A month ago, running back was considered by many to be a position of strength for Kansas. Despite losing James Sims, the group had experience, talent, and depth. In a span of 12 hours, the "experience" and "depth" portion of the RB group was gone due to season-ending injuries to Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox (both of whom will seek a medical redshirt).
"Well that doesn't sound too bad," you might say. "That sucks that two guys got hurt, but you still have four more backs on the roster. Right?" Wrong, because if you'll remember, just a few weeks before these injuries occurred highly-regarded recruit Traevohn Wrench enrolled at Butler County C.C. after failing to academically qualify and Darrian Miller left KU for "personal reasons." This of course left KU unexpectedly scrambling at RB this fall.
And scramble they did. It was announced shortly after the Bourbon and Cox injuries that true freshman safety recruit Joe Dineen would be moved to RB. Dineen will be backing up JUCO transfer De'Andre Mann and true freshman Corey Avery, both of whom have had "excellent" camps and were allegedly challenging the two seniors for playing time already.
In a way, having the bye week at the beginning of the season has actually been a blessing for Kansas, as it gives the coaches - and the backs - time to adjust and prepare.
Let's hit the kool-aid and take a deeper look at these guys - and then go hit the kool-aid again.
(This space intentionally left blank.)
Ha. Just kidding. Kind of. As mentioned earlier, both Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox will seek medical redshirts and attempt to rejoin the Jayhawks in 2015.
The New Guys:
Did you drink your kool-aid? Ok, here we go.
De'Andre Mann (Jr): Currently listed as co-#1 on the depth chart with true freshman Corey Avery. Mann, listed at 5'9, 198 lbs, is a JuCo transfer from Harnell C.C. in Salinas, CA. According to JCGridiron.com, Mann was the top-ranked RB coming out of JuCo last spring and was a three-star prospect at ESPN, Rivals, and Scout. He chose Kansas over Georgia State, but also held offers from Miami (FL), Purdue, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Colorado State. He is currently the only back on the Kansas roster with significant experience after high school. In his two seasons at CC, he rushed for 1706 yards and 27 TDs in 2013 and 1098 yards and 16 TDs in 2012.
Corey Avery (Fr): Currently listed as co-#1 on the depth chart with De'Andre Mann. Avery is listed at 5'10, 195 lbs, which is excellent size for a true freshman. He comes to KU from Carter High School in Dallas, TX, a perennial power in Texas high school football. Avery was a four-star recruit by ESPN and a three-star recruit by Rivals and Scout. He chose Kansas in a televised ceremony over Nebraska, Texas, and SMU. Avery also held offers from Baylor, LSU, Ohio State, and Texas A&M. Here's hoping Avery is a quick study and a natural runner, able to hit the holes on time and pick up blocks when called upon.
Joe Dineen (Fr): Listed at 6'2, 210 lbs, Dineen was recruited to play safety at KU after concluding a high school career at local Lawrence Free State High school as a two-way starter - at QB and safety. He last played RB during his junior year at Free State. His only other official offer was from Rice, but schools such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Kansas State, Stanford, North Carolina, and Arkansas all showed interest. Dineen "willingly" moved from safety to RB, and his athleticism should help him catch up quickly.
The Rest of the Roster
Kansas does have several more players listed on the official roster as "RB." They are: Aaron Plump (Jr), Preston Randall (RS-So), and Ed Fink (RS-Sr). I'll be completely honest - I don't know anything about these guys other than what is on their official profile. Actually, that's not completely true. Ed Fink used take reps at fullback - back when we still had that position - and has been a contributor on special teams. Other than that... well... I'll just let you click on the link and read their profiles.
What To Expect
You might say, "Well what about Tony Pierson?" Dear reader, while I'm sure Pierson will get a handful of carries every game, I've seen no indication that the Jayhawks want him moved back to RB. No, Pierson will primarily stay as a WR.
However, and hopefully this goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) - Kansas will still need to be able to run the ball if they want to have any success. Even in this day and age of point-a-minute spread offenses, the running game is what triggers it all. The week 1 bye should, hopefully, help Kansas out here. The opener against SEMO is the perfect opportunity to get all three backs some game action and see who responds.
Ok, time for that last drink of Kool-aid.
Look for Mann or Avery to take this opportunity by the horns and run with it... pun intended. Hopefully the remaining group of running backs can avoid the injury bug and have a productive season.