Kansas State University

Projecting K-State’s depth chart with spring football practice in the books

The Kansas State Wildcats wrapped up spring practice on Saturday with a showcase event that gave everyone in attendance a small taste of what to expect next football season.

K-State coach Chris Klieman says he won’t have a public depth chart ready for fans to analyze until summer practices get underway, but now seems like a good time for a projection.

Coaches are still experimenting with personnel combinations. They will also get incoming freshmen involved after they arrive on campus. So the rotations we saw Saturday could change drastically by the time K-State opens the season Aug. 31 against Nicholls.

But here is an educated case on where things stand today:

Quarterback

Starter: Skylar Thompson

Backup: John Holcombe

There isn’t much drama here this year. Thompson has emerged as a team leader and the obvious starter. No one has embraced the Klieman era more than Thompson, and he’s playing with loads of confidence. Holcombe looks like he has a big lead on the backup job, but Nick Ast and Jaren Lewis had their moments in spring practice. They could still challenge for the No. 2 spot.

Running back

Starter: James Gilbert

Backup: Harry Trotter

He didn’t do anything spectacular at the spring showcase, but Gilbert appears ready to lead K-State’s backfield after transferring from Ball State. The senior already has strong knowledge of the playbook and provides a veteran presence to the running game, even if he may have a ways to go before he can match the production of Alex Barnes. For now, Trotter looks like the primary backup with Tyler Burns third. But this position could change a great deal after incoming freshmen arrive over the summer.

Receiver

Starters: Hunter Rison, Dalton Schoen, Isaiah Zuber

Backups: Malik Knowles, Wykeen Gill, Chabastin Taylor

Rison will make this position much better next season. The Michigan State transfer looked like the top receiver throughout spring practice and will almost certainly join the starting lineup after sitting out 2018. It’s hard to tell where Zuber will factor in once he returns from injury, but he was the team’s top receiver last season and could form a nice one-two punch alongside Rison. But he will face lots of competition. This might be the deepest position on the roster. Schoen, Knowles, Taylor and Gill are all capable of making big plays.

Offensive line

Starters: Scott Frantz (LT), Josh Rivas (LG), Adam Holtorf (C), Tyler Mitchell (RG), Nick Kaltmayer (RT)

Backups: Christian Duffie, Aidan Mills, Evan Curl, Kaitori Leveston, Justin Eichman

K-State coaches seem to have already found a front five they trust. All five of them have played meaningful snaps before and they spent tons of time together on Saturday. The second wave of blockers is a bit harder to predict. Curl looks like the backup at center, while Duffie and Mills appear ready to fill in at several positions. The Wildcats probably want to develop more depth here.

Tight Ends

Starter: Nick Lenners

Backup: Blaise Gammon

Courtney Messingham will use tight ends a whole lot more than K-State fans are accustomed, so we will see more than two tight ends next season. Lenners seems like the starter, even though he missed most of last season because of an injury. Gammon and Sammy Wheeler should get lots of playing time. Wheeler switched to tight end from quarterback this spring and already looks like a weapon in the passing game. Adam Harter, technically a fullback, could also lineup as a tight end on certain plays.

Defensive line

Starters: Wyatt Hubert (DE), Trey Dishon (DT), Joe Davies (DT), Reggie Walker (DE)

Backups: Bronson Massie, Jordan Mittie, Drew Wiley, Spencer Trussell

Here’s what Klieman had to say about K-State’s defensive line on Saturday: “The guys up front are pretty dang good. We have bookend defensive ends and Dishon inside. We have a number of bodies inside. I like the defensive front. That is where it starts for us, obviously.” He is clearly pleased with what the Wildcats have coming back. Coaches raved about Hubert and Dishon all spring, and there is depth here. Kyle Ball should also factor into the rotation at defensive end.

Linebackers

Starters: DaQuan Patton, Elijah Sullivan

Backups: Daniel Green, Cody Fletcher

This position looked a whole lot stronger before Justin Hughes tore an ACL in spring practice. Without “the heart and soul” of K-State’s defense, it will be up to Patton and Sullivan to make big plays at linebacker. They have both started before, so the Wildcats have confidence in them. But depth will be an issue.

Defensive backs

Starters: Lance Robinson (CB), A.J. Parker (CB), Walter Neil (NB), Denzel Goolsby (S), Wayne Jones (S)

Backups: Kevion McGee, Darreyl Patterson, Jonathan Durham, Jonathan Alexander, Jahron McPherson

Goolsby and Jones look like the starters at safety, and you can probably pencil in Parker at one of the cornerback spots, but the rest of K-State’s secondary is a mystery. This was the hardest position to judge at the spring showcase. Early on in spring practice, coaches said Neil was dominating at nickelback. But he played exclusively corner on Saturday. Robinson, McGee and Durham all saw playing time with the first-string defense at different spots. Klieman says he wants to find the best five defensive backs and get them on the field together. He will try to mix and match them again in the summer.

Special teams

Starters: Blake Lynch (K), Devin Anctil (P), Isaiah Zuber (KR), Darreyl Patterson (PR)

K-State has proven specialists coming back at kicker and punter. But there could be a great deal of competition on kick and punt return duty. Expect several incoming freshmen at running back and receiver to get a look there.

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