ANALYSIS: K-State’s running backs core to offensive line

Junior running back Harry Trotter runs in a touchdown during K-State’s football game against KU in David Booth Memorial Stadium on Nov. 2, 2019. The Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks in last year’s sunflower showdown with a final score of 38-10. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

This year’s Kansas State offense has the chance to be very successful — the Wildcats are loaded with leadership and young talent: a fifth-year senior quarterback in Skylar Thompson and senior center Noah Johnson who has been praised by head coach Chris Klieman and his teammates.

The core to the offense though? The running game.

“Our entire offense is based around the ability to run the football,” offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said in a recent zoom meeting.

While Thompson does have the arm to make the passing game a threat, the Wildcats want to make sure that the running game gets established first.

“It is not that we want to run the ball every snap,” Messingham said. “But forcing [the defense] to stop the run is always going to be a huge key for us.”

K-State has multiple running backs on the roster this season. Senior Harry Trotter, redshirt freshman Jacardia Wright, redshirt freshman Joe Ervin and senior Tyler Burns.

“It’s a very deep pool of running backs,” running backs coach Brian Anderson said.

Under all the circumstances surrounding college football this season, depth is vital.

“You never know what the situation is going to be,” Anderson said. “If four guys get out or get the virus and can’t play, you got to prepare yourself every day. I am coaching [all the running backs] like they are going to play. I want them all to be prepared to play.”

After a successful junior year campaign, Trotter is the top dog of the running backs this season. Capable of having a breakout year, Trotter will most likely get most of the snaps at the beginning of the season because of his experience.

Despite Trotter’s experience, all of the running backs will be thrown into the mix of playing time throughout the season. According to Anderson, Wright and Ervin have both shown potential in the early stages of fall camp.

“They both bring a different element to the table,” Anderson said.

Anderson said when Ervin sees a hole, he can get through it and has the speed necessary.

Burns has also grown and worked himself into position to get some reps in, Anderson said. Burns primarily received playing time on special teams for most of his Wildcat career.

“[Burns] has turned his body,” Anderson said. “He has a better body now to play a little bit more running back for us, and he knows the playbook inside and out. Look for big things from him also.”

Along with the group of running backs, the offensive line will also be a prominent part of the running game.

“The bottom line is those [running backs] as well as the offensive line and tight ends really have got to make sure they are on the same page,” Messingham said. “A great running back helps the offensive line, and obviously a great offensive line makes it much easier for a great tail back.”

Although inexperienced, they have the talent and the work ethic to make up for it. They also have solid leadership in their senior center.

“We feel really good about the young men we have in our program,” Messingham said. “We feel like they have the ability to be great drive blockers in the run blocking game. We feel good about the offensive line that we have. We have a number of young men that are 300-plus pounds that we feel like we can move around well. We feel good about them. We think they are dedicated. Their desire to learn our offense has been tremendous.”

Time will only tell if this group will be able to get the job done on the field; their first opportunity will come on Sept. 12 when the Wildcats host Arkansas State.