Kansas State University

K-State begins signing day by adding impact running back transfer James Gilbert

The Kansas State football team began and ended signing day with a bang.

New K-State coach Chris Klieman addressed one of the Wildcats’ biggest needs early Wednesday morning by adding running back transfer James Gilbert to the roster.

Gilbert will be eligible to play immediately next season as a graduate transfer. He will enroll at K-State after rushing for 2,806 career yards at Ball State, including 747 last season. He earned first-team all conference honors by rushing for 1,350 yards in 2016.

The Wildcats will likely lean on Gilbert in the backfield next season. It’s not a stretch to imagine him as the team’s new starting running back following the departures of Alex Barnes, Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon.

Without its top three running backs from last season, the only scholarship ball-carrier on the K-State roster was Mike McCoy, who missed all of last year with health concerns.

Gilbert provides the team with a much-needed veteran rusher capable of playing next season.

He will embrace a fresh start with the Wildcats. Gilbert missed much of 2017 with a hand injury that led to a medical redshirt. Then, last season, he was benched in late October for not blocking well enough on passing plays. He dropped into a rotation with Caleb Huntley and Malik Dunner and was unable to recapture the success he found as a sophomore.

Still, Gilbert finished his Ball State career as the seventh leading rusher in school history.

K-State also added running back depth in the form of incoming freshman Joe Ervin. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound rusher from Rock Hill, S.C. officially signed with the Wildcats on Wednesday morning. He rushed for 1,964 yards and 23 touchdowns as a high school senior.

He is the nation’s No. 55 rated running back recruit, according to ESPN.

Klieman also scored an unexpected victory when he signed William Jones, a 5-11 defensive back from Mansfield, Texas. Jones was previously committed to Cal, but he flipped to K-State on Wednesday.

Jones made 48 tackles to go along with eight interceptions during his high school career. He is the 84th rated football recruit in Texas, according to 247Sports.

It wasn’t all good news on the recruiting front for K-State, though. The Wildcats missed out on Lousiana running back Tyjae Spears, who signed with Tulane after hosting Klieman on an in-home visit over the weekend.

Gregory Brooks, the highest rated recruit K-State was chasing, also decided to sign elsewhere. The four-star defensive back announced Wednesday that he will attend Arkansas. Klieman also visited him on Saturday.

Khalil McClain, a Hutchinson Community College receiver who committed to K-State after Bill Snyder retired but before Klieman was hired, backed out of his pledge and instead signed with Troy.

The Wildcats closed signing day strong with the additions of Keenan Garber, Jax Dineen and Jaren Lewis.

Garber, a receiver, and Dineen, a fullback, both starred at Free State High in Lawrence this season. Dineen’s older brother, Joe, was the top linebacker on the KU football roster. K-State has recruited in rival territory well since signing Scott Frantz several years ago.

Lewis is a quarterback from Columbia, Mo. He had previously committed to Klieman at North Dakota but switched to K-State at the final moment.

K-State’s 2019 recruiting class ranked 74th nationally and ninth in the Big 12 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to 247Sports.

Here is a look at the other football recruits K-State has signed so far:

K-State football signings

Player, Position, Height, Weight, Previous school (Hometown)

Cooper Beebe, OL, 6-3, 329, Piper (Kansas City, Kan.)

Jax Dineen, FB, 5-11, 230, Free State (Lawrence)

Khalid Duke, LB, 6-4, 225, Riverside Military Academy (Gainesville, Ga.)

Joe Ervin, RB, 5-10, 190, South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.)

Konner Fox, TE, 6-5, 225, Reagan (San Antonio)

Keenan Garber, WR, 6-0, 175, Free State (Lawrence)

James Gilbert, RB, 5-9, 198, Ball State (Indianapolis)

Marcus Hayes, DB, 6-0, 192, New Mexico (Rockford, Ill.)

Chris Herron, QB, 6-1, 192, Langham Creek (Houston, Texas)

William Jones, DB, 5-11, 170, Summit (Mansfield, Texas)

Jaren Lewis, QB, 6-3, 215, Battle (Columbia, Mo.)

Taylor Poitier, OL, 6-3, 258, Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission)

Trevor Stange, OL, 6-3, 272, Coppell (Coppell, Texas)

Logan Wilson, DB, 5-11, 165, Bishop Dunne (Dallas)

Ty Zentner, K, 6-2, 200, Butler CC (Tecumseh, Kan.)

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.