The newly installed coaching staff at Kansas State is finishing the 2019 recruiting class with a flourish of quality athletes. On January 28th, Joshua Youngblood, a 5’11, 170 pound, 3-star athlete from Berkley Prep in Tampa, Florida committed to the Wildcats.
K-State managed to edge out teams like Boston College, Temple, and Appalachian State for the speed merchant from the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Sometimes my writing jobs (Clemson, Purdue, K-State) overlap. This is one such instance. Youngblood’s tape is extremely similar to fellow Tampa native, former Clemson Tiger, and current Buffalo Bill Ray-Ray McCloud. They’re obviously not the same player, as McCloud was rated significantly higher and had one of the most productive careers in the history of Florida High School football, but the raw skill set is close.
Like McCloud, Youngblood was a QB/RB hybrid in high school. Most of the time, when a player is labeled as an athlete, it usually means they play on both sides of the ball. In this case, it means Youngblood played a position in high school (QB) that he won’t play in college.
As a QB/RB in high school, Youngblood’s game revolved around pure speed. Simply put, he’s the fastest player on the field, and when he finds a chance to use that speed, no one can catch him. He has nice feet and has the ability to avoid tacklers in small areas. His ability to hit the gas after he changes direction is also solid. Lot’s of guys can make cuts, not many can make a cut and get back to top speed in two or three strides.
Size, position, and running style will be the questions that Youngblood will have to answer in college. At 5’11, 170, he’s not tiny, but that’s a slight build that he’s going to need to pack some muscle onto at some point, while maintaining the speed that makes special. Alternatively, he could prove that he’s a player with a slight frame that can take a hit and keep on ticking. I understand the Wildcats have a long history of exactly those sorts of players.
Position is a question I’m less concerned about, but it could slow his ability to contribute right out of the box. I’m going to assume right now that he’s going to be a slot receiver based on his size. Moving from quarterback/running back to wide receiver isn’t always the smoothest transition. Going back to Ray-Ray McCloud, it took him two seasons to really figure out how to play wide receiver. Once he got it figured out, he took off, but it didn’t look natural for him as a freshman or sophomore.
Finally, he’ll probably have to modify his running style a little in college. He’s still going to be fast in college, but the other players will be fast as well. The temptation to break runs out wide instead of hitting the hole (on a jet sweep or wide receiver screen) will be tempting, but he’ll need to pick and choose his places. He’ll need to find a balance between trying to break a big play (and possibly losing yards) and cutting the ball up the field and taking what he can get. That should come with experience, and players usually figure it out in practice once they get run down a few times while running across the field.
Speed is always at a premium, and Youngblood will most likely be one of the fastest players on the roster the moment he steps onto campus.
While he is acclimating to the wide receiver position, I could see him as a valuable piece in the jet motion. The Wildcats are going to want to run the ball between the tackles, one way to make that easier is to have a player fast enough to threaten the edge. If the opposing defense has to spread out because of Youngblood threatening the edge on the jet sweep, it frees up more space on the inside.
I can also see him him utilized in the quick screen game. Clemson loves to use this when teams try to stack the box to stop the run. It’s a quick math game. If the quarterback sees off coverage on the outside, it’s a quick audible and throw outside where it’s two receivers vs two defensive backs. If you run it enough, it keeps the safeties outside and frees up room in the box to run.
Finally, he could be a returner and gadget player early in his career. I would be shocked if he isn’t given an opportunity to return kicks. Punt returning is a totally different skill, but I’m confident he’ll at least get a look at punt returner. I could see him taking an occasional snap as a wildcat QB. He also has the ability the throw the ball. Having him pass it off a reverse is a distinct possibility. Those types of players can pay huge dividends for a team that might struggle to create explosive plays.