Well, this is one good example of how waiting a bit to get into these previews for the 2020 Kansas State Wildcats has really been helpful.
Had we previewed the running backs even just last week we’d have talked heavily about redshirt-freshmen Joe Ervin and Jacardia Wright. They both played their four games in 2019, and there was a real chance that one or both could have broken the four-game redshirt barrier as starters James Gilbert and Jordon Brown battled injuries all season. But, in the recently released depth chart, neither guy is even listed in the three-deep, and it appears that Irvin may be one of the several players either to opt-out of the 2020 season - a list that includes fellow redshirt-freshman running back Thomas Grayson.
So, uh, now what?
Well, running backs coach Brian Anderson won’t be dipping too far into unfamiliar territory. Senior Harry Trotter takes the top spot on the depth chart — which wasn’t unexpected even with the youth movement — and he brings back 13 games of experience from 2019, including three starts. The Kansas native and Louisville transfer finished fourth on the team last year in rushing yards, and had an impressive outing against KU in his first career start.
And at least one of his backups is also not surprising. Tyler Burns returns for his senior season, and also played in all 13 games last season both at running back and special teams. He scored a couple rushing touchdowns, and is most known, like Trotter, for being a bruising between-the-tackles kind of runner.
The other name on the depth chart is about the polar opposite, and also isn’t much of a surprise with as much as coaches and teammates raved about his camp performance. Deuce Vaughn is a true freshman out of Texas, and at 5’5” 168lbs, is not built to be a bruiser. But that’s not his style anyway, and is touted as being lightning fast with incredible agility and quickness. That combo has memories stirring of a certain K-State running back from nearly 20 years ago...... Anyway, Vaughn set school records for rushing in high school, and his father is an NFL scout for the Cowboys (which “inside” reports credit for his quick acclimation to college-level football).
Behind those three is a bit more of a guessing game. Wright should still push for minutes if he’s available — and Coach Klieman said as much during Tuesday’s press conference — and he has a quick burst for a back that looks bigger than his 6’0” 213lbs roster listing. Clyde Price also returns after spending a year redshirting, and is another power-back type that could get looks in short-yardage. The other true freshman scholarship back is Keyon Mozee, who is built a lot like Vaughn. Mozee will likely get some action in during the season, but don't’ expect him to play more than the four-game redshirt cap.
And last but not least, there is one walk-on listed on the roster at running back, so we’ll single him out. Kaelen Shankle is a true freshman from Texas, and earned all-district honors while helping lead his team to a district championship last year. With the way this year is going, don’t be surprised if he sees action this season.
*Editor’s note: due to the NCAA’s decision to “pause” eligibility for the 2020 season, the 4-game redshirt cap is essentially not in effect this season, as all players will be granted an extra season of eligibility anyway. So true freshmen could play all 8-10 games of 2020, and still be true freshmen on the eligibility clock in 2021.