Gridiron Newcomers: Anthony Pierson

Gridiron Newcomers: Anthony Pierson

As one of the most highly-touted members of the Class of 2011, Kansas fans have been looking forward to the college debut of East St. Louis (IL) High running back Anthony Pierson with greedy eyes for one, simple reason – speed. Lots and lots of speed.

Put aside for the moment that Anthony Pierson was one of the most highly touted members of the Kansas football Class of 2011.

Put aside that he had offers on the table from programs such as Arkansas and Missouri, plus interest from the likes of Iowa and Tennessee. And yes, Kansas fans, even put aside that he was committed to the Tigers before de-committing and landing in Lawrence, Kan. – as sweet as that must taste.

Slide all that to the side for a moment, and savor the one, tangible factor that makes this East St. Louis product so tantalizing to supporters of the Crimson and Blue.

Anthony Pierson is more than merely just fast, he's the football equivalent of supersonic; something that has to bring a huge grin to the face of Head Coach Turner Gill, whose team was so starved for home run potential during his first season on The Hill.

During his senior year at East St. Louis (IL) High, the 5-foot-10, 170 running back averaged a staggering 11.73 yards per carry in eight games, toting the rock 120 times for 1,408 yards and 22 touchdowns. The highlight of the year came Sept. 10, when he rushed for 207 yards on - get this - six carries versus Alton (IL) High.

He scored three touchdowns that night as well, by the way.

Given that Gill has previously stated that as much as half of the Class of 2011 will see the field in some capacity this season, be it offense, defense or special teams, it seems unlikely a talent with Pierson's ability will remain planted on the sidelines. The question of where he'll play, however, is an interesting one.

The Jayhawks are loaded at running back with a capital "L." The stables at Churchill Downs might not have this much young talent in their stalls. In addition to sophomore James Sims, the team's leading rusher as a freshman in 2010, Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long will also have players like redshirt freshman Brandon Bourbon - arguably the most talented member of the Class of 2010 - and incoming freshman Darrian Miller - who turned more than a few heads with his play as an early enrollee during the spring.

One might think Pierson's size and talents would make him a natural fit for the slot wide receiver position as well - he averaged 19.83 yards per catch as a senior - and one would be correct. But, again, the Jayhawks are relatively stocked with talent at those spots, with senior Daymond Patterson and junior D.J. Beshears laying claim to the primary spots on the two-deep, and talented freshman JaCorey Shepherd ready to make a name for himself.

So what do they do with him?

Well, why not a little bit of everything? Safe money would be on Pierson securing a spot as a kick returner, but Kansas fans should also probably look for a few carries and possibly a couple of receptions a game out of him, as the Jayhawks look to get creative and breathe life into an offense that was so stagnant for much of 2010.

His versatility is part of what makes him so unique. So however much he plays, wherever he's utilized, Pierson will definitely be one to watch come Sept. 3.

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