Sep 8, 2012; Manhattan, KS, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive back Thomas Finnie (20) chases Kansas State Wildcats wide receiver Tramaine Thompson (86) during first half action at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-US PRESSWIRE
It's been more than a year now since I questioned the effectiveness of Kansas State's wide receivers, and while not all of my concerns have been eased, I am certainly feeling a lot better about this group as a whole. Tyler Lockett is, of course, the biggest reason for that, but the targets for Collin Klein are not without significant weaknesses.
One thing that hasn't changed is K-State's lack of anyone who could be considered a go-to receiver. Lockett and (lately) Tramaine Thompson have shown some increase in their potential to be that guy, but as of right now, unless you factor in special teams production, no Wildcat receiver belongs in the top ten, or maybe even the top 15 in the Big 12 Conference.
However, I am coming around to the theory that quantity can make up for quality if you have enough guys capable of catching passes and making plays here and there. With four decent wide receivers and an above-average pass-catching tight end, it seems like K-State may have a passing attack that is effective enough to complement the league's best run game.
Of course, when you don't have one guy you can rely on consistently, you need a diverse variety of options. Thompson may be K-State's best receiver right now, but I'd rather have the other guys than two or three receivers identical to Thompson.
Size is his biggest weakness, and five-foot-eight he pretty much has to be good both as a deep threat or as a guy you want to find in space on a quick hitter. His speed is pretty obvious on kick returns, and if his route running keeps getting better it's not hard to see him becoming Klein's favorite target in short yardage situation, sort of like a Wes Welker type player.
Lockett appears to be still getting comfortable with Klein, and if they can get their timing down he should be K-State's best deep threat. I think he's a little more shifty but maybe not as good in traffic as Thompson, perhaps making Lockett a perfect candidate for the famous Snyder bubble screen, if the opportunity presents itself.
Chris Harper was far and away KSU's most reliable receiver last season, so it's a little worrying that he seems to have regressed in 2012. It's still early, but we haven't yet seen the aggressiveness that made him Klein's best possession receiver (seemingly the best on comeback routes) and the top candidate to go up and grab a jump ball. Just watch the interception last week for a perfect example of this problem.
Curry Sexton is admittedly a clear level (or two) below the top three guys right now, but I think he's got the tools to become a very solid fourth option. Though he's certainly not going to burn anyone deep, he's the kind of guy who can kind of get lost in the secondary and then make you pay for it.
The best hands on the team probably belong to Travis Tannahill, and I wouldn't mind seeing the ball go to him a little more often on short yardage or goal-to-go situations when (not if, let's be honest) the run is becoming too predictable. He is easily Klein's biggest target (it's actually rather alarming that at 6-1 Harper is the only starting wideout not under 6 feet) and certainly deserves more opportunities to get in the spotlight with all the hard work he does blocking up front.
Overall, this unit is nowhere near the best in the league or the best we've ever seen under Snyder, though they probably are slightly underrated, especially if you're just going by statistics. Fortunately, we only need them to be good enough to keep defenses off balance to the point that Klein, Hubert (and Sams?) can keep racking up first downs and touchdowns.