We continue our position preview for the 2020 Kansas State Wildcats with a look at the wide receiver position.
This time last year the wideout spot was pretty much a big question mark. 2018’s leading receiver Isaiah Zuber had transferred, and former walk-ons Dalton Schoen and Wykeen Gill were the only players with more than a couple games experience. Fast forward through the 2019 season, and it seems as though wide receivers coach Jason Ray has quite a bit more to work with headed into 2020.
For starters, when healthy, then-redshirt-freshman Malik Knowles looked like he could be one of the conference’s best receivers. He was also clearly Skylar Thompson’s favorite target, so much so that there were times when Thompson targeted Knowles when the receiver was clearly playing injured (like the Baylor game, when they failed to connect on three-straight pass attempts). But when healthy, or mostly healthy, Knowles showed why he was a favored target, and probably none so clearly as the Texas game, when Knowles scored on a 70-yard catch-and-run, where he pulled away from the Texas defensive backfield on the way to the end zone. Knowles is also a big receiver (at least by K-State standards), coming in at 6’2” 200lbs, which is the kind of size and speed combo that NFL scouts get excited over.
But Knowles wasn’t the lone newcomer in 2019 turning heads. Phillip Brooks, who was originally a walk-on in the same class as Knowles, saw time in 12 of the Wildcats 13 games, and scored an important touchdown (the first of his career) in the win over Texas Tech. At 5’7”, he’s definitely more in the slot-receiver category, but he’s fast and smart, and versatile. He primarily caught passes, but also ran the ball seven times, and returned kicks and punts, including scoring a TD on a punt return versus Navy in the Liberty Bowl.
Wykeen Gill returns for his senior season, and after starting 11 games in 2019, the 5’10” Kansas-native will look to try and keep that role opposite Knowles. But he’ll get get pushed by junior Chabastian Taylor, who has shown glimpses of promise during his first two seasons, but hasn’t “put it all together” quite yet — or at least in a way that would get more passes thrown his way. And at 6’4” 223lbs, it would be really great if Taylor could play up to his potential consistently, because he’s a mismatch for most Big 12 DBs.
And we haven’t even gotten to the All-American on the roster. Joshua Youngblood returns for his sophomore season, after the 5’10” Florida-native put his name on the K-State record books as a kick-returner, returning three for scores to lead the nation. He also caught a few passes, primarily later in the season, and also was a part of the Wildcat run game in jet-sweep packages — including scoring a TD on an end-around in the upset win over OU.
There’s also two younger players to keep an eye on for this year, redshirt-freshman Keenan Garber and true freshman Jaelon Travis. Garber was pulled out of enemy territory, and saw his lone action of 2019 against his hometown Jayhawks. Travis arrives in Manhattan as the lone wide receiver recruit of the 2020 class, but the 6’0” Texan has the kind of range the Wildcat coaching staff was looking for.
There’s also the walk-ons, including K-State legacy Landry Weber, who saw plenty of game action in 2019, leading a bevy of mostly-Kansans to fill out the depth chart. Most of these guys won’t see action this year outside of special teams or
the KU game blowouts, but there’s clearly always one or two that come out of this group to earn their way into at least a scholarship, if not a starting spot. Be sure and watch out for Ty Bowman, a 6’5” 220lbs athlete who was an all-state quarterback for Chanute.