I'll start off by saying it; I think this is the deepest and most talented position group, from top to bottom, on the roster. I could be alone in that sentiment, but it's what I truly believe.
Four of the top six receivers return from last season, and they're headlined by the 2008 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, Brandon Banks. It's a senior dominated unit that brings experience and athleticism to the field, and even though the quarterback position is currently in question, one thing we do know is that whoever wins the job, he'll have a lot of able targets to look for downfield.
Click the jump to find out more about who we think will star in the wide receiver corps in 2009.
#83 Brandon Banks
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (2008: 9 games)
Honors: Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year (2008), All Big 12 Honorable Mention (2008), Biletnikoff Watch List (2009)
Overlook Brandon Banks at your own peril...even if it's not that hard to overlook him. Literally.
I'm obviously not the first to make light of Banks' short stature, but I'm also not the first to recognize how pivotal he is to the Wildcats' success either. Banks is so speedy (4.28 40-yard dash) and versatile that he can be used in a variety of different ways. He can take snaps at running back, he can return kicks and punts, and, oh yeah, he can also catch a little too.
Last year, banks caught the ball 67 times for 1,049 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also rushed the ball seven times for 126 yards (18.0 yards a carry!). Banks is so dangerous with the ball in his hands that he's the most dangerous player in a purple jersey this side of, dare I say, Darren Sproles.
Now, I'm not saying that Banks is as good as Sproles, but what I am saying is that Banks posesses the same kind of home run threat that Sproles did. Every single time Banks has the ball in his hands, he's a threat to take it to the house, much like Darren was. If K-State wants to have any shot at getting back to a bowl game this year, they're going to need to find as many ways as humanly possible to get the ball into #83's capable hands.
Of course, you don't have to take my word for it; the video evidence says it all.
Brandon Banks - cake eater (via fatty4ksu)
#81 Attrail Snipes
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Snipes, a three-star prospect from Rivals.com and a four-star prospect on Scouts.com played in seven games last season. He was primarily used for special teams, and he caught one pass for 37 yards.
Let me repeat that. Snipes, a highly thought of JUCO recruit with offers from Hawaii (who he had committed to prior to switching his commitment to Kansas State), TCU, and Kentucky, played in seven games, mostly for punt coverage, and caught one ball last year. One. Uno. And, to really rub salt in the wound, it was during the last game of the year against Iowa State.
And people wonder why Ron Prince is now the SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR AT VIRGINIA! THAT MORON WASTED AN ENTIRE YEAR OF ELIGIBILITY FOR SNIPES, A TALENTED, SPEEDY RECEIVER, SO HE COULD PARTICIPATE IN F*%$#@& PUNT COVERAGE!!!?! SON OF A %$#@&!!!!!!
Anyway, now that a competent coach has taken the reigns of the Wildcat program, Snipes may finally get his chance to shine. As mentioned before, Snipes has decent size and speed to burn. A high school track star, Snipes swept the 100, 200, and 400 meter events at the 3A track meet in the state of Washington as a senior. His 100 meter time (10.71) was the fastest for all classes in the state that year, and during his time at Bakersfield CC, he caught 95 passes for 1,371 yards with 19 touchdowns.
Tragically, the most significant thing Snipes was able to accomplish due to Prince's gross incompetence was nearly getting thrown out of the Colorado game for an early hit on the punt returner. Hopefully, in 2009, Snipes is able to finish his career with a bang.
Low Blow in Kansas State-Colorado game (via CO80202D)
#89 Aubrey Quarles
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (2008: 3 games)
Honors: Rivals.com 4-star prospect, PrepStar JUCO All-American, 1st Team JC Gridwire All-American (2006)
Quarles had the kind of season in 2008 that Snipes should have had. Quarles saw action in all twelve games last year, and he received three starts. He had 34 receptions and over 400+ yards of receiving with a touchdown. Granted, you would hope a highly thought of JUCO recruit would have a bigger impact (like Brandon Banks), but Quarles proved to be a valuable member of the offense last year. While not as speedy as Snipes or Banks, Qualres is a stocky receiver with good hands. He most likely won't be a star, but he is a steady, reliable weapon to use in various spread formations, and he may get additional reps if he proves to be more consistent than the competition.
#84 Matt Wykes
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Wykes most likely won't get a lot of playing time this year, but he will probably get some reps during mop up time against lesser competition, and he'll probably be in the mix on special teams. A former standout receiver at Butler County Community College, Wykes walked on at KSU in 2007, redshirted, and caught three passes last year.
A walk-on wide receiver caught more passes than Attrail Snipes. The mind reels.
#7 Lamark Brown
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (2007: 1 start, 2008: 7 starts)
Honors: Rivals 100 - #71 (2007)
If you were to survey a slew of KSU (or non-KSU) fans, and you asked them who was the highest rated recruit K-State's signed in the last decade, most of them would probably say that it was Josh Freeman. If they did, they would be incorrect. The correct answer is "Lamark Brown".
If Freeman was the crown jewel of Prince's first recruiting class and the rock on which he built his "Church of Bullshit", Lamark Brown was the ultimate compliment. An uber-athletic athlete from the St. Louis area, he was projected at a number of different positions at the D1 level: running back, safety, linebacker, and wide receiver. His preference was wide receiver, and that's what Prince hoped for because he needed a dynamic playmaking threat to compliment his extremely talented quarterback.
There was just one small problem; of all of the positions Brown could play at the collegiate level, wide receiver was probably the one he needed to work at the most before he could reach his full potential. Of course, redshirting raw, talented players was something Prince had never heard of before, so the obvious thing to do, much like what he did with Attrail Snipes, is waste a f---ing year of eligibility playing Brown on special teams. During his freshman season, instead of redshirting Brown so he could learn behind a consummate professional and All-American in Jordy Nelson, Prince decided it would be best to let Brown play in eight games while he received minimal reps at wide receiver. At the end of his freshman season, the #71 ranked prep player in the entire country had caught three balls for 33 yards. If that wasn't maddening enough, he only had eight special teams tackles on the season.
After the departure of Nelson in 2007, a large vacuum appeared at the wide receiver position, and Brown looked to step in and fill the void to get the necessary playing time he desperately needed to develop his game. But, due to his absolute ineptitude in roster management, Ron Prince found himself in need of a running back, and the best option on the team happened to be Lamark Brown. So, being the true team player he is, Brown moved over to running back as a sophomore and gained 412 net rushing yards on the season, and he lost yet ANOTHER year to develop at the position he was recruited for.
So, here we are looking at the roster for 2009, and Lamark Brown, the highest ranked recruit Kansas State signed in over a decade, is now a junior, and he doesn't even have 1,000 all-purpose yards under his belt.
There aren't words to describe what I felt when I typed that. It's beyond stupid. Beyond surreal. The only thing that's this absurd is seeing Ron Prince in a cowboy hat during his coaches show and hearing him quote Jim Collins.
I don't want this to seem like an indictment on Lamark Brown. I've always been in this kid's corner, and personally, I think his career, or lack thereof, has been horribly mismanaged. I think he can be an exceptional receiver and offensive weapon if given the opportunity to develop at a position and receive quality instruction. There aren't many receivers out there that can match his size, strength, and speed. Last year, during the North Texas game, I saw Brown drag a tackler at least five yards while hopping on one leg. It's not a question of talent or effort with this young man as he exhibits exceptional amounts of both; it's a question of giving him opportunities to grow and shine, and I think this year, he'll have that. I look for him to have a breakout year in 2009, and hopefully it will be as cathartic for him as it will be for all of the fans who think he can be that game changing wide receiver we thought he could be when he was signed.
LaMark Touches the Ball - Kansas State Football (via KSUPoetWarrior)
#82 Adrian Hilburn
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Nabbing Hilburn in 2008 was kind of a coup. After Bill Callahan was fired at Nebraska, Hilburn reopened his recruitment, and Prince swooped in and picked up the Top 50 JUCO player. Due to his ability to graduate in December and participate in the 2008 spring drills, it was thought that Hilburn could compete for a starting job last year. However, early in the season, he was injured, and he received a medical hardship.
Hilburn is another speedy receiver with good size. There isn't much else to say about him since we haven't seen much due to his injuries, but he will most likely have a spot in the rotation this year, so we'll know more as the season progresses.
#87 Sheldon Smith
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Smith is a bit of an unknown. He was a late addition to the 2009 signing class, and he obviously didn't participate in spring drills. According to Rivals.com, he had another offer (Wyoming). Presumably, he will redshirt this season.
#86 Tramaine Thompson
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
If there's any true freshman (non-grayshirt) that's probably going to get playing time on the offensive side of the ball, it's Thompson. A highly sought after recruit from prep powerhouse, Jenks (OK), Thompson changed his commitment from Oregon State to Kansas State after Snyder was hired.
Basically, Thompson is considered to be a near clone to Brandon Banks. He obviously doesn't have the same kind of "Ludicrous Speed" gear that Banks does (only Frank Murphy was faster in a KSU uniform), but he is a little bulkier. He would benefit greatly from shadowing Banks all year long, and hopefully he gets some PT to go along with that learning experience.
Projected Depth Chart:
Starter(s): Banks, Snipes, Brown
Backup(s): Hilburn, Quarles, Thompson, Wykes
Just to start off, I'm omitting third string because with wide outs, it's pointless. There will be so much mixing and matching between these players that unless there's significant injury, you probably won't see much meaningful time for anyone after Wykes.
Also, I listed three starters because I truly believe KSU will be using a lot of single back sets with three wide receivers. In that scenario, I can see Snipes or Brown working out on the edges with Banks in the slot, or you can move Banks to more of a flanker position so Brown can run some crossing patterns from the slot as well. There are a lot of different things you can do with this group because they're so varied in their talents and athleticism. Truth be told, you could probably still redshirt Thompson if the group stays healthy, but due to the number of seniors in this rotation (4), it might be best to get him some game experience now as opposed to breaking him in next year when he'll be needed.
Obviously, Banks will start because he's the most dynamic playmaker on the team. Snipes brings a lot of speed to the position, and Brown will bring physicality that the other receivers can't. The other receivers are good options, but the three listed as starters essentially have the most perceived athleticism and upside.