And yet … Many expect wide receiver to be one of K-State’s most dependable and stable positions this season.
How does that work? The answer isn’t as complicated as you might think.
Injuries kept Tramaine Thompson and Brodrick Smith from playing full seasons a year ago. And they forced Sheldon Smith into missing every game with a redshirt. Now all three are healthy, and combined with junior Chris Harper, K-State welcomes back a quartet of players who should provide Collin Klein with plenty of solid targets.
Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett could also find their way onto the field in meaningful situations if they continue showing promise in fall practices. As is the trend on this K-State team, that will make the Wildcats a deeper receiving unit than they were a year ago, when walk-ons were catching passes in what seemed like every game.
They may experience some growing pains without Aubrey Quarles, who caught a team-high 51 passes for 760 yards and five touchdowns as a senior, and Adrian Hilburn, who grabbed 28 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns, but K-State has enough talent returning to be a better passing team as the season goes on.
Brodrick Smith looked like the team’s top receiver a year ago, piling up 191 yards and three touchdowns in five games, before going down for the season with a broken leg against Nebraska. He is the squad’s top touchdown threat in the red zone and should be able to pick up where he left off when the season begins.
Harper made some of the most impressive catches of the season (his touchdown grab at Colorado might have been the best) and ended the year by scoring touchdowns in K-State’s final three games. As a junior, he should contribute even more.
Tramaine Thompson is the team’s top touchdown threat/speedster. Who could forget his juke move last year at Kansas? Many have compared him to former wide receiver Brandon Banks, for that reason.
And Sheldon Smith finished the spring game with a team-high 138 receiving yards. Who knows if he can continue that production in live games, but his teammates say he could be the surprise player of the season.
Combined, those four players had just 779 yards between them a year ago, but hopes are high for increased production in 2011. If Klein plays well, that will help those numbers.