Backfield by Committee

John Hubert

Aug. 14, 2011

Editor's Note: "K-State Sports Extra" continues its nine-part look at the 2011 Wildcats with each assistant coach taking an in-depth look at his respective position.

By Mark Janssen

When talking about the running backs for the upcoming season, co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Dana Dimel quickly listed the names of John Hubert, Angelo Pease and Bryce Brown.

But according to Dimel, the decision of who will start in the backfield on September 3 against Eastern Kentucky will likely come down to the wire.

"Of those three, I'm not sure who will play more at this point in time," said Dimel only days before the opening of fall camp.

Hubert is a 5-7, 185-pound sophomore out of Midway High School in Waco, Texas, where he broke the city rushing marks of former NFL Pro Bowler LaDainian Tomlinson. Hubert rushed for 2,853 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior when he was ranked the No. 4 running back in Texas.

"John is a real strong slasher who has some toughness to him. He's not ready to be an every-down back, but he's not afraid to run hard with a powerful lower body," said Dimel, who calls Hubert a 4.5 guy. "He's not afraid to slash it up there and be hit."

Pease, a 5-11, 215-pound junior, was an all-purpose talent at Hutchinson Community College last year where he played quarterback, running back and wide receiver. The Cairo, Ga., native rushed for 834 yards and nine touchdowns, passed for 281 yards with six TDs and no interceptions, and caught 10 passes for 71 yards. He also averaged 19 yards per kickoff return.

"Angelo is really, really fast ... a 4.4 guy who is a talented kid," Dimel said. "I think he has a chance to be a big-time player for us. He's proven he can do a lot of things."

And then there's Brown, who may have been voted to the Preseason Big 12's first team, but the Wildcat coaching staff is saying ... not so fast.

Early in fall camp, the No. 1 high school recruit in the nation out of Wichita East High School in 2008 is only one of several talented running backs in the K-State camp.

"Everybody wants to crown Bryce as the guy, but he's not the guy," said Dimel. "Right now, we don't see him as a Daniel Thomas who will get the ball 10 or 12 times in the first quarter, and 25 to 30 times a game. Right now we see it as a position by committee."

Dimel compares Brown's skill set to former Wildcat Frank Murphy (1998-99), who could zoom through the 40-yard dash in the 4.3 range, which is a blink faster than Brown, but was never a consistent contributor on the field.

While Brown is faster, more fluid, and likely with a better feel for the position than Thomas, Dimel said, "He needs to show us he can do the job day in and day out. He's not the four- to five-yard and a cloud of dust runner like Daniel was.

"Daniel was so tough and so durable," said Dimel. "He played that first year with a shoulder separation, but never once thought about coming out. He wanted to be in there every play. He just never wanted to come out of the game, which is a little unusual."

There is another running back in the mix as well. He may be hard to find in the backfield, but in the mind of the coaching staff, he is very visible on the depth chart.

At 5-4, 173 pounds, sophomore Robert Rose could be another change of pace back in the mix.

"He's an undersized kid who can be hard to find," said Dimel.

Adding bulk to the backfield is 6-4, 255-pound junior Braden Wilson at fullback, who helped provide the blocks for K-State to rush for 199 yards per game last year, which ranked second in the league. K-State's 40 ground touchdowns were eight more than any other Big 12 team.

Adding depth at the fullback position behind Wilson are juniors Jay Hanley and Ben Kall.

"We think we can have a very good running game," said Dimel. "We're not as big up front as last year, but we have guys who are a little more athletic. I think we have the chance to be pretty exciting."