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Jones' versatility a big plus for K-State

8/27/2014

By ARNE GREEN

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN -- Charles Jones wasn't exactly sure what put him over the top and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was pretty vague about it.

Then again, maybe what sets Jones apart from the Wildcats' other running back candidates is the total package he presents.

"I just feel like I'm a versatile back, that I get the tough yardage when you need it and I make people miss," Jones, a sophomore from Mandeville, La., said Tuesday after landing ahead of fifth-year senior DeMarcus Robinson on K-State's first official preseason depth chart. "That's really what our coaches are all about, we'll block everybody but it's all about you and the safety and making him miss.

"I feel like not just me but all of our running backs are capable of doing all of that stuff."

Snyder said Jones' grip on the top spot remains tenuous, though he'll probably start Saturday's 6:10 p.m. season opener against Stephen F. Austin at Snyder Family Stadium.

"He's at the top of the list," Snyder said. "He may not be alone at the top of the list right now and obviously isn't, but I think he's one of those young guys that I've seen improvement come.

"It's important for our backs to be versatile and be able to handle all aspects of the game, and obviously be able to run the ball well, and with some explosiveness and to be able to block well and to be able to be active in the passing game as a receiver. I think he's made improvement in all three of those areas."

So has Robinson, the lone back with college game experience, albeit as a third-stringer the past two seasons while three-year starter John Hubert got most of the carries.

"They're getting better at being multifaceted running backs," Snyder said.

Though Jones and Robinson appeared on the two-deep, sophomore Jarvis Leverett also was in the running along with redshirt freshman receiver Judah Jones.

"It's really competitive out there, but we're good sports about it," Charles Jones said. "You've just got to be assignment sound every day and study your playbook.

"This camp I was really in my playbook and was assignment sound and improved on my pass protection."

Jones showed his versatility in high school, rushing for 1,767 yards and 22 touchdowns, plus catching 31 passes for 321 yards as a senior. But after redshirting as a freshman at K-State in 2012, he spent last season on the scout team.

While frustrated that he didn't get on the game field, Jones said he gained valuable experience against the Wildcats' No. 1 defense.

K-State quarterback Jake Waters said he has been impressed with both Jones and Robinson in preseason camp.

"It's definitely tight," Waters said of the competition. "They are two running backs that are going to be able to contribute for us and do good things.

"I'm assuming it's going to be kind of a game-to-game thing - who has the better field, who gets the hot hand - kind of like what me and Daniel (Sams) did last year.

"I expect them both to play and play pretty well."

Waters also agreed that Jones' versatility has served him well.

"He can catch, he can block, he has great vision and good cuts," he said. "I really haven't seen a thing that he can't do, so I'm definitely excited to see him in a live game situation."

Jones first heard he might be the starter after Snyder made the announcement Monday morning the Big 12 coaches' teleconference. Still he was skeptical and held off notifying his parents until he heard it directly from his coaches.