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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Spring battle spotlight: Kansas State RB

By Max Olson

Kansas State is still a month away from beginning spring practice, but now is as good a time as any to break down one of the biggest questions facing the Wildcats' offense in 2014: Who's the running back?

For the past three seasons, John Hubert was the workhorse. Now it's time for K-State to find a new one. Here’s a look at the battle to replace him:

Departed (2013 stats): Hubert finally surpassed the century mark as a senior, rushing for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns on 198 attempts along with 13 receptions for 129 yards and another score. His backup, the 5-foot-4 senior Robert Rose, rushed for 104 yards and two TDs.

Spring contenders: Senior DeMarcus Robinson, sophomore Jarvis Leverett, sophomore Charles Jones, redshirt freshman Ryan Mack

Summer contenders: True freshman Dalvin Warmack

The skinny: Kansas State really didn't have much need for running back depth during Hubert's three seasons as a starter. Having Collin Klein in the backfield in 2011 and 2012 essentially gave the offense two backs anyway, with Klein rushing for a combined 2,061 yards in his final two seasons. And Hubert was steady enough to carry the ball 587 times in these last three years.

He followed up his All-Big 12 junior season with a fine year as a senior, including career-bests in rushing yards and yards per carry. But Hubert didn't have a whole lot of help, from the diminutive Rose or any other of K-State's young running backs. That's what makes this position, at least to outsiders, a bit of a mystery entering 2014.

The most experienced of the returning backs is Robinson, who has carried 11 times for 45 yards in the past two years. He might be the heir apparent on paper, but he'll need to prove he deserves that title in spring practices.

Of the young backs behind him, don't sleep on Leverett. He did not record a carry last season as a redshirt freshman but was the program's top scout-team performers in 2012, and his scouting report out of high school suggests he can be the kind of slasher the Wildcats need to complement their passing attack.

Warmack, an incoming standout from the Kansas City area, rushed for 2,223 yards and 29 TDs as a senior and won back-to-back state titles. He'll face big expectations when he arrives in Manhattan, and while a redshirt might be preferable, he should get a chance to prove he's worth playing from Day 1.

Prediction: For Kansas State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, answering questions along the offensive line might be the bigger immediate priority in spring ball. But there are enough talented backs in the mix here to create good competition, during those 15 practices and beyond, and the addition of Warmack will help. For now, though, an equal split of carries between Robinson and Leverett, until the best man emerges, might make the most sense.