Sports in Kansas has compiled its list of 25 Running Backs to Watch for the upcoming 2017 season. List is alphabetical by last name (unless a combo pick) and is not a recruiting list. Our intention is also to try to cover every classification and every part of the state to make it a true overall list to watch in the state. Every year Chet Kuplen and Ben Mitchum compile lists to project who the states top players will be at the beginning of the season which is based on last years performance/stats, input from coaches/media, and recruiting/video highlights. Special thanks to Rack Performance for powering this list.
Kyle Anderson, Smoky Valley, 6-2 200 Sr.
Anderson rushed for 1,436 yards last fall while tallying up 16 touchdowns for Smoky Valley. He also had over 60 tackles from his linebacker spot and led his team to a 8-3 mark in 2016.
We don’t know who the primary ball carrier will be with Aquinas but we expect there will be a lot of them and all are very good. Drew Hicks rushed for over 1,100 yards as a junior and is back. Cameron Jackson could turn into that feature type of back after rushing for over 500 last year. Tristan Davis rushed for 448 last year and is also back. Adam Davis is a linebacker transfer that could equally be an all-state running back, Matthew Roberts is a projected all-state defensive end that could also figure into that mix of running back if they choose to use him, as does all-state candidate defensive back Jayden Russell. Jared Flood could also figure in as he was a known running back in the JV ranks prior to joining the varsity as a sophomore and is one of the state’s top defensive backs returning for 2017 as a senior.
Devion Bethea, Ottawa, 5-11 180 Sr.
Bethea helped Ottawa to their first playoff win in 15 years last fall by rushing for over 1,000 yards from his running back position. Ottawa loses some key pieces from last year’s playoff team but Bethea is primed for another 1,000-yard season for the Cyclones. He has speed in the 4.5 range in the 40.
Milton Braasch, SM East, 6-0 210 Sr.
Braasch had over 1,500 yards rushing last fall and earned All-6A honors at running back. The Colgate commit gets it done on both sides of the football and will also be one of the state’s top linebackers headed into 2017. Braasch will look to lead SME back to the title game for the first time in three seasons. East should also see a breakout year from junior RB Griffin Fries, an Air Force commit in lacrosse.
Dalton Brown, Buhler, 5-10 175 Sr.
Brown was one of the top backs in all of Kansas last season leading the Crusaders to a runner-up finish in Class 4A-I. He rushed for over 1,900 yards last fall and earned All Non-Senior honors from Sports in Kansas. On paper, Buhler returns just about everything they need to make another deep run in 2017 but their league will be loaded again. Look for another huge year for Brown and the Crusaders.
Brison Cobbins, Bishop Miege, 5-8 165 Soph.
Cobbins emerged onto the scene in the state’s best league as a freshman last fall. He looks for an even bigger role in the offense this year due to the graduation of two all-state receivers. Carter Putz arm will open up the running game for Cobbins who had 841 rushing yards last season on just 83 carries, an average of over 10 yards per touch. Cobbins has elite speed, running a sub 11 100-meter dash FAT at the state outdoor in 2017 as a freshman. Cameron Clark, Tavon Tusa and Dylan Downing, an all-state LB, are all options the Stags have in the backfield as well.
Kirk Coomes, Phillipsburg, 6-2 220 Sr.
Coomes is one of the strongest players in the state at the position and seems like he has been around forever. In fact, he scored all 30-points in the 2015 title game as a sophomore to edge Troy, 30-29. Since then Phillipsburg has moved up to 3A for his last two seasons. Coomes had over 1,300 yards last fall for the Panthers with 24 touchdowns on the ground. Defensively he had 94 stops. Coomes also squats over 500 pounds in the weight room.
Jax Dineen, Free State, 5-10 230 Jr.
Dineen is a bruising back that carries his 230 pounds very well with his 5-foot-10 frame. He is one of the strongest players in the state at the position but also one of the most powerful. He should be one of the premier players in the Sunflower League as a junior this season after rushing for over 800 yards a season ago as a sophomore. Does Free State have what it takes to make it to state in 6A? Do remember they are on the West Bracket. Look for a big year for Dineen, who’s older brothers (Jay ’17 and Joe ’14) are both linebackers at KU. Jax currently holds an offer from KU and is more highly touted then the other two were heading into their junior years of high school.
Grant Hamel, Blue Valley North, 5-10 175 Sr.
Hamel was one of the top backs in the EKL as a junior last fall and is back with a loaded cast of players at BV North for 2017. He rushed for 1,333 yards and had 16 total touchdowns last fall for the Mustangs. Yards don’t come easy in the EL and Hamel proved he is a reliable every down back for BV North.
Dalyn Johnson, Maize, 5-7 170 Sr.
Johnson rushed for over 1,500 yards and had 27 touchdowns last fall for the Eagles. He was a first team Non-Senior from Sports in Kansas and an All-5A pick at running back in 2016. He will be one of the premier playmakers in the Wichita metro this fall.
Brody Kooser, Derby, 5-10 170 Sr.
Kooser emerged onto the scene for the Panthers last fall by leading them to their second consecutive state title and third in four years under Brandon Clark. As a junior running back he had 31 touchdowns to go along with 1,681 rushing yards. He earned first team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior honors in 2016 and will look to give Derby their fourth state title in five years in 2017.
Jhalani Long, Pittsburg, 6-0 180 Sr. & Max Wilson, Colgan, 6-0 185 Sr.
The city of Pittsbug gets a combo pick here. Long has 4.5-4.6 speed range and rushed for over 500 yards in limited carries last year for the Purple Dragons. When he did touch the ball, he had 8.2 yards rushing per try. We got a taste of how good long could be last year, look for a breakout year for Long in 2017. Wilson will be one of the faster players in the small classes Kansas this year and is equally known as he is an all-state linebacker. Colgan will depend upon him heavily to carry the load at running back in 2017. Wilson has 4.5-4.6 speed and a 36” inch vertical. He ran a 50 in the 400 meters as a sophomore two years ago, helping Colgan to 4x100 and 4x400 state titles.
Lane Peters, Pike Valley, 5-9 165 Sr., Denton Schurr, Osborne 5-10 160 Sr. & David Thompson, Logan Palco, 6-0 205 Sr.
8-man will be deep at the RB position but three jumped off the page into 2017 and they make the list. Peters has been a starter since his freshman year and has been turning heads in the 8-man ranks since then. He enters the 2017 campaign with 3,889 yards rushing and 66 rushing touchdowns over his career. Peters also has teammate Cole Strickler, on the 25 LBs to Watch this year, that could also get carries in the backfield but doubles as the top threat in the Panther receiving game with 600 plus yards last year. Although he isn’t the biggest guy on the field, you can count on him being the fastest as the 1A 100-meter dash champion has 10.77 FAT speed. Schurr rushed for 1,788 yards last season on the way to leading them to the 2016 8M-I state title. Schurr scored 38 total touchdowns last fall and averaged 9.9 yards per carry when rushing the football. He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Thompson rushed for 1,696 yards in just nine games last fall and gets the nod out of the 8-man ranks. Thompson enters his senior season with 3,407 rushing yards and 54 career touchdowns. He also has 298 tackles as a defender.
Tevin Petrie, Norton, 5-10 185 Sr.
Norton certainly has a few stars on paper for 2017 but they will need all of them to produce on the field this fall in order to have a shot to win 3A. Petrie has 2,121 yards rushing in his career with 21 touchdowns. He had 1,108 last year as a junior. Petrie is still looking for that all-state caliber season as a RB, maybe this could be the year for Quarterback Jace Ruder and Petrie to lead the Bluejays on a long run in 3A. Petrie is a very strong athlete at the position, very versatile, and looks very fast in pads. He could play offense or defense in college. Petrie has handheld time of 4.4s and a 4.6 electronic range 40 at the Shrine Bowl combine last year.
Parker Roth, Hesston, 5-10 190 Jr.
Roth helped Hesston into the 3A title game for the first time in 24 years last fall by rushing for 1,290 yards and 21 touchdowns. Roth also gets it done in the weight room as he benched 285 pounds as a sophomore last fall. Roth also features nice speed finishing in the top three in state in the 100 meter dash in 3A. Roth returns along with junior reciever Cameron Cox who should be two of the best players we see in 3A this season.
Dejuan Scott, Wichita Heights, 6-0 200 Jr.
Scott had over 900 yards as a sophomore last fall. Back is K’Vonte Baker, also a junior this year, and several others that could make Heights a contender in 5A this fall. This would’ve been a combo pick with Ontario Russell, but Russell has moved to the KC area and is now a junior at Lee’s Summit North. Heights did add Circle transfer Hagen Henderson who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season for the T-birds.
Jordan Schippers, Colby, 6-1 185 Jr.
Schippers is a big bodied kid that can run that may be one of the best kept secrets in Western Kansas. He can play running back or receiver and is flat out impressive when the ball is in his hands. Starting since his freshman year he has over 1,400 career rushing and over 1,000 yards receiving. He can play RB or WR but figures to be more of an impact carrying the football this fall. He averaged eight yards per carry last fall and 19 yards per catch. Look for a big year for Schippers.
Brody Smith, Hutchinson, 5-10 175 Sr.
Smith has over 2,000 yards in his career as a running back with 25 touchdowns. He has also earned all-league honors in each of the last two seasons. Look for another nice year for the Satlhawk senior.
Keenan Stanley, Columbus, 6-1 210 Sr.
Stanley, a Sports in Kansas non-senior pick last season as a utility player, can do a little bit of everything for the Titans. Although he didn’t start as a true running back in his career, he plays like one of the best in the state rushing for over 1,300 yards last fall. He started his career as a starting wide receiver for two years and has been a four-year starter for the Titans. Stanley was part of the 2014 4A-II state-runner up team as a freshman. He is a big factor if they want to go to the air with him as well as he had over 300 yards receiving out of the backfield last fall. Stanley may project as a wide receiver or defensive back at the next level, but he will shine in the backfield on Fridays this fall.
Dexton Swinehart, Lyndon, 5-10 165 Sr.
Swinehart is a true utility guy in football doing a little bit of everything and basically playing every skill position there is while producing at all of them. He is more of a reciever to us and that's the position that he will tell you he is but he gets it done on the ground as good or better than he does catching it. Last season he was an all-state pick at running back after he rushed for 1,493 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 658 receiving yards and seven scores. For his career he has over 2,700 rushing yards and 1,100 receiving yards with 50 total touchdowns. Lyndon is a team to watch on 2-1A East.
Travis Theis, Pratt, 5-10 185 Jr.
Theis led Pratt to the 4A-II state title last fall as the Greenbacks came out of nowhere to capture the crown. He did so by rushing for 1,975 yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore. Theis, also a all-state caliber baseball player, is one of the top juniors in the entire state of Kansas. Look for another big year for the junior Greenback. He earned first team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior as a sophomore in 2016.
Ky Thomas, Topeka, 6-0 185 Soph.
Not that this list is ranked but if it were Thomas is the top back on this list and is only a sophomore. If you watched him as a freshman last fall then you would know why. He is one of the most sought after recruits in the country for the Class of 2020 in the nation. He had to fill a big role last year with the injury of Corey Thomas and looks to fill an even bigger role for the Trojans in 2017. He had over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing last fall and earned first team Non-Senior honors as a utility player from Sports in Kansas as a freshman. Thomas can play QB if needed and they will use him to throw the ball from his running back position. We feel like Thomas has the ability to be the best player in Kansas this season.
Alex Totta, Blue Valley, 5-10 175 Jr.
Totta may be one of the more unknowns on the list but that’s because he was only a sophomore last fall and playing behind a 3-year starting all-state running back in William Evans. Evans is gone as our several key players from 2016 season, but Totta is part of a loaded junior class that should have BV back as a contender in 2017. When he touched the ball last year, he was very good. He had 398 yards on just 54 carries with seven touchdowns. Expect Totta to be a breakout player this year in the EKL.
Cameron Young, Mill Valley, 5-10 180 Jr.
Mill Valley lost nearly everyone after the 2015 football season but guys like Cameron Young stepped up to give them a repeat title over the 2016 season. Young rushed for over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns in his breakout sophomore campaign. He had seven games of over 100 yards rushing last fall. Look for a big junior year for Young and the Jags in 2017.
Others to Watch:
Taegan Shoenfield – St. Marys, Jake Kidd – BV West, Riley Cummings – BV West, Keegan Michael – Gardner Edgerton, Taylon Peters – Salina Central, Michael Helton – Galena, Sean Urban – Hoisington, Hagen Henderson – Wichita Heights, Ty Brummer – St. Johns Tipton, Trevaunte Hunt – Wichita South, Keshaun Deshaezer – Wichit West, Sawyer Slayden – Emporia, Zarek Fewell – Fort Scott, Harley Stone – Jayhawk Linn, Skyler White – Rock Creek, Ronald Faulk Tindal – Maur Hill, Griffin Fries – SM East, Wyatt Hayes – Scott City, Peyton Kuhns – Nickerson, Aaron Brown – Independent, Perry Foster – Rossville, Jacob Barker – Humboldt, Tayton Driskel – Iola, Evan Bott – Linn, Nick Allsman – Republic Co., Riley O’Dell – Smoky Valley, Kolby Stein – Spearville, Koby Droegemeier - Wabaunsee, Colton Smith – Sedgwick, Camden McFarland – Girard, Jacquez Barskdale – Highland Park, Trace Haven – Smith Center, Breece Hall – Wichita Northwest, Tyson Stites – McPherson, Jace Kinnamon – McPherson, Wyatt Seidl – McPherson, Dalton Silhan – Oxford, Brennan Chacon – Ness City, AJ Camacho – Golden Plains, Neal Gugelmyer – South Barber, Trevor Watts – DeSoto, Darren Winans – DeSoto, Jaylen Pickle – Cimarron, Jack Petz – St. James Academy, Josh Pralle – Independence, Kirby Grigsby – SM West, Blazer Snell – Wichita East, Nick Channel – Kapaun, Jovon Givens – Wichita East, Trenton Jones – Conway Springs, Treyse King – Council Grove, Blake Roberts – Mission Valley, Jacob Faerber – Sacred Hert, Hunter White – SE Saline, Rope Dorman – Concordia, Ridge Robertson – JC North, Brady Holliday – Jackson Heights, Conner Dean – Horton, Clayton Ridout – Doniphan West, Kevin Deidrich – Hanover, Nick Jouret – Olathe South, Marcus Dotson – Wyandotte, Jack Mason – Olathe East, Dwan Washington – Olathe East, Quinton Lapointe – Garden City, Tanner Parret – Salina South, Trey Jenkins – Shawnee Heights, Ivan Webb- Schlagle, Caleb Rains – Valley Center, Cody Schmidt – St. James, Alex Vontz – Wamego, Cameron Clark – Miege, Dylan Downing – Miege, Tavon Tusa- Miege, Levi Pfizenmeir – Clay Center, Kaden Tichenor – Holcomb, Dawson Dick – Riverside, Zach Meier – Beloit, Breydon Bargary – Pleasant Ridge, Mason Jones – Silver Lake
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