- David Ubben, College Football
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John Hubert tips the scales at about 190 pounds. If you measured him up against a wall, you'd need only about 5 feet, 7 inches to get the job done.
Kansas State's junior running back doesn't possess the most imposing figure in the Big 12. Opposing defenders, though? They might demand a second time checking the tape on Hubert.
"He just plays like he’s about 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, coming downhill," K-State safety Ty Zimmerman told ESPN.com this week.
No matter whom you ask, it seems that's Hubert's most common compliment. He gained 970 yards on the ground in 2011, and in 2012, he's second in the Big 12 with 611 yards, just 3 yards behind league leader Joseph Randle.
"He’s just electric. He’s a small guy but he plays so big," Zimmerman said. "He’s been doing that the last couple years. He gives you big plays when you need them, breaks so many tackles and he’s a good asset to our offense."
Hubert's teammate in the backfield, Collin Klein, gets the Heisman hype and attention -- from both defenses and media -- but Hubert has proved himself to be almost as valuable to the Wildcats' offense and to Klein's efforts.
"Most people have two people that can run the ball as we do, and defenses are smart enough to know they have to defend both," coach Bill Snyder said.
Klein led the Wildcats with 1,141 rushing yards last season, but the biggest difference in Klein's encore has been Hubert's emergence. The Waco, Texas, native scored only three times last season and touched the ball only 200 times compared with Klein's 317 carries.
This season, Hubert has scored eight times though six games -- including four scores in a 40-point win over rival Kansas -- and has carried the ball 98 times, the exact number of times Klein has carried the ball.
"He’s just a good running back. He’s got a strong lower body and gets yardage you wouldn’t think someone maybe his size would get after contact," Snyder said. "He’s a patient runner, and kind of picks and chooses where he goes, and normally makes pretty good decisions about that. He’s been a steady, consistent player for us."
That steadiness and patience has allowed Hubert to turn his touches into nearly 100 more yards than Klein's. He averages 6.23 yards a carry, almost a full yard more than Klein, and ranks second in the Big 12 in yards per carry among ball carriers with at least 40 carries this season.
"It takes two or three guys to bring him down, and he’s so smart," Zimmerman said. "Just watching him play, he’s really patient and waits for holes to open up, and when they open up, he shoots right through them."
Part of Hubert's growth has been his experience. Heading into 2011, most figured Tennessee transfer Bryce Brown would be the Wildcats' featured back. Hubert had just a handful of eyes looking to him before Brown got off to a rough start with only three carries and one fumble before leaving the team. Brown entered the draft and now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the meantime, Hubert has earned a reputation as one of the Big 12's best backs, and by the end of the season, he might just have a case as the best in the Big 12.
"People think it’s easy to contain him and bring him down," Zimmerman said. "It’s not."
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