Darius Anderson is no longer a forgotten man.
The TCU running back has gone from third-string on the depth chart following spring practices to the team’s MVP. He’s been the best player for the Frogs, rushing for 532 yards and six touchdowns through the first five games.
Anderson is certainly on Kansas State’s radar going into Saturday’s game in Manhattan, Kansas. TCU (3-2) and K-State (3-2) are each looking to get back in the win column following losses and a bye week.
“He can hit a home run, no question,” K-State coach Chris Klieman told reporters earlier this week. “He can beat you outside, beat you inside, beat you with speed, break tackles, and that’s where we have to do a really good job of playing with great leverage and making open-field tackles.”
That’s high praise for a guy that battled through injuries much of last season and didn’t do much in spring practices. As stated, Anderson found himself behind Sewo Olonilua and Emari Demercado when the spring depth chart was released.
Instead of sulking, Anderson used it as motivation going into the summer and fall camp. It paid off with a strong showing throughout fall practices. TCU coach Gary Patterson repeatedly mentioned Anderson running as well as ever going into the season.
“I just came with the mentality, ‘How much do I have to put in to show ‘em I can be at that level again?’” Anderson said of his fall camp mindset.
Well, Anderson has returned to that elite level. Everyone around the program knew his potential, knew he’s projected as an NFL Draft pick, but it came down to putting it all together and staying healthy.
He’s done that through five games, topping the 100-yard mark three times and ranking second among Big 12 rushers with 106.4 yards per game. He’s on pace to become TCU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Kyle Hicks in 2016.
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K-State should be a welcomed sight for Anderson and TCU’s rushing attack, too. The Wildcats rank 99th nationally and ninth in the Big 12 allowing 188.6 yards rushing a game.
Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard had runs of 84, 53 and 44 yards against K-State last month. Baylor’s John Lovett had a 46-yard run against it two weeks ago. Anderson, meanwhile, has eight runs of at least 20 yards this season.
Asked if there were areas of K-State’s defense to exploit, Anderson said: “We’ll just come in with the same game plan, just keep working.”
Klieman acknowledged several reasons the Wildcats have struggled to contain rushing attacks.
“We have to tackle better. That’s the No. 1 thing,” Klieman said. “We have to keep our leverage and be better tacklers against exceptional backs like we’re going to face against TCU.
“It becomes even more critical because you miss a tackle against these guys, they can take it the distance. We need to get a lot of guys around the football, but the biggest thing is we have to make sure we have our leverage right and be sure tacklers.”
Easier said than done against a player such as Anderson.
Anderson chuckled when asked if people had forgotten how good he is. After all, he’s had plenty of standout moments throughout his football career.
He rushed for 246 yards in the 2015 Class 5A, Division I state championship game to lead Richmond George Ranch to a title over Mansfield Lake Ridge. He had a 70-yard TD run at Texas as a freshman in 2016. He was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before an injury cut short his sophomore season in 2017. And, last season, he dazzled with a record-setting 93-yard TD run against Ohio State.
But those moments sometimes get lost in the narrative when he isn’t at full strength.
“That’s how I always carry myself — I always have that chip on my shoulder,” Anderson said. “I know things happen, people forget and stuff, but I’ve always had that mentality with a chip on my shoulder.”
Now Anderson is re-writing his script. He’s showcasing why most believe he’ll be playing on Sundays in the near future.
Patterson described Saturday’s contest as a “big boy” game, meaning it’ll be a run-heavy and physical affair. That’s music to Anderson’s ears.
“Whatever coaches need me to do, but of course I look forward to it,” Anderson said. “Running and doing whatever I can to help the team.”