LAWRENCE — Kansas football coach Mark Mangino said earlier this week that he wouldn't know whether injured KU running back Jake Sharp would be able to play against Iowa State today until after Thursday's practice.
Which raises the question: How does the uncertainty at the running back position affect game preparation? Are the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Sharp and the 6-foot-2, 235-pound true freshman Toben Opurum so different that the Jayhawks have to devote time to preparing separate game plans for each player?
"It's pretty much the same playbook," KU offensive guard Brad Thorson said. "Their body styles are severely different, obviously, but they both fit great into all of our schemes running the ball."
Both backs have been able to run successfully behind the Jayhawks' young offensive line. As a team, KU is averaging 209.2 rushing yards. Opurum, who got most of the carries against Duke and all of the work against Southern Mississippi because of Sharp's injury, has carried 69 times for 320 yards and six touchdowns. Sharp has carried 42 times for 240 yards and three touchdowns while also catching three scores.
Despite their shared success, it isn't hard for the KU linemen to know which player is on the field.
"Jake would love to make someone miss and go for an extra 10 yards," Thorson said. "Toben's going to throw his shoulder and helmet into you and make you think twice about tackling him next time. I get Toben running into the back of me a little bit more than Jake. Jake's had a lot more experience running the offense. He has a feel for some things."
Thorson said it shouldn't matter which player gets the bulk of the load today.
"It's more on us as an offensive line," Thorson said. "No matter who's in the backfield, the hole should look the same."