Tony Pierson

Injuries cost KU its top two RBs for all of 2014

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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.

Kansas HB Tony Pierson out for season due to concussion

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Kansas halfback Tony Pierson has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to recurring symptoms from a concussion that he suffered last month against Texas Tech.

Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis said on Tuesday that “A healthy Tony is critical to the success of our program, but not at the risk of Tony.”

Pierson was first knocked out against the Red Raiders back on Oct. 5, but he returned a month later against Oklahoma State and caught two passes for -6 yards. He caught one pass for 12 yards this past weekend in Kansas’ 31-19 win over West Virginia, but sustained yet another big hit in the process.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior is the Jayhawks’ leading receiver on the year with 24 catches for 333 yards and a touchdown. He also has 163 rushing yards.

Kansas is 3-7 on the year and has games remaining against Iowa State and Kansas State.

Head injury has KU’s leading receiver’s status iffy

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Whether or not Kansas has one of its most explosive offensive weapons as it looks to snap a three-year-plus Big 12 losing streak this weekend remains to be seen.

Tony Pierson was knocked out — literally — of the Jayhawks’ loss to Texas Tech Saturday.  While the word “concussion” wasn’t officially attached to the injury, head coach Charlie Weis said Monday that “[f]ortunately all he’s got is a headache, which is a good thing.”

Whether that means will miss a single game or multiple games — or no time at all — remains the great unknown for both the player and the coaching staff.  What is clear is that the running back-wide receiver won’t return until he gets the thumbs up from KU’s medical team.

“When the doctors and trainers tell me it’s safe for him to go, that’s when he’ll go,” Weis said. “And he will not go one second before that. I don’t try to be the doctor here. I just heed their advice.”

Pierson, who is officially listed on KU’s roster as a “halfback/flanker,” leads the Jayhawks in receptions ( 21) and receiving yards (327).  He’s also third on the team in rushing with 80 yards on 12 carries.

Last season as a sophomore, Pierson produced 1,051 yards of offense — 760 rushing, 291 receiving.  Both of those totals were second on the team.

Kansas’ former second-leading RB rejoins the team

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Word came last week that Kansas would be getting some much-needed wide receiver help with the acquisition of former Miami (OH) wideout Nick Harwell. Whether or not Harwell will be cleared to play this season remains to be seen, but KU is also getting some immediate help at the running back spot too.

And from a familiar name, no less.

The school announced Tuesday that former running back Darrian Miller has signed a grant-in-aid and rejoined the team. Miller was dismissed in early 2012 following his freshman season with the Jayhawks in which he was the team’s second-leading rusher with 559 yards and four touchdowns.

“Coach Weis has given me a rare opportunity,” Miller said in a statement through the school. “I get the chance to get this right. I am truly thankful for this opportunity and I intend to make the most of it. I realize that I am leaving Butler at a bad time and I want to thank Coach Troy Morrell for the opportunity he gave me there. Coach Morrell and his staff were an amazing help to me.”

Miller has spent the past year at the community college level and will rejoin KU as a redshirt sophomore. He will be eligible to play immediately.

“We constantly research special situations concerning transfer students. Each situation is unique. Occasionally through our due diligence we find a player who fits. This was the case with both Darrian and Nick (Harwell). We believe both young men are prepared to thrive at Kansas on and off the field,” Charlie Weis said.

Weis is stocking up on talent that can contribute right away. Miller was a four-star back coming out of high school in 2011, according to Rivals.com, and joins a talented backfield that already has James Sims and Tony Pierson. While even a .500 record is a stretch for Kansas in 2013 after a one-win season in 2012, there’s a chance this team could make some nice strides in the win-loss columns. At the very least, it can’t get much worse.