No overlooking threat of KSU skill players

Collin Klein might get all the hype, but the Kansas State skill players who surround him will get plenty of attention from Texas’ defense this week.

One of the most dangerous members of that group is a Texas native who didn’t get much attention coming out of high school: John Hubert.

The Wildcats got a steal in Hubert, a junior running back who was ranked No. 182 among running back prospects in 2009 by ESPN. The recruiting rankings weren’t alone in overlooking him.

He rushed for more than 2,800 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior at Waco (Texas) Midway. You’d think that would be enough to put him on several in-state schools’ radar. Instead, the closest offer close to home came from North Texas.

Hubert ended up picking KSU over Idaho State, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and Montana State. Other Big 12 schools, including hometown school Baylor, gave him a look but didn’t bite.

At 5-foot-7 and 191 pounds, Hubert was an easy one to pass up. Last season, he should’ve been relegated to a minor role behind five-star transfer Bryce Brown. But the former No. 8 overall recruit and Philadelphia Eagles back left KSU after three carries in two games.

The Wildcats didn’t need him. Hubert stepped up and rushed for 970 yards as a sophomore. He’s up to 826 yards this season with 12 touchdowns, including one from 95 yards out.

And while the speedy back provides a challenging counterpunch to the, well, punch that Klein provides as a bruising runner, it’s Hubert’s versatility that impresses Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

“There’s a lot of good things about him, but as a coach the first thing you say about him is that when they snap to Collin Klein and Collin Klein becomes a tailback, Hubert becomes a fullback,” Diaz said. “To be a man of his size -- he’s not a very big guy -- and the way he runs in there and takes on linebackers, he basically becomes a lead blocker on a lot of the run plays. It speaks to his toughness and his ability to be a team guy.”

Klein has racked up a combined 488 carries in the past two seasons. For Hubert, that’s a lot of blocking.

“They’re so physical. Their whole team is physical,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “They’re patient and they’re going to pound you, pound you and pound you.”

He’s not the only offensive weapon that Texas can’t ignore on Saturday. Diaz said he believes Kansas State has three “outstanding” receivers in Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson.

Like Hubert, Thompson (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) and Lockett (5-10, 169) were undersized and underrecruited talents. KSU scooped up both out of the state of Oklahoma, and each only had one other offer.

Their ability to blow past a defense on play-action passes is a threat Diaz doesn’t take lightly.

“It's the ultimate test,” Diaz said. “I have a lot of respect for Bill Snyder. They're going to give you as thorough of an examination of your defense as any offensive staff that you prepare against.”