This hurts. That’s the only way to say it.
In a devastating span of 24 hours, the Kansas football program lost running backs Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox to season-ending injuries, KU coach Charlie Weis announced on Tuesday.
Bourbon, who was expected to be the starter, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a scrimmage on Sunday, while Cox, the No. 2 on the depth chart, tore his Achilles’ tendon during a non-contact injury on Monday. Both Bourbon and Cox, who have already used redshirts, will explore ways to finish their careers next season.
Now Weis will move on, hoping to piece together a backfield to replace the production of leading rusher James Sims, who finished his career last season.
“I feel bad for both Brandon and Taylor as they were looking forward to the opportunity to be the replacement for James Sims,” Weis said in a statement. “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.”
For Weis and Kansas, it was just the latest crippling blow to a backfield unit that has been nearly stripped bare over the last few months. Former running back Darrian Miller left the program over the summer after battling ongoing off-the-field issues. And incoming freshman Traevohn Wrench, a four-star recruit from Gardner Edgerton, failed to qualify academically, landing at Butler County Community College.
True freshman Corey Avery and junior-college transfer De’Andre Mann now move to the top of the depth chart. Senior receiver Tony Pierson, who began his career at running back, could also provide a lifeline at the position. Weis announced Tuesday that true freshman safety Joe Dineen would move to running back to provide some needed depth.
“I surveyed our roster and felt Joe was the best answer to help offensive depth, while not greatly hindering the defense,” Weis said. “He and I met after practice Monday and I gave him the choice. He was happy to move in the best interest of the team.
Avery, a Dallas native, was already playing some with the first-team offense during fall camp. Weis has praised his ability to make people miss, and Avery was likely to play as a true freshman. Now he may be asked to carry a substantial load in new offensive coordinator John Reagan's spread offense.
The same goes for Mann, who arrives at Kansas after rushing for more than 1,700 yards at Hartnell Community College in Salinas, Calif.
Just a few weeks ago, Weis was touting his backfield depth on the first day of fall camp. Sims and Miller were gone, but the Jayhawks still had Bourbon and Cox, two promising seniors who had battled injuries over their careers.
Cox, a junior-college transfer from College of the Siskiyous (Calif.), rushed for 464 yards on 91 carries in 2012, averaging better than 5 yards per touch while KU finished 1-11. Cox played in just two games last season before suffering a hamstring injury. He never returned and was granted another year of eligibility through a medical redshirt.
Bourbon, meanwhile, had suffered a foot injury during the spring of his redshirt freshman year. He also endured a season-ending leg injury after playing eight games in 2011.
Now both are done for the season. And a Kansas program looking to break an enduring malaise has more reason to be concerned.
“While De’Andre and Corey lack experience on the Division I level,” Weis said, “they both have had excellent camps. The team is well-aware of this situation and is excited to make the run game successful.”