Because my first 'state of Kansas' college football article was met with moderate success, I've decided to try my hand at a second. This time, let's talk running backs.
Former No. 1 recruit Bryce Brown (rSo.) and fellow former Wichita, Kansas standout Demarcus Robinson (rFr.) are likely to demand the bulk of Kansas State's carries. It'll be interesting to see if Brown can capitalize on all that potential and become the dominant force on a run-first team.
There aren't many touted names behind them, but Bill Snyder is the best at finding diamonds. I could see a little guy like Destin Mosley (rFr.) carving out a small niche for himself. Being a South-Central Kansas native, it would be cool if Deveon Dinwiddie's (rFr.) name popped up, too.
Regardless, this is a young, explosive backfield. However, unlike the quarterback situation, the Jayhawk backfield provides the better storyline.
James Sims (So.) and Brandon Bourbon (rFr.) are my early favorites. Rell Lewis (rSr.) is a wildcard (see below), and Deshaun Sands (rSo.) may land in a difficult situation in terms of opportunity, because these four are only the guys already on the roster.
Darrian Miller, Anthony Pierson and Dreamius Smith are among Kansas' best runningback recruits of the decade. Miller's Spring opportunities could put him in the driver's seat. Opportunities (and redshirts) given to these true freshmen largely depends on the guys listed before them, namely Lewis (who is understandably difficult to evaluate right now, which is why he's the wildcard).
Which team will feature the stronger overall ground-game in 2011?
That's seven FBS-caliber runningbacks (I hope). It's okay news now, but would be excellent news if a few of these guys separated and established themselves for the sake of Turner Gill and continuity.
The Jayhawks have a slight edge on the offensive line. Gill returns starting experience at every position as well as a great infusion of youth and depth. The line is also significantly larger and has the highest ceiling of any Kansas group in years.
The Wildcats' synergy, on the other hand, may be out of sync in the early going. Snyder must replace three interior linemen in front of runningbacks who are talented but have little college experience and absolutely no Kansas State gameday experience.
Both teams return capable options at tight end and fullback. Kansas may have a very slight advantage, though. I'll take Tim Biere (Sr.) over Travis Tannahill (rJr.) and nearly any other tight end in the league. Prepare to be surprised at the impact a fullback like Kansas transfer Nick Sizemore (rSo.) can have.
Overall, I'll give Kansas State the edge. It's hard enough for any coach to out-run Bill Snyder when he's got talent at his disposal, and Turner Gill is still in an adjustment period. Regardless, both squads will feature prominent ground attacks this season.