Kansas Backfield Looks To Wreak Havoc In 2013

Tell someone that the best running back corps in the entire nation arguably resides at the University of Kansas and it's understandable if you get a funny look. That's okay, head coach Charlie Weis will tell you it's because of the program's recent history and understandably so.

Tell someone that the best running back corps in the entire nation arguably resides at the University of Kansas and it's understandable if you get a funny look. That's okay, head coach Charlie Weis will tell you it's because of the program's recent history and understandably so.

Kansas' record since beating Iowa State in October 2009 is an astoundidly bad 6-37 and to be fair, nobody is going to take you seriously when sporting that kind of a record.

Still, the past is the past and the easiest way to make one forget the past is to give them something more positive to remember and that kind of renaissance can gain traction with a successful 2013.

If that is to happen, it's no secret, it will start with the running back group. Kansas' backs are a sight to behold and that even counts Tony Pierson moving to more of a receiver role.

The group still has a little bit of everything from the experience and power of senior James Sims, who aims to become the program's all time leading rusher or even setting the single season rushing mark set by Jon Cornish in 2006.

Then, there is the tough running and poise of senior Taylor Cox, the speed and athletic ability of junior Brandon Bourbon and then, there is the return of Darrian Miller, who returns to the program after a year away.

Many forget that he may have been the most talented back as a freshman in 2011, so his return is a big one that many have either forgotten or fail to realize. It all adds up to a potent weapon that with the aid of a good passing game this season, could make some explosive things happen.

"I think from top to bottom, they are a real talented group," Kansas running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said. "When you look at the things that Tony (Pierson) and Brandon Bourbon have been able to do, I don't think I have ever been around guys that are that talented and versatile also."

Mitchell thinks by far that the current group is the most dynamic and talented group he's ever been around and their success could open up a great deal of opportunities for the rest of the offense, something that could have Kansas surprising many this year and have them easily be the most improved teams not just in the Big 12, but across all of college football.

Still, outside of Lawrence, many are sleeping on not just the running backs, but the entire Kansas team, no doubt a product of the past and the record, but it could prove to be a fatal mistake should things come together and the perception could change rather quickly this season.

"I think that goes along with how successful we've been and I think that once we start getting a little bit of more success that the people will start to recognize the talent that some of these guys have," Mitchell said.

The attention grabber is by far and away Sims, who has improved each year in every facet of his game, a trait that makes him arguably the best running back in the Big 12, even if nobody outside Lawrence is showing him much love heading into the 2013 season.

The amount of quality backs have only helped to increase competition, making sure nobody gets complacent and the off-season work level continues at a high level.

Make no mistake, Kansas was already to going to head into the 2013 season with as talented a group of running backs as you would find anywhere, but it's the return of Miller that makes the group just ridiculously good. His road back is a huge positive for the program and for Miller, who has matured leaps and bounds.

"I'm happy to be back," Miller said. "It's not like I had to come back. I was enthused to come back, I had the same feelings about here that I did my freshman year, when I chose this school out of high school."

As a freshman in 2011, Miller rushed for 559 yards on 136 carries and scored four touchdowns. He seemed poised to continue progressing, but he would leave the program prior to the 2012 season for personal reasons.

From there, it was on to Butler Community College for a year, before Weis talked to Miller about returning, which was a perfect fit for both. Ironically, the conversation between Miller and Weis about his return was the first the two had.

"It was a really brief conversation," Miller said. "He wanted to see how my maturity had come along over the past year and what I had thought about the program and I told him that I was excited to come back and I was excited to come back and work with Coach Mitchell, because I don't think I could get that running back coaching anywhere in the nation, so there wasn't too much to think about."

Listening to Miller speak sounds like a man who believes in what Weis is preaching and someone who completely bought in. Amidst, all the newcomers, his return could end up being the biggest addition, not just on the field, but in the locker room as a leader.

"I wasn't promised anything, or any special treatment," Miller said. "I've just been working and trying to contribute in any way possible, whether I'm a scout team player or a starter, I'm all in it for the team."

Take one look at the Kansas running backs and you'd be convinced they could be a successful wishbone team in a different era, but as it is, this group could be poised for big things as a group. If the passing game comes along further, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Jayhawks actually put up big points, something that has been missing for several years.

For a program that was most known for it's aerial assault in the past, the fact that Kansas could now be known for its running backs is a throwback and ironic, considering its head coach is known for success with the quarterbacks and passing game. Still, it's a good twist and it will be the goal for the Jayhawks to put both dimensions together and form an offense that could be as electric as it used to be, while tipping its hat to days gone by in hopes of breaking back into better days as a program.

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