A lot of people might refer to Kansas State's receiving corps this year as "Tyler Lockett and a bunch of other guys", and with good reason. The short, speedy senior is freakishly good at getting open, catching footballs and scoring touchdowns. But he's not the only weapon for quarterback Jake Waters in a passing game that could be the most dynamic the Wildcats have seen in quite some time.
Despite frequent double coverages and sometimes not a lot of help, Lockett did lots of ridiculous things, including 237 yards at Texas, 278 yards and three touchdowns against Oklahoma, then finally 10 catches for 116 yards in Kansas State's rout of Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Basically, he was unstoppable and made several defensive backs just look silly with precise route running and almost unfair acceleration. By the time the dust had cleared, Locket finished the season with 81 catches for 1,262 yards, the second-most ever by a KSU receiver in both categories. Oh, and he did it in just 12 games, since an injury kept him out against Baylor.
Meanwhile, all the other Wildcat wide receivers combined for 89 catches and 1,272 yards, with no one above 40 catches or 600 yards. Tramaine Thompson was the most dynamic threat when healthy, and Curry Sexton proved himself to be a reliable possession receiver. Torell Miller caught 12 passes for 111 yards and left a lot to be desired in his pass-catching abilities.
Thompson will be missed, and Miller is also gone, leaving Lockett and Sexton as the only two key contributors from last season. But they also ranked first and second on the team in receptions, respectively, so that seems like a good thing. Kyle Klein will be looking to emerge as more of a threat in his junior season, much like his brother did in 2011. Deante Burton, Steven West, Lucas Munds and Stanton Weber all return after not catching a pass a year ago, though only West didn't see the field in some fashion.
The success of Kansas State's receiving corps will be judged by Tyler Lockett, and consequently the ability of his teammates to draw some attention from opposing secondaries. A lack of proven depth is a legitimate concern, but it wouldn't be terribly surprising if Bill Snyder and Dana Dimel decide to let Jake Waters throw a little more than most KSU quarterbacks and we discover that this unit is actually better at catching passes than we initially thought.
Deante Burton might actually be the top candidate to emerge as a playmaker after an impressive spring, during which he showed some good hands to go along with above-average speed and athleticism. Players often show their most significant improvement in between their freshman and sophomore years, so it would be nice to see Burton become a dangerous option in his third season at Kansas State, since he redshirted after a sensational career at Manhattan High.
If you're looking for a deep threat to complement Lockett, it could be Andre Davis, who showed off his speed with a kick return and punt return touchdown last season at Santa Rosa Junior College. He earned the No. 36 ranking among juco players and enrolled in January, so he should have some familiarity with Waters and the offense.
Curry Sexton isn't likely to become a deep threat or significant scoring option (he racked up 446 yards without a touchdown as a junior), but there's no reason he can't sharpen his skills a little and bolster the short passing game. This might also be the best role for Klein if his progression continues.and at 6-4 he's K-State's tallest receiver, other than 6-5 true freshman Tyler Ahrens.
Most people who watch college football consider Lockett one of the top two or three in all the land, and he's given us little reason to believe otherwise. Maybe best of all, Lockett has never shied away from the spotlight in big situations, so there will be no doubt about Waters' go-to receiver. The success of K-State's passing game will likely depend on whether someone else can step up and take advantage of what you'd have to imagine will be a lot of single coverage.
Keep on the look-out for upcoming position previews as we count our way down towards the opening of football season on August 30th!