Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Will K-State’s Tyler Lockett bust loose?

K-State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) dives for an over-thrown Jake Waters pass in the 2nd quarter last week in Manhattan. Auburn defensive back Derrick Moncrief (24) defends on the play.(September 18, 2014)
K-State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) dives for an over-thrown Jake Waters pass in the 2nd quarter last week in Manhattan. Auburn defensive back Derrick Moncrief (24) defends on the play.(September 18, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

The fallout from great performance is the expectation that it continues, especially in sports.

Last season, Kansas State receiver/returner Tyler Lockett performed great. Even though he essentially missed two games with a hamstring injury, Lockett caught 81 passes for 1,262 yards, both second best in Wildcats history. He had a 13-catch, 237-yard game against Texas and a 12-catch, 278-yard game agaisnt Oklahoma. And when he prepared to receive a kick, people put down their cell phones.

Lockett was as exciting as he was productive and K-Staters ate him up.

If I’m sounding all past tense here, I apologize. Lockett is alive and well and in the midst of his senior season for the Wildcats. But he’s started slowly.

Lockett’s claim to fame – or infamy – through the first three games of the 2014 is a dropped pass in the end zone against Auburn last week. He has caught only 13 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown; teammate Curry Sexton has four more receptions.

I expected a huge season for Lockett as he hooked up with K-State quarterback Jake Waters to make beautiful music. But so far, there’s no rhythm. It’s been a struggle for them to get going.

Maybe it’s the recurrence of a Lockett hamstring injury, but good luck getting that information out of Kansas State. Perhaps it’s that opposing defenses are doubling and tripling up against Lockett, all too aware of what he can do in the open field. Or perhaps Lockett’s skeptics were right to question his pass-catching ability.

Here’s what NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline wrote about Lockett on after the Auburn game:

“There’s a wide variety of opinion on Lockett’s next level ability but his performance against Auburn had detractors saying “I told you so.” The speedy wide out dropped two passes in the first quarter of his team’s loss to the Tigers, including one which slipped through his hands in the end zone. Dropped passes and poor pass catching technique is nothing new for Lockett. On film he’s a body catcher who seemingly needs to grasp the ball against his frame to secure the reception. This leads to drops, double catches and a lot of missed opportunity. He’s the type of player who’ll wow coaches with big plays from the line of scrimmage or long kick returns then at the same time break hearts with his inability to cleanly catch the ball.”

Too harsh? I think so.

There have been too many times in Lockett’s career in which he looked unstoppable and impossible to cover. I expect him to look like that again, and soon. I would expect Kansas State coach Bill Snyder to use Saturday’s final non-conference game against 2-1 UTEP to increase the confidence level not only of Lockett, but also Waters. Neither has been as effective as expected.

And Kansas State’s sporadic running attack hasn’t helped, either. Can either Charles Jones or DeMarcus Robinson become a go-to tailback? So far, that hasn’t happened; Jones has 32 carries and Robinson has 26.

Sexton, a senior from Abilene, has done a nice job and was really good against Auburn. But the Wildcats need hometown sophomore Deante Burton to do more. Burton has been limited to seven catches for 75 yards through three games.

Everybody knows the Wildcats want to free up Lockett. And when everybody knows something, there’s not much intrigue or mystery as to what’s about to happen. So far, Kansas State’s offense has been predictable. It lacks diversity, something you can bet Snyder and his staff are addressing this week.

Lockett ranked No. 1 among Big 12 receivers in yards per game (105.2) last season. He was second in receptions per game (6.8) and third in kick returns. I told anyone who would listen that he was ready for the NFL and I was surprised that he didn’t make himself eligible for the draft in the spring. draft analyst Bucky Brooks ranked Lockett as the No. 6 on his list of wide receivers to watch before the season. Here’s what he wrote:

“Scouts love prospects with close ties to the NFL because they are familiar with the bright lights and big stage of the pro game. Lockett is well prepared to play at the next level after watching his dad, Kevin, and uncle, Aaron, have success at K-State and then move on to the professional ranks. The experience has helped Lockett develop a refined game that overwhelms defenders on the perimeter. He is the most polished route runner in college football, with a bag of tricks that is comparable to a long-time NFL veteran. In addition, Lockett is a dynamic returner with a knack for putting the ball in the paint on kick returns (four career TD returns). With playmakers coveted at a premium, scouts are paying close attention to Lockett's continued development as a receiver/returner this fall.”

My advice would be not to sleep on the 5-feet-11, 170-pound Lockett. He’s as determined as he is speedy and he’s used to skeptics. I expected him to hook up with Waters for a huge season and I’m not backing off that stance. It’s just taking a little longer than I expected.