Last week, several of us in the comments section noted a trend in some coaches' remarks regarding Brandon Bourbon. It would seem that, perhaps, the Kansas coaching staff has some concerns about Bourbon's toughness, and his ability to play through the everyday nicks and scratches that football players accumulate. Bourbon was a 4-star recruit, and viewed by many as the first "big get" of Turner Gill's Kansas career, so concerns of this nature before he's even played a game are noteworthy.
Before I go any further with this, I would like to note that all I know is what I am laying out here. In these days of baseless internet rumor, I feel compelled to state unequivocally that I have no "inside information" on this matter, and that I do not know for a fact that the staff has any issues with Bourbon whatsoever.
In fact Bourbon by all accounts had one of the better scrimmages of the weekend this past Saturday. So, if in fact Bourbon was being "called out" by the staff, it sounds as though he may have responded.
That being said, here is what Chuck Long had to say about Bourbon last week...
The last two days he’s been doing really well so he’s working and fighting through that and that’s part of maturity. When you’re a running back at this level, you’re gonna get banged up. That’s a given. So how you work through that is key. But the last two days Brandon has shown up."
This is not exactly a scathing indictment. In fact, it's a positive statement overall. The problem is, before those "last two days," Long certainly seems to imply that Bourbon wasn't "showing up." Those are harsh words, especially coming from a coaching staff that focuses on positive reinforcement. Saying that Bourbon needs to work on picking up blitzes, or that he's still adjusting to the speed of the college game...those would be simple statements of fact. What Long does here is calling into question not Bourbon's ability, but his toughness - a major part of the football player's psyche.
Turner Gill seems less assured that Bourbon has turned the corner when it comes to playing banged up. After Bourbon wowed fans with two touchdowns at Saturday's open scrimmage, Gill had this to say about his performance:
"Brandon did some good things today,” Gill said. “He shows some flashes in practice, and then there’s always something that will come up with a little nick or an injury."
Gill sounds almost frustrated here, as though Bourbon may have had a good day, but he'll inevitably be sitting out with some more bumps and bruises any time now.
Brandon Bourbon figures to be a part of the KU running game this season. Between James Sims, Darrian Miller, and Tony Pierson, Kansas is deep at the running back position, but they aren't an NFL-back factory like Alabama or USC. If Bourbon is unable to practice and get into game shape due to minor nicks, it poses a problem.
In the end, this may be much ado about nothing. Bourbon may live up to the hype and have a productive career at Kansas. For now though, this sounds like it may be an area of concern. Hopefully the staff and Bourbon can see more days consistent with Saturday's effort and less spent on the sideline with "a little nick or an injury".