Klein excels on the ground, continues to rack up yards

Christian Corona

He stands at 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds. He can hurt a defense with his arm as much as he can with his feet. He will try to run around defenders but doesn’t mind going through them. Remind you of anyone?

The first dual-threat quarterback of that size that would first come to mind for most Longhorns fans is Vince Young. But Kansas State’s Collin Klein reminds Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz of someone else.

“He plays a lot like Tim Tebow played at Florida,” Diaz said. “When you watch the film, you’re like, ‘Geez, there’s a guy a couple years ago that did something like this.’”

Like Tebow, Klein thrives in short-yardage situations and quickly gained the respect of his teammates, being voted as team captain despite starting just two games quarterback the previous season and playing wide receiver the year before.

Klein leads the nation with 24 touchdowns, is one of two FBS quarterbacks to run for at least 100 yards per game, and only two players have more than Klein’s 241 carries.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said head coach Mack Brown. “He’s the number one reason they’ve won eight football games so far. Bill Snyder’s done a great job of utilizing his best player and getting the ball in his hands.”

Most quarterbacks, even the mobile ones, run out of bounds when given the opportunity. But Klein is a different breed of quarterback. He’s been successful running between the tackles and more than just about every other field general, even ones such as Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III that Texas has yet to face, does not shy away
from contact.

“Nobody runs with that style,” said senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “Klein, if you’re in his way, will try to run through you and run over you. It’s going to be fun. Your goal in a game is to hit the quarterback and they’re bringing him to you. I’m looking forward to it.”

Klein, who started two games at wide receiver as a freshman, is also an adept passer. The junior quarterback has thrown for more than 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns, doing more than enough to keep opposing defenses honest.

“I think the improvement in the passing game from last year to this year is the most notable thing that we have to respect,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “We can’t just load the box having everybody’s eyes in the backfield.”

Klein is not only an explosive offensive weapon but he does a good job of protecting the football. He’s thrown five interceptions in 219 pass attempts this year and has lost just one fumble in 241 carries. Texas has forced just one turnover in its last five games but will need a few takeaways to have a chance at beating Kansas State this weekend.

“It seems like for three weeks in a row, we’ve gotten in each other’s way on an interception,” Diaz said. “We have one where Christian Scott is in unbelievable coverage and Emmanuel Acho’s our free guy. If one of them messes up on that play, the other one probably makes the interception.”

Kansas State’s offense also hurts teams with their scheme. It’s no secret that the Wildcats will run the ball — they’ve logged more than twice as many rushes as passes so far this season — but how they will is uncertain. Kansas State may literally have a countless number of formations to throw at Texas as Diaz said a graduate assistant “was afraid to say” how many there actually were.

Klein was a big part of the Wildcats’ 39-14 win over the Longhorns last year. He ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns and, like Tebow in Denver’s win over Kansas City this past weekend, completed just two passes in the victory. Klein should connect on a lot more throws Saturday as he’s notched 39 completions over the last two weeks.

Even though he doesn’t get the attention or admiration Tebow does, Klein is very capable of having a Tebow-esque game in Austin this weekend.