WVU football: K-State's Klein reminds many of Tebow
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Collin Klein can shed tacklers, but a nickname is clinging to the Heisman Trophy candidate: Baby Tebow.
The moniker seems apropos for Kansas State's Klein when considering the similarities in style of play and physique to Tim Tebow.
Klein, the starting quarterback for fourth-ranked K-State (6-0, 3-0 Big 12), is 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds. Tebow, who won the Heisman at the University of Florida in 2007 and plays in the NFL for the New York Jets, is listed as two inches shorter and eight pounds heavier.
Neither signal caller is bashful about contact, but Tebow rarely logged the amount of carries Klein has the past two seasons.
"He actually reminds me a lot of Tebow," West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce said of Klein. "We've been making that reference a lot around here. He's just like Tebow.
"He's always going to fall forward."
Bruce and the No. 17 Mountaineers (5-1, 2-1) will have to contend with Klein this Saturday (7 p.m., WVAH) at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Klein was third in the FBS in rushing attempts last season with 317 - 100 more carries than Tebow's single-season high in three seasons at Florida. Klein rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, ground numbers never produced by Tebow.
Klein logged 20 or more carries in 11 of 13 games in 2011 and has done it twice more this season, but Tebow only had seven games in his career with 20 or more rushing attempts.
Klein has seven career 100-yard rushing games, including 116- and 105-yard performances the past two weeks against Kansas and Iowa State, respectively. He has scored a rushing touchdown in five consecutive games and has 10 scores on the ground this year (five in the past two games).
He needs two more rushing touchdowns to tie Darren Sproles for the school record.
"He's tough, he's physical, he's smart," West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said of Klein. "People don't think he can throw it. He can throw it. Look at his completion percentage."
Klein is 79-for-118 passing (66.7 percent) for 1,074 yards and seven touchdowns against two interceptions. His pair of picks are the second-fewest in the Big 12 among starting quarterbacks next to WVU's Geno Smith, who hasn't thrown an interception in 259 attempts this season.
But Klein likes to tuck and run, and sliding and avoiding contact isn't an option for him.
"His size definitely helps," said Bruce, a freshman who leads the Mountaineers in total tackles with 57. "He does a lot of power runs."
Klein averaged 87.8 yards per game on the ground last season and is close to that number with 85.0 rushing yards per game this season. His yards per attempt, however, have ticked upward from 3.6 from 5.2.
"I have probably become more patient as I have gotten older and run it more," Klein said. "I know that it is a balance because you have to wait and feel your way through it, and other times you have go to go.
"If you wait then it will go from bad to worse. It is just a feel thing."
Kansas State ranks No. 10 among FBS teams in third-down conversion percentage (35-for-67, 52.24 percent). Klein rushed for a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-10 against Iowa State last Saturday that put the Wildcats up 10 points, 24-14, in the third quarter.
After the Cyclones clipped the deficit back to three points, Klein helped Kansas State add a field goal in the fourth quarter with three consecutive third-down conversions.
"He's a difference maker," Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads said. "I think he is as good a quarterback at doing what his team needs him to do in all of college football.
"I think anybody who loves the sport of football appreciates Collin Klein. He doesn't throw for all these gaudy numbers and he doesn't throw it a high number of snaps a game and I think that's what the game of college football has become. Because he doesn't do that, he's unique. He leads, he runs, he throws efficiently and he finds ways to win football games.
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949.