Spring football games bring a snapshot of what fans have to look forward to watching come fall. Even though K-State head coach Bill Snyder does his best, either directly or indirectly, not to fully unveil his next star player, the Spring Game on Saturday still offers a good look at the raw talent that will be on the field. Here is a short list of players, in no particular order, with minimal experience to look for at the spring game who may have a significant impact when the season arrives.
1. Robert Rose: Rose is a junior who saw action in four games last season with 35 yards rushing on nine carries. The Miami-born running back stands at 5 feet 4 inches tall but has stood out to Snyder in spring practices as a legitimate compliment to junior John Hubert.
“He is probably one of the most impressive guys in the spring practices,” Snyder said. “I think Robert Rose has really been practicing so hard and has been productive in what he is doing.”
2. Randall Evans: Evans, the sophomore and former walk-on, saw most of his action on special teams last season but managed to record 11 tackles including seven solo tackles. Evans is known for his superb speed that could rival anyone on the team. Snyder said Evans is in competition for the starting competition at cornerback as well as for the safety position. At worst, Evans will probably serve as a nickelback and come in strictly for passing situations.
3. DeMarcus Robinson: The former Wichita standout in high school, who was a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com, seemed to find his footing in the Wildcat program this spring. Snyder said the sophomore is in the hunt for a serious role out of the backfield.
“Is it John’s position to lose? Yes, you can say that,” Snyder said of the running back competition. “You could also say its the other three guys’ opportunity to win it. That would just mean that John is doing worse than what he has been. Hopefully, it stays competitive because we do better when it is competitive.”
4. Justin Tuggle: Tuggle is a classic Bill Snyder-type player who switched from his recruited position of quarterback to the complete opposite side of the ball at linebacker. Known for his supreme athleticism, the senior also fits the size criteria for a division-I linebacker with his 6-foot-3-inch frame that supports 233 pounds. Senior Collin Klein, who has seen Tuggle’s athletic abilities firsthand in quarterback drills, said the addition of Tuggle to the linebacker core could enhance the defense.
“He is flying around and I think that our whole linebacker group is faster as a group with him, Arthur [Brown] and Tre [Walker],” Klein said. “They are all playing hard and every one of them will pop you.”
5. Thomas Ferguson: Ferguson is a senior who saw action in 12 games last season only to come up with six tackles, and Snyder said he is a likely candidate to replace Tysyn Hartman’s absence at safety.
“Thomas Ferguson, who has been with us for awhile, is at the spot and has remained there for all of our practices,” Snyder said.
6. Tavarius Bender: The No. 1-rated overall player in Nebraska, according to Rivals, graduated early from high school to participate in spring practices and that decision may pay off sooner than most thought. Snyder said he was impressed with what he’s seen so far from the freshman.
“Tay Bender is making headway right now at that position,” Snyder said. “Bender is kind of a combination guy who runs the ball very well. He is deceptively fast. He is athletic. He throws the ball with a good motion. He does not always know where he is going with it right now as a freshman. He just needs to keep learning the offense and keep understanding defenses, so that is still a work in progress.”
Bender will hold a great deal of responsibility if he wins out the back-up quarterback slot, if the unthinkable happens and Collin Klein is injured and unable to play.
7. Daniel Sams: Sams was redshirted last season and had a year to mature with hopes that his undeniable talents will blossom as soon as possible. With his breakaway speed and incredible arm strength, the freshman has received multiple comparisons to Wildcat legend Michael Bishop. Snyder said Sams’ abilities are beyond most, but he still has a lot of work to do to become a legitimate quarterback.
“For whatever reason, Daniel really caught your eye as a scout squad quarterback,” Snyder said. “Now that he has to accumulate all this information, I think it is somewhat slowing him down. He has a long way to go but he is a talented young guy.”