With yesterday’s announcement that Jake Waters will be the starting quarterback, coach Bill Snyder has finally decided the most controversial position battle in Kansas State’s squad. We can now turn our attention to the backfield and who Waters will be handing the ball off to.
One of the few positions without a true competition for the starting slot, Senior John Hubert returns for his third season as the starting running back for the Wildcats. While Hubert is a smaller running back at 5-foot-7, 191 pounds, he has incredible core and leg strength that allows him to evade and shake off would-be tacklers and gain extra yards in a similar fashion to former Kansas State running back Darren Sproles.
In 2012 Hubert started off the season with 4 100-yard games in the first 5 games, but finished the rest of the season without a game over 79 yards rushing, which can in part be attributed to Heisman candidate Collin Klein accounting for more carries and yards. After leading the Wildcats in rushing last year with 947 yards, Hubert will look to expand on those numbers with more pass-centric Jake Waters at the helm. An All-Big 12 performer last season, Hubert enters the 2013 season as a preseason All-Big 12 selection, and is a candidate for the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. Just 15 yards short of Kansas State’s top-10 list for career rushing yardage, Hubert could move past Daniel Thomas for the number two spot on that list if he’s able to rush for 906 yards this season. Needless to say, the Wildcats will have an experienced and effective rusher in the backfield.
While Hubert will be the workhorse for Kansas State’s offense, there are several promising running backs that will have opportunities to carry the ball throughout the season.
Robert Rose, another senior running back, returns after a 2012 season where he saw very limited action, rushing four times for nine yards. A smaller back even than Hubert at 5-foot-4, 176 pounds, Rose uses his speed and elusiveness to gain yards. With Hubert sitting out Rose had an impressive spring game playing for the Purple squad, gaining 141 yards on 17 carries. Though those numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt as they came against K-State’s second team defense, Rose certainly has potential to put up solid numbers as a backup.
Junior DeMarcus Robinson, a 5-foot-7, 209-pound tailback, will compete with Rose as the backup to Hubert. A four-star recruit out of Wichita Northwest high school, Robinson hasn’t been able to stand out and earn much playing time since his inaugural season with K-State in 2011, playing in only three games and picking up 25 yards on 6 carries.
Two redshirt freshman—Charles Jones (5’10, 197) and Jarvis Leverett (5-11, 203)—will also look to get into the mix. Leverett has been the more impressive of the two, earning K-State’s Red Raider Award last season as the top scout team player.
With the graduation of Braden Wilson, the Wildcats’ outstanding blocking fullback in 2012, Kansas State has another set of shoes to be filled.
The most likely to step into those shoes will be redshirt freshman Glenn Gronkowski. Gronkowski is a physical 6-foot-3, 234-pound fullback who impressed in Kansas State’s spring game with his size and ability, at one point barreling over a defender after catching a screen pass. The youngest brother of NFL players Chris, Dan and Rob Gronkowski, Glenn will look to live up to the family name.
Battling with Gronkowski for playing time will be junior Zach Nemechek. The similarly sized Nemechek (6’3, 243) spent most of last year as a special teams player and as a backup to Wilson. He’ll have to work to compete with the athletic Gronkowski for playing time this year.
With the start of K-State’s season just days away, we’ll continue our preview of the Wildcat offense by turning to the wide receiving corps next.