Kansas State By Position: Quarterbacks and Running Backs

John Weast

Michigan will come into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl looking to slow down Kansas State's backfield play makers. Who does Greg Mattison need to worry about?

Quarterback

Starter: Jake Waters (6'1" Jr.)

Backup: Daniel Sams (6'2" So.)

Kansas State will play two quarterbacks against Michigan, and Jake Waters will be the starter and primary passer. Waters was a JUCO prospect who actually held an offer from Penn State last year before choosing the Wildcats. He comes in at 6'1" and roughly 210 pounds, possessing enough of an arm to make most any throw on the field. The junior completed 59.2 percent of his passes on the season, had a 15/9 TD/INT ratio and was brought down for 21 sacks; he has the tendency to hold onto the ball as the pocket collapses around him. Although he has the ability to play high-level football, Waters has been merely average for the majority of the season and shouldn't been looked at as a passer who can take a game over. Look for him to get a handful of touches on zone-reads or designed quarterback run while completing plenty of passes on packaged pass plays.

Daniel Sams is the other part of Kansas State's two-headed monster. The sophomore is a touch longer than his older teammate, coming in at 6'2" and 205 pounds. Sams is the athlete of the two, being called upon to shoulder most of the designed quarterback runs – he had a combined 57 attempts in a two-game stretch against Oklahoma State and Baylor. That production dropped off toward the end of the year, but a fresh Sams should see ten or more touches against a Michigan defense that has struggled against mobile quarterbacks at times this year. Expect him to throw the ball less than ten times.

Running Back

Starter: John Hubert (5'7" Sr.)

Backups: Robert Rose (5'4" Sr.)

Kansas State invented the diminutive running back and continues to line the small guys up for carries – every last one of these players comes in at 5'8" or less. Senior John Hubert is the feature ball carrier in the offense, rushing for 968 yards this season on 182 touches – an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Much like the rest of the Kansas State offense, Hubert is a solid all-around player who isn't going to wow you with any one attribute. His long speed and quickness are respectable, but he's only going to play as well as his blocking will allow. His upright running style should allow for more big hits, but he has done well to avoid those on the film I've been able to find.

Rose, a similar running back, is the backup running back in a system that gives the vast majority of touches to Hubert; Rose carried the ball some 22 times this season and shouldn't see more than a few carries in the bowl.

Outlook

This group largely reflects the Kansas State football team's abilities as a whole: Good at times, poor at others, but good enough to beat you if you give them the opportunity. Neither quarterback worries me too much; Waters is a decent prospect who still needs to work on the clock in his head, and Sams appears to be an extremely raw athlete who happens to be playing quarterback. The running backs aren't too intimidating and are a lock to be kept in check if their offensive line doesn't get push.

Michigan has the talent in its back seven to keep both Waters and Sams in check as runners for the majority of this game. The question – the same one we've been asking all year – is how well the front four will play against Kansas State's capable offensive line. If Quinton Washinton, Willie Henry, Frank Clark and the rest of the defensive lineman can control their blockers, Michigan will contain this offense. If the front fails to hold, Waters will find ways to march the Wildcats down the field with packaged plays designed to exploit defenses that reach to stop the run or pass – much like Ohio State and Northwestern.

The key for Michigan this Saturday is to turn Waters into a pure passer. Taking away the run game will force Waters to make difficult passes on plays that are often tied to the Wildcat run game, and it will also allow Michigan's best pass rushers to go after him on long downs. Kansas State is going to force Michigan to defend the zone-read, speed option, QB power, wildcat isolation runs and more, so preparation is of the utmost importance.

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