Signing Day II - Return of the Signatures is over, and with it, the 2022 recruiting class has reached its natural conclusion. I will always preface these sorts of articles with the following caveat.
I HAVE NO IDEA HOW ANY OF THESE GUYS WILL WORK OUT.
Generally speaking some of the guys that I think are locks to contribute will never see the field. Some of the guys that I think are reaches will be multi-year starters. That’s the nature of college football recruiting. Everyone likes the guys they signed, they all fill holes and fit in the “culture”.
What I can give you is the best case scenario on the guys, and some meaningless grades based on my own personal opinions. If I had the ability to discern a guy that’s going to make an impact and a guy that’s never going to play, some college football team would be paying me significantly more than I currently make writing about Kansas State football.
Anyway, let’s get after it.
*All rankings are from the 247 composite unless otherwise indicated
Adryan Lara - 6’2”, 215 - 3*(87) - Desert Edge HS (Goodyear, Ariz)
Lara, originally a Washington State commit, opened up his recruitment after the mess in Pullman. Kansas State didn’t need to take a quarterback this cycle, but it’s best not to question things when a talent like Lara falls into your lap.
It’s pretty obvious the “type” of quarterback this coaching staff favors, and Lara fits the bill. He’s a sturdy, big armed quarterback with the ability to run the ball. He reminds me a little of Will Howard coming out of high school. He’s nice tools, but will need polish at the college level. You never know how a guy is going to develop when the game speeds up, but it’s best to grab a guy with the skill set to be elite if they develop the mental part of the game.
This might seem a bit high, but I like how Lara fits into the program. He’ll have a year to get accustomed to college before getting a chance to compete for the starting job with the rest of the quarterback options. The Wildcats had a high upside guy with the skill set they like fall directly in their lap. Seems like a good deal.
This one makes me nervous. Deuce Vaughn has proven to be durable, but as of now, K-State will be going into the season with RSFr Dervin Weathers and RSFr DJ Giddens as the reserve running backs after Clyde Price (Current Portal Free Agent), Joe Ervin (Middle Tennessee State) and Jacardia Wright (Missouri State) were sucked into the transfer portal.
I’m going to leave this as incomplete, because I think a transfer running back makes more sense than another freshman at this point. It could turn into an “F” if they don’t fill the slot. Finding another running back to come in and play right away should be at the top of the to-do list this spring/summer. There should be plenty available.
Brayden Loftin - 6’5”, 210 - 3*(85) - Lewis Central HS (Omaha, Neb)
Receiving tight end was a priority in this recruiting class, and the staff raided Nebraska (even though Lewis Central is in Iowa...not sure how that works) for two guys that look like receiving tight ends.
Loftin is a smooth athlete with all the measurables (in terms of athleticism) you look for in a pass catching tight end. He puts up solid track and field times when he’s not playing football, which is always nice to see in a 6’5” tight end. He’ll need to add some weight while maintaining that athleticism before he can be a regular contributor, but he could see time as a red zone target early in his career. He was used more as a wide receiver than a tight end during most of his high school career, and that could help him get on the field in a limited capacity earlier.
Garrett Oakley - 6’5”, 210 - 3*(83) - Scotus Central Catholic HS (Columbus, Neb)
Oakley and Loftin are similar players. Loftin gets a slightly higher grade because of he’s the better athlete on paper, but Oakley may be the more polished receiver coming into Kansas State. He holds his school record for receptions (107) and receiving yards (1,640) in a career. It’s unusual to have a tight end come into your program with experience being his high school team’s go to receiver. In addition to football he moonlights in both basketball and track and field.
He’ll need to join Loftin in the weight room and training table, but could also be a red zone target early in his career. He’s always going to lean toward the receiving side of the equation, but will need to be functional in the run game before he sees significant playing time.
Both of these guys fit what the staff is looking for at tight end, and managed to hold onto them even after losing (firing) their main recruiters. I expected to lose one, if not both, so keeping both was a pleasant surprise. They’re developmental guys, but I think one or the other could make an impact in his first two seasons.
Sterling Lockett - 3*(83) - 5’10”, 160 - Blue Valley HS (Leawood, Kan)
Sterling is a bit strange in terms of a wider receiver recruit. Normally, guys coming in are more advanced physically and need to work on the technical part of playing receiver. Lockett comes in as a guy with advanced technical skills but he needs to work on the physical part of the game. He needs to get bigger, stronger, and more explosive. He’s quicker than he is fast, and that’s fine, but adding some strength could help his top end speed.
He projects as a pure slot receiver in college. He’ll need to use his quicks to burn slot corners on option routes and then get down on the ground. You don’t want a 160 pound receiver getting lit up by a safety. He could also help in the punt return game. A solid, and necessary recruit, but don’t expect early returns on this investment.
Tyson Struber - 6’2”, 185 - 3*(85) - Canton-Galva HS (Galva, Kan)
This is one of my favorite players in the class. The recruiting services have a tough time with guys like Tyson, who played 8-man football. It’s hard to evaluate a guy that is far and away the best athlete in the field. He had 1,472 receiving yards as a senior and was named the Sports in Kansas 8-Man Division 1 Player of the Year. He also holds a state championship in the 200 yard dash. Is he a medium sized fish in a small pond, making him look like a shark...or is he a shark?
I think he’ll end up being a shark.
He possesses the size to play either field or boundary receiver in college. I like him more on the boundary with this size and ability to win jump balls, but it could go either way. Either way, it’ll probably take him a year, if not two to acclimate to 11-man college football. Things going to be moving real fast early on, but when things slow down, I think he’ll make an impact.
This isn’t an indictment of the players they signed...more an indictment on the guys they didn’t sign. Wide receiver has been a trouble spot in recruiting under Klieman. That’s one of the main reasons he hired Thad Ward. It’ll be interesting to see if Thad manages to add another high school guy or an impact transfer before the start of the season.
Drake Bequeaith - 6’6”, 260 - 3*(85) - Grapevine High School (Colleyville, Texas)
While Bequeaith played his high school ball in Texas, he was born in Leawood, Kansas, so this is a homecoming of sorts. He has everything this coaching staff looks for in an offensive tackle prospect. He’s a tall, athletic kid that will need to add weight while maintaining his athleticism. In addition to football, he also played baseball, basketball, and rugby in high school. This isn’t some tall, stiff dude that has made his living being bigger than everyone else. He’s a legit athlete.
You won’t see him for a little while, but out of all the developmental tackles Klieman and Riley have landed over the last three years, Bequeaith might be my favorite in terms of upside.
Jalen Klemm - 6’6”, 260 - 3*(88) - Pine-Richland (Mars, Pa)
Klemm is the highest rated offensive line recruit in the Klieman era, and the overall highest rated recruit in the 2022 class. You’ve got to think technique won’t be an issue. His dad won three Super Bowls playing on the Patriots, and then went on to coach at SMU and UCLA before making the leap to NFL coaching. He spent the last three seasons as the offensive line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but is now headed to Oregon to take on the same role with the Ducks for 2022.
If you’re looking for a reason to further appreciate Coach Riley, Klemm is a good reason. He had plenty of options. Few players have his football support system, and he decided that playing for Coach Riley was the best thing for his career. I’m sure dad had some input on that decision. Game recognizes game in this case. And even with his dad’s movement back to a D1 college, Jalen has remined firm in his commitment to play at K-State.
On the field, Klemm is a technician. I like Bequeaith better as a pure athlete, but Klemm is more technically sound. Add in the fact that Klemm has a prototypical frame for the tackle position, and he’ll have an inside track on early playing time once he fills out his frame. I don’t expect to see him in 2022, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes an appearance on the depth chart in 2023.
John Pastore - 6’6”, 285 - 3*(85) - Erie High School (Erie, Colo)
Pastore is the type of interior lineman recruit that I like. At 285, it’s not going to take him long to get up to his playing weight, but at the same time, he doesn’t need to lose weight. Too often you see a 320 pound guard, that in reality, should be playing at 285. You’ve got to break those guys down and then build them back up. Pastore is a cut 285, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him around 300 this time next year.
He played tackle in high school, and as a solid athlete. He also plays basketball and participates in track and field. Kansas State love to pull their guards and Pastore looks perfectly suited for that task. He’s big enough to blow a defender out of the hole, and agile enough to track down a linebacker on the second level. Another solid developmental pick up for Coach Riley to turn into a monster.
I was tempted to give this group an “A”, because I like all three, but held off. One more guy rated like Klemm would have pushed this into the “A” category. Nick Herzog out of Blue Valley would have been the perfect addition to these three guys. I love the guys Coach Riley signed, and he is a top notch evaluator. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are two long term starters in this group.
Offense - C
I know the numbers don’t work out, but this is an average recruiting class for K-State on offense. The offensive line pulls up the average, and snagging Lara late was big, but the skill positions leave much to be desired.
I was shocked that they came up empty at running back. The two receivers they signed are fine, and Struber has star potential, but this team had early opportunity to sell at wide receiver and couldn’t turn that into a high 3*, low 4* recruit. Based on the hire made at wide receiver coach, skill position recruiting will have more of a priority moving forward.
The receiver and running back group will be fine without an instant impact player in 2022, but this staff needs to step it up in 2023.