LAWRENCE — Newly-positioned Kansas sophomore Toben Opurum made one thing clear going into tonight's season opener against North Dakota State: He is not thinking about transferring.
"I want a sack," Opurum said. "That's what I want."
Opurum's move from running back to linebacker was the talk of fall camp. As a freshman last year, Opurum led the Jayhawks in rushing with 533 yards and nine touchdowns. After KU coach Turner Gill sent Opurum over to the defensive side, many fans wondered if that would be the first step in one of the more talented players on the roster leaving for another program. But Gill sufficiently convinced the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Opurum that he could have a future in football playing linebacker.
"I'm already past the frustrated stage or being mad stage about it," Opurum said. "I've already been through that. Now, it's gotten to the point where I look at it more as an opportunity and a chance to help our team. That will get me more excited about it."
No question, the Jayhawks need Opurum to step forward and play immediately at linebacker. Kansas does not have much depth at the position behind starters Justin Springer, Drew Dudley and Steven Johnson, and Opurum is expected to play anywhere from 10 to 20 snaps tonight against the Bison.
He says he has not made a tackle on defense since the ninth grade.
"All my tackles have been off interceptions," Opurum said. "We played Oklahoma, and I had a tackle on Jeremy Beal, the defensive end from Oklahoma."
KU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said he is keeping things simple for Opurum. He does not want Opurum to have too much to think about early on.
"The first day, a lot of it was just instinct, looking for the football and running as fast as you can to it," Opurum said. "That's one thing you can't coach is effort."
It appears Opurum's plan is still to give that effort for Kansas.
Other story lines:
* How will KU divide its carries? The big and bruising Angus Quigley and the small and quick Deshaun Sands couldn't be more different. Gill has not said whether he expects one player to emerge as the guy. Freshmen Brandon Bourbon and James Sims could also see time.
* Who will emerge at defensive end and cornerback? Position battles are still raging between defensive ends Tyrone Sellers, Kevin Young and Quintin Woods and cornerbacks Isiah Barfield and Calvin Rubles.
* Will Keeston Terry redshirt? The Jayhawks have spent the last week trying to decide if freshman Terry, a star wide receiver from Blue Springs, Mo., can help them this year at safety. Indications so far have been positive.