Khalil Herbert continues to handle reduced role
University of Kansas head coach David Beaty would like to get junior running back Khalil Herbert more involved going forward.
It was always going to be tough to get touches, given the quality depth at the running back position. Yet Herbert’s minimal involvement through the early part of the season is especially peculiar after his performance last year.
Beaty, though, believes that will change if the Jayhawks can sustain longer drives.
“I would like to see all of them get more carries,” Beaty said. “It’s not as easy as just saying, well, we should have gave it to Khalil three times this series. You’ve got to string plays together to be able to get more touches for everyone.”
Kansas ran a season-low 55 plays in its 26-7 loss at Baylor in the conference opener last weekend. It marked the lowest number of plays in one game since the Jayhawks ran 49 in their 43-0 loss at TCU in 2017.
Kansas averaged nearly 71 plays per game in 2017 and recorded a clip of 71.66 plays per contest in nonconference play this year. In fact, the Jayhawks have only had three games where they recorded 55 or fewer plays in the Beaty era.
Herbert finished with six yards on two carries against the Bears.
“Offensively, we just didn’t execute well enough,” Herbert said. “We didn’t really have a chance for a lot of us to touch the ball. If we execute, I feel like that will sort itself out.”
For the season, Herbert has just 25 carries and has generated 160 yards and one score. He’s also added five receptions for 24 yards. Over the past two weeks, however, Herbert has handled just four carries and two receptions.
After missing the season opener, freshman Pooka Williams has dominated a large share of the backfield touches. Despite playing one less game, Williams leads the team with 47 attempts for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s no secret that Williams is the team’s most talented back, though both Herbert and Dom Williams have proved they're capable of making an impact, as well. Last season, Herbert was given 31 percent of the team’s carries compared to his 16.2 percent share this year.
“I just try to help my team out anyway I can,” Herbert said. “Whenever I get in the opportunity in the run game, I can do a lot of things to help the team out.”
Herbert has made the most of his limited work. He’s produced two runs that have gone for 20 or more yards, one being a 59-yard touchdown run against Rutgers.
But Herbert might just be the type of player that can improve as the game goes along, so he can wear down a defense. After all, Herbert carried the ball 36 times during his 291-yard performance against West Virginia last year.
Perhaps Herbert will get another chance to showcase that, if Kansas can find a way to stay on the field.
“We’ve got to be more productive offensively,” Beaty said. “We’ve got to go get the ball in the end zone, and we’ve got to continue to work, and we’ve got to create a way to get our playmakers the ball in space a little bit more than we did.”