K-State Sports Extra: Harper Adapts Well

By Mark Janssen

For the present, and the future, Chris Harper is fine with the idea of displaying his talents as a wide receiver this fall for the Kansas State Wildcats.

For the 2010 season, coach Bill Snyder said, "It was his option. He could have stayed at quarterback, but we had conversations and felt the best opportunity to get on the field the quickest is where he is right now, and he concurred with that."

For the future, Harper said, "The coaches said if I wanted to try to play professionally, wide receiver was my best option."

So donning a No. 3 Wildcat jersey this fall, the 6-foot-1, 228-pound sophomore will be catching instead of passing the ball, just as he did at Oregon in 2008 where he became the first player in the previous eight years to run, pass and catch for a touchdown in the same season.

A product of Wichita Northwest High School, Harper was a 4-Star recruit as a quarterback. Ranked as the No. 2 player in Kansas and No. 14 quarterback in the nation, he passed for 761 yards, rushed for 506 yards and accounted for 18 touchdowns in his senior season.

Harper signed with the Oregon Ducks where he played the first five games as a quarterback before moving to receiver. He enjoyed single game-highs of 4-of-6 passing for 40 yards against Utah State, five catches for 85 yards against Arizona State, plus he rushed for 60 yards against Washington. For the total season, he was fifth on the team in rushing and receiving.

But once in Oregon, Harper realized just how far Eugene was from Wichita, plus with the institution on the quarter system academically, he learned the breaks weren't conducive in getting home for the holidays.

Harper said, "Coach (Bill) Snyder returning had nothing to do with my decision to leave Oregon, but it made my decision easy on which school to transfer to over Kansas and Missouri. I had already been recruited by this staff once, so I knew a lot of the coaches."

Harper said a lot of the K-State schemes are like those at Oregon, but he adds, "There is still a lot for me to learn about playing receiver against the coverages, and getting in and out of routes. For me, my hips are kind of tight, so getting in and out of routes is something I work on all the time."

Snyder adds, "Wide receiver is not a position that he grew up playing, so he is still learning the fundamentals and the nuances of the position. But as I have said before, he as a lot of capability and could fit in very nicely when all of the parts fit together."

Harper has been slowed by an injury and is not going at "maximum speed and maximum effort," in the words of Snyder. But the KSU coach adds, "He still competes day-in and day-out. Some guys might take a day off and he has not done that."

Harper, who openly admits he's been plagued by "inconsistencies," says playing on the scout team and going against the Wildcat defensive starters last year was a plus in becoming a projected starter for 2010, plus the experience he picked up in the Pac-10 Conference is a huge help.

"I've played against USC and other high-level teams so I know what to expect," Harper said. "I won't be surprised when we line up on the field against high-caliber teams."

And, Harper demonstrates a maturity with the media when quizzed about who he believes the starting Wildcat quarterback will be.

"I think that whoever wins the job is going to be fine. They are all pretty good at what they do, they can all run," said Harper. "Even though a lot of people don't see Carson (Coffman) as a runner, he can actually run pretty well. I mean, whoever wins it, we will be fine."