KU top rusher gets chance to contribute

Toben Opurum's move to linebacker was the most intriguing depth chart-related story of the preseason, after leading the Jayhawks in rushing last season as a freshman and one of Kansas' top recruits.

But Opurum took what some might interpret as an insult and impressed Jayhawks coach Turner Gill at his new position.

"I've seen that he has been aggressive, that he's a physical player," Gill said of the 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker, who came to Kansas because coach Mark Mangino said he could play running back when others wanted him as a fullback. "There still are some things that over the next two to three weeks he needs to do, getting fine-tuned in getting lined up and the looks he'll have to see ... He will help our football team definitely at the linebacker spot."

Gill backed that up on Tuesday, including Opurum on Kansas' depth chart as its No. 2 strongside linebacker, and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush told the Kansas City Star he expects Opurum to play 10-20 snaps in the season opener against North Dakota State.

The move was much needed for the Jayhawks, who lost returning starter Huldon Tharp for the season with a foot injury and Jacoby Thomas for the season because of academics.

Starters Justin Springer, Steven Johnson and Drew Dudley should be solid and among the Big 12's best, but Opurum gives the unit additional depth after the losses of Tharp and Thomas.

"I can't sit here and say how many reps we are going to play him. He is going to play at our strong side linebacker, and give him some reps and go from there," Gill said. I know he probably isn't going to play the majority of the game, but yes, he is planning on playing and we will go from there."

For Opurum, that has to be nice to hear.