Although Kansas has question marks all over the field, solid arguments can be made that’s not that case at wide receiver or today’s topic, running back.
Last year, you could have made a decent argument that KU had the best RBs in the conference. This year, probably not so much, although Pooka Williams is one of the most electric players in the Big 12.
Projected Depth Chart
RB1 - JR Pooka Williams
RB2 - SO Velton Gardner
RB3 - FR Amauri Pesek-Hickson
RB4 - RS-FR Torry Locklin or FR Daniel Hishaw
Williams are Gardner are pretty obviously set up to be the 1-2 punch out of the backfield, as they are the only two backs returning who played last season. Gardner averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season, albeit on just 26 attempts. Hickson was the recruit who got tired of Harbaugh and Michigan playing games with his scholarship offer, so he came to Kansas on a grayshirt.
Case for Optimism
Cause for Concern
After Pooka Williams, the Jayhawks have a lot of unknowns. We don’t really know what Velton Gardner brings to the table, and the rest of the backs on the roster are mostly freshmen.
The running backs are coached by Jonathan Wallace, who begins his first season under Les Miles in Lawrence. Wallace came to KU from Air Force. He also coached under Brent Dearmon at Bethel. Prior to that, he was an offensive analyst at Auburn under Gus Malzahn. Wallace played college football as a quarterback at Auburn from 2012-15.
Kansas has high-end talent in Pooka Williams, as evidenced by the amount of preseason recognition he is receiving. Pooka was recently named first-team All-Big 12 by the media, while Phil Steele named Pooka to the fourth-team All-American list. Pooka was also rated as the best third-down running back in all of college football in 2019 by PFF.
To top it all off, Pooka has a chance to cement himself as one of the best ever to play the running back position at Kansas - and if you know anything about KU football, that’s really saying something.
In order to compete and run the offense the way they want to, the Jayhawks will need Pooka to be healthy all year long. So much of their offensive success depends on him, it’s actually kind of scary. Opponents are going to have to try and force someone other than Pooka to beat them, which should open things up for the quarterback and receivers to make plays.
And if Pooka can match or exceed his production from last year, Kansas may even be able to snag a couple more wins as well.