John Hubert may be the No. 1 running back going into the fall for Kansas State, but Robert Rose doesn’t think he’s too far behind.
Hubert dazzled a year ago and took the running back job many thought had Bryce Brown’s name on it. The junior rushed for 970 yards and three touchdowns in his first year as a starter, helping lead the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl.
But Rose — all 5-foot-4 and 174 pounds of him — is out to prove that position may not be entirely locked up just yet.
“I think I’m pretty close,” the junior-to-be said Tuesday, “but that’s something you need to ask Coach (Bill) Snyder about.”
Snyder stands by Hubert as his top guy for the moment. But he said Rose is pushing Angelo Pease for the No. 2 spot behind his returning starter. DeMarcus Robinson has also made some improvement during the spring practices, which conclude Saturday with the annual Purple/White Game at Bill Snyder Stadium, beginning at 1:10 p.m.
“We’re all great backs trying to make the team better,” said Rose, who played sparingly a year ago, rushing for 35 yards on nine carries. “John is a great downhill runner. Angelo has the versatility to throw the ball out of the backfield.
“And while I’m not the athlete as far as throwing the ball, I think I can be the every-down back who can run the ball, catch the ball and block.”
But then again, Rose doesn’t really look like an every-down back. The Miami native claims he’s an inch taller and six pounds heavier than what’s listed on the K-State roster. That isn’t saying much, though, as Rose is easily one of the smaller running backs in all of college football.
“My size may say I’m a scat back, but I like to stick my head in there and also have the ability to take a couple hits,” said Rose, who played for former Wildcat Mario Smith at Miami Springs High School. “I can also catch the ball out of the backfield, which can set me apart from some other backs.”
And being smaller, Rose said does have some advantages.
“Being smaller and so low to the ground doesn’t give anyone much to hit,” he said.
Another K-State running back once operated on that same belief — Darren Sproles — who was listed at 5-7, 170 pounds in college.
Rose said he learned of Sproles from Smith, who handed him a media guide with K-State’s all-time leading rusher on the cover.
“I didn’t pay much attention, at first, but I remember this guy on the front,” he said. “I think they called him ‘Little Tank,’” he said.
But Rose’s path to K-State has been quite different than that of Sproles, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints.
Rose didn’t have a single Division I offer coming out of high school. In fact, he said the worst day of his life was National Signing Day when all of his friends were signing to play at Florida State and Miami and he “had no place to go.”
Instead, Rose opted to walk-on at K-State.
Rose said just about everyone he knew said he would never play Division I football.
“At the same time you can’t listen to these naysayers,” he said. “As my dad always says, ‘David did slay Goliath.’ That’s the slogan I go by.”
And that’s the slogan he’s carrying with him as he pushes for more playing time in the fall.
“It’s spring and everyone has had a chance to try to prove themselves,” he said. “We’re all trying to make the team better. That’s what my aim is. I want to be the starter and to push the other guys to be better.”