Each recruiting class shapes the direction of a program. In 2010, a young man name Collin Klein signed on the play football at Kansas State. He was unknown, only had one D-1 offer, but a K-State coach saw something special in him. In 2012 a legacy, a young man whose father and uncle had starred for the Wildcats, joined the program after being only lightly recruited by the big programs in his own state.
These young men became stars for K-State. Klein became a Heisman finalist, and Tyler Lockett became a consensus All-American and a NFL All-Pro as a rookie. But those guys were un-heralded on signing day, just names in the crowd.
It's basically cliche at this point, the "K-State Way", the five-star-try-hards, coaches more concerned with player development than recruiting. It's generally worked well for Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Snyder during his 23 years roaming the sidelines at the stadium named in his honor. He's gotten more out of his players than anyone else would think possible. But this may be the biggest uphill battle he's had since 2004.
It's not all bad. The 2016 class boasts a Top-15 Quarterback, probably for the first time ever under Bill Snyder. Skylar Thompson is the clear headliner of this class and will receive the most attention thanks to being on campus for spring practices. The QB race at K-State is wide open thanks to a bevy of injuries that derailed any sort of progression in 2015 and Thompson will have an opportunity to compete for the starting gig.
Joining him this spring are a three other guys who could make an immediate impact for the Wildcats. Abdul Beecham starred on the o-line in his only season, only semester, at Blinn CC, a school known well to Wildcat fans for producing future stars. He will be expected to compete immediately for open of the four open slots on the K-State o-line. WR Byron Pringle traveled an arduous road to K-State, originally committing to K-State assistant Andre Coleman while Coleman was still at Youngstown State. Pringle got his issues resolved and ended up at Butler CC where he used his size and skills to become a Top-10 JUCO WR. Joining Pringle at WR is prep athlete Corey Sutton, who has the potential to be a future playmaker. If QB was the biggest question mark for the Wildcats going in to the spring of 2016, OL and WR are a very close second and third. The early signings at least make some inroads into those question marks.
There are some guys who will be arriving after the conclusion of the spring semester that should provide some immediate impact too. JUCO OL Breontae Matthews should come in and immediately compete for one of the open OT spots on the o-line. Cedric Dozier will bring his years of starting experience in the Pac-12 while at Cal to a crippled Wildcat secondary. And DT Ray Price will provide some immediate depth for departed three-year starter Travis Britz.
As for future stars, Jimmy McKinney and AJ Parker are both flying under the radar out of Oklahoma. Both are receiving consensus "sleeper" status from recruiting analysts who cover the region. OL Blake Hickey was beating schools off with a stick right up until signing day. And two other young men from Texas, Bronson Massie and Jordan Robertson, could be future stars along the defensive line. Isaiah Harris drew considerable praise for K-State for his commitment, and could make an impact at either WR or DB. DJ Render has the speed and skills to push the veterans ahead of him at WR, and potentially become a future deep threat for Thompson.
The meat of this class is again a group of young men from Kansas. Three greyshirts from last year, three greyshirts for next year, a bunch of walk-ons, and one actual signing in Topeka's Mike McCoy. This group is what draws down the rankings in the recruiting services, because greyshirts and walk-ons don't usually get rated well. But these are the young men who provide depth and the occasional future star Wildcat.
While on a whole thus class looks below average, when the young men are viewed separately, and ignoring the lack of fanfare outside the top spot, there are= actually some quality young athletes in this class that have the potential to become solid contributors and maybe stars for K-State. It's easy to be down when there are less than a dozen Power-5 schools with classes ranked lower than K-State's, but remember that this staff is big on player development once in the program (to the detriment of recruiting, which should be the subject of it's own breakdown...). And be glad that this finally wraps up a less-than-solid 2015 football season for K-State.
Overall HoFHC Bill Snyder announced the signing of 22 student-athletes. 17 come from high school (with three deferring enrollment until spring 2017), four from Junior College, and one graduate transfer. Six preferred walk-ons are also expected to be joining this squad for next fall, five from the Kansas prep ranks and one from Colorado.
So welcome to the #KStateFamily the newest members of K-State's football program!