“All of us would be,” in the running, Sims said. “Bourbon’s fast. Taylor Cox is fast. Darrian is speedy. I don’t know. I say take Tony out and let us all run.”

(Prediction aside: Bourbon, who like Pierson will be used in a hybrid slot receiver/running back role depending on the play, will have a breakout season and catch at least one long touchdown reception in today’s 6 p.m. kickoff against South Dakota.)

Bourbon also had an interesting answer to the speed question.

“I imagine everyone you ask that question will say they’ll at least be No. 2,” Bourbon said. “Taylor will tell you he could get me, but I don’t think he can.”

Good guess on Bourbon’s part.

“Me,” Cox said. “It would definitely be between me and Brandon, but I think my first couple of steps, I’d definitely get him. He might catch up in the end because he’s a long strider, but I definitely think it would be me.”

Bourbon said Sims and Miller would be a “coin flip” in a race. Pierson saw it the same way. So did running backs coach Reggie Mitchell, noting that when Miller and Sims were teammates two years ago, Miller had the edge, but Sims has caught up to him.

As for the Bourbon-Cox race, the team’s foremost authority on speed registered the deciding vote.

“I would say Brandon Bourbon’s probably the second-fastest,” Pierson said. “I think it’s Brandon and then Taylor.”

All five running backs have at least one quality the other four envy, which raised another question asked of Bourbon and Cox: If you could steal one thing from the other four guys, what would it be?

Bourbon’s responses:

Sims: “Durability.”

Cox: “Physicality, but I’m trying to rival that.”

Miller: “It’s like he’s got oil on him. He’s slippery.”

Pierson: “He’s fast and slippery, which is a good combination.”

Cox’s answer: “Tony’s speed. I think what separates Tony is his ability to get to top speed so fast. Darrian Miller’s cutting ability and James Sims’ vision.”

And what would he steal from Bourbon?

“His biceps,” Cox said. “He definitely has some guns.”

Weis’ decision to use Pierson and Bourbon in the hybrid role will get the ball into the hands of playmakers more often, but there remains the issue of having only so many carries for such a deep stable of backs.

Mitchell said it’s not an issue and he sounded downright presidential in stating it with a slogan.

“Don’t count your carries,” Mitchell said. “Make your carries count for you. That’s the best way to put it.”

Original line or penned by a speech writer?

“I probably stole that from someone,” Mitchell said. “If you get five carries, make them the best carries. Don’t worry that you only got five carries.”

All the backs should benefit from what promises to be a much better passing game, which makes it tougher for opponents to load up on the run as they did during a 1-11 2012 season.

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