Position battle update: Kansas RB

August, 22, 2014
8/22/14
1:00
PM ET
With Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox lost for the season, the task of replacing one of the Kansas Jayhawks' top all-time rushers now falls on three newcomers. Here's where they stand:

Contenders: Freshman Corey Avery, junior De'Andre Mann, freshman Joe Dineen

Who they replace: James Sims finished his career in the No. 3 spot in the Kansas career record books in rushing yards with 3,592 yards and ranked No. 2 in rushing TDs and 100-yard games. He was the workhorse of the Jayhawks' offense and a 35-game starter. You can't replace a guy like that -- and all his production -- with just one back.

What they offer: Unpredictability. Who knows what to reasonably expect from this group?

Avery, a true freshman, was a four-star recruit from Dallas Carter and a critical find for this class. He chose Kansas over Nebraska two days before signing day, and that decision obviously looks wise now that he's walking into a chance to be a featured back from Day 1.

He's not particularly big or fast, but Avery is good in space and was very productive as a senior (1,667 yards, 10.5 yards per carry, 18 TDs). He was one of the most underrated backs in Texas last year and he has a big chance to shine. But you'd think Charlie Weis will want others to share the load.

Mann, a junior college transfer, put up huge numbers last year with 2,037 total yards and 30 TDs at Hartnell College. He was ESPN's No. 5 juco running back. Dineen is more of a wild card, a former three-star recruit who played quarterback in high school and safety early on in fall practice. He moved because of Kansas' shortage of rushers.

One stat that matters in this conversation: The Rice offense that new KU offensive coordinator John Reagan oversaw last year averaged 49.9 rushes per game. This offense should pound the rock, no matter who's in the backfield.

Prediction: Kansas divvies up the carries, at least until a reliable option emerges. Avery and Mann each get 10-15 carries a game to start off and quarterback Montell Cozart chips in 10-plus rushes a game, including in the option game. You could also see some jet sweeps with receivers Nick Harwell and Tony Pierson. It's a good thing Kansas has a first-week bye, because that's extra time to prepare for what could be a challenging situation.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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