LAWRENCE, Kan. — Like father, like son? Deshaun Sands can only hope.
The University of Kansas freshman knows if he's going to follow in his father's footsteps, he'd better step lively and he'd better step fast. In the Jayhawks' game against archrival Missouri back in 1991, ol' dad, Tony Sands, carried the ball an NCAA-record 58 times for 396 yards — No. 2 in NCAA annals.
Now Deshaun Sands is ready to begin his own career as a Jayhawk running back, beginning Saturday night in the season opener against North Dakota State.
Tony Sands was an undersized running back for the Jayhawks from 1988-91 and on Saturday he'll be in the stands watching as his son begins his career. He earned the nickname "Tuxedo" by showing up for games in formal attire.
"Man, I just get goose bumps thinking about it," Deshaun Sands said. "I'm going to be out in front of 50,000 fans, my first time, I'm just nervous."
Deshaun Sands will likely split playing time with sixth-year senior Angus Quigley, who is back atop the depth chart after playing linebacker this season. Kansas' leading rusher from 2009, sophomore Toben Opurum, switched to linebacker in mid-August and the Jayhawks lost junior running back Rell Lewis to a season-ending injury around the same time.
The openings in the depth chart gave Deshaun Sands a shot at a larger role in the offense.
The differences between Quigley and Deshaun Sands are obvious. At 6-foot-1-inch, 231 pounds, Quigley is a big, powerful back. Deshaun Sands is built more like his dad at 5-foot-7-inches, 190 pounds.
"They're different backs, there's no question about that as far as their style of running," coach Turner Gill said. "I think we want to get a sense on the field for both of them in a football game."
Deshaun Sands compares his style to his father's — quick and low to the ground.
"I play a lot like him," Deshaun Sands said. "We don't have the same attributes, but you can see on the film that he played a lot like me. He was able to get through the holes and find space to move."
Gill said nothing about using Quigley and Deshaun Sands in specific situations. In practice, they've both gotten the same repetitions on the same plays.
Besides the contrast in style, Quigley and Deshaun Sands have had different mentalities through practice, senior offensive lineman Brad Thorson said. Quigley, a team captain in his sixth year, has been focused on developing the team as a whole while Deshaun Sands came into camp trying to prove he deserved a spot near the top of the depth chart.
"Angus carries himself as a sixth-year guy would, and Deshaun carries himself as a redshirt freshman," Thorson said. "He wants to prove a lot to us."
Just taking the field this weekend after sitting out last year with a redshirt is a dream come true for Deshaun Sands. But he won't be satisfied with simply playing the occasional down. His goal through the whole offseason has been earning a central role in the offense.
"I think a lot of people expected him to be a situational back," Thorson said. "But that's not what he wants to be. Deshaun wants to be an every-down type of guy."
At least for Saturday, he'll be sharing most of the on-field duties with Quigley. True freshmen Brandon Bourbon and James Sims may get playing time as well.
"We're going to take it week-by-week, and we're going to play the best guys," Gill said. "Whoever gives us the best chance of being successful, that's what we're going to do."
Whether that means a competition for the top spot or not, it hasn't stopped Quigley from reaching out to Deshaun Sands.
"We've been having talks through the weekend. He's been asking me if I'm ready," Deshaun Sands said. "I mean, 50,000 people. Who wouldn't be ready for that?"