Tony Pierson returns to team after head injury
- Nov. 11, 2013
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Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State marked the return of offensive playmaker Tony Pierson for Kansas.
Pierson has been out with concussion symptoms since the first conference game of the season against Texas Tech on Oct. 5.
Three weeks later, against Baylor, Pierson returned but was forced to leave the game early when he said he felt dizzy after a long pass play down the sidelines. There didn’t appear to be any plays that could have aggravated the head injury.
“Maybe I’m overly concerned, but when the kid is out there for three plays and he feels dizzy when he hasn’t been hit, you better be concerned,” Weis said a few days after that game.
Weis remained cautious and kept Pierson out of the next week’s game at Texas.
Pierson was one of the only bright spots in a Kansas offense that had been struggling even before the injury. Without him on the field, the Jayhawks have had only a few plays of 25 yards or more.
“That’s where we get our chunks,” Weis said of getting the ball to Pierson in open space. “For other people that’s throwing the ball. That’s our form of throwing the ball downfield.”
Despite missing four of the nine games the Jayhawks have played this season, Pierson is the only player on the team to have more than 200 receiving yards, with 321 yards after the Oklahoma State game.
Pierson’s speed is a weapon that not every team has on its roster. Weis went through an offseason of planning a new role for Pierson in the Kansas offense. He is a running back that has lined up as a slot receiver more often than in the backfield.
The plan was to find as many opportunities to get Pierson the ball in the open field as possible.
Weis said Pierson’s speed and agility give him the potential to turn any play into a big gain, even though he can’t sustain the same workload as a player like running back James Sims.
“Tony can’t touch it as much as James touches it, but when he touches it and we get him in space that’s like our passes,” Weis said after the Oklahoma State game.
In his first full game after returning from the concussion Pierson rushed for 80 yards on six carries. He also managed to break a 50-yard run for the Jayhawks’ biggest play of the game.
However, Weis said Pierson is still adjusting to being back on the field.
“You could see he wasn’t as sharp as he normally is,” Weis said. “Tony’s a really focused player, but he’s been out for a while. I thought, for the first game back, based off being groggy and everything like that, I thought he held up pretty well.”