Toben Opurum had yet another solid performance that belied his age and experience Saturday in KU's 41-36 win over upstart Iowa State. It was the kind of tremendous effort that Jayhawk fans are coming to expect of the young man. It was also one that made Kansas head coach Mark Mangino downright giddy.
Opurum rushed the ball 24 times for 98 yards and caught two passes for
17 more in the absence of senior RB Jake Sharpe, who dressed but never
saw the field.
It was a solid, productive offensive performance, but Opurum's total
offense wasn't what caught Mangino's eye. What got the coach's
attention was Opurum's blocking.
"He pass protected nearly flawlessly," Mangino said.
See, Mark Mangino absolutely loves running backs who block. Too many of
them don't like to. They just want their touches. Blocking is, well,
Based on Saturday's performance, Toben Opurum likes blocking like a fat
kid likes cake. Opurum's blocking was so good, Mangino all but named
him an honorary offensive lineman.
The coach gushed, "Certainly, our offense was fantastic tonight. The
offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage all night. It was one
of the finest jobs of pass protection that I think I've ever been
associated with in a single game. You can put Toben Opurum in there,
who's picking up blitzes as a true freshman."
That's what made Opurum special Saturday: Iowa State threw plenty of
blitzes Reesing's way, and Opurum's displayed a spooky good knack for
picking them up. And when Opurum picked up a blitz, he didn't just chip
a blitzing Cyclone linebacker. He took him on head-top-head and either
stopped him dead in his tracks or even moved him backwards.
OG Brad Thorson said that Opurum has the respect of all the o-linemen
because of his lunch-bucket work ethic and his innate ability for
making a key block that makes a pass play go.
"In practice, he sees things you don't expect him to see. He picks up
stuff that isn't his responsibility. It speaks volumes to his
dedication, to the amount of time he's willing to put in, because he's
way behind the rest of us. I've for three-and-a-half, four years of
college football, and I've seen a lot of things. This is all new, all
new looks to him," Thorson said.
Opurum said that he's worked hard on his blocking since arriving in
Lawrence, but he said he wasn't doing anything anyone else on the team
"I definitely feel like my blocking has improved since we got here.
It's something that, obviously, we had to concentrate on,
working with the type of offense we run. We've all improved at it."
Being a good blocker is part of what makes the Kansas offense work, and
it's also a byproduct of the offense.
"When we pass the ball like we do, you've gotta be ready to do that,"
His improvement and almost-instantaneous impact on the program is
especially impressive, considering he's coming off an injury suffered
his senior year at Plano East High School in Texas. Mangino credited
his running back for playing hard despite being gassed. He was also
quick t to point out that Opurum's lack of conditioning, however, isn't
"He didn't work out this summer. He wasn't cleared to work out. He
wasn't cleared until training camp, so he had to get in shape in
training camp. And this isn't the 1950s: when everybody around you
shows up for training camp in shape, it's hard for you. And you know
what? After two or three weeks, you'd have thought he had been here all
summer, running up and down stadium steps. He really is a competitive
Jeez, Coach. Get a room.
Opurum Continues to Attract Attention
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