Joe Hubener has walked a rapidly ascending path at Kansas State.
Since joining the program as a walk-on out of Cheney, Kan., Hubener, a sophomore quarterback, has earned a scholarship, served as the primary backup behind senior Jake Waters and put up impressive numbers in limited playing time.
Hubener has seen late action in five games this season, rushing for 113 yards and three touchdowns while also throwing for 218 yards and a score. His best game might have been Saturday when he sparked K-State’s stagnant offense against TCU by throwing for 85 yards and rushing for 12 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The positive plays had little impact on the 41-20 loss, but they boosted his confidence. He already speaks confidently about winning the starting quarterback job next year.
Until then, he has another goal in mind: running K-State’s wildcat offense.
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“I think there is definitely a chance for that,” Hubener said. “The quarterback run game opens up opportunities. Having that extra back in, with me having the ability to throw, as well, definitely opens up some options. If you throw me in there, whether it be short yardage or a situation where you just need a couple yards ... They feel confident in me.”
So much so that K-State coach Bill Snyder hinted at using Hubener in a larger role at his weekly news conference Tuesday. Possibly as early as the Wildcats’ next game, at West Virginia on Nov. 20.
“We are prepared to do that, to have Joe on the field,” Snyder said. “ He is, and he showed again the other night, that he is making headway and he is truly capable. I think all of the coaches feel comfortable with him. That is not out of the question.”
Hubener could be a welcome change-of-pace option. Though running back Charles Jones has successfully led the wildcat formation this season, rushing for 430 yards and 11 touchdowns, defenses are beginning to stop him. He managed one yard against TCU and has scored three touchdowns in his past five games after finding the end zone eight times in his first four games. Jones hasn’t thrown a pass all season, so it’s possible defenses are simply loading the box against him.
They could not do the same to Hubener, who hit Curry Sexton for a 74-yard gain against TCU.
Many teams use their backup quarterback as a short-yardage specialist, including K-State last season with Daniel Sams. Waters has seen his role in the running game decline sharply, rushing for 38 total yards in his past three games, since suffereing a shoulder injury against Oklahoma. Perhaps Hubener could take pressure off the rest of the offense.
“I think (coaches) are more willing to use the quarterback run game with me,” Hubener said, “just because of my size. They are also not worried about me getting hurt or banged up in there like they are with Jake.”
Hubener is prepared for any scenario. In case of emergency, he prepares each week like he is going to be the starter. But he also spends time “every day” practicing with the wildcat offense.
There is one thing he can’t practice, though: playing in meaningful situations. That can only be learned one way, by playing in a close game.
Snyder admits the transition could be difficult for Hubener, but he expects him to handle it well.
Whether Hubener’s first meaningful action comes out of the wildcat formation this season, as a starting quarterback next season or at another time altogether, the confidence Hubener has gained this season should help.
“To be able to just go in their during garbage time, when it doesn’t really matter, and show what I can do has definitely been beneficial to me,” Hubener said. “... I feel that confidence more and more and more, because I have had that success and I know that I can go out there and play with anyone.”
Basketball to sign three
St. John, Kan., forward Dean Wade could be the gem of the trio. The 6-foot-8, 215 pound forward gained national attention over the summer and is now considered one of the nation’s top 150 recruits by Rivals. He is the first in-state player to sign with K-State since Nino Williams.
Wade will be joined by point guard Barry Brown, of St. Petersburg, Fla., and 6-foot-10 center Dante Williams of Arlington, Texas. All three players are considered three-star prospects.