Previewing the Running Backs: 67 Days Until Kansas Football

We continue the positional previews, moving on to the most balanced and explosive position group on the roster.
Kansas senior running back Devin Neal (4) practices with the team on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, inside the Indoor Football Practice Facility.
Kansas senior running back Devin Neal (4) practices with the team on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, inside the Indoor Football Practice Facility. / Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA
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Much like last year, we are using Sundays in the Countdown to the return of Kansas Football to take a deep dive into one of the 10 main position groups. Each week, we'll highlight the key players to watch and give you an idea of what to expect from the position this year. This week, we continue our series with more of the offense. It's another position that fans probably aren't too worried about this season: the running backs. In fact, the situation is very similar to last season.

Previous Positions Covered:


Last Season

There were five Jayhawks with double-digit carries from the running back position last season, but the Kansas staff didn't limit the scheme to only have those players run the ball. With both quarterbacks looking to run often and multiple wide receivers with opportunities to run on sweeps, the Jayhawks had a very dynamic running game.

Kansas Running Production Last Season






Devin Neal





Daniel Hishaw





Dylan McDuffie





Sevion Morrison





Torry Locklin





Jason Bean





Cole Ballard





Jalon Daniels





The Jayhawks came into last season with two known quantities in Neal and Hishaw, and they got started early in the year. Devin Neal averaged almost 100 yards in the first four games, and Hishaw averaged almost 50 yards. But the real breakout for the rushing attack came against UCF, where the team combined for 399 yards rushing. Neal had 154 yards, Hishaw had 134 yards and Dylan McDuffie had 91 yards as the team finished with five rushing touchdowns.

Injuries to the quarterbacks meant that the team leaned on the rushing attack even more, and Neal stepped up to the plate, with 100 yards each in 4 of the final 5 games of the regular season. But the bowl game victory didn't need a huge rushing night, as UNLV focused on shutting down that side of the attack with mild success.

Cause For Concern

As crazy as it might seem, my main concern coming into the year is depth. Neal and Hishaw showed last season that they are more than capable to carry the workload with just a little bit of help. But the injury luck has not been kind to the Jayhawks at the position in the last few years, and the quarterback position is not likely to add as much as they did last year.

Torry Locklin and Sevion Morrion are both back, and the Spring Showcase highlighted some potential in Harry Stewart and Johnny Thompson. But if either of the top two options go down, there will be a huge void to fill.

Reasons for Optimism

Despite concerns about depth, the Jayhawks have a fantastic one-two punch. And should there be an injury to one of the top two options, the other should be able to step up and fill a big part of that void. But the biggest reason for optimism is that the Jayhawks may have the best collection of offensive line talent this year that they have ever had under Lance Leipold, which should make the job even easier for this group.

Projected Depth Chart

There is no question what the top two options of the depth chart are going to be this season, but there are plenty of questions about who is going to get that third string role. Who fills in there probably won't have a huge impact on the season overall though, so it might be academic at this point.

RB1: Devin Neal

Devin Neal returned to Lawrence for his final season after contemplating an early entry into the NFL Draft, and this team will lean a lot on the hometown hero. He is about a half-season of production away from hitting multiple career rushing records. And if he steps up his production just a little bit, he could hit multiple single season records as well. Expect him to make a big push for both of those.

RB2: Daniel Hishaw

Last year was the breakout season that Hishaw had teased in the prior two years. And as long as he avoids another injury, he should be able to put together another fantastic year. If he is healthy, he will get a big split of the time.

RB3: Harry Stewart

Call this a hunch, but what I saw from Stewart in the Spring Showcase was both surprising and very encouraging. He has a burst that is extremely promising, and the reports from spring football and workouts since then is that he is continuing to impress. Much like McDuffie last season, he can easily come out of nowhere to establish himself as a solid contributor.


I could have picked a fourth running back in the depth chart, but that seemed a bit unnecessary given how likely they are to get used. I expect Sevion Morrison and Torry Locklin to get used in a situational role, much like last year. And a stable of redshirt freshman in Johnny Thompson, Carson Morgan and Jack Schneider all have an opportunity to get some playing time and eye a role next season.

Coaching Staff

Jonathan Wallace is back again to coach the running backs. He has been with the Jayhawks since February 2020, after the first season under Les Miles. His first season saw a successful quartet of Pooka Williams, Velton Gardner, Daniel Hishaw and Amauri Pesek-Hickson. He has continued to find success through injuries in the last few seasons, and last season might have been the biggest from the position group.

Prior to joining the Jayhawks, Wallace coached the tight ends at Air Force in 2019, and spent the 2018 on staff at Bethel with former Kansas offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon. The former Auburn quarterback/wide receiver spent two years as a graduate assistant at Auburn.

Overall Thoughts

This might actually be the best position group on the entire team, something that is backed up by the advanced analytics crowd over at Pro Football Focus, where Max Chadwick listed the room as the 8th best nationally. Once again, the Jayhawks will have a great opportunity to have the best room in the Big 12 Conference this season.

Andy Mitts


Andy Mitts is an alumnus of the University of Kansas, graduating in 2007. He previously covered the Jayhawks at Rock Chalk Talk and is now the editor-in-chief at Blue Wing Rising. He hosts the Kansas-themed Rock Chalk Podcast, and is VP of Membership of the Ten 12 Podcast Network. Follow him on Twitter @AndyMitts12.