K-State Sports Extra: WR/NFL Draft
K-State Sports Extra: WR/NFL Draft
By Mark Janssen
Daniel Thomas can lay claim to being the Big 12's most prolific running back. He gave proof to that a year ago when he led the league in rushing averaging 105 yards per game, plus jamming it in the end zone 11 times.
But, K-State's problem a year ago was having the combo of pass-and-catch playmakers.
The Wildcats' pass offense of 169 yards per game was last in the league, as were the modest number of seven touchdown passes. That figure was low in the conference by six, and 31 fewer than Texas Tech.
A year ago, K-State's leading receivers were 5-foot-6, 150-pound Brandon Banks, and 6-0, 180-pound Attrail Snipes.
"I like bigger receivers," said starting quarterback candidate Carson Coffman. "Bigger guys bring a different element to the table. They are here to dominate on offense."
Collin Klein, another QB vying for the starting job, added, "Nothing against the receivers we had last year, but I think most quarterbacks prefer bigger targets."
There's a pretty good chance K-State's cast of starting receivers will provide bigger targets. That starts with a thickish 5-11, 202-pound senior in Aubrey Quarles, plus a pair of sophomores that have some length in 6-2, 210-pound Brodrick Smith and 6-1, 234-pound Chris Harper.
Quarles, a transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College, caught 34 passes for 407 yards in his junior season in 2008 before missing the 2009 season due to injury.
"It was a frustrating year to sit in the training room while your teammates were playing their hearts out on the field," said Quarles on missing the 2009 season.
"I'm working hard and giving my all on every single play," said Quarles. "I'm playing each play like it could be my last because you just never know."
Of Quarles, coach Bill Snyder said, "Aubrey Quarles gives you a reasonably physical receiver. He is a pretty sharp young guy that understands what you are trying to do. He has good hands and has the capacity to advance the ball up field."
Smith is a former prep quarterback out of Garden City (Kan.) High School, and a transfer from the University of Minnesota. He started two games, and played in 12 for the Gophers in the 2008 season catching a half-dozen passes.
After a 2009 season on the KSU scout squad, Snyder said of Smith, "He is learning the offense. He is experiencing it rather than just hearing it in the classroom as far as schematics are concerned. When he gets more comfortable, I think his capabilities will present themselves. Like Aubrey, he offers you a more sizeable receiver and can advance the ball when he catches it."
Harper, a product of Wichita Northwest, is another former QB who started his career at the University of Oregon in 2008 when he became the Ducks first player in the last eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown pass in the same season.
He started his career at Oregon as a quarterback, but then moved to wide receiver. At the end of the year, Harper was the team's fifth leading rusher and receiver.
While slowed by an unspecified injury this spring, Snyder said, "Chris (Harper) is seemingly a pretty athletic guy and he has good hands. He runs well, has the ability to change directions and he has good balance."
On the trio of projected starters, Coffman scouted, "Aubrey brings physicality. He's big and strong and just pushes over DBs. Brodrick is another big and strong receiver, and Chris has the size, plus he used to play quarterback, so he knows where some of the holes are better than most receivers."
Other candidates to be in the receiving rotation are Tramaine Thompson (5-7, 165, Fresh), Sheldon Smith, (5-11, 180, Sr), Devin Gfeller (5-9, 189, Fresh), plus Hutchinson Community College transfer Gage McKinnis (5-7, 185, Soph).
All will be trying to replace four of KSU's top five pass catchers from a year ago: wide receivers Banks, Snipes and Lamark Brown, plus tight end Jeron Mastrud.
NFL DRAFT DAYS HERE
Six former Kansas State Wildcats are on the National Football League draft board this week, but it's unknown how many names will be called.
Joshua Moore, who elected to pass on his senior season at K-State, is ranked 19th in the collection of cornerbacks by NFLDraftScout.com.
Moore, 5-foot-11, 188 pounds, is projected to go in the fourth or fifth round. Among all Big 12 cornerbacks, Moore ranked only behind Texas' Earl Thomas (2nd), Dominique Franks of Oklahoma (11th) and Perrish Cox of Oklahoma State (15th).
Moore, a native of Pompano Beach, Fla., was a three-year starter for K-State who earned honorable mention all-Big 12 honors in 2008 and 2009.
Another possible draftee is Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who is ranked 24th among all defensive ends. The 6-4, 270-pounder is listed as a possible seventh-round draft choice.
Others on the draft board, but expected to go the free agent route are:
- Tight end Jeron Mastrud, who is ranked 22nd at his position and has been slowed by foot surgery.
- Offensive tackle Nick Stringer, who like Mastrud was a first-team all-Big 12 selection in 2009, is ranked 40th at his position.
- Wide receiver Brandon Banks, who is ranked 57th among pass catchers. Banks' numbers by the NFL were 5-foot-7 and 149 pounds.
- Defensive tackle Daniel Calvin, who was listed 65th among interior linemen.
The National Football League Draft will take on a new look this year with the first round selections on Thursday, April 22, followed by the second- and third-round picks on Friday, and the remaining four rounds on Saturday.