MOAR KE’AUN KINNER.
Bad news, guys. I dunno if you’ve heard, but Ke’aun Kinner is gone. His senior year was actually 2016. But I tell ya what, Kansas has several backs this year that look to be just as exciting as Kinner was. Let’s take a look.
The Depth Chart
There is no official depth chart out yet, so this is my prediction as to how it will shake out. Actual reporters who are reading this, please don’t report it as fact. Thank you.
RB1: JR Khalil Herbert
Herbert picked up where Kinner left off in 2017, averaging 5.5 ypc on 120 attempts for 663 yards. But hey, let’s keep throwing bubble screens! Herbert was viewed as a potential “hidden gem” in the 2016 recruiting class whose only other D1 offer was Mississippi State. He was KU’s third-leading rusher as a freshman in 2016 before becoming the feature back in 2017.
Say it with me: MOAR. KHALIL. HERBERT.
RB2: SO Dominic Williams
Regarded as one of the steals of the 2017 recruiting class as KU’s lone 4-star commit, Dom averaged just 3.5 ypc on 51 carries last year for the Jayhawks. I expect a big jump in production from him, and for him to take a firm hold of the primary backup RB spot for reasons detailed under our next entry, Pooka Williams.
RB3: FR Anthony “Pooka” Williams
Louisiana’s high school Player of the Year last year, Pooka stood fast in his commitment to Tony Hull and the Jayhawks and joins Corione Harris and Mike Lee as KU’s “Louisianimals.” Pooka was a big part of KU landing a consensus top-60 class last February, and I expect him to see the field quickly and often.
However, that probably means at positions other than running back, barring an injury to Khalil Herbert of course. I look for Pooka to see time at returner and probably in the slot, where hopefully he will be streaking down field and not looking for bubble screens.
RB4: SR Taylor Martin
Martin was KU’s second-leading rusher last year, and I think that having him down this far speaks to the talent that the Jayhawks will have at running back in 2018. Martin was significantly less explosive than Herbert, averaging just 3.2 ypc on 90 attempts.
A Lot of Depth
Backing up these guys is even more talent. SR Deron Thompson is the biggest name that I haven’t mentioned yet; the former Colorado State transfer picked up 86 yards on 28 carries in 2017. Fellow SR Reese Randall also had a few carries last year (ok fine, he had three), while JR Kezelee Flomo has been drawing rave reviews by teammates and coaches in the offseason.
Another player to note is JR Kendall Morris, who transferred into KU from Austin Peay, sitting out 2017 per NCAA transfer rules. As a redshirt freshman, Morris led the Governors in rushing in 2015.
The position coach for this group is Tony Hull, who is obviously known by most Kansas fans as the Louisiana recruiter. Hull begins his third season on staff in Lawrence. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Warren Easton High in New Orleans since 2007, resurrecting their football program following Hurricane Katrina. While at Warren Easton, he coached 45 players to D1 scholarships, with six of them named in the ESPN top 300.
Hull played his college ball as an offensive lineman at Louisiana-Lafayette.
There is a TON of talent and depth at this position. Even with the horrible offensive lines of the past few years, KU has had a running back average over 5 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons: Herbert in 2017 and Ke’aun Kinner in 2016. If the line improves even a little bit, the Jayhawks have the potential to have two or even three backs average 5+ ypc in 2018. I’m all-in on this position group being one of the bright spots on the Kansas roster this year.