Kansas State University

Observations from K-State’s first open football practice of preseason camp

The Kansas State Wildcats opened a portion of their football practice to media on Monday.

Here are some observations from preseason camp:

1. Freshman quarterback also playing receiver

Chris Herron joined the K-State football team earlier this summer after throwing for big yardage as a quarterback at Langham Creek High School in Houston, but he might make a name for himself in college by catching passes.

Herron, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound athlete, spent time at both quarterback and receiver on Monday.

He initially warmed up at the QB position and wore a green, no-contact jersey. But he later shifted to receiver during other drills.

Herron has the size and athleticism to succeed at both positions, but his easiest path to early playing time might come as a receiver. Skylar Thompson is back as the team’s starting quarterback, and more experienced passers are in line to serve as his primary backup.

There is much more uncertainty at receiver, where the Wildcats are working to replace the spring departures of Isaiah Zuber and Hunter Rison.

Herron looked right at home with the receivers during this practice, as he flashed good speed and caught a few post routes.

For now, K-State coach Chris Klieman says he plans to keep Herron at quarterback. But practicing multiple positions now could open up some options for him as the season approaches.

2. The race is on for backup QB

Don’t be surprised if Nick Ast pushes John Holcombe for backup quarterback duties this season.

Ast, a sophomore from Cimarron, Kansas, looked sharp with his passes on Monday and seemed to get as much work as Holcombe during throwing drills behind Thompson.

At 6-5 and 209 pounds, he brings size as well as depth to the position.

The same can be said about Holcombe, though. The 6-4, 249-pound redshirt freshman played defensive end at one point in high school.

Holcombe has long been considered the favorite to win the No. 2 QB job this year, but he may face some competition along the way.

3. Pecking order at running back?

K-State’s first football game is still nearly four weeks away, so the running back rotation near the start of preseason camp might not mean much by the time Nicholls comes to town on Aug. 31.

But there was a definite pecking order during practice on Monday.

When K-State’s offense came together and began running plays, James Gilbert was the first running back to see action, followed by Harry Trotter and then Jordon Brown. Tyler Burns was next on the field before reporters were escorted out of practice.

Gilbert, a graduate transfer from Ball State, figures to be the favorite to start this season. He rushed for 2,806 yards during four seasons at his previous college before transferring to K-State for the start of spring practices.

Trotter came to K-State as a walk-on transfer from Louisville, but he quickly impressed Klieman and is now on scholarship.

Brown arrived during the summer as a graduate transfer from North Carolina, where he rushed for 1,005 yards in three years.

Odds are good Klieman will spread carries around to multiple running backs the same way he did at North Dakota State, and the competition for those carries has begun.

Jacardia Wright, a freshman from Decatur, Illinois, was also in the mix at running back Monday despite being listed as an athlete on K-State’s roster. He didn’t join the team until the first day of preseason camp last week. It is unclear where he will play next season, but for now he is working at running back.

4. The grass is always greener

It’s been a long time since K-State allowed media to witness portions of preseason camp. It’s also been a while since the Wildcats practiced on grass.

Former coach Bill Snyder preferred to close all of his practices and hold most of them at Snyder Family Stadium. But Klieman has switched venues to K-State’s grass practice fields adjacent to the school’s soccer stadium.

K-State will likely shift back to its football stadium before opening the season with back-to-back home games. But Klieman prefers grass for now, presumably because the playing surface is easier on his players.

5. Injury report

Three K-State players did not participate in Monday’s practice. They were senior defensive end Reggie Walker, junior defensive end Bronson Massie and freshman offensive lineman Tre Eaton.

All three stretched on the sidelines and watched in good spirits.

Klieman said Walker injured his ankle late in summer workouts and is being withheld for precautionary reasons. He is expected to return to the field next week. Massie and Eaton are both also dealing with minor injuries, Klieman said.

Two K-State players were limited and wore red, no-contact jerseys. They were senior fullback Adam Harter and freshman defensive back Jay Crayton.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle