Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Another year and another underwhelming recruiting class for the Kansas State Wildcats.
When I say underwhelming, it’s not the K-State fans that are underwhelmed. They’re generally thrilled with it. What I mean is, that the so called experts are unimpressed.
But when are they impressed with the Wildcats?
The crews at Rivals and ESPN don’t particularly like Bill Snyder’s recruiting class. But when you look at what Snyder and his assistants have assembled in this class, it appears they have the pieces necessary to not only help in the long term, but I’m the short term as well.
With the new playoff format starting next year, I’m quite certain that whoever wins the Big 12 will be one of the four teams in the new and creatively named “College Football Playoff,” and I believe Snyder thinks his team is quite capable of winning the Big 12. Knowing that, he plugged the holes with a class of nine junior college players and 11 high school players, in hopes of making one last run.
Recruiting is the foundation nearly all college football programs. That doesn’t always apply to Snyder. He’s the best, possibly the best ever, at taking kids that fly under the radar, kids that he sees just a sliver of hope in, and making them serviceable players. Sometimes even great players.
Both recruiting services are lukewarm on this class. ESPN likes it less than Rivals, ranking the class 57th compared with 46th from Rivals. But Snyder seemingly filled every hole with a player he expects to compete for starting positions in the fall. Rivals has the Wildcats with two 4-star players, 12 3-star players and eight 2-star players, while ESPN has K-State down for one 4-star player and 21 3-star players.
Four of K-State’s junior college signees were ranked in ESPN’s list of top 50 JUCO player:. Terrell Clinkscales (16th), D’Vonta Derricott (34th), Andre Davis (36th), and Danzel McDaniel (45th).
Both websites agree that the most talented recruits Snyder landed this year are on the defensive side of the ball, where K-State’s three biggest holes where at linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback. Snyder and his staff addressed all three spots with heralded junior college players.
The Wildcats will need Derricott, a four-star linebacker from Garden City Community College, to fill one of the spots left open by the graduation of Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. Along with Derricott, K-State received a signing-day surprise when Isaiah Riddle, a 6-3, 240 pound linebacker from Scottsdale Community College, signed with the Wildcats, despite the fact he never took a visit to Manhattan.
Along the defensive line, the Wildcats return starter Travis Britz, but lose Chaquil Reed to graduation. Clinkscales a mammoth 6-4, 315 pound defensive tackle from Dodge City Community College, is the only signing that was a 4-star player on both services. He was committed to the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a few months before flipping to the Wildcats in early January and if he makes it to Manhattan (he’s a qualifying risk) he will fill an immediate need for a Wildcat defense that will need to improve to rise back to the top of the Big 12.
At defensive back, the Wildcats addressed the departures of starting cornerbacks Dorian Roberts and Kip Daily with McDaniel, also from Dodge City, and Jesse Mack from Highland Community College. Both will have an opportunity to start early in their Wildcat careers.
Offensively, the Wildcats lose starting offensive tackles Cornelius Lucas and Tavon Rooks. K-State went to the junior college ranks to try and replace the duo, signing Luke Hayes from Butler County Community College and AJ Allen from Grossmont Community College.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
For K-State to challenge to win the Big 12 again, Snyder had to find someone to take just a fraction of the attention of opposing defenses in the passing game so that Tyler Lockett can have another monster season. The Wildcats addressed the loss of Tramaine Thompson at wide receiver by landing Andre Davis from Santa Rosa Junior College. He, along with how the Wildcats fill the tackle positions will be key to whether or not the Wildcats can replicate their late-season offensive success in 2013 in 2014.
Center Dalton Risner is K-State’s highest rated high school recruit according to ESPN. Rivals lists him as the sixth best center in the country and ESPN has him slotted as the seventh best. He will likely get a chance to be the heir apparent to B.J. Finney, who will leave K-State after 2014 after being a four-year starter.
The Wildcats did a lot right with this recruiting class, but that is not to say there weren’t disappointments.
The loss of quarterback commit Aaron Sharp, who flipped to UCLA two weeks prior to signing day, leaves K-State with only three scholarship quarterbacks in 2014. One of those is Daniel Sams, and if you follow him on Instagram and twitter (@DS4ms & @ds4mslife) you’d know he’s been posting videos of him catching passes, indicating he is thinking of a position switch. Whether or not Snyder is, that’s another matter.
Another issue is the lack of a junior college running back to replace three-year starter John Hubert. Only three running backs carried the ball in 2013 for Snyder, and Hubert received 87% of those carries. For a rather small running back, he has rather large shoes to fill.
Blue Springs running back Dalvin Warmack is the lone running back in the class, and he is a good one. The only two-time Simone Trophy winner in the awards history, might have a shot to get on the field as a true freshman. Senior-to-be Demarcus Robinson, who happens to be the highest rated recruit K-State currently has in its program (18th best running back in 2010), has only touched the ball 11 times in his Wildcat career. So Warmack does not have an insurmountable challenge to see the field in his first season.
So all in all, this is probably Snyder’s best recruiting class on paper since 2002. That year he landed five-star players Daniel Davis, and Peni Holakeituai, neither of which amounted to anything. We all like to talk about the star ratings but some of the best players in that 2002 recruiting class were 3-star players. From guys that had long NFL careers like Ryan Lilja and Jeromey Clary, to pieces that were vital in K-State’s 2003 Big 12 Championship like James Terry.
Sure, the 5-star guys hit more often that not. But that’s never really been what Snyder’s K-State program thrives on. A small influx of highly rated players, like is the case this year, along with a group of players that fly under the radar, is the kind of class that Snyder has had his best success with.