If there was one positive to take away from the Turner Gill era, it is that his teams were able to run the ball and do so effectively. Last season, freshman Darrian Miller broke out and looked like a future superstar at times, however he has since left the team. Despite losing Miller, the Jayhawks still have a bevy of depth, talent and experience at halfback.
Lead by James Sims, the running back position should be a strength for Kansas again this season. While Kansas will likely have some growing pains while switching to a more pass-oriented pro-style offense, its talent at halfback should keep the offense respectable at the very least next year.
James Sims - 6'0, 202 - Junior #29
Sims has been extremely reliable and consistent during his tenure in Lawrence. How consistent? As a freshman, Sims ran for 742 yards and 9 touchdowns. As a sophomore, Sims ran for 727 yards and 9 touchdowns. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and is a solid blocker as well. These two traits will be even more important in Weis' new offense, which could give Sims an advantage heading into the spring.
By this point, we know what we are getting from Mr. Flattop. He is a tough, durable inside-the-tackles runner who has a good all-around game. I'd expect Sims to continue to get 10-12 carries a game while we also try to get the ball to some of the more explosive players in the backfield. Like the next two guys.
Brandon Bourbon - 6'2, 225 - RS Sophomore #25
After redshirting his freshman year and fighting through some injury problems, Bourbon finally got into the mix at halfback last year. While his touches were limited, Bourbon flashed the big play potential that lead to his 4 star recruiting ranking coming out of high school. He ripped a beautiful 51 yard touchdown run against Texas Tech (while rushing for over 100 yards for the game) and sprinkled in a few big runs and kickoff returns over the course of the season.
Bourbon is fast and physical. It will be interesting to see how the new staff uses him. He may earn a permanent spot at returning kickoffs next to D.J. Beshears which could eat at some of his carries at halfback, but either way, expect Bourbon to be a bigger factor in the backfield this season.
Tony Pierson - 5'11, 170 - Sophomore #3
Pierson, another 4 star recruit coming out of high school, has been billed the fastest player on the team by many of his fellow Jayhawks. His elite speed was on display several times last year, as he averaged 5.6 yards per carry on his 71 rushing attempts. Pierson also returned a few kickoffs as well.
Pierson is a home-run type running back with small size and insane speed. He is a threat to break off a huge run every time he touches the ball, and the new staff will find ways to get him involved in the offense.
Taylor Cox - 5'11, 200 - Junior
Cox joins the Jayhawks from the JUCO ranks, where he had an All-American career at the College of Siskiyous. Cox ran for 2,700 yards in his two JUCO seasons and 28 touchdowns. He has the talent and experience to compete for playing time immediately in Lawrence.
Not much is known of Cox at this point, but he appears to have the skills to crack the backfield rotation. We should know a lot more after he arrives in Lawrence.
Ryan Burton - 5'9, 185 - RS Junior #37
Burton has seen some action on special teams during his career in Lawrence, but has yet to gain any playing time at halfback.
It looks like Burton's best chance to see the field this season is on special teams.
Sims' consistency and well-rounded game should make him a favorite once again to receive the majority of the snaps at halfback. With the new offensive scheme, pass-blocking and the ability to catch out of the backfield will be a higher priority than ever before. Still, expect Bourbon and Pierson to receive plenty of opportunities as well due to their speed and explosiveness.
The wildcard is Cox - will the JUCO transfer crack the rotation, or simply be another JUCO halfback who fails to make a mark at Kansas?