The most important thing we know about the receiver corps for Kansas State this season is that we don’t really know anything. Two years of lost depth, disappointment, and quarterback injuries have clouded the crystal ball so much that it’s really hard to know what to expect of the unit.
The top of the depth chart, at least, is clear. Malik Knowles will be the main threat out of the gate, and he’s displayed the talent to be a serious one. It remains to be seen whether Knowles can finally put it all together for a full season, but last year’s traumas which led to rumors that he would transfer appear to have been entirely related to COVID and the psychological stress the pandemic put on everyone. If K-State can get a full season out of both Knowles and Skylar Thompson, the two could put up some pretty numbers.
Phillip Brooks is inked in as the starter in the slot, and while he hasn’t offered a lot of production there thus far he’s had flashes where he was the best receiver on the field for the Cats.
The third major weapon will probably be missing when the team hits the turf in Arlington on Saturday. Chabastin Taylor was, at last report, still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered last year. Considering he was the team leader last year, when he returns he will obviously give Thompson yet another option downfield.
Fans should also expect to see a great deal of Landry Weber, who has been getting raves from the coaching staff and was the star of the open practice held three weeks ago. Transfer Kade Warner, son of Kurt, has the tools to contribute as well, but hasn’t gotten a lot of press this fall. Keenan Garber, Eric Hommel, and Seth Porter have all been touted by the staff as well, so they’re presumably going to get some opportunities.
We would also be remiss in not pointing out Courtney Messingham’s reliance on using running backs in the passing game. The only member of the current running back corps who’s got a track record as a receiver is Deuce Vaughn, but that’s one hell of a weapon to have in your passing arsenal. At tight end, Sammy Wheeler already has a dossier of contribution and transfer Daniel Imatorbhebhe has made a lot of noise in the spring and in camp, so they’ll be offering a good deal of help to the wideouts as well.
Filling out the depth, and probably not likely to get much if any action (at least on offense), are Jaelon Travis, Brenen Hawkins, R.J. Garcia, Porter’s little brother Shane, Dylan White, Xavier Gordon, Gabe Hoover, Elliot Ollenburger, Xavier Loyd (no, not Lloyd), Ty Bowman, Thomas Helton, Trevor Erickson, and Tyrone Howell. All but Helton and Howell are sophomores or younger.
So what can we expect? If all goes well, Knowles pops for over a thousand yards, Brooks gets into the high three digits, Taylor comes back sooner than later and does the same, and Weber, Warner, and Vaughn all have significant numbers on the page while the tight ends pitch in with some key receptions. That’s what’s going to have to happen to get Thompson into the 3,000 yard range, and if he’s able to do that the only thing that’s going to lead to this K-State team’s downfall is the defense.
On the other hand, yank just one of the major pieces out of the puzzle, and it could be another long and frustrating year in which K-State looks good for 30 minutes a game and terrible the other 30. Luck is going to have to be on K-State’s side for once, but after a few years of misfortune maybe it’s their turn.