CU Needs to Put the Ball in Vickers' Hands

Now that <!--Default For Colorado is to ignore-->Colorado coaches have made the bold and difficult decision to name <!--Default NodeId For James Cox is 1221111,2004--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:1221111]>James Cox</A> the starting quarterback, they need to make a much easier decision regarding the offense: Put the football in <!--Default NodeId For Lawrence Vickers is 1223690,2004--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:1223690]>Lawrence Vickers</A>' hands on a regular basis.

Midway through his junior season, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Vickers has emerged as a jack of all trades. Unfortunately, the Colorado game plan has too often turned the young man from Houston into a master of none.

He's the Buffs' best pass-receiver out of the backfield. Scratch that. He's the Buffs' best receiver, period. Against Oklahoma State, he set a CU single-game reception mark by a running back when he hauled in nine catches.

Any doubts about what LV can do carrying the ball out of the backfield were erased last week, when he rushed 15 times for 72 yards. Most convincing was his six-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter when Vickers ran over OSU safety Thomas Wright, kept his balance and walked into the end zone. He's currently averaging 4.8 yards per carry (20-96).

However, the V for Versatile label that Vickers has worn this season has too often relegated him to simply being a blocker in the CU run game.

Against Washington State, Vickers had no carries and no balls thrown his way. Coaches lamented his lack of involvement in the offense afterwards, and he caught five passes the next week vs. North Texas. But at Missouri, he was once again left out of the game plan, and CU suffered because of it.

Now after LV's record-setting performance against Oklahoma State, coaches are once again saying he needs to get touches.

It remains to be seen if that will happen Saturday when Iowa State comes to town. Starting tailback Bobby Purify should be in line to get more carries this week, after being sidelined more than normal last Saturday with a shoulder injury.

Here's the deal: Purify has been effective carrying the ball this season and needs to be a big part of the offense. But NOT at the expense of Vickers' getting his number called.

The one thing CU has not done this year is give the ball to the fullback (which Vickers has played more often than not) out of the two-back set. Given Vickers' rushing skills, it's unclear why that option has fallen out of the playbook.

When Vickers lines up at fullback in the two-back set, teams know he's either a blocker for the tailback, or a pass option on the bootleg.

Giving him the ball out of the backfield only adds another effective dimension. It gives defenses another headache to deal with.

To his credit, Vickers has not complained about his curious lack of involvement in some games. Though he's a player, and a personality, that naturally gravitates toward the limelight, one who wants the ball in his hands, he's shown a great deal of maturity and accepted his role with a passion, whatever it's been.

Coaches and teammates have noticed. While Vickers is not a captain, he's taken on a distinct vocal leadership role this year. As talented as Vickers is with the ball in his hands, he's just as gifted as a vocal leader.

Prior to Gary Barnett speaking to the media at Tuesday's weekly press conference, Vickers spent 15 minutes fielding questions from the gathered press. When it was Barnett's turn, the head coach quipped, "Two people you don't want to follow, Coach Mac and Lawrence Vickers."

It was a telling joke. The kid who grew up in the 5th Ward, an impoverished section of Houston, has grown into a man that has the respect of his peers and his superiors.

Let's hope those superiors don't forget about Vickers when they draw up offensive game plans for the rest of the season.

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