Kansas State’s offense going into the season was as put together, minus a few positions, as most any coach could probably hope for, especially after losing a Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback.
The Wildcats return all five starters along the offensive line, others with experience, as well as two of the three receiver spots with Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson and starting tailback John Hubert.
That’s not a bad nucleus to start with. And now with junior college transfer Jake Waters set to start at quarterback Friday night at home against North Dakota State, attention Tuesday shifted to the other remaining holes left to fill.
Redshirt-freshman Glenn Gronkowski won the fullback job over Zach Nemechek, while Andre McDonald will start at tight end over Zach Trujillo. The other receiver spot is going to Abilene junior Curry Sexton, who edged former Manhattan High standout Deante Burton, senior Torrell Miller and sophomore Kyle Klein for the spot.
Snyder said Sexton didn’t only win the job this fall, but rather it was a gradual process that started a year ago when he caught seven passes for 75 yards and a touchdown as a backup.
“In all reality, he was there a year ago,” Snyder said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “It’s been a collective body of work over the last year with Curry. He’s been consistent for us, was a quality player for us last year and did some nice things during the season. It’s not that it wasn’t competitive — there were a few guys — but he’s put himself in position to be the third guy.
“He runs routes extremely well, catches the ball extremely well, very aggressive, a good blocker, as well as a receiver.”
Snyder calls defense a “work in progress”
Replacing Arthur Brown any season is difficult. But having to replace the All-American linebacker, the entire defensive line and three of the four secondary positions is something entirely different.
On Tuesday we found out who earned the starting nods for Week 1, beginning with Ryan Mueller and Marquel Bryant at the two end spots and then Chaquil Reed and Travis Britz at the two interior positions. Senior Blake Slaughter, who redshirted a year ago, will join Tre Walker and Jonathan Truman at linebacker. Senior Ty Zimmerman will anchor the secondary from his free safety spot, while Dante Barnett will take over at strong safety. Senior Dorrian Roberts and junior Randall Evans are starting at cornerback.
Snyder said the defense is still a work in progress, now two days before the Wildcats open the season and the new West Stadium Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“That is probably true of our entire team,” he said. “We’re trying to get better and I see the steady improvement I think we’re making. They’re getting a feel for each other and there’s greater continuity right now than there was on the outset. I think they have a better understanding of the global concepts in regards to what we’re doing and how each one of them fits in.
“Some of those areas, I always stressed that we were very competitive at a number of positions, and I think that’s remained the case. However, though we’ve identified starters at all the positions — the competition has remained very fluid.”
K-State looks to have some depth inside with freshman Damonte Hood and Chris Brown sharing the No. 2 spot behind Reed. Junior Valentino Coleman and freshman Matt Seiwert are penciled in at the backup spot behind Britz. Senior Alauna Finau and junior Laton Dowling are the reserve defensive ends.
In the secondary, Kip Daily and Morgan Burns are identified as backup corners, with Travis Green and Dylan Schellenberg working in as reserve safeties.
Sophomore Charmeachealle Moore, freshman Will Davis and junior Dakorey Johnson are listed as the backup linebackers.
One noticeable face missing in this bunch is junior college transfer Devon Nash, who joined the Wildcats at semester last year from Iowa Western. The 6-foot-5, 264-pound defensive end, who was expected to compete for a starting job, has decided to leave the program and is no longer on the roster.