This time last year, John Hubert said he wanted to rush for 1,000 yards.
He came up 53 yards short. The year before he rushed for 970 yards.
This season, Kansas State’s senior running back still wants to reach the 1,000-yard milestone, but he just isn’t saying it.
“Every time I say I’m going to get it, I think I’m jinxing myself, so I’m not even going to say it this year,” he said Monday during the Wildcats’ media day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. “I’m just going to see what happens.”
Though Hubert may not be a 1,000-yard rusher, yet, he’s been nothing but reliable for the Wildcats the past two seasons — named first-team All-Big 12 a year ago. Starting 23 of the last 25 games, Hubert is looking to be an even bigger part of the offensive attack in 2013.
“We’ve got two young guys at quarterback — they haven’t played a lot — but we have a veteran offensive line and I’ve been there the past two years so I feel like its my time to step up,” said Hubert, who scored a team-high 15 rushing touchdowns last season. “Why not me?”
But getting to this point wasn’t always easy for the 5-foot-7, 191-pound Hubert. The Waco, Texas native went into his sophomore season unsure of his standing in the backfield pecking order because of the addition of Wichita East standout Bryce Brown, who transferred to K-State from Tennessee.
Brown, one of the top-ranked recruits in the country out of high school, got the headlines and the attention, yet it was Hubert who burst onto the scene with his first 100-yard rushing game at Miami in 2011. He finished with 166 yards on 18 carries and scored the eventual game-winning touchdown. Brown left the program a week later.
Even though Hubert has held the starting job since that game at Miami, K-State head coach Bill Snyder refused to officially name Hubert the starter as a sophomore. He was clearly the starter, though, reaching 100 yards twice more that season, but he couldn’t shake the constant pressure to have to prove himself to his ball coach.
“It gave me motivation,” said Hubert, who rushed for at least 100 yards in four of the first five games last season. “Coach Snyder was always playing those types of games. I didn’t understand it my first couple years, but once I got into the system, I started to understand him more and we got on the same page.”
Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said it was simply a case of Hubert needing to mature and show consistency on and off the football field.
“For John, it was about knowing that he had to do things well in all aspects of his life — in the classroom, off the field, on the field,” Dimel said. “He’s never been that much of a problem because he’s always been a good guy. But he’s improved so much in all those things and now he’s giving us leadership because of that.”
It’s leadership that is needed this season with the loss of quarterback Collin Klein, who not only supplied vocal guidance, but also carried the bulk of the rushing load the past two seasons. It’s easy to see the opportunity Hubert has in front of him this season, especially with the entire offensive line back.
“This could be a breakout season for him,” receiver Tyler Lockett said. “This could be a season he never forgets.”
Hubert, who needs just 15 rushing yards to move into 10th in school history, said he wants to go out with a bang.
“I always like rising to the challenge and this is my last year,” he said. “They need someone to step up and I’m looking forward to being one of those guys.”
So is Dimel, who said there’s going to be an effort this year to feature Hubert more in the offense, even if it’s to take some pressure off the new quarterback, whoever wins the job.
“You will see John get a lot more opportunities this year,” he said. “We don’t want to be like we were two years ago in the Baylor game when Collin was beat up and I said, ‘I’m not going to run him as much,’ and then looked back after the game and saw he carried it 35 times. We don’t want to do that, so John has to take some of that off the quarterback.
“I’m not saying we won’t run with the quarterback, but we also need to get more emphasis on John. He’s a senior, a proven entity in this offense, so we need to ride him.”