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August 25, 2013

Notebook: RB the deepest group

The corps of running backs Kansas has is without a doubt the most talented group of players on the team.

They are led by senior James Sims, who ran for 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns on 218 attempts a season ago.

What might be more remarkable is that Sims put up those gaudy numbers in nine of the Jayhawks' 12 games. He was suspended for the first three games last year.

The depth of the Jayhawks in the backfield will be key toward the end of the season.

"The depth will help a lot to keep fresh legs on the field at all times," Sims said. "That will help every one out as a whole."

Despite Kansas not winning a conference game in almost three years, teams have taken notice to Sims and company. Defenses are stacking eight or nine players in the box to stop the run.

Sims said it wasn't frustrating a year ago because the offensive line did an effective job of blocking and the backs were able to still run the ball.

Quarterback Jake Heaps should help take some of the pressure off of the running game and force defenses to play the pass too.

And if that doesn't work, Sims will continue to do what he does: Be patient and run. Faster.

Sims is regarded as one of the top backs in the Big 12 and he'd like to be the leading rusher in the league once again.

Over the summer, he worked with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple every Wednesday to work on his speed. The two would get together for about 30 minutes and stretch out Sims' hip flexors, working on bursts and having him run hills or stairs.

The senior knows how to take care of his body more than he did as a freshman.

"I'm watching what I eat and not eating as much junk food," Sims said. "Eating more healthy and getting more rest at night. I'm getting eight to nine hours now. As a freshman I got four to five. I couldn't sleep."


Darrian Miller welcomed back with open arms

When Darrian Miller left Kansas after Turner Gill was fired, he didn't sit down and talk with Weis.

Miller transferred to Butler Community College, but never played in any games. During that time kept in touch with running backs coach Reggie Mitchell.

He had two choices: Return to Butler for the fall semester and then try and leave midyear or immediately come to Lawrence. If he went to Butler and then transferred, he'd have two years of eligibility left. But if he came to Kansas, he'd have three left.

"Coach Weis put him on a plan," Mitchell said. "You do this, this and that, this is where we can take you. I think Darrian felt really comfortable with coach Weis. He is a good student; academics has never been his problem."

Mitchell thinks Miller matured once he left and when he sat down with Weis, he liked what Weis had to say.

But that didn't come without stipulations. Miller was dismissed from the team for off-the-field issues and he takes full responsibility for them.

Miller adds depth to the already stellar backfield.

"I think if something were to happen to James, he'd be able to step in, but James is playing at such a high level right now, it's kind of hard to see other guys come in and do that," Mitchell said.


Bourbon moves to F-back

With how deep of a group this is, it would be easy to see players being selfish and wanting to get as many touches as possible.

But it's not like that.

Mitchell said they leave their egos at the door and cheer for each other, despite the competition.

Brandon Bourbon, who was buried on the depth chart, has moved to the F-back position and has been a pleasant surprise for the staff.

"Brandon's had a good camp and he's shown that he can run routes," Mitchell said.

Bourbon joined Tony Pierson in that position, being listed second on the depth chart.

"This was a coach Weis thing. Right after the season - we had played West Virginia - he saw the things Tavon Austin was able to do for them," Mitchell said. He says, 'Hey look, the guy we have on our team that's closest to being like him is Tony.' He called him in in the offseason and said, 'Hey this is a move we're going to do and try to get you as more of a receiver than a running back.'"

When Bourbon was approached with the opportunity, he was all for it even though he never did anything like this in high school.

He's been standing out because he's caught the ball well, had some nice runs with big plays and he's been blocking well.

"It's more opportunity to be on the field; more ways to get the ball in my hands and more chances to make plays," Bourbon said. "I'm still going to be running the ball, too. There was no indecision whatsoever."

It's not a selfish thing he's just confident in his abilities and has a better knowledge of the game and the schemes the offense is running.

"Don't count your carries, make your carries count for you," Mitchell said.


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