From the sports desk: most improved players

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Collegian sports editor Tim Everson and writers Andrew Hammond, Liz Heath and Avery Osen brought the brain trust back together once again for the final “From the Sports Desk” of the season to decide who is the most improved player of the 2015 season. With all of the injuries and craziness that has befell this team over the past several months, there were plenty of candidates to pick from.

Tim’s take

Junior linebacker Will Davis has been an absolute rock for this team. Sure, he doesn’t have the athleticism and stats that sophomore linebacker Elijah Lee does, and he isn’t the physical specimen that K-State linebackers of the past have been. But on a defense with so much young talent, Davis has been key in keeping it together through good and bad.

He has taken up the mantle that Jonathan Truman and Blake Slaughter threw down before him with being fundamentally sound and getting yourself in the right place to make a play.

Davis is second on the team with 50 tackles and at least one game to go. He may not have been flashy, but neither is the team he plays on. He’s been just what is needed: a solid, steady player who takes care of his business, game in and game out.

Andrew’s take

Most improved player?

There are not too many you can find on a team that has struggled this season, but there are few. Sophomore safety Sean Newlan and freshman cornerback Duke Shelly have become key assets on a team that has struggled to contain the passing game. Still, from where they’ve come from to start the season, they have grown by leaps and bounds.

If there is one player that stands out above them, however, I’d have to go with the redshirt freshman center Dalton Risner, who stepped into the role that the graduated B.J. Finney played a season ago. With the way that Risner went about his business on the offensive line, you tend to forget that he is only in his first year in action. His consistent play gives you the sense that K-State has a future All-Big 12 center on its hands.

Liz’s take

In case you haven’t noticed, the Tyler Lockett era is over, and K-State’s running backs had some big shoes to fill this season. This was an obvious fact after the first game of the season against South Dakota. K-State only had 61 net yards rushing. While K-State is currently eighth in the Big 12 for rushing offense, there has been improvement.

Leading the team in rushing yards is junior running back Charles Jones, who currently leads the team in rushing yards per game at 55.6. He is second in total offense only to Hubener. Jones has also moved up to fifth on the team for scoring with five touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns came in the comeback win against Iowa State, where Jones carried the ball 15 times for 65 yards.

Jones has also came up big in receiving as of late, recording a career-high four receptions in the Iowa State game for a total of 28 yards. Jones’ 72-yard reception in the Oklahoma State game is the longest for a Wildcat this season.

Consistency has been a collective issue for the Wildcats all season. Recently, Jones has shown potential for becoming the go-to player. He recorded a career-high 122 rushing yards against Texas on 18 carries. In the four games that followed, Jones has averaged 77.5 yards per game compared to 30 yards per game in the six games before the Texas game.

While there is still room to grow, Jones is a player to watch this weekend against West Virginia.

Avery’s take

There have been many players that have improved this season for the K-State football team, but one player in particular sticks out in my mind.

His name is Kody Cook, and I think he has hit his boiling point this season.

The senior wide receiver has been put in many different positions, and regardless of whether he was receiving, rushing or even playing quarterback, he has done just about everything this year.

Let’s look at the numbers specifically in his receiving game.

A year ago, he had 251 yards of receiving and one touchdown, but was not given nearly the attempts that Lockett and Curry Sexton had. This year, he has nearly 400 yards with three touchdowns and has played two less games than he did last year, which is a drastic improvement that has come with lots of confidence from head coach Bill Snyder.

Cook has also ran the ball this year, and although this was new for him, it improved his game and the entire team’s. He netted 161 yards and added a touchdown in his rushing attacks this season.

Not only are his stats better than last year, but he has also become a much smarter and better player for Snyder and the rest of the team. He is the guy that I believe has improved the most on the team.

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Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.