The same weekend Kansas State was rolled by Baylor in a 52-24 loss, the Philadelphia Eagles saw starting running back LeSean McCoy carted off the field with a concussion that opened the door for former Wildcat Bryce Brown to assume the starting role for the Eagles. He responded this week on Monday Night Football with 178 yards and two touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers. And while his initial jump to the NFL this past spring seemed more of a joke than serious opportunity (Brown accomplished more in one night for Philadelphia than he ever did with K-State), it’s possible the Wildcats would be even more prolific with Brown in the backfield.
The Brown family of Wichita, KS produces athletes. Bryce’s brother, Arthur Brown, anchors the best linebacking unit in the league and should be an All-Big 12 first team selection for K-State this winter. Bryce was the nation’s #2 running back coming out of high school, behind only Trent Richardson. He generated 460 yards for Tennessee as a freshman before transferring to Manhattan and possessed all the physical tools to be one of the NCAA’s best running backs.
Additionally, Bryce Brown would be the ultimate complement to John Hubert. Hubert stands at just 5’7″ and 191 lbs, and reminds many people of the spry Darren Sproles who measures in at 5’6″, 190 (The Jug remains convinced that, similar to Sproles, there’s a spot for Hubert in the spread-happy NFL once a team gets over his stature and appreciates his speed). Brown is a much bigger creature, with five inches (6’0″) and 32 pounds (223 lbs) on Hubert. The one-two punch these two would have provided would force teams to show more diversified fronts, unsure of whether the Wildcats would attack with speed or power.
First, running back is not what cost Kansas State the game against Baylor. An offensive line unable to open holes or protect the quarterback is almost impossible to overcome regardless of the skill positions. Additionally, K-State played from behind throughout the game due to a defense leakier than a Massey sieve. Collin Klein was forced to throw to catch up with all the points the defense gave up, and the running game was largely abandoned in the second half. In a season with only one loss, there were much bigger contributing factors to the hiccup during an otherwise stellar season.
All the physical tools in the world can’t make a player starting material under Bill Snyder. Sure, Alabama, Oklahoma State, USC, and other big name programs have all put up with prima donnas in order to chase wins. Snyder refuses to even recruit these players. There are undeniably cocky players roaming Manhattan’s campus that expect preferential treatment and extra attention; very few 20-year-olds can handle a Sports Illustrated cover photo with the grace and maturity of Collin Klein. Yet in addition to being fast and strong, a player must be able to buy into the team’s system – being cocksure is one thing, but no one is above the team. Bryce immediately got off on a bad foot with the coaching staff, which was reflected in his third string position on the depth chart to begin the 2011 season. When he did get his chance behind Hubert, Bryce logged only three carries while committing a fumble and missing a key block.
Fumbles and missed assignments. These are things that don’t fly in Snyderball. Brown had two more fumbles on Monday night to go along with his two touchdowns, while the Wildcats pride themselves on a double digit advantage in their takeaway:giveaway ratio. And the Wildcats consistently win against more talented teams by doing their jobs and not making mistakes. It’s true, there’s no doubt that Bryce Brown had the potential to add skill and excitement to an already dangerous backfield this year. Klein, Hubert, and Brown may have developed into the most terrifying triple option combo this decade. May have. However, it’s doubtful he could have carried the Wildcats any farther than they’re already gone this year.