MANHATTAN — When Carson Coffman looks at Kansas State's wide receivers these days, he feels confident.
With senior Aubrey Quarles and Minnesota transfer Brodrick Smith spread wide, and Oregon transfer Chris Harper lined up in the slot, the senior quarterback sees three big, physical targets on every play.
That's a drastic change from a year ago, when the Wildcats' passing offense was built around speed, and 5-foot-7 Brandon Banks was the team's only consistent receiving threat.
Sure, Attrail Snipes and Lamark Brown caught a few passes every now and then, but all three departed players needed to be wide open to make catches. Physical defense slowed them down, jump balls were rarely won and fade routes weren't an option.
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That group never intimidated defenders like Coffman sees this new batch of receivers doing.
"I like the bigger guys," Coffman said. "They're just bringing a different element to the table. Just a presence that says we're here to dominate as an offense."
That may sound like a strong claim considering none of the three wideouts played last year, and K-State figures to once again be a run-oriented offense next season. But there is no hiding the optimism that surrounds Quarles, Smith and Harper.
Quarles, a 5-foot-11, 211-pound senior, would have likely been a key component in K-State's offense last season, but got hurt and ended up taking a medical redshirt. Smith, a 6-foot-2, 206-pounder, started at Minnesota as a freshman but transferred to Manhattan in order to be closer to his son Blake, who will turn 2 this summer. And Harper, a 6-foot-1, 234-pound sophomore, has proven himself as a do-everything threat at both Oregon and Wichita Northwest.
At the very least, they should be able to handle the occasional push and shove while running routes.
"We have a real good group of receivers," safety Tysyn Hartman said. "Aubrey and all those guys really have a lot of talent and a lot of skill. They're pretty physical, and that's good for us."
A week into spring practices, all three seem to be adjusting to their new roles away from the scout team.
Coffman is already bragging about Quarles' ability to make one-hand catches over either shoulder, and Quarles says he is happy to finally be back on the field "hitting people."
"Aubrey Quarles gives you a reasonably physical receiver," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "He is a pretty sharp young guy that understands what you are trying to do. He's got good hands that can catch the ball and has the capacity to advance the ball and get it up field, because he is a little more physical."
Smith, who almost committed to K-State out of high school, is also physical. Teammates say he will knock down defenders when given the opportunity, but can outrun them, too. At Minnesota, he caught a 43-yard touchdown pass against Northwestern.
"Brodrick is a great athlete," Quarles said. "He has it all — the size the speed, everything. He's a great player and has a lot to bring to the field."
Harper, who also played quarterback at Oregon and in high school, has been slowed by a nagging injury, but Snyder has been impressed by his athleticism all the same.
Combined with two other receivers who missed out on playing last year, K-State will have a group of new-look, motivated targets to throw to.
"We're hungry for it," Smith said. "We've got a whole bunch of guys who want to go out and compete. We'll be a good receiving crew this year."