MANHATTAN — Don’t feel bad if you needed a roster to keep up with the receivers Kansas State used against Oklahoma State last weekend.
“We had five receivers on the field at one time last week and I’m not sure I knew all of them,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said.
The Wildcats certainly looked different at receiver against the Cowboys. Slot receiver Curry Sexton led the team with six catches for 43 yards, backups Kyle Klein and Torell Miller both caught passes, and everyone from third-string wideout Stephen Johnson to backup running back Robert Rose lined up wide when K-State used an empty backfield.
Those new faces took the field when it was determined Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett, K-State’s top two receivers, weren’t fit to play. Thompson made the trip, but didn’t see action. Lockett started the game, but left in the first half with a hamstring injury. Both players remain questionable for Saturday’s game against No. 15 Baylor, which means K-State may have to once again rely on an unfamiliar and unproven group of receivers.
Not the ideal scenario for an offense that will be asked to outscore Baylor’s high-flying attack. K-State will likely be forced to use a new passing strategy that features mid-range throws and few deep balls. But Snyder has confidence.
“They are good young guys,” Snyder said. “They work extremely hard. There is a reason why the other two were starters, they had the skill level and the experience. These young guys just haven’t had the experience and all of a sudden they are on the field. ... They have been hidden down in the depth chart, but they are good young guys and they work hard and they do things the right way.”
They also showed what they are capable of in the second half of a 33-29 loss at Oklahoma State. Miller came off the bench and played by far his best game, shaking off dropped passes in previous outings to make four grabs for 35 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams targeted him often, and the duo appeared to have chemistry.
Kyle Klein also showed his potential by catching three passes for 34 yards.
“With Tramaine and Tyler out you lose a lot of speed, but the profession we are in, college football, it’s about the next guy up,” Sexton said. “Since I’ve been here, we have had a lot of unfortunate injuries at the receiver position. You just have to prepare those guys who are No. 2s and No. 3s on the depth chart, because they might have to play at any given moment. (Receivers) coach (Andre) Coleman has been telling us that since he got here. I think Kyle and Torell did a great job stepping in for those guys.
“Two all-Big 12 talents not being on the field is going to hurt you. Those guys are both studs. We wish we had them out there, but the guys who stepped in played well and made enough plays for us to win.”
Sexton, Miller and Klein will likely continue to be the top passing targets if Lockett and Thompson remain sidelined.
Miller, who has been primarily used as a downfield blocker, described the Oklahoma State game as a confidence-booster. He expects more on Saturday. Klein appears to have all the skills. He has simply been waiting for his chance.
Klein is best known as the little brother of former quarterback Collin Klein. K-State recruited him as a standup defensive end before moving him to tight end and ultimately asking him to play receiver. Other than a handful of plays last year, he hadn’t seen much action before this season. Finally catching a few passes meant a lot.
“If the ball is in the air, I’m going to go get it,” Klein said. “Last year I was still new to the offense. I was worried about busted assignments and going back to the coaches and getting an earful. It’s nice not to have to worry about that.”
His main worry now is replacing Thompson and Lockett. It won’t be easy.
“This is what we practice for,” Klein said, “so when you get your opportunity you take advantage.”