Nick Kaltmayer (77) and Adam Holtorf (79) celebrate with James Gilbert

Kansas State offensive linemen Nick Kaltmayer (left) and Adam Holtorf (right) celebrate with running back James Gilbert (center) after he ran the ball in for a touchdown during last week's game against West Virginia. Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said he's more confident than previous weeks that Gilbert and fellow graduate transfer running back Jordon Brown are closer to returning to full health.

It's been nearly two months since Jordon Brown has been fully healthy. For James Gilbert, a month.

Kansas State's two graduate transfer running backs have one thing in common: offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said Thursday he feels better about both of them than he has in quite some time.

"Both those guys I feel like have been much closer when Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday practices have gone than they have been the previous two or three weeks," Messingham said.

Gilbert started the first seven games of the season for the Wildcats, then missed back-to-back road contests at Kansas (Nov. 2) and Texas (Nov. 9). He returned last week, rushing 13 times for 60 yards and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 25 yards; the four receptions doubled his total for the season entering last week.

Gilbert, who transferred into the program from Ball State, leads the Wildcats in both rushing attempts (113) and rushing yards (618), while his six touchdowns on the ground trail only Skylar Thompson's 10.

Brown, who started his college career at North Carolina, has 264 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 264 carries to go along with 12 receptions for 114 yards.

Like Gilbert, injuries sidelined Brown for consecutive games earlier this season. They just came in October, sitting out home contests against Baylor and TCU. He's played in four straight games.

It's Gilbert, Messingham said, who's been able to practice more frequently as the team prepares for Saturday's game at Texas Tech.

"Obviously every week he’s been trying to get himself in a position to play," Messingham said. "And I feel like he’s closer right now than he was the last two weeks, definitely. So I anticipate him playing and being more full-speed.”

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