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After thriving last season, Barnes gets start at RB

September 1, 2017 GMT

Perhaps the most compelling young player on Kansas State’s roster last year was running back Alex Barnes.

In just 56 carries as a freshman, Barnes averaged 7.9 yards per carry and had a breakout game at Baylor with four touchdowns. He’s on the preseason Doak Walker list, an award given to the best running back in the country each season.

Even though Barnes was listed on depth chart this weekend with an “OR” between him and fellow running back Justin Silmon, K-State coach Bill Snyder said Barnes will be the guy Saturday against Central Arkansas at 6:10 p.m.

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“There has to be a one, and we’ve distinguished a one,” Snyder said. “We’ve distinguished a two and there’s a three, and we’re playing in that order for the most part. We’ll put Alex on the field, and we want to get the others in but he is the No. 1 guy and he’ll play.”

Barnes first hit the field against Florida Atlantic last season, showing a flash of what he could do with eight carries for 73 yards. He didn’t have more than five carries again until November, when he rushed for 72 yards against Oklahoma State.

The next week at Baylor, Barnes looked like a star. He rushed 19 times for 129 yards and four touchdowns, and he did it with ease.

He took another step against Kansas, his final game of the season, with 103 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. After taking a hit along the sidelines, Barnes left the contest and missed the final two games of the season.

His final numbers were stellar. Barnes finished with 442 yards and six touchdowns, and had the best yards per carry number in the Big 12.

Barnes is just part of what could be a potent run game for the Wildcats this year. Silmon is a Doak Walker candidate, too, running for 485 yards on 86 carries last year. Dalvin Warmack is a shifty junior that has yet to make his mark for the Wildcats. Freshman Mike McCoy has raised eyebrows on the coaching staff for his performance during the fall.

“I think there is a role for each and every one of them for the most part,” Snyder said. “That is probably the deepest position we have at this particular point in time. Justin has proven that he can play. We have seen some flashes with Dalvin Warmack. He has done a nice job. Mike McCoy has really come on as a young pup. He was on scout squad last year, and he has really stepped up and proven that he can play and has the talent to do so.

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“I think all of those youngsters will help us. All of them will have the opportunity to be on the field hopefully.”

K-State leaned heavily on the ground game last year, especially in the final seven games of the season. The Wildcats broke a school record in yards per carry with 5.27, and ranked third in rushing yards per game with 231.8.

K-State rushed for at least 200 yards in the final seven games of the season, and hit 300 yards of four different occasions. It was the most 300-yard games in a season for the Wildcats since 2003, and the first time K-State’s done it three times in four games since 2001.

The Wildcats enter the season with the longest active streak of 215-yard rushing games among Power 5 teams at seven.

Despite all those numbers, Snyder said it’s most important for the offense to remain as balanced as possible this season.

“I do not think there is anything that we would attempt to do that is not significant or important in a ballgame,” he said. “What is important to me is that we have the capacity to be able to have balance in our offense; that includes being able to run the ball well. I want people to be able to respect that we can run it when we can and we can throw it when we can. That being said, it makes it a little harder to defend against us.”

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