Kansas State University

Bill Snyder ready to re-evaluate Kansas State’s running back rotation

Kansas State running back Alex Barnes runs for a third-quarter touchdown against Iowa State. He had five carries for 37 yards in the quarter, but didn’t get the ball in the fourth quarter.
Kansas State running back Alex Barnes runs for a third-quarter touchdown against Iowa State. He had five carries for 37 yards in the quarter, but didn’t get the ball in the fourth quarter. Associated Press

Bill Snyder has something to say to anyone who thinks Kansas State should have given more carries to Justin Silmon and Alex Barnes during a 31-26 victory at Iowa State on Saturday.

He agrees with you.

“When we get somebody that is developing a hot hand, we need to do a better job of keeping them on the field,” Snyder said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

The Wildcats seemed determined to do the opposite against the Cyclones.

Justin Silmon appeared on his way to a monster day, rushing for 54 yards and a touchdown on nine carries before halftime, but he mysteriously spent the entire second half on the bench. Alex Barnes looked good in the third quarter, rushing for 37 yards and a touchdown on five carries, but he didn’t see any action in the fourth quarter.

Instead, the Wildcats gave the ball to Charles Jones, who led the team with 12 carries but struggled to do much with them and finished with 37 yards.

The running back that averaged 3.1 yards (Jones) saw more than twice the work of the running back that averaged 7.4 yards (Barnes).

A hot-hand approach, it was not.

“That is what I am trying to promote,” Snyder said, “because they are all good, young guys and they can all do what you want them to do. It is about developing a hot hand, so to speak. Sometimes when somebody gets on fire, then they tend to perform higher than what the expectation might be. We need to keep guys that are gaining a hot hand on the field more frequently.”

K-State will get the opportunity to reward big runs Saturday against Oklahoma State. It’s something it has rarely done this season.

The Wildcats have split carries between Barnes, Jones, Silmon and Dalvin Warmack in most games. Jones has started seven of K-State’s eight games and appeared to be the top back in the rotation when he ran for 128 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech. But coaches began to lose trust in him when he fumbled at the goal line against Texas. Getting tackled in the end zone for a safety last week didn’t help.

But no running back has been able to earn stable playing time.

“I feel it is more of a running-back-by-committee situation,” Silmon said Tuesday. “That is how we have been doing it the whole season. Everybody has been taking advantage of their opportunities and doing well so far.”

Snyder said Silmon was slowed by an ankle injury against Iowa State. But Silmon didn’t appear hobbled on the sideline and said he was fit to play, before adding he was not upset about getting benched. In a backfield with this much talent, he said, sometimes you have to watch from the sideline.

“We are all just being good teammates,” Silmon said. “Good teammates are supposed to support each other and this is what we do. It is genuine. We all just want to see each other succeed.”

Barnes has averaged a team-high 7.3 yards without losing yardage on a single play, but has only seen 19 carries.

Warmack is expected back this week after missing the Iowa State game with an injury, and his presence may make finding a hot hand even more difficult.

Still, Snyder seems determined to stick with the next running back that proves he can move the chains.

Highlights from Saturday's football game between the Wildcats and Cyclones. K-State won 31-26. (Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics / Oct. 29, 2016)

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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