Though quarterback Collin Klein and running back John Hubert shared the bulk of the carries a year ago, Angelo Pease was the unsung hero for Kansas State when it needed it most.
Sometimes Pease simply spelled Klein and Hubert. Other times, he was used to change the pace with his speed and shifty moves out of the backfield — rushing for 333 total yards, including 72 yards against Oklahoma State.
With Pease now trying to make the Green Bay Packers roster, the Wildcats are in need for another pick-me-up off the bench this season.
Senior Robert Rose and junior DeMarcus Robinson are the likely candidates to fill that role.
Rose, who is listed generously by K-State at 5-foot-4 and 176 pounds, had just nine carries spread out over four games last season. He has the speed and shifty moves to evade tacklers — that is, if opposing defenses can find him behind the Wildcats’ big offensive line.
Robinson, who is more traditionally sized at 5-7 and 209 pounds, was injured last season and looks to prove his hype out of Wichita Northwest was no joke. He was tabbed as a four-star recruit and the 18th-best running back in the nation by Rivals.com following his senior season — a year that saw Robinson rush for 1,720 yards.
For his career at Northwest, Robinson tallied nearly 5,000 yards on the ground.
However, it’s been a struggle for Robinson at K-State. He was redshirted his first year on campus and didn’t see any action in 2011. It’s also been a tough fight behind Daniel Thomas and Hubert.
A year ago, Robinson played in just three games, totalling 25 yards on six carries.
“We don’t always use just one back, as you’ve seen over the past few years,” K-State co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Dana Dimel said. “Daniel had William Powell to complement him and then John had Angelo last year to complement him, so this year we have to find another guy to complement him.
“But I probably shouldn’t say one guy, because it’s probably going to be two guys with Robert and DeMarcus — although younger guys are also coming along.”
Dimel said Rose and Robinson are hungry to finally have the chance to contribute more.
“Those guys are jacked,” he said. “Robert is really excited about it and D-Mac was really wanting to get himself 100 percent over the spring because of injuries and now he’s back and he really wants to get into that role.
“It’s been frustrating for both of them because they haven’t gotten the opportunities, but this year they will get those opportunities.”
Rose, who came to Manhattan from Miami Springs High School in Florida, said he’s excited about the unit’s depth.
“We just want to build upon what we did last season,” he said. “We have great depth. We have John, you hear my name, but we have DeMarcus, we have (freshman) Charles (Jones), (freshman) Jarvis (Leverett) — all those guys are very capable.”
No matter who runs the ball, they’ll be helped out by what could be the best offensive line in the Big 12 this season with all five starters returning.
“We’re extremely confident to (have that offensive line) back,” Rose said. “They know what they’re doing.”
Rose also knows the quarterbacks will continue to take some carries away from the running backs in the QB run game. But he’s excited with both Daniel Sams and Jake Waters can do in the option attack.
“Both guys can run, so I don’t think we miss a beat, in terms of that,” he said.
For Robinson, it’s all about taking care of business and being humble.
“I’m still learning… I’m asking questions all the time,” he said. “You gotta be able to run, block and catch to get on the field. John was a great leader last year and he is this year. Injuries can happen, so you gotta be ready to step in when you have your chance.
“When you compete against the (guys we have here), it always makes you better.”
Dimel said Rose has improved his breakaway speed and quickness.
“He’s gotten a lot faster and he’s a huge student of the game,” he said. “He’s so much more athletic and faster. He’s always had a good quickness to him, but now he has such a great burst ability.”
Rose is somewhat like Darren Sproles was for the Wildcats, in terms of size. Sproles would often pop out from behind the line and catch defenders out of position to make the tackle.
“You get him behind some of the bigger guys we got and you can’t see him,” Dimel said. “We’re not afraid of little guys, as long as they got an edge to them. He’s like that little fighting bulldog that you have who isn’t afraid of anything.”
But not just any bulldog.
“We have a dog at home named Wee-Man,” Dimel said. “He’s a little Welsh Corgi who’s just a little guy and I told Robert the other day, ‘You and Wee-Man — you guys aren’t afraid of anybody, you’ll take on the world,” and that’s who he is.
“He’s our Wee-Man.”