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2020 K-State Football Position Preview: Tight Ends & Fullbacks

NCAA Football: Nicholls State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

This might be one of the most intriguing position groups on the roster for the Kansas State Wildcats.

It’s no secret that offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham likes to mix the tight ends (and fullbacks, who are often interchangeable in his offense) heavily into the offensive gameplan, and not just as extra blockers in the scheme. These guys are expected to be able to catch passes, receive hand-offs, and generally be an added dimension to the overall offense.

That didn’t come to full fruition last year, thanks to injuries and the significant change of usage from the end of the Bill Snyder tenure. Adam Harter missed the whole season after an injury in fall camp. Sammy Wheeler was just getting into things through seven games before an injury shortened his season. Blaise Gammon and Luke Sowa were brought in for the previous system and weren’t as productive with the new gameplan.

But there were bright spots, and all of those are back in 2020. Sammy Wheeler returns, of course, but All-Big 12 First Team fullback (who also plays TE) Nick Lenners returns for his junior season looking to continue to be integral to Messingham’s offense. And Mason Barta and Jax Dineen both saw significant reps at primarily fullback.

Though the real buzz this offseason isn’t about all the returners, but rather the newcomers. Or, more correctly, one newcomer. Briley Moore is a graduate transfer from Northern Iowa, and was receiving NFL Draft hype before an injury shortened his final season in Cedar Rapids. But he’s back to full speed now, and has been raved about by coaches and teammates throughout workouts and practices.

Moore is a game-changer for the Wildcats and their offensive plans. He creates a mis-match problem for college linebackers thanks to his speed and route skills, and creates a mis-match for college DB’s due to his size and strength. He has the potential to have a George Kittle-type impact on the overall offense, where he opens up the pattern regardless of if he’s actually being targeted just by being on the field.

There’s also some solid newcomers who will be looking to gain some experience in this shortened season. Konnor Fox was recruited by the current coaching staff for the 2019 class, and redshirrted all of the 2019 season. He’s joined by 2020 recruits Christian Moore (who is listed as a fullback on the roster), Cody Stufflebean (who may still end up at defensive end, but is listed as a tight end to start the season), and Will Swanson (tight end). Those three fit the mold of where Messingham would like to have the two groups be in the next few seasons, with a group of basically interchangeable players manning those two positions.

There is also a handful of walk-ons at both positions, who could end up seeing more action than normal this season. Expect the unexpected.