If you want to see the primary example of why Ron Prince was considered to be a poor roster manager, look no farther than the running back position.
In 2008, Kansas State didn't have a single rusher break 500 net rushing yards. The leading rusher last season, Lamark Brown (412 yds, 5TD), has been moved back to his original position, wide receiver. The second leading rusher, Josh Freeman (404 yds, 14 TD), will be fighting for the starting QB position this year in Tampa Bay. Even Logan Dold, the third running back on the list (333 yds, 3 TD), has been moved to safety. This leaves senior Keithen Valentine as the most statistically successful running back on the roster (129 yds, 1 TD).
Normally, when a person looks at a situation like this one, where there's really no production rolling over from one year to the next, they tend to get a little concerned. While there is reason for concern at the running back position, the position isn't devoid of talent, and there is potential for a breakout year by one (or more) of the players on the roster.
Who will the breakout star be? Click the jump to find out who we think could lead the Wildcats at the running back position in 2009.
#25 Keithen Valentine
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (2008: 3 games)
After an impressive performance in the 2008 Spring Game, Valentine, a walk-on JUCO transfer from Mississippi Delta Community College, was elevated to scholarship status and opening game starter. However, after a solid performance (13 carries, 65 yards, 1 TD), he followed it up with a 12 carry, 39 yard performance against Montana State. Not bad, but not great either, especially when you're talking about an FCS team that KSU destroyed. After that game, he saw his production, and playing time, drop like a rock. He only received nine more carries the entire season, and he added another 25 yards.
This year, during the 2009 Spring Game, Valentine again found himself starting for the #1 offense, and for the second year in a row, he found himself as the game's leading rusher. His 20 attempts and 92 yards surpassed everyone else on the team, and his 4.6 yards per carry (YPC) and 2 rushing touchdowns lead all players as well.
Given Bill Snyder's propensity to favor upperclassmen (there are obvious exceptions...of course), it's probably a safe bet that Valentine will get more than thirty-four carries this year. Also, and I know it sounds cliche, but it's good to have a kid with his attitude getting significant playing time and taking a leadership role.
Keithen Valentine (via picturesandstuff)
#8 Daniel Thomas
(Picks up the memo provided by the Powercat Army...)
Daniel Thomas is the savior of Kansas State football, and he is the second coming of Darren McFadden.
(Puts down the memo...)
Seriously, though, Thomas does look like a really nice prospect. He's 6-2, 220+ pounds, and he's capable of playing multiple positions. He played quarterback at Northwest Mississippi Community College (where he was a JUCO All-American), he was recruited as a defensive back to Oklahoma, and he signed at Kansas State to play running back. He even says that he's capable of playing receiver. However, at this point, Bill Snyder says he's a running back.
According to the linked article, Thomas says he's running a 4.33 forty-yard dash. Is that true? I have no idea. However, Thomas provides something Kansas State hasn't had in a few years, and that's a big, strong running back.
He was signed as a part of the 2008 signing class, but academic issues kept him out of Manhattan. He found his way to Butler Community College last year (he didn't play, however), and finally, almost a year and a half after he signed at Kansas State, he found himself eligible to play this coming season with two years of eligibility left.
At this point, Daniel Thomas is classified as a running back because, well, he's the best athlete for the position on the team. Sure, the Darren McFadden comparison is hyperbole, but on paper, he certainly fits what Arkansas did with their versatile superstar. Thomas could legitimately take snaps from the Wildcat formation as a quarterback because, well, he's a quarterback. He provides a threat every time he touches the ball because of what he brings to the table, and if you don't find a way to put the ball in his hands twenty times a game, you're simply wasting away good opportunities. It doesn't matter if it's rushing, throwing, or catching; Daniel Thomas needs the ball in his hands.
Time will tell if Daniel Thomas lives up to the hype, but in the meantime, you can only imagine what he can do if given the right opportunities.
Daniel Thomas (via 3MoonTzu)
#26 Jarell Childs
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Jarell Childs is a good looking prospect out of the Kansas City area. During the Spring Game, he had twelve rushes for forty-four yards and one touchdown.
Honestly, that's all we've really got on Childs. He's a big, thick running back that could get a considerable amount of playing time considering that he was the number two option coming out the Spring. His size has tempted the coaches to look at moving him to fullback, but as of now, he's at running back. His ascendancy at the the position allowed the coaches to move Logan Dold over to the defense, so that has to say something about his ability if he's bumped the second string running back over to the defensive side of the ball.
#33 John Hubert
Class: True Freshman
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: 1st Team All-State - Texas (Associated Press, Texas Sports Writers Association)
If I told you that Kansas State signed a running back that:
- Rushed for 2,853 yards and 41 touchdowns as a Senior (in the state of Texas no less)
- Broke LaDanian Tomlinson's Waco city rushing record
- Rushed for 6,000 yards in two years and had 63 total touchdowns
What would you say? Hell yes?
Well, they did, and his name was John Hubert. However, you may not have heard about him because, well, he didn't get a lot of love from the recruiting services. Honestly, when you break LaDanian Tomlinson's record, you have to have some talent.
Due to the talent in front of him, Hubert may not get a lot of playing time this year. However, if he doesn't redshirt, don't expect him to beat out the trio of running backs listed prior to him in this breakdown. Given Snyder's propensity to redshirt, I'd say it's a good bet he will this year, but you never know.
Longview vs Waco Midway, 2008, 2nd Quarter Part 2 (via LoboFan07)
#27 Tim Flanders
Class: True Freshman
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: Oklahoma Gatorade Football Player of the Year (2008)
Everything just said about John Hubert can pretty much apply to Tim Flanders as well. Here's a young man that rushed for over 2000 yards and scored 34 touchdowns his senior year, and he had over 5,000 yards and 65 touchdowns in his career. He was the Gatorade Football Player of the Year, and in Oklahoma, that means something. His brother, John, is a defensive back at the University of Tulsa, so obviously, athleticism is something that runs in the family.
Flanders is the only player listed on the roster with 'ATH' as his position. There could be numerous reasons for this. It could mean he's bound for a different position, or he's possibly just going to redshirt as they figure it all out. Regardless, it looks like he's at running back this season, so this is where we're going to list him.
Tim Flanders - MWC (via TheCoxChannel)
Projected Depth Chart:
Starter: Daniel Thomas
Backup: Keithen Valentine OR Jarell Childs
Third String: John Hubert
As I mentioned earlier, Daniel Thomas, presumably, is too good of an athlete to keep off of the field. However, because he'll probably be taking snaps in the Wildcat formation, and he may line up at receiver and quarterback, I can see the backup running back get a lot of carries as well. Due to the amount of trust Snyder usually places in upperclassmen, it's probably a safe bet that he'll initially place Valentine in at running back whenever Thomas isn't on the field. However, if Childs looks more deserving, or if Valentine's performance isn't up to snuff, I can see Childs getting a number of carries as well.
In the event of injury, Hubert may be pushed into action. However, at this point, look for him to redshirt. Flanders will most likely redshirt while they figure out his future (at this or another position).