There’s a reason teams don’t hand out MVP awards after spring games. It’s hard to know what playing well in a glorified practice really means. Sometimes it’s a sign of things to come. Sometimes it’s a fluke.
That must be stated before jumping to any type of conclusion about what transpired Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. But now that we have gotten all those disclaimers out of the way it’s time to point out just how good freshman receiver Chabastin Taylor looked.
He was clearly the MVP of this spring game.
Many have wondered which unproven receivers will step up and help returning starters Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen next season. For now, at least, Taylor looks to be the most likely candidate.
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He dominated on a cold, rainy day when it seemed like big passing plays might have been hard to come by. Taylor, a redshirt freshman from Giddings, Texas, was in his element. K-State quarterbacks targeted him five times, and Taylor took advantage of those looks with five catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
“His potential is through the roof,” K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson said. “He comes in each and every day and works his butt off and has a good mindset, never complains. He is really soft spoken. He has a long ways to go still, but where he can get to eventually is crazy if you think about it. I’m just excited to help him get there.”
Taylor’s upside is unmistakable. He is 6 feet 4 inches and 227 pounds, and Thompson compares him to the type of receiver you would create on a video game, because he has ideal size.
But he also has speed. Taylor displayed that speed on his first touchdown catch, which was arguably the highlight of the day. On the play, Taylor caught a short pass from Alex Delton, spun off a tackler and sprinted 20 yards to the end zone. Later, he beat his defender on a jump ball thrown by Hunter Hall that resulted in a 45-yard touchdown.
You don’t see that every day.
“It surprised me a little bit to see how strong of a runner he is,” K-State quarterback Alex Delton said. “We have seen him accelerate off the ball and do freakish stuff but to attack the ball at its high point in a game makes you realize he is a dog. He could be a really, really good player for us.”
Before Saturday, Taylor was best known as the player K-State coach Bill Snyder mistook for former receiver Carlos Strickland at Snyder's first news conference of the spring.
“He has been up and down. It is kind of a roller coaster with him,” Snyder said. “He is a young guy. It is a new process for him, a new system. You can see he has got some skill. Physically, he can play the game. He has just got to learn to get into the system and the process.”
The only disappointing part of the day for Taylor was that he never got any looks with the starters. All of his catches came playing with K-State’s second-string offense while going against K-State’s second-string defense, which never applied much pressure.
It would have been nice to see how Taylor stacked up against Duke Shelley and the rest of K-State’s starting secondary.
Still, K-State fans have to like what Taylor displayed, even if it was only during a spring game.
“He has made some headway, and he played well today,” Snyder said. “His practices in the past week improved over previous practices. Hopefully that is a sign for the future.”
Close race at QB
The K-State coaching staff came up with a creative way to choose a starting quarterback on Saturday. They flipped a coin.
That’s how close the quarterback derby has been this spring for the Wildcats. Delton and Thompson appear dead even. Thompson had to correctly predict heads before kickoff to take the first snap.
Both quarterbacks performed well. Thompson completed 15 of 22 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns, while Delton connected on 21 of 28 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
This position battle won’t end anytime soon, but Snyder knows what he wants to see as the season approaches.
“Both of them do a pretty decent job with both facets of the game,” Snyder said. “It will be about game management and how well they can get us in and out of the right things and wrong things, manage the ballgame and be turnover free. That will be major criteria for the evaluation.”
WR depth might not be an issue
K-State might be better stocked at receiver than originally expected. Depth will obviously remain a concern until someone other than Schoen and Zuber makes big plays in games that matter, but Delton and Thompson had no trouble finding other targets in this cold, rainy scrimmage.
Zach Reuter was on the field with the starters most of the afternoon, slipping through holes in the defense for 75 yards and two touchdowns on five catches. He managed to get wide open on both of his scoring grabs. On the first, he streaked across the middle without a defensive back within 10 yards of him. Later, he made a cut in the end zone and caught an easy pass near the sideline.
Landry Weber, a walk-on from Lenexa, also flashed potential. K-State quarterbacks targeted him a whopping 11 times, and he turned that big workload into 65 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. He showed good hands on speed and looked like a young version of former receiver Curry Sexton.
Not so special teams
K-State struggled on special teams Saturday. That was somewhat to be expected given how much the Wildcats lost in that area at the end of last season. But they appear to have work to do when it comes to kicking and punting.
Blake Lynch was the only kicker to make a field goal (Andrew Hicks and Nick McLellan both missed), and K-State averaged 36 yards on its punts. Its only return of the day went for 13 yards from Zuber.
Alex Barnes appears to have regained his freshman form.
The junior running back was back to the fast, powerful ball carrier he was before a rash of injuries slowed him last season. Barnes rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries on Saturday.
Barnes hit holes with good speed and knew when to cut and take off. Fellow running backs Justin Silmon, Dalvin Warmack and Mike McCoy played sparingly with injuries, so carries could be harder to come by when the real games begin. But Barnes still looks like the clear starter, and this was an encouraging sign for what’s to come.
Snyder used the word “porous” to describe the way K-State played on defense. That’s … not good.
K-State’s offense mostly had its way with the defense, scoring 59 points and amassing 831 yards. But there were a few standout performers.
Brock Monty led the way with 14 tackles, Kyle Ball and Trey Dishon each had sacks for the purple team and Wayne Jones made an interception. Elijah Sullivan and Da’Quan Patton also flashed athleticism at linebacker.