On Sunday, the K-State athletic department released the depth chart for this weekend's opening game with North Texas. After much hard work and a lot of scouring of junior colleges, this is who we're putting out there...
QB -- 1) Josh Freeman, 2) Carson Coffman
No discussion necessary here. Next...
RB -- 1) Keithen Valentine, 2) Logan Dold
Undoubtedly our thinnest position on the field, as we're now starting the former walk-on Valentine. I told you other Big 12 bloggers would rue the day they snubbed him from the preseason all-conference team. Backing him up is Logan Dold who, while undoubtedly causing many recruiting boners last year, is still a true freshman whose profile lists his rankings as a safety before his rankings as a running back.
WR -- 1) Deon Murphy, 2) Brandon Banks
Let's hope Murphy is on the field. He's been listed as questionable for this opening game, which can't be comforting for a team that has him and absolutely nobody else returning at wide receiver. On the bright side, apparently he's only a junior now, so he actually has two more years to play.
WR -- 1) Ernie Pierce, 2) Aubrey Quarles
Pierce was less than impressive last year, but he is extremely gifted athletically. Perhaps a year of experience will improve his route-running and pass-catching abilities. Quarles is one of the junior college guys who is expected to have a significant impact this year. He should get his chances against UNT, let's hope we like what we see.
WR -- 1) Lamark Brown, 2) Adrian Hilburn
You can substitute everything I just said in the previous wide receiver discussion into this one and just change the names. It concerns me that neither of the highly touted junior college receivers broke into the starting lineup, but it's also far from time to hit the panic button. What does concern me is that Attrail Snipes is nowhere to be found on the two-deep.
LT -- 1) Alesana Alesana, 2) Edward Prince
Alesana is, like Murphy, listed as questionable for Saturday. He was a decent left tackle last year after the disaster against Auburn, but won't be much use if he's hurt. Prince is a junior college transfer from Mississippi. If he does need to play this weekend, we can all be thankful he'll be going up against North Texas and not Auburn.
LG -- 1) Brock Unruh, 2) Wade Weibert
Experience versus promise. Unruh has started nine games in two years at K-State. Weibert is a top-50 junior college recruit from powerhouse Butler County. This is one position about which I feel fairly confident.
C -- 1) Jordan Bedore, 2) Zach Kendall
Bedore is a rock at center and will be the leader of the line this season. We desperately need him to stay healthy. Kendall has been with the program for two years, one of which he redshirted and one of which he failed to see the field.
RG -- 1) Gerard Spexarth, 2) Zach Hanson
Spexarth is a senior who has made 15 starts in his career. He was one of the solid contributors last season and we need him to be the same thing this year. Hanson is a beast of a junior college transfer at 6'8" and 320 lbs. Sounds like he could be useful in short-yardage situations, but is otherwise not a highly touted recruit.
RT -- 1) Nick Stringer, 2) Clyde Aufner
Stringer has made 13 starts in his two years of action, and is one player I think could be poised for a breakout year. He's not huge, but he's big enough and mobile enough to be a tackle. Aufner is entering his first season after redshirting last season.
Defense: Note that the depth chart is set up for a 3-4 defense, although it had been rumored we were switching back to a base 4-3 this year. Who knows...
NT -- 1) Brandon Balkcom, 2) Gabe Crews
Balkcom saw a fair amount of action last year, especially toward the end (that may not be a good thing). He's not small relative to the general population at 6'1", 292 lbs., but among nose tackles he's not huge. Crews is a little bigger and also got some game experience last season.
RE -- 1) Eric Childs, 2) Daniel Calvin
If you looked at Childs' size (6'3", 238 lbs.) and thought "man, he should be a linebacker," you wouldn't be wrong. Actually, he played some at that position last season, and probably will do the same this season if/when we use the 3-4. Calvin is the junior college recruit who I expected to see at nose tackle. My guess is you will see him a lot out there at tackle when we play a four-man front.
LE -- 1) Ian Campbell, 2) Brandon Harold
Ian Campbell is back where he belongs, and will be terrorizing quarterbacks from the edge again. Brandon Harold will probably have a lot of time to get acquainted with his fellow sideline mates.
OLB -- 1) Olu Hall, 2) Antonio Felder
Hall is a transfer, but not from a junior college. He spent two years at Virginia before deciding to transfer to K-State. Here's hoping he's a solid contributor. Felder appears to be an able backup, as long as he's healthy. He was another member of the formidable Butler County program, but spent last season watching with an injured knee.
OLB -- 1) Antwon Moore, 2) Dahrnaz Tigner
Moore ranks as my favorite player on this defense. If he stays healthy, I could see him pushing for all-conference honors this season. Let's hope that Tigner is one year late, as last year he would have seen a lot of time after Moore got hurt.
ILB -- 1) Reggie Walker, 2) Hanson Sekona
Walker wasn't bad last season, but I expect more out of him this season. If he improves to my expectations, which I know are terribly important to him, we could have a hellacious group of linebackers. Sekona is one of the highest-rated junior college transfers on this year's K-State team, which is saying something. If Walker isn't an improved player, we could see a lot of Sekona.
ILB -- 1) Ulla Pomele, 2) Kevin Rohleder
Pomele is, you guessed it, a junior college transfer. He's also a devout man of God. Most importantly from the perspective of K-State football fans, he was a four-star prospect and a top-50 junior college recruit. Another guy who could make this linebacking group into one of the team's strengths. Rohleder is probably going to see most of his action on special teams.
CB -- 1) Joshua Moore, 2) Billy McLellan
My God, but it's good to see Joshua Moore back in the starting lineup. Even if Josh Freeman is apparently completing some passes on him in practice. McLellan is significantly undersized at 5'8" and 164 pounds, so we better hope Moore is back to his freshman-year form.
CB -- 1) Blair Irvin, 2) Ray Cheatham
I'm pretty excited to see what Blair Irvin brings to the table. He comes from another of the powerful junior colleges in Kansas, Coffeyville. If he's as good as Joshua Moore, we could give opposing quarterbacks fits with our pass coverage. Cheatham saw a fair amount of playing time last season, but his play was pretty ordinary.
SS -- 1) Gary Chandler, 2) Courtney Herndon
Chandler is another of the guys who could make this defensive backfield something special. He was the Big 12's newcomer of the year on defense last season, and should only be better with age. Herndon is similar to Cheatham; he has played quite a bit, but his play has been solidly unspectacular.
FS -- 1) Chris Carney, 2) Andrew Erker
Carney is another experienced-if-unspectacular player in the backfield. However, he appears to be considered a team leader, and his play last season was solid. If he improves this season, he could be yet another piece in the backfield puzzle. Erker will probably see the field some, but he's one guy who always concerns me when he's out there.
We'll talk a little bit about the special teams' depth chart later this week. As you probably noticed, four transfers are expected to start Saturday, three of them junior college players transfers. So either we aren't relying as heavily on junior college players as most thought, or the players we recruited aren't as good as we'd hoped. Let's hope it's the former.
More tomorrow as we get ready for North Texas. Four days and counting.