Pierson will see most running back playing time
- Aug. 22, 2012
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One by one, the players ran through warm-ups.
First Tony Pierson, then Taylor Cox, Brandon Bourbon, and James Sims. Sidestepping through agility drills and taking turns pushing a sled 40 yards, each running back looked to out-work the man in front of him.
But the warm-ups can’t change the playing time, and it’s being doled out in the aforementioned order.
Even though Charlie Weis said Tuesday that most position battles have been settled, the running back core poses a different scenario than most players being juggled on the depth chart. While Tony Pierson has the number one spot locked up — until James Sims returns from his three-game suspension and looks to yank it back — Bourbon and Cox offer a different breed of running back than Pierson has to offer.
“I think with coach Weis being big into personnel groupings, he wants a guy for a certain type of personnel” running back coach Reggie Mitchell said at the start of camp. “It’s fortunate that we have those types of guys in the program. Right now, Tony (Pierson) is the only smaller (back) we have, but that’s kind of how (Weis) wants it.”
Pierson stands 5-foot-10, weighs 170 pounds, and his sled-pushing ability in practice Tuesday proves he’s here to be the Jayhawk’s speedster, not a bruiser. The black-and-blue distinction is being fought over by the 6-foot-1, 218 pound Bourbon and 5-foot-11, 210 pound Cox while Sims is serving his suspension for violating team rules last April.
But even with Sims missing game time, he’s still practicing with the team, creating a tricky situation for the coaching staff as the Jayhawks prepare to face South Dakota State, Rice University and Texas Christian University without last season’s leading rusher.
So while Bourbon fights to replace Sims, he is doing so with limited practice.
“The hard thing is we have a bunch of guys who we need to give reps to,” Mitchell said. “He’s got to make an impact with the five or six carries he gets in practice.”
And it’s no different for Cox, who Weis had above Bourbon on the depth chart Tuesday.
“He’s a smash-mouth football player,” starting center Trevor Marrongelli said of Cox. “He’s caught on to the offense pretty quickly, and that usually takes guys a year to learn.”
Last season, before he transferred to Kansas, Cox was selected as an All-American after rushing for 1,507 yards with 14 touchdowns for the College of Siskiyous Eagles. However, he should be far from those numbers this season as a back up to Pierson, and eventually Sims.
Weis is looking for Pierson to get 10-15 carries a game, up from an average around five last season. His partner in the backfield will have to pick up significant plays, most likely in short-yardage situations, and doing so with limited reps in practice. Pierson will get the most, followed by Cox, Bourbon and Sims.
According to Weis, it won’t be changing anytime soon.
“I see it going that way until (Sims) gets back into the action, but that is not until week four,” Weis said. “As we go into this week, it will be pretty much the same. All of them will probably get reps, but in that order.”
— Edited by Allison Kohn