Next Up: WR's/TE's at 9AM CST
Next up a position that has been a bit of a challenge in terms of depth in recent year. Since the Orange Bowl season of 2007 Kansas has struggled to find a one two combination in the backfield like it did with Jake Sharp and Brandon McAnderson. The Jayhawks certainly enjoyed some success with Sharp in his junior and senior campaigns but as a whole the lack of depth due to injury and defections turned into a problem.
In the last year Turner Gill has focused on turning the position into a strength and early on he has done that. James Sims was the starter by season's end as a true freshman and he'll be joined by redshirt freshman and former four star recruit Brandon Bourbon. Add in two other players in Deshaun Sands and Rell Lewis and Kansas has a few players at the position.
That brings us to the 2011 class and the addition of three more players that figure to play a major role at solidifying the position.
Darrian Miller - RB - 5'10" 185
Rivals Proflie - 4* ESPN Profile - 4* Scout Profile - 3*
Senior Stats: 2210 Yards 29 Touchdowns
Breakdown: Darrian Miller started as one of the most sought after local recruits for the Jayhawks. He ranks as Missouri's all time leading rusher at the high school level and played on a team that competed at the top level in the state during both his junior and senior seasons. Miller is a compact, powerful back with explosive big play ability. His early commitment to the Jayhawks likely kept him from becoming a bigger name nationally but in several recruiting combines that Miller attended he was one of the most dominant players regionally regardless of whether he was playing running back or even some time spent at corner. Another big plus with Miller, he's already on campus and will participate in spring practices.
Question Marks: About the only question that Miller might get at this point would relate to his size. Miller is a smaller more compact back but he doesn't necessarily play that way. In a time where players often get a boost in exposure based on the hype of recruiting, Miller wasn't particularly hyped and didn't necessarily receive the attention that you'd expect based on the numbers he has put up.
Dreamius Smith - RB - 6' 210
Rivals Profile - 3* ESPN Profile - 3* Scout Profile - 3*
Senior Stats: 1000+ Yards in just 7 games, 13.5 YPC and State Champion
Breakdown: Smith was a fairly below the radar player out of Wichita headed into the season but with the Jayhawk staff looking for speed he was a great fit. Smith is a raw but a fast and athletic running back prospect with good size and a powerful runner. Oklahoma State was one of the schools that did make an attempt at getting involved with the Wichita native but the Jayhawks won out early in this one and stayed in front throughout. There's often talk of his ability to potentially contribute at a variety of positions including perhaps the fullback spot or even linebacker but expect Smith to likely see a redshirt year to develop and find the best fit.
Question Marks: Experience. Smith is considered a raw talent with tremendous upside. It just has to be reached. There are players all over the country every year that have great "potential" and it doesn't happen. Smith has been a player committed to the Jayhawks early and he has never blinked. That shows commitment and hopefully that same level of commitment carries over to his effort in the program. If that happens you'd have to think he could be a great local story for the Jayhawks in the Wichita area.
Anthony Pierson - RB - 5'11" 180, 4.4 Forty Time
Rivals Profile - 4* ESPN Profile- 3* Scout Profile - 3*
Senior Stats: 1408 Yards, 22 touchdowns, 11.8 YPC. In just 6 games.
Breakdown: Pierson is a late addition to the class and a player that is viewed as a potential immediate contributor for Kansas. The 5'11" athlete has great speed and is viewed as someone who can play at the running back position, the slot or even on the defensive side of the ball. All indications are that he'll start at running back for Kansas in 2011 and could potentially be used in much the way that DJ Beshears was a year ago. Pierson is elusive and fast and the type of player that Gill wants to find more of.
Question Marks: Size. Pierson is a smaller frame at somewhere between 170 and 180 depending on the recruiting service. Most don't necessarily think he's an every down back at this point but at the same time that's fine for what Kansas needs. The other question is if running back is where his best potential looking toward the future really is. At 5'11" with great speed, perhaps a move to defense could be an option in the future? At the same time, for now at least, Kansas can be happy that they have a player with gamebreaking ability coming in with Gill's first full recruiting class.