MANHATTAN – Andre Coleman knows what he is about to say will be considered silly by most outside the Kansas State football program, and maybe even by some within it, but the Wildcat receivers coach lets the words fly all the same.
“Top to bottom, I think this is the best group I have had since I have been here,” Coleman said. “The expectations are the same, and they understand that. I expect the same from them that I expected from Tyler Lockett. I expect great things from this group.”
Without Lockett, the top statistical receiver in K-State history, the Wildcats are expected to take a step back in the receiving department. Add on the losses of former slot specialist Curry Sexton, a 1,000-yard receiver last season, and talented quarterback Jake Waters, and the thought of K-State matching the record 3,736 passing yards it produced a year ago seems preposterous.
Simply reaching 2,500 yards could be a challenge.
Still, Coleman, entering his third season as receivers coach, has confidence in a group led by mostly unproven targets Deante Burton, Kyle Klein and Kody Cook – loads of it.
“We have a lot more size, we are taller and we still have some speed at the wide receiver position,” Coleman said. “These guys don’t have the superstars like Tyler Lockett, but their work ethic is great. They work hard, and, mentally, they are getting to that point where Tyler was.
“They understand what I expect, and they understand how to attack defensive backs. They understand how to see coverages, all those things you need to be great.”
His receivers are not afraid of that praise.
“My expectations for the offense are through the ceiling,” said Burton, a junior. “I think we have got a lot of talent. We have got a lot of guys that other teams don’t know about. With this class and this group of guys, we can do a lot of things that groups before us couldn’t. We have size that last year didn’t. We are better in some aspects.
“I’m not taking anything away from Tyler and Curry. They are always going to be great receivers and remembered at this place, but we have a new group of guys and all of us are accepting the challenge.”
If K-State is to remain strong in the passing game, it will be up to Burton to lead the way.
A 6-foot-2, 205-pound Manhattan native, he has the intangibles to become a No. 1 receiver. True, he only has 17 catches for 171 yards to his name, but he narrowly missed on several potential touchdown grabs last season playing alongside Lockett and Sexton. His upside is obvious.
“He is going to be bigger and stronger and just as fast as any defensive back he goes against,” Coleman said. “Automatically, he is going to have an advantage. He just has to get the mentality that he is bigger, stronger and faster than most guys he is going to go against. I am starting to see that with him.”
Burton can feel the change.
“It is one of those things where you have to be a big boy,” Burton said. “Time to grow up, especially with such a young offense.”
Klein (6-4, 210), a senior, will also have to take on a larger role, along with Cook and past reserves Andre Davis, Stanton Weber and Steven West.
Cook led the way with 251 yards last season, while Davis Weber and West combined for 50. Klein sat out with an injury. They are the equivalent of a blank slate, only with size – all of them are at least 6-foot – and soft hands.
“Every player is unique and different in their own way,” Klein said. “You have got to use the tools that you have. For me, it is my height and my strength and technique. Deante is a phenomenal athlete. Kody has great technique. We all have our toolbox.”
They also have potential. Coleman sees it every day.
“I am excited about what they can do,” Coleman said. “I think these are guys who have been waiting their turn. Tyler and Curry got all the attention last year, but these guys have been working hard and getting better. They have been waiting for this opportunity and they are ready to seize the moment.”