Before we get going with our own preview, we would again like to direct your attention to Barking Carnival. Henry James has posted the State of the Union for Methzouri. And it is absolutely worth your time to read. One enjoyable excerpt (discussing their defense) reads…
"They have some very good individual players among their ten returning starters, but unlike say Kansas, they’re not much better than the sum of their parts. Think of them as the Audioslave of Big 12 defenses."
Since that's a little tough to follow up, we won't even try. But since two people (see: poll to the right) apparently are most concerned about Kansas' backfield this year, it's imperative that we discuss them. In my always humble opinion, I don't have a fucking clue what those two people are thinking (if that's you please elaborate in the comments).
There's no sense kick starting a discussion on the backfield without first mentioning Hot Toddy Reesing. (Yes, I aspire to be Bill Mayer). Despite his awful nicknames he is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play at the University and is currently one of the best in the country. If the spread offense (and more locally, Reesing and Daniel) have proven anything it's that a QB simply has to be smart, accurate and instinctive to win at the college level. Neither has an incredibly strong arm, one is short, the other is fat, but both know where to get the ball and how to get it there. I certainly can't guarantee that Reesing will match his 3486 yards, 33 touchdowns and 7 INTs, but I'd be willing to bet that if he's healthy he won't be that far off, either.
Waiting in the wings behind him is original golden boy, Kerry Meier. Though Reesing has shown the ability to run a little bit (and more importantly, make throws on the run), Meier is actually much more of a dual threat quarterback. In fact, he's probably a little better runner than he is passer, which is why Reesing is starting in the first place. But make no mistake, if something is to happen to Todd, Kerry can come in and run this offense pretty damn well. As it stands now though he will primarily be used as the teams #3 wideout, but don't be surprised to see him used in some throwback situations. In fact, I'd count on it.
At the tailback position is three very capable players, two of which figure to see the bulk of the carries. Since he's the leading returning rusher, we'll start with Jake Sharp. As many of you know, he's a homegrown Kansas kid out of Salina, where he set the state record for touchdowns in a season with 63 (57 rushing). That was done in 13 games on the way to a 5A state championship. He played sparingly as a true freshman and much moreso last year as a sophomore when he racked up 821 yards (5.6 per) and 7 TDs. He also caught 21 balls for 163 yards and 2 TDs. Though many of his yards were piled up earlier on in the season, I would attribute that more to the play of B-Mac than I would Sharp. I fully expect him to have to share a semi-similar amount of carries with Jocques Crawford, but don't mistake that for him not being a capable #1.
Despite his ability, though, I don't expect the team will need him to carry the load on account of the aforementioned Jocques Crawford (6'1" 230). Last year Crawford was named the JUCO player of the year by leading the nation in rushing yards with 1,935 (6.8 per) and scoring 19 TDs. There's not a whole lot I can say about Crawford having never really seen him play a game, let alone a game in this offense. But given his track record, his physical attributes and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, I don't foresee production being an issue here. As long as he can learn the offense, I fully expect him to be getting as many, if not more, carries than Sharp come Tampa time.
The third back is Angus Quigley. From what I can gather I think I'm higher on Angus than anyone else. However, I'm also told that he doesn't really run with a killer instinct. To quote a reliable source, "if you need a guy to get you off the opposing goal line, don't call on Angus." Chalk it up to bias if you want, but I think that's partly attributable to a lack of meaningful carries. I'm not in practice every day and obviously I haven't been able to see him all that much during games, but I've always just had the feeling that he's one of those guys that would thrive off more carries. With that said, I don't expect to see a ton of him this year.
I don't want to take anything away from what Brandon McAnderson accomplished last year (1125 yards (5.9 per) and 16 TDs – also 21 catches for 213 yards), but as far as production goes, he's replaceable. What remains to be seen is if any of these guys can match his emotional contributions or his blocking ability. When you're spreading out four receivers (and especially with the loss of Fine) it's going to be all the more important to have a running back capable of protecting Todd. A converted fullback, McAnderson had that ability. Not only was he big enough to take on all comers, he was also a very skilled and dependable blocker that wasn't about to take a play off. I hope his replacements surprise me, but until I see otherwise, this is a cause for concern. Fortunately, when it comes to the backfield, that's where my concerns stop.
Note: Not mentioned here is how these backs will be affected by the revamped offensive line, which is obviously a huge concern (and if the poll above is any indication, you clearly agree). Optimistically, I like to believe Ryan Cantrell and think that these new tackles can fill the void. But that obviously remains to be seen and could easily become an issue as the season goes on, especially as they get into conference play.