OPINION: Wildcats have treasure chest at running back position

Players get some practice in before the Spring Game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Apr. 22, 2017. (Nathan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

Any offense by head coach Bill Snyder relies heavily on the running game. This year, there is no shortage of skill at the running back position for Kansas State.

The top three running backs from last season are all back for the Wildcats.

First up is Alex Barnes. Barnes was the leading back in 2017 and will be heading into his redshirt junior season next fall. As a redshirt sophomore, he carried the ball 146 times, rushing for 819 yards and seven touchdowns.

MANHATTAN, KANSAS - SEPTEMBER 30: Baylor University plays against Kansas State University at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Cooper Kinley)

Barnes joined elite company as a sophomore when he reached 1,000 career rushing yards. In terms of carries, he is the second-fastest Wildcat to accomplish that. He achieved 1,000 yards in 152 carries, just five more attempts than Darren Sproles, who reached the 1,000 mark in 147 carries back in 2003.

The 6-foot-1, 227 pound back from Pittsburg, Kansas, ran for 100-plus yards in three games last season. Against Oklahoma, Barnes ran for 108 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run. He followed it up by running all over rival Kansas for 128 yards and two scores. Barnes capped off the season with a great performance in the Cactus Bowl against UCLA. He trampled the Bruins with 117 yards and a 41-yard touchdown run.

Barnes brings power and explosiveness to this loaded group of running backs.

Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack will both be entering their senior seasons when August rolls around and will be trying to solidify their marks on K-State.

Silmon failed to make it into the end zone last season, but totaled 225 yards on 43 carries. He gave valuable reps and made a few big plays. Silmon, like Barnes, brings power with a little bit more agility.

Warmack is smaller than his counterparts, standing at 5-foot-8 and 187 pounds, but with that brings a lot of speed and elusiveness. In 2017, Warmack carried the ball 48 times for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

He saw more significant playing time in the final half of the season, being featured in the Wildcat formation. His best game was against West Virginia when he ran for a career-high 96 yards and big 41-yard rush.

Along with his ability to run the Wildcat formation, Warmack is also an asset catching passes out of the backfield. His talent will be maximized if the coaching staff decides to exercise that facet of his game.

For most teams with three running backs with two-plus years of experience, it would not even be worth mentioning the fourth-man on the depth chart.

Mike McCoy is worth mentioning. He will be a redshirt sophomore during the 2018 season, after he redshirted in 2016. McCoy saw action in just three games last season, amassing 55 yards on just 10 carries. But one play from the Charlotte game captured the fascination of Wildcat fans.

McCoy entered the game during the fourth quarter. The Wildcats entered the final quarter with a 48-7 lead. With 8:12 left in the game, McCoy got a handoff up the middle, found daylight and trucked right through a Charlotte defender on his way to the end zone.


McCoy has physical prowess, coming in at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds. While there are established veterans ahead of him, the Topeka native should get meaningful reps this season and has heaps of potential, in my eyes.

K-State is one of just three teams in the Big 12 with three returning backs that rushed for 200-plus yards last season. Oklahoma State and Texas saw the same achievement.

As much as K-State traditionally uses running backs in its offense, and with the depth of skill at the position, the Wildcats could potentially have one of the best backfields in the Big 12.

Jarrett Whitson is a sophomore in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

I’m Jarrett Whitson, the sports editor this semester. I’m from Blue Rapids, KS, a town of just over 1,000 people about 40 miles north of Manhattan. I’m a junior in Public Relations, and a member of FarmHouse Fraternity. I love playing and talking about sports— especially college football