The Green Bay Packers are pretty well set at running back with Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris and others under contract but nearly every year they round off the roster with an undrafted rookie or two.
If there's a late-round or undrafted prospect they're considering this year, one member of the coaching staff has some familiarity with Kapri Bibbs of Colorado State.
"My junior year I originally committed to Illinois where Ron Zook was, but I ended up decommitting from there and committing to Colorado State," said Bibbs at the NFL Combine. "Colorado State hung in with me and they were there for me, a lot of other colleges gave up on me so I kept my word and stayed with them."
Zook joined the Packers' as a special teams assistant this season after two years spent as a broadcaster for CBS Sports. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Illinois for seven seasons from 2005 to 2011.
Bibbs has taken a rather circuitous route from his high school days in Plainfield, Ill., when he originally committed to the in-state Illini to declaring for the NFL Draft this offseason.
After originally committing to Colorado State in 2011, Bibbs failed to qualify academically and had to enroll at Snow Community College in Ephraim, Utah, where he rushed for 415 yards and six touchdowns on 74 carries (5.6 ypc) as a freshman.
"Just at a young age, it’s kind of like trial and error," said Bibbs. "You learn from everything that you do. One of my biggest things is I want to teach kids coming out now that there is an NCAA Clearinghouse, and they will deny you. At one point in time I did not know about that. I was thinking, 'Hey if I play football, I’m going to college.'"
Following one year of juco football, Bibbs took one step closer to Colorado State when he took classes at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colo. in 2012. Finally, in 2013 he was able to transfer and play for the Rams.
Bibbs played only one year of major college football, but he more than made the most of it, helping Colorado State to an 8-6 record and qualifying for the first bowl game in five seasons, a win over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl.
The season began by Bibbs sharing carries with the rest of the running backs on the roster but ended with him being the the workhorse back, setting the single-season school record with 1,741 rushing yards (6.2 ypc).
Perhaps even more impressive was Bibbs' 31 rushing touchdowns, which led the nation among running backs. One of the reasons for Bibbs' success was a senior-laden offensive line, including center Weston Richburg, who figures to be a high-round draft choice.
"I love Kapri," said offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin. "I wish he was coming back, but there's eight or nine runs where he's not touched where he's going into the end zone. There were holes and the Mike 'backer is cut by Weston and outside zones where our tight ends get 'em. There's no back that can make things happen without an offensive line up front, and I certainly think those two were key to us moving the football."
Justifying his decision to declare for the NFL Draft despite having two years of eligibility left, Bibbs cited four offensive linemen graduating from Colorado State, but that wasn't his only rationale.
Bibbs see the NFL shield and in his mind knows it stands for "Not for Long."
"You see guys that stay in extra years and it’s almost like, I’m not scared of my production if I were to stay in college for another year," said Bibbs. "But there’s always that play, like Marcus Lattimore had it and other great running backs had it. You have guys that stayed here and then complain about their knees. Luckily I’m in a situation where I’m not banged up at all, and I’m perfectly healthy."
Unfortunately for Bibbs, he's not highly rated, checking in as 31st-ranked running back in this year's draft class by NFLDraftScout.com. At the NFL Combine, he had a pedestrian time in the 40-yard dash, crossing the finish line in 4.67 seconds while measuring in at 5' 9" and 212 lbs.
Bibbs, however, isn't lacking in confidence. Any team that passes him up, it's his goal to make them pay.
Asked what the biggest difference is going to be in the NFL, Bibbs said, "Obviously, me just being a sponge. those guys I’ve been around that’s played pro and have mentored me, told me that this game is all about the neck up. Your wisdom and just being a sponge to the game.
"I’m going to try to be a sponge to the game as much as I can. Film work, that’s going to be the biggest thing. You know a defense; you know tendencies; you know everything else like that. Things are going to go a lot faster for you and a lot slower when you’re runnig the ball and for pass pro."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs by Brian Carriveau.
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