Cats developing depth at running back

By Cole Manbeck

Bill Snyder walked into the postgame press conference, made a quick joke that drew some laughs, then followed it up with some more humor.

“Has the paint dried yet?” the Kansas State head coach joked.

Snyder plays the spring game for the fans — a reward that represents a sneak-peek into what the upcoming team will look like. It’s certainly not one of the most exciting days in college athletics, but it does provide a small sample size into how guys have developed individually, while also seeing how cohesive the position groups look.

One became obvious early and often in Saturday’s Purple/White Spring Game. Collin Klein is still good at football.

But perhaps one of the most interesting, and arguably important topics, is the depth that is potentially developing at running back.

Robert Rose, a 5-foot-4 shifty back, ran for 88 yards on 10 carries when he played for the first-team offense, while adding five yards on two carries when he played with the second-string unit on Saturday.

“I thought Robert Rose played well,” Snyder said.

DeMarcus Robinson, a 5-6, 206-pound sophomore who was the top-ranked recruit in K-State’s 2009 recruiting class, showed flashes of potential on Saturday as well. Robinson, who played his high school football in Wichita, returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown while rushing for 13 yards on seven carries with the second-team offense.

“I thought he demonstrated some things I think are appropriate — not that he hadn’t before but a little bit more in this ballgame,” Snyder said of Robinson.

John Hubert, the returning starter at running back, said he wasn’t surprised by Robinson’s play on Saturday.

“He’s one of those guys that’s fast and he always makes big plays like that,” said Hubert, who rushed for 34 yards on six carries. “Coach always tells him his time is going to come and when it comes show what he can do. Obviously he did that today.”

Angelo Pease, who ran for 144 yards on 36 carries last season, rushed for 89 yards on 12 attempts on Saturday, including a 32-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got three or four running backs who could be starters,” Pease said. “We’re competitive every day.”

Success at the running-back position will be vital this season, because the Wildcats need some guys who can take some of the hits off of Klein. The senior-to-be quarterback ran the ball 317 times for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. As a team, the Wildcats ran the ball 606 times, meaning Klein carried the rock 52 percent of the time K-State kept the ball on the ground.

After Klein played much of the season banged up, Hubert and the fellow running backs recognize the importance of taking on some of the workload to take the pressure off of their quarterback.

“That’s one of our biggest goals,” said Hubert, who ran for 970 yards on 200 attempts last season. “We’re going to take some of the load off of Collin next season.”

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