Next our look of the main positional battles coming into the start of fall practice in August will be a spot where Kansas is very deep, Running Back. Last year the Jayhawks “strength” was running the football. I put ‘strength’ in quotes because it’s hard to call anything a strength on an offense that was as poor as Kansas’ was last season, but the fact remains that the part that worked for them the most consistently was their running game.
The big surprise in the Jayhawks ground game last year was the emergence of freshman James Sims. Spurning offers from Purdue, Utah, and Arkansas, Sims came to Kansas for the chance to make an immediate impact and that is just what he did. Sims lead the team in rushing including highlights of a 16 rush, 115 yard, 2 td performance against New Mexico St., and a season best 123 yds and 4 TDs on 20 carries against Colorado in the epic come-from-behind game.
This year Sims will have competition from a couple of highly touted incoming freshmen in Anthony Pierson and Darian Miller, both of whom are 4-star recruits (and they on two that KU locked up this year). Pierson was recruited as an athlete and will most likely fill a role more similar to what Dexter McCluster does for the Kansas City Chiefs. Being an athlete of his size (5’11” 175 lbs), I don’t imagine him being able to steal the load of carries away from Sims.
Miller, on the other hand, provides an option for the Jayhawks that could lead to less carries for Sims. Miller had offers from Iowa, Wisconsin, K-State, and also drew interest from Arkansas and Oklahoma and chose Kansas over them all. This is the most highly touted recruit KU has gotten in a while. Miller rushed for 2,798 yards and 37 touchdowns as a junior in high school. Miller is a smaller back, but has an explosive ability that makes him a threat whenever he touches the ball.
Conclusion: Turner Gill has shown himself to be a loyal coach, especially to players that are “his guys” and it is for this reason that I imagine that Sims will win the starting job going into the season. Person and Miller will most likely be used as a little change of pace to hopefully add some spark when necessary (think Jake Sharp change of pace like ability).