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Alex Barnes is K-State’s best offensive player, and it’s not close

He puts the MAN in Manhattan, but when will he finally take his rightful place as starter?

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

If I could, I’d just fill this space with 7,000 heart emojis. Well, I could, but I’m a professional.

Alex Barnes behind this offensive line is the key for K-State’s offensive success. It’s been evident for a few weeks, but hopefully, it’s inarguable now.

Jesse Ertz isn’t effective enough as a passing threat and too much Elijah Price-like* to be a dependable running option. Charles Jones and Justin Silmon have their moments, but Barnes has never had a negative run in his short career. After a 19-carry 129-yard 4-touchdown day, he’s clearly the future, and the present.

*if anyone gets that reference, I’ll be surprised.

I’ll say it now: if K-State switches it up and makes Barnes the feature back, it could win out the regular season and head into the bowl with a decent chance for a nine-win season.

But don’t get your hopes up.

It’s been at least two consecutive game weeks where media members asked Bill Snyder if Barnes’ performance warranted a change on the depth chart, and the old coach has hem-hawed around. The staff likes Charles Jones because of his ability as a receiver and blocker, as well as experience — the buzzword that has arguably held K-State back in several seasons since Snyder’s return in 2009.

The Jones era has never been successful, though, and the coaches know it, as they’ve looked for every excuse to pull him this year, even when he plays well. They’ve penalized him for dancing after scores and not handing the ball to the official, as well as at least one gross fumble.

But today, after Barnes’ second touchdown, he dropped the ball and didn’t hand it to the ref, but still finished the game. That alone may signal that the tide has changed.

But I won’t be convinced until I see it. Alex Barnes deserves to start and take the bulk of the carries until proven otherwise, but deserve has nothing to do with it on this team. So far, time (experience) and lack of options are the only things that seem to force change.

It doesn’t matter that, as a freshman, Barnes might be the best running back of Snyder 2.* It doesn’t matter that he’s averaging 7.4 yards a carry, and when given the chance this game, found the end zone more times than anyone but Winston Dimel all year.

As long as Jones is on the roster, it’s likely he’ll start every game.

But he shouldn’t, because Barnes is the best offensive skill player on this team. If Ertz was a better passer, maybe Dominique Heath or Byron Pringle could top him. But Ertz isn’t a better passer, so Barnes needs the ball.

The question is, did the tide really change when Barnes stayed in the game? I guess we’ll see the next two weeks.