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29 Days Until Kansas Football: Run It, Back – Jake Sharp

A look at the versatile, speedy, and tough back from Salina.

Kansas v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Rundown

Years at KU: 2006-2009

Career Stats: 456 carries, 2,239 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns; 86 receptions, 785 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns

Best Season: 2008; 186 carries, 860 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 25 receptions, 283 yards, one receiving touchdown

Accolades: 2008 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, 2008 Academic All-Big 12 Second Team

Jake Sharp never had the one massive, breakthrough season. His senior year did not follow down the path of some of the previous backs we highlighted, though it was not entirely his fault.

Sharp was a versatile and reliable multi-year back who could both run it 15 times a game and catch consistently out of the backfield. He had great speed and an ability to get into the open field quickly. The Reesing-to-Sharp shovel pass up the middle or wheel route in the red zone was lethal.

What was consistent with previous backs was a limited freshman year. While the touches were few and far between, Sharp did show glimpses early of what was to come, averaging 6.1 yards per carry on 21 carries and catching six passes for 73 yards.

Sharp was the lightning to Brandon McAnderson’s thunder during the Orange Bowl run, rushing for more than 800 yards on 5.6 ypc and still finding a way to get into the end zone 7 times despite McAnderson’s 16 TDs (lots of touchdowns were scored that year). His junior campaign was his best statistically, racking up more than 1,100 total yards from scrimmage and 13 total TDs.

The 2009 season started off just as well. Sharp rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his first two games, along with three combined touchdowns. Then, in the third game of the year against Duke, Sharp hardly played, carrying the ball just five times for 13 yards. The cause was what was deemed an “undisclosed injury sustained during a noncontact drill in practice.” That was on September 19. It was nearly a month later when Sharp returned, but he was not the same. He didn’t eclipse more than 50 yards on the ground (or more than 13 carries) the rest of the season, although he did have several strong receiving games.

Still, Sharp remains No. 11 on the Jayhawks’ all-time rushing list and his 785 receiving yards is third among top-20 rushers in Kansas history (only behind Clark Green and Tony Pierson). And his 29 total touchdowns is fourth all-time and third among running backs.

Best Game

Nov. 1, 2008 vs Kansas State: 21 carries for 181 yards and 4 TDs; 5 receptions for 76 yards

K-State got the full Jake Sharp experience in this one, and the result was a 52-21 beat down by the Jayhawks.

It wasn’t just that Sharp single-handedly put up only 98 fewer yards than the entire KSU offense, it’s that he shut the door on the Wildcats early and emphatically. Sharp scored the first three touchdowns of the game, all in the first quarter, with runs to the end zone of four, 20, and 47 yards. He averaged a massive 8.6 yards per carry and 15.2 yards per catch on his way to the best statistical game of his career.

The Wildcats had no answers.

Best Anecdote

Read through game stories and features from Sharp’s time at KU and a theme became immediately clear. Sharp is tough. He’s going to take hits and he’s not going to use injuries as excuses. He does what he needs to do.

Through those stories, one stood out. It was actually from before his time in Lawrence. It came during the 5A state championship game, where Sharp’s Salina Central was leading Blue Valley by eight with five minutes remaining.

It was fourth and one from Salina Central’s own 14 yard line and two plays earlier, Sharp came up limping and favoring his right knee. Jesse Newell detailed the story in a July 2009 feature on Sharp in the Lawrence Journal-World.

He had been known to go over the top of piles for the first down, and this would have been a perfect time, perhaps for his own Parker Wallace moment.

Blue Valley’s linebackers planned on a leap, though, coming over the top of the line in hopes of meeting Jake for a collision.

Jake wasn’t fooled, abandoning any thoughts of a jump before jerking himself to the right.

“He was on one leg,” Marvin says, “and makes a great cut at the line of scrimmage.”

Though there wasn’t much there, Jake wiggled through a small seam and fell forward. He gained two yards.

No measurement was needed. Salina Central had its first down.

The next play called for Jake to block an oncoming defender. He tried, but immediately his knee buckled under him.

Though he didn’t want to leave the game, Jake was helped off the field and didn’t return.

Five minutes later, after a punt and a defensive stand, Salina Central won its sixth state championship.

The diagnosis? Sharp had torn his MCL. Yet he got the two biggest yards of the season on one knee on his way to 265 yards and four touchdowns. That’s tough.