Along with more emphasis on the run game, Turner Gill and Chuck Long have reintroduced the old Fullback position. Upon initially arriving at Kansas, Gill and Long decided that KU would use more traditional sets that included a fullback and a halfback - a bit of a different look from the old Mangino spread-happy offense.
Watching our offense during the spring game as well as KU’s first game against North Dakota State was like watching someone trying to ram a square peg through a round hole. The running game wasn’t working, guys weren’t open in the passing game, and our offense looked shot.
Interestingly, it seemed as if our offense moved back towards more of a spread look as the season progressed. This may have been a result of our coaches trying to get a stalled offense going, or to fit the strengths of our different QBs (Mecham looked much better out of the spread). No matter what the reason was, the fact remains we never really got a firm grip on what our offense was going to be last year.
The different offensive looks make the fullback position a bit of a mystery. We know the Jayhawks will be running the ball a lot next season, both by design and by necessity. The staff must be expecting to use a fullback at least partially, as we currently have three on the roster. Let’s meet them:
Nick Sizemore – 6’2, 246 – Sophomore
If nothing else, Nick should bring more size to the position… (sorry couldn’t resist). Sizemore is a transfer from Buffalo, and he sat out all of last season as a result from following Gill to Kansas. He appeared in all 12 games for Buffalo his freshman year, playing FB and contributing to special teams.
I think there is a reason Gill brought Sizemore with him to Kansas, and I would expect Nick to find the field in 2011 as both a situational blocker and possibly on special teams. With his size and experience, I would expect Sizemore to be the favorite to get the most playing time as a fullback.
Christian Lane – 6’2, 232 – RS Freshman
Christian hails from Bellaire, Texas, so naturally I going to refer to him as the fresh prince of Bellaire. Lane was originally listed in recruiting profiles as an inside linebacker, but has found a spot at KU as a fullback.
Lane has been described as a "bruising runner," which may help him get on the field in short yardage situations.
Josh Smith – 5’10, 205 – RS Freshman
An in-state player from Hutchinson, Josh appears to be a little undersized for the fullback position. In high school, he was an excellent running back, rushing for 1,935 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2009. Interestingly, he received little offers out of high school despite being a three star recruit and boasting a strong 40 time.
Anytime you can get a three star guy, athletic guy who was a star in high school to walk on, that’s a win in my book. Smith’s high school coach has indicated that he could be a game changer on special teams, which appears likely. He appears to be more of an athlete type than a true lead blocker, but Smith should find himself on the field in some capacity.
The inclusion of a fullback on a permanent basis into KU’s offense seems to go against what Gill and the staff is aiming for, in regards to philosophy. The Jayhawks have preached speed at every position, and have recruited several burners at RB and WR in the past two classes. I know the staff wants to run the ball a lot, but it is important for the offense to have several playmakers out there.
It doesn’t appear that the staff plans on turning any of these guys into a feature back a la Brandon McAnderson, although Smith appears to have some explosiveness and ability to produce as a rusher. Look for Sizemore and Lane to battle for the lead blocking role (however often it is used), while all three could be in the mix to contribute on special teams, especially Smith.