The Kansans that got away (Part I)

This guy would clearly look better in purple. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Every year, for reasons I don't want to understand, good football players from Kansas sign scholarships at FBS schools not named Kansas State. It's quite sad, but it does happen.

For the most part, I'm not here to blame the K-State coaching staff or anyone else - well, besides the players themselves who made the ultimate choice, I suppose - for these poor kids choosing the wrong path. After all, they're young, and with youth comes some bad decisions.

In spite of their choices, some of these players have been successful, while others seem to have high potential for success. Since we have (/checks Bracket's latest post) 60 days left to Missouri State, let's take a look at all of the lost souls I have deemed relevant, and try to imagine where each one might be had he chosen to be a Wildcat.

Before we begin, please note that I omitted all players from that school down the road, since I refuse to believe that there is any football talent there until proven otherwise. I also did not include Kansas juco players from out-of-state, because that list would be far too long and not really important anyway.

Blake Bell, So. QB, Wichita-Bishop Carroll (Oklahoma)

I'm just going in alphabetical order, but the first name on this list may well be the most painful. I doubt I need to tell anyone who Bell is, particularly since he made his first real appearance (Ball St. doesn't count) in Manhattan last year and found his way into the endzone less than three minutes into the game for what I'm afraid will be the first of many scores against K-State and everyone else.

Of course, most of us knew who he was before then, as he was one of the most highly sought-out Kansas quarterbacks since Nick Patton in quite some time. He was a five-star according to some, and the fact is when you're K-State recruiting this kind of player, then OU comes calling, there's only so much you can do.

If he had chosen to wear purple, it's quite possible and maybe even probable that he would still be Collin Klein's backup just like he will be Landry Jones' backup/goalline sub for one more season. All the same, I don't think I'm alone in saying I would sleep much, much better at night this fall knowing Blake Bell was KSU's backup quarterback.

Jaydan Bird, Sr. LB, Conway Springs HS (Oklahoma)

It's somewhat hard to imagine a highly touted recruit coming out of Conway Springs, but that's the feat Bird managed to pull off in order to get an offer from Oklahoma. He's probably a little undersized at 236 and only has 29 career tackles while never progressing beyond backup middle linebacker, but it's safe to say he'd be a starter at many other schools, including some in the Big 12.

It's even safer to say that Kansas State is not one of those schools, as Bill Snyder has this guy from Wichita you might have heard about. Bird would probably be a better backup than, say, Justin Tuggle/Jarell Childs or Blake Slaughter or whoever, but I'm really not too worried about it.

Joe Brown, Jr. FB, Wichita-Bishop Carroll(Colorado State)

Apparently Joe really liked Bishop Carroll's colors , because I really can't imagine another reason why he would have chosen to be a Ram instead of a Wildcat. In any case, he started five games last season for the Rams and caught 25 passes for 197 yards as primarily a fullback, though he also lined up as a slot receiver or tight end on occasion.

In the alternate universe where Brown made the right decision, it's hard to imagine Snyder not finding some way to use a guy with that much versatility, even if K-State does have more talented players at every position. That might not even be true.

Brayden Burris, Sr. RT Wichita-Bishop Carroll (Iowa State)

It's a good thing this guy is the last Bishop Carroll player on this list, or I might have been moved to make some off-color Catholic jokes. Incidentally, K-State doesn't have any Bishop Carroll players on its roster, which almost makes me wonder if there's a rift between the coaches for some reason or another.

Now that I've got that baseless speculation out of the way, let's look at how Burris has been the starting right tackle at Iowa State for most of the last two years, except when he was injured for five games last season. He did get the start against K-State and you can expect him to be back this fall.

Offensive line hasn't been the strongest part of K-State's team for a little while now, so it's not too hard to imagine he could have found some playing time. He would have had to beat out Clyde Aufner for a starting role, but considering Burris shares my birthday, I think he could have done it.

Alex Carder, Sr. QB Shawnee-Shawnee Mission NW (Western Michigan)

Kansas State's offense just might have looked very different had Carder - not a highly touted recruit out of high school but not completely overlooked - chosen to spend his formative years in Manhattan. Even though he plays in the MAC, I think this long-haired pass-happy quarterback's numbers speak for themselves.

He became a starter as a sophomore and threw for 3,334 yards while posting a 63.3% completion rate. Then he topped that last season with a 65.7% completion rate and a school record 3,873 yards, which is more than double what Klein compiled as a junior.

Carder was so good that he led one newspaper man to suggest Carder was the best QB in the state of Michigan, which is home to one Denard Robinson. The point I'm trying to make is, I'm betting K-State isn't the only team wishing it had paid more attention to this guy in high school.

He can run a little bit, too, and I imagine if he was leading the Kansas State offense not nearly so many people would be calling the Wildcats "boring" or "lucky."* All the same, to desire that anyone but Klein run the offense would be tantamount to heresy, so I'm definitely not going to do that.

*These are also adjectives that have been used for Spain, especially prior to Sunday's dismantling of Italy. If K-State football has anything at all in common with Spain's football side, then it's a very good thing.

Trace Clark, Fr. DE, Wichita-Collegiate (Oklahoma State)

Clark is an incoming freshman with some pretty solid potential, but the big reason he makes this list is because somehow K-State let him go despite the fact that his dad went to KSU. I guess it's possible they had a bad relationship or he wanted to blaze his own path or something.

He's also clearly a smart kid, as he got an offer from Stanford, among others. This makes me wonder why he chose to spend 4-5 years of his life in Stillwater (aptly called by a friend "the armpit of the world") but at least K-State is in fairly good shape at defensive end with Meshak Williams and Adam Dav....OK, maybe not such great shape. We'll see.

Drew Goodger, So. TE, Shawnee-Shawnee Mission NW (Minnesota)

Goodger was a three-star defensive end coming out of high school, where he also was a pretty good tight end. He proved he had the hands and blocking ability to play in the Big Ten, getting on the field in 10 games as a true freshman, even though he had just two catches for seven yards.

Time will tell just how valuable he could have been, though I don't think Snyder would ever turn down a capable, 6-5 tight end. Obviously that Travis Tannahill fellow is pretty solid and Andre McDonald isn't bad either, but both of those guys are upperclassmen.

Luke Eakes, So. TE, St. Mary's HS (Northern Illinois)

Six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshman at Northern Illinois isn't quite as impressive as Goodger's stat line, but it still merits mention on this list. Eakes is one to watch on a pretty good NIU team that for some reason will have five former Kansas high school players on its roster this season.

The analysis here is largely the same as it was for Goodger, though Eakes is just 6-3. If he can rack up some big yardage and score multiple touchdowns when kU visits DeKalb this fall, I'd be willing to make him an honorary Wildcat.

Come on back tomorrow for part 2 of 3, taking a look at Zach Epps thru Logan Pegram, who happens to be one of the other NIU guys.

Edit: The original plan was to have this post at 10 a.m., rather than 12 a.m. Oops. Now you all know my secret.

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