Junior running back John Hubert is the starter for Kansas State, as proclaimed by co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel.
It is a status that means little to the two men breathing down Hubert’s neck on the depth chart and even less to the Doak Walker Award candidate himself.
“I was always taught not to settle for right now,” Hubert said. “Anything can happen. Coming from where I’ve come from, you never want to be one of those dudes that sits on the sideline.”
Hubert rushed for 977 yards and three touchdowns last season to go with 188 receiving yards and one touchdown. He emerged as the go-to running back for the Wildcats last season in the vacuum created by Bryce Brown’s non-performance and departure — jumping onto the scene with 18 carries for 166 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown in a 28-24 win at Miami in the third game.
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Hubert also had the game-winning touchdown against Iowa State.
“John was one of the best finishers in the conference last year,” Dimel said. “To take (the starting spot) from him, the other guys would have to do a lot.
“That being said, they’re fighting. They’re confident kids and the feel like they can grab that spot away from him or contribute in some way.”
Both senior Angelo Pease and sophomore DeMarcus Robinson are in the hunt to get carries behind Hubert. Pease, the biggest of the three backs (5-foot-11, 205 pounds), played injured last season after transferring from Hutchinson Community College, where he played quarterback.
He rushed for 144 yards, two touchdowns and started one game — a win over Texas A&M.
“No one got to see Angelo at full speed last season,” Dimel said. “He wasn’t ready because he got into camp late and then, because of that, it took a toll on his body and he had to play injured. But he had a big spring and a real good offseason overall.
“He looks prepared to play Division I football, to be a guy that could be an every-down back at a lot of places.”
Robinson (5-6, 200), who ran for 1,720 yards at Wichita Northwest in 2009, is similar in build to Hubert (5-7, 191), but by his own admission a different runner.
“John is more like a run-you-over kind of guy,” Robinson said. “I’m more likely to try a spin move or a juke or something.”
Almost three years without any game action — Robinson redshirted in 2010 and didn’t get to play last season — isn’t lost on him, either.
“I know it’s been a long time since anybody’s seen me play,” Robinson said. “I want to show people I’m a good football player, that I can succeed at this level.”
The competition between the backs has been fierce — but with a baseline understanding of mutual respect.
“If John or DeMarcus make a good run at practice, I congratulate them and vice versa,” Pease said. “We get along off the field very well … but I’m not going to give them reps and they’re not going to give them to me. We’re greedy like that, but we don’t hate on each other.”