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Kansas Student-Athlete Spotlight: Toben Opurum
November 25, 2010
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By Matt Franzblau
Big 12 Campus Correspondent

Fans who are planning on attending a Kansas football game next season might just want to grab themselves a game program. That's because there's one player in particular whose starting position may change from one game to the next.

During the past year, Toben Opurum has seen time as a running back, linebacker and defensive lineman. The sophomore from Plano, Texas is aware of his unique ability to change positions and the mindsets that go along with them.

"A lot of people aren't strong minded enough to accept change," he said. "But I feel like if I didn't accept it, then I would just be a negative part of this team, and I really wouldn't be helping them out with that type of attitude."

Still at times the former offensive recruit finds it hard to refocus his mind when the defense isn't out on the field.

"It was real difficult at first," he said. "I can't even say that I'm completely out of it because I find myself watching the offense at times and calling out plays, but the last couple weeks my teammates have helped me get more comfortable on defense."

The change came at the beginning of the 2010 season when newly hired coach Turner Gill asked Opurum to make the switch from offense to defense.

"The day I moved over it was a shock to everybody, but everyone on the defense was real excited. I was kind of down about it, but my teammates comforted me and have really helped me fit in," he said.

His new teammates on defense are excited to have him and his coaches are thrilled.

"I'm really fired up to have him," Kansas defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt said.  "He definitely brings some athleticism to the position and on top of that he's a great guy to work with. He never complains, he asks intelligent questions, and he's improving on a daily basis."

Oporum had success as a running back. Last season, he led the Jayhawks in rushing. That made the move to defense even tougher.

"A lot of it had to do with me humbling myself and just respecting the coach's decision," Oporum said. "Whether I wanted to do it or not, I figured that it was a chance to help our team out and I think we've definitely improved since a couple of these changes have been made."

One of those improvements came earlier this month against Colorado, when KU managed to mount a historic 28-point comeback against the Buffs. Opurum forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter, which was picked up and returned for a touchdown to put the Jayhawks down by seven.

"It was a pretty good play that we desperately needed and it ended up turning the game around for us," he said. "But throughout the game I had areas that I really needed to improve on, like making sure I'm assignment sound. Once I get those down we'll really improve as a defense."

Oporum was originally moved to defense to shore up the team's linebacker position. Then, he was shifted to his current spot at defensive end.

"I think the best thing about defensive end is that it's just a simplified version of linebacker," he said. "It's kind of like when I was at running back because there's not as much thinking... you just know your assignment and get after it."

And that's something that the soon-to-be junior is now looking forward to. Opurum is enjoying his new role as a force on the team's defensive corps, but at the same time leaves himself open to any future changes that the KU coaching staff may have in store for him.

"I think they have plans to move me around a little bit at defensive end and stand-up line backer," he said. "I think they're just going to experiment with me and see what I'm capable of and what I can handle."

If the past is any indication of the future, Toben Opurum is capable of handling a lot, so that can only mean one thing for Jayhawks football fans - have those game programs ready.

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