Kansas State University

Kansas State enters season with four options at running back

K-State running back Charles Jones stretches for a touchdown during the annual spring game. (April 23, 2016)
K-State running back Charles Jones stretches for a touchdown during the annual spring game. (April 23, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Last spring, Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder said there was a three-man competition taking place at running back. With Charles Jones, Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack all playing well in practice, Snyder suggested all three were skilled enough runners to start in the backfield this season.

Fast forward to August and a new name has joined the list: Alex Barnes.

“Right now, we are looking at four guys,” K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. “It will be interesting.”

Barnes, a 6-foot-1, 221-pound redshirt freshman from Pittsburg, turned heads with the scout team last year and continues to do so now. He showed off his punishing running style last weekend while taking several handoffs at an open practice.

But it was nothing his teammates hadn’t seen before.

“We have more than three good running backs,” quarterback Jesse Ertz said. “Alex Barnes is a fourth guy nobody really talks about, but he is very capable. He is the biggest running back for sure, just ridiculously strong. He has got special strength. The running back position is very competitive. We are going to have multiple guys running the ball this year.”

The odds of Barnes overtaking Jones (a senior with 1,236 career rushing yards), Silmon (a sophomore that rushed for 355 yards last season) and Warmack (a sophomore that averaged 5.3 yards per rush last year) are low, because he lacks experience.

But Dimel wants to get him involved.

“We want to let Alex Barnes develop, because Alex is in the mix now and he has got a huge upside,” Dimel said.

Jones served as K-State’s primary running back a year ago, rushing for 696 yards and five touchdowns on 142 carries, but the Wildcats also utilized Silmon, Warmack and a pair of fullbacks -- Glenn Gronkowski and Winston Dimel.

Silmon started strong. Warmack emerged late. Jones owned the middle. They all had moments.

It appears as though K-State will once again use a committee approach at the position.

A bigger committee than expected.

“The competition at running back can change daily,” Dimel said. “It is not going to be one guy getting all the reps. I don’t think that would be fair to the team to do that. I think it is going to be: get the guys in there and see who has the hot hand.

“We want to let Dalvin do well, let Justin do well and let Charles bring all the experience and the savvy that he brings to the table and kind of let them all play.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett