There can be little doubt that running back is one of KU’s positions of emphasis (POE) for the 2010 recruiting class. Between player defections going into the 2008 season and graduations following the 2009 season, the depth at the running back position will become a major issue in 2010.
The Jayhawks were able to put a band-aid on the problem with the 2009 recruiting class (Deshaun Sands, Toben Opurum, and Daniel Porter), but there is still work to be done to shore up the depth.
There will be three running back scholarships available for the Class of 2010. What the coaches plan on doing with those slots remains to be seen.
The coaching staff may attempt to fill all three available slots or they may sign two in order to get on a more normal graduation rotation (two out, two in). The relative youth on the depth chart may encourage the coaching staff to sign a JuCo back.
In reality, the answer will depend a lot on what the coaching staf is able to do with the younger players, and how those players perform.
If Rell Lewis is solid in 2009, then the coaching staff may choose to just sign high school players. If both Sands and Opurum are able to redshirt, KU may only sign two players. For better or worse, there are a lot of variables to account for and the decision of whom and how many players to sign can go a lot of different ways at this point.
After researching all of KU’s current targets (offered, committed elsewhere, and not offered) there are a few trends that emerge. The coaching staff is looking for backs that bring a lot to the table (i.e. receiving, throwing, returning punts and kicks).
A running back that can’t catch will drastically reduce KU’s play calling ability, so that is almost a requirement. Speed is also a high priority. Using those trends, KU is targeting two very specific types of backs: the ‘Workhorse’ and the ‘Houdini’.
Prospects categorized as ‘Workhorse’ are all bigger backs that you can strap the wagon to and ride down the field. While they are not all power runners exactly, almost every back in this category has shown the ability to carry the ball 200+ times relatively injury free.
These are the types of backs that can take a hit and stay on their feet…and deliver a hit as well.
Ideal Ht: 6’0”-6’2”
Ideal Wt: 200 lbs.-220 lbs.
Ideal Forty: 4.45 sec.-4.55 sec.
Brandon Bourbon (Potosi, MO)—6’2”, 205 lbs., 4.4 forty
Andre Dawson (Cedar Rapids, IA)—6’1”, 210 lbs., 4.5 forty
Darion Hall (Naples, FL)—6’1”, 200 lbs., 4.4 forty
DJ Jones (Denison, TX)—6’0”, 220 lbs. 4.5 forty
Joseph Randle (Wichita, KS)—6’0”, 180 lbs. 4.5 forty
James Sims (Irving, TX)—6’0”, 205 lbs. 4.5 forty
Prospects in this category are the smaller, faster backs known for disappearing behind the line of scrimmage and reappearing down the sidelines. These guys all have great speed and run with a steady, fluid motion.
Even when cutting, spinning, etc, everything is done with speed as the central goal. Every play around the edge is dangerous with these guys.
Ideal HT: 5’9
Ideal WT: 180 lbs.-195 lbs.
Ideal Forty: Less than 4.5 sec.
Mike Hayes (Brenham, TX)—5’9”, 192 lbs., 4.38 forty JuCo
Tyson Gulley (Akron, OH)—5’9”, 175 lbs., 4.45 forty
The success or failure of the current underclassmen backs will determine who KU recruits for the Class of 2010. It will have an impact not only on the style of back that Kansas recruits, but also on the age. Even this smallest change with regards to style or eligibility can have a substantial impact on recruiting 2-3 years down the road.
It appears that KU will sign at least another workhorse, if for no other reason than to shore up depth questions. If Lewis is not as productive as the staff would like or if Sands development isn’t coming along as fast as expected, expect KU to sign another smaller back.
The immediate need of the style will dictate whether or not the Jayhawks signs a JuCo player. If the development, skill, etc. is on par with the outlook, then the coaching staff will likely refrain from signing a junior college running back.
Expected 2010 Running Back Roster
Rell Lewis (Jr.)—Houdini
Daniel Porter (Sr.)—Houdini
Deshaun Sands (rFr./So.)—Houdini
Toben Opurum (rFr./So.)—Workhorse
Links for KU RB Prospect Film
Brandon Bourbon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVSGT4P2bDQ
Darion Hall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1lbZhwCo9s
D.J. Jones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhbcOh6i0z4
James Sims http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmkdLqdhEhI&NR=1
Joseph Randle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj5INFbSMwM
Tyson Gulley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmOxK9GSmKw