MANHATTAN — No matter what, Tyler Lockett was going to be a popular player at the Kansas State football team's annual fan appreciation day. He has one of the most recognizable names on the roster.
Lockett's father, Kevin, caught 217 passes for 3,032 yards and is the Wildcats' leader in career receptions. His uncle, Aaron, wasn't far behind and ended his K-State career with 137 catches for 2,400 yards.
But autograph seekers approached Tyler Lockett on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium for reasons that had nothing to do with his family tree.
"We're expecting big things out of you this year," one fan told him while signing a poster. "I think you're good enough to start."
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Lockett may not be that high on the depth chart yet, but if he finishes fall camp the way many of his teammates say he has performed thus far, he could be on the field for K-State's first offensive snap against Eastern Kentucky.
While practicing with K-State's first-team offense on Saturday, Lockett excelled. He ran routes with precision and caught most of the passes thrown his way. He looked competitive alongside returning starters Brodrick Smith and Chris Harper, and held his own with senior Sheldon Smith.
Not bad for a 5-foot-11, 170-pound freshman who said shortly after signing with the Wildcats that he hoped to redshirt his first season and focus on putting on muscle in the weight room.
"I'm feeling good out there," Lockett said. "I've still got a lot to work on, though. I'm trying to improve on the little things."
Lockett was K-State's biggest surprise on Saturday, but a number of other players made cases for their own spots in the starting lineup.
On the offensive line, Keenan Taylor looked comfortable at left guard next to Manase Foketi, B.J. Finney continues to have a lead at center and Colten Freeze appears solid at right guard next to Clyde Aufner.
On the defensive side, linebackers Emmanuel Lamur and Tre Walker spent much of their time alongside Arthur Brown on the first team. And Nigel Malone appears set at starting corner next to David Garrett.
As expected, Collin Klein looks destined to be K-State's starting quarterback,, and Tysyn Hartman and Ty Zimmerman are locked in as starters at safety.
Two areas that still look up for grabs, though, are running back and defensive line.
Though Bryce Brown signed as many autographs as any player Saturday, he split time on the first team with Robert Rose, John Hubert and Angelo Pease.
On the defensive line, essentially every player at the position rotated in and out with the first team. Meshak Williams and Adam Davis seemed to see the most time at K-State's two defensive end positions.
When it came time for K-State football coach Bill Snyder to address the crowd Saturday, he didn't speak much about strategy or depth charts. He simply thanked the fans in attendance for their support and welcomed them to the field for autographs.
But he did say he likes the way his team is headed. If nothing else, players like Lockett are proving K-State has a deep roster.
"We are a better looking football team today than we were a year ago," Snyder said.
Notes — Jarell Childs and Tramaine Thompson were not present Saturday. Childs is dealing with an injury he suffered during spring practices. A team spokesman said Thompson was held out with a minor injury. Kaleb Drinkgern, a senior walk-on offensive lineman, will likely miss the season with an injury, Snyder said.