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Sports in Kansas: 25 Running Backs to Watch for 2018

Travis Theis has had close to 3,600 yards over the last two years for Pratt (Photo: Bill Rea)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Jul 24, 2018

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Several running backs return after having big seasons in 2017. Check out who to watch in 2018. This lists main purpose is to represent the entire state from nearly every class. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we will do this position by position. Chet Kuplen, Managing Partner of Sports in Kansas, and Ben Mitchum, Sports in Kansas contributor, compile lists and evaluate players (last years all state selections from Sports in Kansas, HUDL, camps/combines, input from other media/coaches) every year for every position which help compile this finalized list. This is not a recruiting list or prospect list and players are not ranked or in any special order.This list is powered by Rack Performance and Nex-Tech Wireless. Be on the lookout for our postseason honors after the 2018 season on who will be the Top 100 seniors in Kansas and who will make the Sports in Kansas All Non-Senior Team. If you ever have a player that you think we should take a look at be sure to DM @sportsinkansas or email at sportsinkansas@gmail.com

25 Running Backs to Watch for 2018 (Not Ranked)

Breece Hall RB 6’2”, 200-pounds (Wichita Northwest, 6A) & Roy Johnson RB/SB 5’5”, 150-pounds (Wichita Northwest, 6A)

Hall is the top 2019 back in the state of Kansas and the complete package for the Grizzlies. The Iowa State commit was a first team non-senior pick a season ago in his first year as a full-time starter after rushing for 2,082 yards and 32 touchdowns. The Grizzlies have been loaded at running back for several years and they are again and it doesn’t stop with Hall. If Roy Johnson was on any other team in the state it’s likely you would know more about him. The speedster can take it to the house out of the backfield from a hand off or you can swing him out and he can be a receiver. This could be the best running back duo in the state this year.

Parker Roth RB 5'11”, 205-pounds Sr. (Hesston, 3A)

Roth is perhaps one of the most underrated recruits in the state. He has been starting for four years for the Swathers and has been an all-state player since his sophomore year. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s strong. He has 10.8 FAT speed in the 100 meters and is a returning Non-Senior Pick from Sports in Kansas after rushing for 1,895 yards and 26 touchdowns last fall. Roth plays in the CKL League which has been loaded full of running back talent the last few years.This is not just a small-town kid doing big things because of lower level competition, Roth is a talent that could shine at any classification in Kansas. The last underrated Hesston recruit, who walked on to KU, is starting for his third season for the Jayhawks this fall in Ryan Schadler. Major sleeper for 2019.

Jordan Schippers RB/WR 6’1”, 190-pounds Sr. (Colby, 3A).

Schippers is kind of the swiss-army knife of Kansas high school football. He can be a receiver or running back on offense and is one of the fastest players in the state, winning the 3A 200 meters in 2018. He was a non-senior pick as a sophomore and is looking for another big year as a senior in 2018. He features 10.8 FAT speed in the 100-meters and is also a player that could figure into being a LB or DB at the next level with speed and size. Colby has some solid players back in Schippers, Calvin Stapp, Tucker Branum and Xavier Slaven. Stapp could also have a big year at running back after rushing for around 800 yards last season as a sophomore.

Travis Theis RB/QB 5’9”, 193-pounds Sr. (Pratt, 3A)

Theis is a two-time Non-Senior pick from Sports in Kansas and registered a sub 4.5 40 this off-season. He is an under the radar prospect that could generate Division I interest in baseball and football this season, being that he’s first team all-state in both. Although he makes our list at RB, in the Pratt offense in 2018 he is likely to be the signal caller this season, that won’t change his rushing stats it’ll just give him the ball about every down, which is a good thing. He rushed for 1,691 yards in just nine games last season, after rushing for nearly 2,000 as a sophomore in 2016 when the Greenbacks won the 4A-II state title. Theis is pound for pound one of the strongest and most explosive players in the state.

Jax Dineen FB/RB 5'10”, 230-pounds Sr. (Lawrence Free State, 6A)

Dineen is one of the most powerful runners and blockers in the state. He is an absolute load out of the backfield that has resulted in multiple division one offers. The Dineen name has been very good to the Free State program and expect no different with Jax, a returning Non-Senior pick, once again in 2018. He could also double as a linebacker. Keenan Garber also returns for the Firebirds at safety and receiver and could be a major factor with the ball in his hands. Lineman Turner Corcoran will look to pave the way for the offense. Dineen, Corcoran and Garber (KSU commit) all have multiple Division I offers.

Brandis Evans FB/RB, 5’9” 165-pounds Sr. (Pittsburg, 4A)

Evans could be called upon to have a huge senior year for the Dragons. He rushed for over 800 yards last year in one of the best 5A schedules in the state. The Dragons are down to 4A but still feature a rock-solid schedule that features Mill Valley, BV North and Olathe East. Pittsburg head coach Tom Nickelson feels Evans has a chance to be one of the better backs he’s had at PHS and the Dragons have been loaded at the position. Pittsburg returns a lot at some key spots and Evans may be the most underrated player in the Southeast Kansas area that not many outside the Dragon program are talking about. Expect a big year.

Cameron Jackson RB 5’11”, 180-pounds Sr. (St. Thomas Aquinas, 5A) & Tyron Young RB 5’6” 170-pounds Soph. (St. Thomas Aquinas, 5A)

Jackson is the top returning running back for the Saints after rushing for 1,414 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago. Any Randy Dreiling team is going to spread the football out with multiple people out of the flexbone backfield getting carries and we expect nothing different this year. That’s when Tyron “Tank” Young will also see another big year after rushing for 597 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman last fall. Aquinas is still looking for their first ever state football title and the pieces are certainly in place with a loaded offensive line, loaded defense and some high caliber backs who return in Jackson and Young.

Taylon Peters RB Sr. (Salina Central, 5A), Tayezahn Crough RB Jr. (Hutchinson, 6A), Cameron Harvey RB/WR Sr. (Campus 6A), Caden Cox RB Jr. (Maize, 5A), Tre Washington RB Jr. (Derby, 6A)

We went with an AVTCL-I combo pick here as we feel several in this league could have breakout years and something to prove with the first team all-league backs gone to graduation, including Derby’s Brody Kooser. Peters is a solid player on a team that hasn’t seen a lot of success. Also, an all-state wrestler he is one of the tougher backs to bring down in the state. The senior has picked up an Emporia State offer and is also a very nice specialty player. Crough is one of the best track athletes in the state but doubled as a running back last fall, he could also figure into a WR or DB at the next level. He earned second team all-league honors as sophomore last fall and has sub 4.5 speed. Harvey was a nice utility back that can run it or be used as a receiver out of the back field. He had over 700 rushing and 500 yards receiving on his way to second team running back honors in the AVTCL-I last fall. Caden Cox will be depended on to take over Dailyn Johnson and has looked the part at camps and combines in the off-season. Cox if 5-10 and 190 pounds with 4.5 speed and a 31-inch vertical. Washington, a 5-foot-10 and 195-pound junior, was Brody Kooser’s backup last year as a sophomore. We know little about him but when he did carry the ball he looked very good on limited action and carries. If he is a back-up at Derby as a sophomore and saw time, we look for him to be a breakout back for the Panthers this fall. While a lot of these could be projections, we feel like all will have the opportunity to have big years. Grant Adler is also back at the quarterback position and Hunter Igo is one of the best two-way players in 6A back for the Panthers that can also play quarterback.

Cameron Young RB 5’11”, 185-pounds (Mill Valley, 5A)

Young had a huge season as a sophomore two years ago and showed flashes at times last year. He has performed very well in the off-season at camps and combines and has registered a sub 4.5 40 at the Blue Grey Combine. He has an offer from Missouri Western and is finishing up the camp circuit hoping to land an FCS offer.

Ky Thomas RB 6’0”, 195-pounds Jr. (Topeka, 6A) & Jacqez Barksdale RB 5’11”, 200-pounds Sr. (Topeka, 6A) 

Thomas is the top 2020 back in the state of Kansas. He is a complete back that has been one of the best in Kansas over the last two seasons and rushed for over 1,700 yards last season as a sophomore. He could play multiple positions if needed to but where he has really shined is out of the backfield after picking up Sports in Kansas first team Non-Senior honors each of the last two seasons. In fact, if he were to make the list this year, he would be the first player in the history of our honors to do so. Thomas is the real deal. Barksdale could also figure into a big time threat this season for Topeka and should help form one of the better backfields in 6A.

Brison Cobbins RB 5’8” 172-pounds (Bishop Miege, 4A)

Cobbins averaged over 10 yards per carry last year and had over 1,200 yards rushing. If they needed him to be a 2,000 yard back he can be but with the quarterback position being loaded and guys like Daniel Jackson and Jafar Armstrong, you don’t have to have a 2,000 yard back. Jackson is back but an all-state quarterback in Carter Putz is not. Expect another big year for Cobbins and perhaps more carries than the nine or so times he touched it a game last year. If needed they could also figure in All Non-Senior DPOY Dylan Downing to get some carries if needed and he could be a very good running back.

Alex Totta RB 5'10”, 180-pounds (Blue Valley, 6A) & Eric Olson RB 6’0”, 185-pounds (Blue Valley, 6A)

Both return for Blue Valley this year with both being known more as defensive players for their accolades. Both could be called upon on to pull double-duty again this year for the 6A Tigers. Both made Sports in Kansas Non-Senior last year on the defensive side of the football with Totta at LB and Olson at DB. Walker Kinney also returns for the Tigers at quarterback which could be a scary backfield in 6A.

Zane Colson RB 5’9” 160-pounds Sr. (Rock Hills, 8M), Eli Salmans RB 5’11” 173-pounds Jr. (Hodgeman Co., 8M) Kade Scott RB 6’2 170-pounds Sr. (Pawnee Heights, 6M), Darrien Holloway RB/WR 6’0”, 176-pounds Jr.  (Osborne, 8M)

One of the 25 picks will go to the 8-man and 6-man ranks for a combo pick. Colson was a stud last season in 8-man and rushed for over 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns, he’s also one of the best wrestlers in the state. Rock Hills returns a loaded cast of players and Colson will lead that charge. Salmans rushed for over 1,300 yards as a sophomore last season and should be one of the top backs in the 8-man ranks again this fall. The Salmans name has hade so much success in Hanston/Hodgeman County. Kade Scott also returns for Pawnee Heights in the 6-man ranks after rushing for over 1,800 yards and 35 touchdowns on the way to winning a state title. He did that all in just eight games, even though he won’t be playing KSHSAA we have to feature what he did for his state champion squad. Holloway had a big sophomore year in 8-man and can be RB or WR. With the graduation of Schurr he will be called upon to carry the load more offensively along with his senior quarterback brother, Darnell Holloway. Darrien swept the hurdles at state this year in 1A and features nice speed with size. All of these guys should be stars in the small schools once again in 2018.

Joseph Gruber RB (Sabetha, 3A) Sr. & Mason Engelken RB Sr. (Sabetha, 3A)

Gruber and Engelken combined to rush for over 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns as juniors last fall on the way to a 3A state title. Are they star recruits, no but we are here to talk about high school football across the state and these two will again be players to watch in 3A. The offense operated in a total team fashion, without one key star carrying the load. It should fit to be the same way in 2018 as both return along with all-state players like senior Elliott Strahm on the offensive and defensive line and junior Gabe Garber at linebacker. Garber should also have a big season in the backfield for Sabetha after rushing for over 600 yards last season.

Kevontae McDonald RB 6’0”, 205-poundsSr.  (Manhattan, 6A)

McDonald was a first team All-Centennial League pick as a junior last fall for the Indians. In addition to that he earned Sports in Kansas 2nd Team Non-Senior at RB. Isiah Childs, a 6’3” 190 pound junior, could figure to be the quarterback of the Indians after playing some reps at RB and WR in the past, so the backfield for Manhattan will be solid in 2018.

Andrew Dumas RB 6’0”, 220-pounds Sr. (Olathe Northwest, 6A), Trevon Kearney RB 5’11”, 180-pounds Sr. (Olathe East, 6A), Daymon Sanchez RB 6’2”, 170-pounds (Olathe North, 6A) & Arland Bruce IV RB (Olathe North) 5’10”, 170-pounds (Olathe North, 6A)

The city of Olathe will be loaded at the running back position. Combo pick for three of the Olathe schools. Dumas was a second team Non-Senior pick from last year from Sports in Kansas and is one of the players nobody seems to be talking about. He could have a breakout year with the run heavy offense that first year head coach Aaron Hafner is bringing in. Dumas will be one of the best players in the Sunflower League in 2018, earning first team all-league honors. Kearney was a second team all-league pick last year in the Sunflower League and should be one worth looking at in the league this year that also brings back two key players from Olathe North in Sanchez and Bruce and Dumas at Olathe Northwest. Kearney doesn’t feature elite speed but does have a 30-inch vertical. Olathe North has two very good backs back. Sanchez had a big junior year in which he earned Sports in Kansas second team honors in 2017. Sanchez rushed for 1,070 yards and 10 scores last season. Bruce IV could be one of the top sophomores in the state and can play running back or quarterback positions, he rushed for over 800 yards as a freshman last fall in 6A. His father, Arland Bruce III, was an all-state running back for Olathe North in the 90s before going onto playing at Minnesota and spending several years in the CFL where he was a five-time CFL all-star at WR.

Tim Lambert RB/WR 6’1” 160-pounds Sr. (Smoky Valley, 3A) & Jace Kinnamon RB 5’11” 195-pounds Sr. (McPherson, 4A)

McPherson County gets a combo pick from Smoky Valley in Lindsborg and McPherson High School in McPherson. Lambert is likely the fastest breakaway guy on this list, winning state titles in the 100, 200 and 300 hurdles at the 4A state track and field meet last spring. He set state records in 4A in the 200 and 300 hurdles and features 10.7 speed in the 100-meter dash FAT and has only ran it just a hand full of times. He has an opportunity to be a Division I track and field athlete as well as potentially generate that interest with a big fall on the football field. He also doubles as a wide receiver and free safety, so you could see him at multiple spots this season after catching up with him at the Sharp Performance Prospect Camp in June. Lambert will need to get stronger but does feature a 36-inch vertical and a 400-meter dash time of 47.5. If he can add some weight and keep that speed, his ceiling could be unlimited. Kinnamon has rushed for over 1,600 yards combined the last two seasons including 1,079 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns for the Bullpups as a junior. He’s also one of the better specialty players in the state. Although Kinnamon is a basketball name, with his father one of the best coaches in Kansas history, Jace is quite the high school football player for the Pups as was his brother Kyler previously.

Jaylin Richardson RB 6’1”, 190-pounds Jr. (KC Schlagle, 5A) 

Richardson could be one back that outside of the KC area you’ve never heard of. He rushed for over 1,200 yards as a sophomore last fall at Turner but transfers to Schlagle to play his junior year. He may wind up being just as talented as any back they’ve had there with sub 4.5 speed and his size at 6’1” 190 pounds. Schlagle has been tabbed as “RB High” in recent memory by several in the KC market and Richardson could be the next guy, like Ivan Webb or Cornelius Ruff, to lead the state of Kansas in rushing if all goes as planned. Their schedule won’t be near as challenging of that as an EKL so expect Richardson to have a lot of yards in the regular season, but he has the speed and size where the recruiters will come calling soon. He also gets it done in the classroom with a 3.8 GPA.

Sawyer Simon RB Sr. (Andale, 3A)

Simon returns for the Indians after two solid seasons in the backfield and rushing his way to second team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior honors. Andale is in 3A this year after taking second in 4A-I last season.

Austin Moore RB 6'1", 215-pounds Sr. (Louisburg, 4A)

Moore rushed for over 1,200 yards last season and had 16 touchdowns. He may even be a better linebacker than he is an offensive player. He should be the top returning back in the Frontier League this season. 

Russell Wilkey RB 5’9”, 165-pounds Sr. (Junction City, 6A)

Wilkey started as a freshman last fall for Junction City and earned All-Centennial League honors. Its not often a back starts as a freshman at any high school in Kansas, let alone one in 6A that has had a pretty good track record of talented running backs. We expect a breakout sophomore season for Wilkey.

Treylan Gross, RB 6’0”, 210-pounds Sr. (Phillipsburg, 2A)

It’s nearly impossible to have a list without one of the state’s top small school leagues. The MCL is always loaded with talent. Gross will be a huge part of a backfield that returns quarterback Trey Sides for a fourth year at starter as Gross rushed for over 1,000 yards last season in a backfield that featured Kirk Coomes, now a PWO at Kansas State. Gross has some speed to him and is strong. In addition to Gross, we expect a pair of Smith Center backs, listed on the others to watch, and Jared Casey of Plainville to have big years in the MCL.

Larry Wilson RB 5’7” 175-pounds Sr. (Valley Center, 5A), Parker Wenzel RB Jr. (Goddard-Eisenhower, 5A),  Ben Bannister RB 5’10”, 170-pounds (Goddard, 5A)

AVCTL-II will be loaded at running back in 2018 so they get a combo pick on the list. Wilson is a freak athlete at the running back position and also an exceptional track athlete. He has a 4.5 40-yard dash and was a first team All-AVTCL II pick last season. He has a 10.83 FAT in the 100 meters and a 37-inch vertical. Wilson will be one of the top backs in the Wichita metro for 2018. Wenzel has started since his freshman year but missed half of last year with ACL injury. He will be looked upon for Ike to have a huge junior year. He has rushed for over 1,700 yards with two full seasons remaining after rushing for over 1,000 as a freshman. Bannister was a second team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior pick last season for the Lions. Goddard makes the move to 4A this season and although do lose some key pieces they should be back to make a run in 4A.

Cole Coggins RB 5'10" 160-pounds Jr. (Valley Heights, 1A), Blaine Hinrichs RB 6'0 200-pounds Jr. (Olpe, 1A), Jared Casey 6'0" 220-pounds Jr. (Plainville, 1A)

The 1A representatives on the list will be a combo pick and go to some solid returnees in the classiifcation. Coggins rushed for over 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore last year. Hinrichs had over 1,000 yards of total offense incluing over 800 rushing and over 250 receiving. Casey played in multiple spots last year so its hard to get a gage where he could be playing as a full-time running back. He will be one of the statest top small school linebackers and is a very explosive kid with a 54-foot shot put toss as a sophomore this spring. He will return with Plainville QB Jordan Finnesy in the backfield. 

Jackson Nichols RB Sr. (Bishop Carroll, 5A)

NIchols had a huge campaign as a junior in splitting carries. He isn't the biggest back but he can be an every down back that swings out to catch passes, pounds it up the middle or take on blockers. Carroll had to replace several key pieces but Nichols is one of the main ones back.

Wyatt Hayes RB 6’1” 185-pounds Sr. (Scott City, 3A)

Hayes is one of the states top multisport athletes. He’s all-state as a defensive end, a state champion in wrestling and a state champion in the 800 meters. He rushed for over 1,100 yards last year as a junior and should be one of the top backs in 3A this season.

Others to Watch:

Shakur Johnson – Wichita West, Armaad Hubbard – Wichita Heights, Payton Collins – Wichita South, Keaton Markley – Hays, Hunter Carpenter – SM South, Jordan Hawkins – Buhler, Gabe Galindo – Emporia, Alex Hickel – Central Plains, Jack Mason – Olathe East, Mikey Waggoner – Riley County, Carlos Acosta – Garden City, Isaiah Presley – Newton, Adam Albertini – St. Paul, Gage Fritz – Great Bend,  Zach Dressler – Douglass, Joseph Helton – Galena, Drake Steinbrock – Clifton Clyde, Seth Greenwood – Burlingame, Will Herren – Santa Fe Trail, Logan Allen – Anderson County, Brady Singer – West Franklin, Zach Meier – Beloit, Atreyau Hornbeak – Marysville, Cartner Bruna – Hanover, Nick Stutsman – West Franklin, Edward Thomas – BV Northwest, Baylor Maxwell – Gardner Edgerton, Carter Neis – Eudora, Dalton Harvey – Chapman, Travis Jones – Rose Hill, Tony Friends – SM East, Garrett Boschen – SM East,  Wyatt Pedigo – Hoisington, Reece Struckhoff – Thunder Ridge, Christian Stoner – Silver Lake, Cole Diffenbaugh – Mulvane, Corey Minks – Maize South, Sercy Duncan – Atchinson, Stephon Camp – BV North, Nolan Ford – Basehor Linwood, Taybor Vetter – Rock Creek, Riley Petz – Cheney, Hesston Maxwell – Smith Center, Ethan Peterson – Smith Center, Domenic Bevalaqua – Colgan, Austin Jantz – Satanta, William Silvey – West Elk, Austin Jantz – South Gray, Lane Peter – Randolph, Gage Clothier – Frontenac, Caleb Hildebrand – Stafford, Jake Newton – Waverly, Justis Moore – Eisenhower, Ceetyn Anderson – Augusta, Chase Ast – Conway Springs, Scott Grider – Halstead, Andrew Bergmeier – Hutch Tinity, Sawyer Kramer – Ell-Saline, Colton Smith – Sedgwick, Neal Gugelmyer – South Barber, Jaylen Carter – Washburn Rural, Jordan White – Washburn Rural, Sam Payne – Seaman, Hezekiah Newman – Olathe East, Jaylen Logan – Coffeyville Field Kindley, Dawson Kerbow – Hugoton, Calvin Stapp – Colby, Jamieson Jones – Newton, Kooper Lawson – Galena, Tate Ahlvers – Beloit, Chris Arreguin – South Haven, Korbin Reidel – Tonganoxie, Hunter Thomas – Little River, Joseph Trumble – Linn, Joel Huftles – Wetmore, John Molitor – Ingman, Randall McKinnis – Neodesha, Reece Morss – Garden City, Christian Suppes – La Crosse, Jalen Basart – Stockton, Bryton Lantz – Minneola, Garrett Dailinghaus – Frankfort, Rylee Welchel – Rock Hills, Jackson Schell – El Dorado, Boyd Cole – Osawatomie, Dylan Bishop – Udall, Tate Seabolt – Cimmaron, Blair Hoffman - Dighton, Cody Joslin - Sedan.