The Kansas State Wildcats have obvious holes to replace at wide receiver and tight end. This is true both in terms of production and also playmaking ability. Tyler Lockett shattered all of the program's major career receiving records. Curry Sexton was potentially the best "Robin" to a number one receiver during Bill Snyder's career (and certainly during Snyder 2.0). ZachTrujillo was a solid two-year starter at tight end.
But this is not an article about the past. It is an article about the present and near future of this position grouping.
Andre Coleman, the Wildcats' receivers coach, has stated that this is the best group he's had at Kansas State from top to bottom. This statement, if accurate, seems to mean two things. First, this group likely lacks the top-end talent of Tyler Lockett and perhaps lacks the same strength in terms of second and third options. That is concerning from a playmaking perspective. However, Coleman's statement also may stand for the proposition that this group has exceptional depth, which may result in the passing game spreading things around a bit more.
So who are the candidates that may be poised to take the next step at wide receiver? Deante Burton appears to be a player who is playing with increased confidence and could serve as a good option for making catches that move the chains. Do not be surprised if his confidence grows as more passes are thrown his way. He also shows a good knack for getting open when plays break down.
Dominique Heath appears to be the big-play threat amongst the likely top four receivers. Comparisons have been made to Tramaine Thompson. If true, that would be a major boost to both the Wildcats' special teams and passing game.
Kody Cook may once again surprise people. He showed a good ability to find open spots in defenses, as well as an ability to take hits over the middle. Do not expect those skills to go to waste this season.
Lastly, out of the top four, Kyle Klein comes back for his twelfth season with the Wildcats. I have seen very little game film on Mr. Klein, but all indications are that he is a solid possession receiver who would have seen meaningful snaps last season, but for a serious injury he suffered in fall camp.
Moving back to Andre Coleman's statement, it appears that he is very high on several of the younger players in this group. In particular, this may refer to Denzel Goolsby, Isaiah Zuber, Zachary Reuter, and Kalin Heath. There has been some early buzz about both Goolsby and Reuter. While there is a distinct possibility that all of these players will redshirt (Reuter was a greyshirt), they may also find their niche in the rotation. In particular, I think that Goolsby could be the next Curry Sexton slot receiver extraordinaire.
Additional production may come from seniors Andre Davis and Stanton Weber, as well as junior Steven West. All three are players who could figure into the regular rotation this season.
Tight ends are typically extensions of the offensive line, despite any prowess they may have as receivers. This season will likely be no exception in that regard. Practice reports indicate that Cody Small is skilled in all areas, but may have pass-catching skills that exceed those of most Wildcats tight ends. If true, that could be useful in the play action passing game. Expect Dayton Valentine to be 1A or 1B with Small because of outstanding strength and blocking skills. With the offense's renewed focus on the ground game, expect several two tight end sets to be utilized.
Due to the emergence of Winston Dimel, do not be surprised if Glenn Gronkowski morphs into even more of a fullback / tight end hybrid. Lastly, Zach Heiman is a sophomore walk-on with good size and athleticism, who will provide additional depth at the position and could serve a role in tight end heavy goal line formations.
While Kansas State may struggle to replace the extraordinary talent of Tyler Lockett, it would also not be surprising to see a couple wide receivers step up to give the Wildcats enough balance on offense to move the chains. What might be just as crucial is to see if this group can occasionally take advantage of defenses focused on the ground game by busting some big plays.