It’s not been a very good past couple of days for experienced members of Kansas’ backfield.
The Jayhawks confirmed Tuesday that running backs Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox will miss all of the 2014 season due to injuries. The former tore an ACL during a scrimmage Sunday, the latter ruptured an Achilles’ tendon during Monday’s practice.
“I feel bad for both Brandon and Taylor,” KU coach Charlie Weis said in a statement. “They were looking forward to the opportunity to be the replacement for James Sims. I sat down with each of them individually and talked through their options and was happy that they chose to further their education while attempting to play again next year if things work out.”
One of the options being considered by both seniors is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility. Bourbon missed the entire 2010 season with a broken leg. A hamstring injury cost Cox all but two games in 2013, so a sixth season, if they so choose, would appear to be a slam-dunk.
This season, though, both of the losses are rather significant ones. Last season, Bourbon ran for 191 yards and was second on the team with three rushing touchdowns. His 20 receptions were tied for third on the team.
Entering summer camp and heading into the season, Bourbon was considered the Jayhawks’ starting running back. Cox, who was listed as Bourbon’s backup, rushed for 468 yards during his only healthy season in Lawrence.
The twin injuries continue a long line of attrition at the position the past several months. In June, Darrian Miller, who finished second on the team in rushing in 2013 and 2011, left the team for personal reasons. A month later, four-star 2014 signee Traevohn Wrench, widely considered to be a lock to be an immediate contributor, failed to qualify academically and was forced to go the JUCO route this season.
The attrition means that Tony Pierson is the only running back on the roster that has carried a football in a game at this level — and he was moved to wide receiver last year. Safety Joe Dineen has been moved from safety to running back to shore up the depth at the position.
True freshman Corey Avery and JUCO transfer De’Andre Mann will now be expected to carry KU’s running-game load. Unless there’s further attrition, the plan is to keep Pierson, who missed five of the last eight games last season due to concussions, as a receiver.