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What increased depth at RB means for KU


The last three seasons of KU football may have been about shattering the school’s passing records, but the next three could begin the assault on the rushing records.

Toben Opurum is the top returning rusher, Rell Lewis showed some things in the 2009 finale against Mizzou, Deshaun Sands was the scout team offensive player of the year and Angus Quigley is moving back to running back.

Beyond that, the team still has a couple of unknowns at the position and the incoming Class of 2010 features four-star stud Brandon Bourbon of Potosi, Mo., Hutch High standout Josh Smith, who plans to walk on, and James Sims, a 6-foot, 205-pound three-star back from Irving, Texas.

Wait, there’s more.

Although it’s still early, KU has received two official commitments from the Class of 2011 — Darrian Miller, a running back (go figure) from Blue Springs, Mo., and Dreamius Smith, a 6-foot, 205 pound option-style back from Wichita Heights.

There’s no doubt that new KU coach Turner Gill will need to find an immediate replacement for outgoing senior Jake Sharp — both in terms of carries and pure speed — but the latest developments seem to show that he won’t be short on choices.

What these signings — five running backs in two classes — also illustrate is that Gill’s offense will rely heavily on the ground game: specifically, fast, powerful backs that can run you over on one play and run away from you on the next.

Since arriving at KU, Gill has been fairly quiet about the specifics of what his offense will entail. He said initially that people should expect more balance than the Jayhawk teams of the past few years and also emphasized — in no uncertain terms — that speed would be king.

Although the guys on the current roster aren’t known to be blazers, almost every back that he has targeted in 2010 or 2011 has 4.5 speed or better.

It’s my guess that by “more balanced,” Gill’s actually saying more ground-oriented. In fact, Tuesday, during a segment on a Kansas City sports talk radio show, Gill indicated that his ideal offense would have a 60-40 split in favor of the ground game.

Whether Gill and Co. will reach his ideal vision as soon as this year or not remains to be seen. For now, check out Jesse Newell’s “The Mad Geek” blog for a deeper look at how often KU has gone through a season with such a heavy emphasis on the ground game.


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