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The Wildcat Running Back Battle

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The looming question among the K-State offense: Who will replace the Wildcats' No. 2 all-time running back, John Hubert? (Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports, Dec 28, 2013)

August 15, 2014
By Kelly McHugh

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the K-State offense this upcoming season is: who will replace long-time running back John Hubert? 

Hubert's shoes will not be easy ones to fill as, in his three seasons as the Wildcats' starting running back, he became the No. 2 rusher in K-State history with 2,993 yards on 599 carries with 28 touchdowns. 

The possible successors of Hubert's position include senior DeMarcus Robinson, sophomores Charles Jones and Jarvis Leverett, and freshman Dalvin Warmack. 

Now, throw sophomore fullback Glenn Gronkowski into the mix (Gronkowski caught five passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns during the 2013 season) and the options are vast for the Wildcat backfield.

"We really like using more than one back," explained co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel. "We'd really rather use more than one. We just had Daniel Thomas (2009-10), but we still did some great things with William Powell. He was a good compliment, but in the past, it was just that Hubert had the role, and we really didn't feel comfortable pulling him out. Now, we'd rather use more just to create some more mismatches and use everybody's strengths."

Each competitor brings a unique skill set to the field, and, as for a starter, Dimel and head coach Bill Snyder have yet to select their No. 1 guy.

"(The competition) is wide open," said Robinson, a fifth-year senior and the only running back of the group that has seen playing time. "We're all out here competing; me, Charles (Jones), Jarvis (Leverett) and the young guys are all competing. We all have something we can bring to the table, and we're all a little bit different."

Though Robinson is heading into his final season at K-State, he has carried the ball only 11 times for 45 yards. He's been in the shadows of players like Thomas and Hubert, but he has worked hard and has high hopes that this is his season to shine.

"Right now, I'm the oldest back on the team," explained Robinson. "I'm a little more experienced in just knowing the offense. None of us really have that much playing time, but just having that experience and understanding the offense, things like that are what I bring to the table."

According Snyder, though the competition has been a tight one, he likes what he has seen from Robinson.

"I think we will have three or four young guys that are presently invested in the competition," said Snyder. "It will remain competitive. DeMarcus is the most experienced back that we have, and he has been very patient with us up to this time. He understands our offense. He can execute our offense. Fundamentally, he is very sound. He has skill level that is appropriate. A couple other guys are going to make it competitive, so DeMarcus is going to have to continue to perform as well as he can and I am pretty confident that he will."

While Robinson has seen some game action, it was Leverett and Jones who shined during the annual Purple vs. White Spring Game in April. 

With Robinson recovering from injury, Jones played for the Purple team (the No. 1 squad) and rushed the ball 73 yards on 20 carries, while Leverett, on the White team, had 14 carries for 69 yards.

Adding to the mix, Warmack has also proven to be a talented piece of the running back puzzle. Though it is uncommon for a true freshman to get a nod at a starting position, the possibility is there if Warmack excels at K-State's fall camp.

The first commit of K-State's 2014 recruiting class, Warmack was named the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year in both 2012 and 2013 playing for Blue Springs High School as he became the only two-time recipient of the award in its 31-year history. He was named the 11th best all-purpose back nationally and rushed for 2,223 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior.

"The way Coach Snyder does things, it was very similar to how we did things in high school," explained Warmack on his decision to commit to K-State so early. "The offense was similar. He's always had successful smaller backs, so it just all drew my attention."

Though he's the young guy in the competition, Warmack said Robinson, Leverett and Jones have each helped him out so far during his time at K-State. 

They are, in fact, all competing for a common goal.

"The older guys, I thought maybe they were going to come in and maybe not want to show me things," Warmack said, "but it's a friendly completion. Everybody is coming out here and giving it their all. I'm a smaller guy, so I have the ability to hide behind lineman, see a crease and go. I make people miss, but (the other running backs) can do almost anything I can do too." 

The Wildcats very well could rotate the running backs in, playing to their strengths in each game, or the coaches could pick one back and stick with him, much like they did with Hubert. While the possibilities may seem up in the air, come Aug. 30, when K-State kicks off its 2014 slate against Stephen F. Austin, all questions will be answered - at least for the opening drive.

 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.