Kansas State football held its second practice of the preseason Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Those in attendance were permitted to watch nearly an hour of the spring-capping practice.
Here are some observations from the session.
Chabastin Taylor, K-State’s top receiver in receptions and yards last season, wasn’t seen Saturday. He missed the entirety of the spring, and at Big 12 media days last month, Klieman said Taylor still is working his way back from an injury.
Elsewhere, few players have received as much praise from coaches and teammates as Julius Brents. A defensive back transfer from Iowa, he’s already put himself in position to start in the secondary this fall.
On Saturday, however, he did not participate in the portion of the practice open to the public. He was dressed out, but remained on the sideline.
Perhaps updates on Taylor and Brents will come Tuesday, when Klieman will hold his first preseason press conference.
On the first play observed, starting quarterback Skylar Thompson avoided “pressure” on a play-action fake and delivered a perfectly placed pass to new tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe. Note the quote marks; quarterbacks, as per usual, couldn’t be taken to the ground. If a defender touched a signal-caller, the play was immediately whistled dead. Still, it was a positive sign that Thompson felt the oncoming defender and felt confident to set his feet and unfurl a pass.
There were nary few incompletions from either Thompson or Will Howard, the backup. Howard had a particularly nice play where he rolled out of the pocket and fired downfield to receiver Seth Porter.
Freshman quarterback Jake Rubley showed off his arm strength on another play where he zipped the ball to receiver Xavier Loyd — though Rubley’s pass-catcher bailed him out. Loyd came up with the catch on a diving grab.
The biggest surprise, however, was Max Marsh, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Colorado. On one throw, he went up the seam and completed a pass to tight end Will Swanson with no space between the defender and his target. Later, he delivered another pass in a tight window on the left sideline.
Of the five quarterbacks on the roster, Marsh likely is fifth on the depth chart. There’s a possibility he might never see the field during his time in Manhattan. But this kid has some talent — he accounted for 52 touchdowns and more than 7,000 yards (passing and rushing) during his high school career — and he knows the game. His father is a high school football coach, after all.
While the quarterbacks had their way for a good bit of the open portion, there was one marquee play from a defensive back.
Howard went up the sideline toward receiver Malik Knowles. Though Knowles had a chance to snag it, it wasn’t to be. That’s because defensive back Aamaris Brown knocked it away — and burst into celebration the moment the ball hit the ground. Brown had at least two other pass breakups during the practice.
If they awarded an MVP for the secondary Saturday, Brown likely would have won it.
Running backs make most of their time with the ball
The majority of plays during the open practice saw the Wildcats take to the air. But when they stuck to the ground, a few tailbacks showed off their skills.
On one play, Jacardia Wright — battling Joe Ervin for the No. 2 spot behind Deuce Vaughn — broke loose and likely would have scored a touchdown had it been a scrimmage. Sophomore Clyde Price and freshman DJ Giddens (a star during his days at nearby Junction City High) had some nice runs showing off their physicality, too.
Vaughn proved his pass-catching ability is as good as ever, as he had a highlight-reel, one-handed catch on a play that ultimately was whistled dead.
Punt returners, Part I
Running back Deuce Vaughn and Knowles and fellow receiver Phillip Brooks fielded punts toward the end of the practice, which focused on special teams drills. Brooks was the team’s primary punt returner last season. Neither Vaughn nor Knowles ever have returned a punt at K-State, but they’ve both worked on kickoff returns — and the Texas duo are explosive enough that they can be of service anywhere they’re asked to play.
Still, expect Brooks to remain the top punt-return option in 2021 unless he’s hurt.
Punt returners, Part II
During the punt-return drill, the Wildcats did something this reporter never has seen to up the difficulty: just seconds before the ball arrived, a coach tossed a hula hoop right in front of the returner.
The intent, obviously, was to ensure the player’s eyes were on the ball and not distracted by things around him.