Since John Hubert graduated following the 2013 season, the K-State running back field has been a revolving mess. Basically, Charles Jones has been the primary back each of the last two seasons, but he’s never been able to make a name for himself or really take a firm hold on the job. In 2014, Jones split time with DeMarcus Robinson and both had fewer carries than Jake Waters, and he was injured for half the season. In 2015 Jones split time with Justin Silmon, who actually looked better than Jones before getting pulled for lacking knowledge of the playbook and blocking schemes, and Dalvin Warmack, who came to K-State with lots of praise, but hasn’t been able to push to the head of the pack. And in 2016, the field gets no less murky.
Charles Jones returns for his senior season as the leader of the very tight pack at running back. He will start the season on the Doak Walker award watch list, but Jones has barely broken 1,000 yards in his career, when the best K-State backs have gotten close or passed that mark at least once in a season. He finally notched one, the only in his career, 100 yard game in 2015, and main claim to fame is running the Wildcat package. His chief rivals are, just as in 2015, Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack. Silmon, a junior, broke on to the scene with a 119 yard game against Louisiana Tech, and then subsequently faded right back into the shadows behind Jones, but did manage at least one carry in every game. Warmack, a sophomore, saw some action in reserve early, but then got lost as the Wildcat season did. Warmack did see action in each of the Wildcats final three games, including notching two carries for eight yards and two receptions for 27 yards in a promise-showing performance in the Liberty Bowl.
Added to the mess, according to K-State Co-OC Dana Dimel, is RS freshman Alex Barnes. Barnes came in to K-State highly regarded in the Kansas prep ranks, and red-shirt his first season at K-State. But Barnes is big, and apparently has really been pushing ahead in the summer and early fall camp.
Also in the mix, fullback Winston Dimel. Dimel was the third-leading non-QB runner for K-State in 2015, and the leading TD runner (non-QB). Dimel will likely pick up a few more carries in 2016 as the sole option at fullback, and as an obvious threat in both the run and pass game.
Well, the only other options we haven’t already mentioned are true freshmen Tyler Burns and Mike McCoy. Burns is coming off a greyshirt season, and played well in the Spring Game back in April. McCoy was a late addition to the 2015 K-State recruiting class, and will very likely take a redshirt season to get college academics under his belt. RS freshman Terrance Richards is the final RB listed on the K-State roster. Richards is a legacy, and his father played his senior season for Bill Snyder in 1989.
While the o-line might have more questions based on replacing personnel, the running back corps will continue to be the biggest unit of flux, and likely the biggest source of frustration for Wildcat fans, in 2016. Expect, again, to see Jones come out as the starter for game one, but also expect to see the carries get shuffled around if one guy gets hot for a game. The K-State offense will have a hard time again if one or more of these guys can’t step up and be a consistent threat to run the ball, and if this unit has as much trouble getting past 1,000 yards as it did last year, behind a more experienced o-line, it will be a long and tough season.