Analysis: Key takeaways from the 2018 spring game

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Sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson throws the ball towards a Wildcat wide receiver to further the offense towards a first down. The spring football game was played at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday, Apr 21, 2018. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

It was a rainy April afternoon, but that did not stop Kansas State football from playing its annual Purple/White Spring Game on Saturday.

Purple came out victorious over White, winning 31-28. This year’s game was far more competitive and entertaining than previous years. That is largely because, in the past, it has been the first team versus the second team. This year, however, head coach Bill Snyder changed things up bit and had first teamers face off for much of the game, while the second teamers battled it out.

Great offense or bad defense?

In a previous article, I predicted that K-State’s defense has the potential to return to elite status in 2018. Although, the White (first team) defense gave up 31 points on Saturday, which may cause questioning of that bold prediction.

While the first team defense struggled, let’s not forget they were taking on the first team offense as well. It is also worth noting that there were some injuries on the team.

The White defense was without both starting safeties. Senior Kendall Adams is still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered last November, and junior Denzel Goolsby was also inactive. Sophomore Brock Monty and redshirt sophomore Jahron McPherson stepped in for the injured veterans.

Monty made the most of his opportunity to see action with the first team. He racked up 14 tackles, 11 of which were solo, and forced a fumble. The Wichita product proved that he can compete and step up in time of need.

“[The defense] was porous at times; it was good and bad,” Snyder said. “It is not about the offense, and it is not about the defense as much as it is about the individuals.”

The Hall of Fame coach added that both the offensive and defensive play calling are restricted during the spring game, which may hinder their play. He reiterated that individual play had an impact on the results, saying that some individuals played well and some not as much.

Senior cornerback Duke Shelley has emerged as a leader on the defense.

“I think the defense as a whole played pretty solid today,” Shelley said. “We had a few blips here and there, but for the most part, we played pretty solid.”

While the defense gave up some big plays, credit is due to the offense for its performance.

Tight ends part of the offense once again

Gone are former offensive coordinator Dana Dimel and his son, former fullback Winston Dimel. Winston was a bruiser in short yardage and goal line situations. He could catch the ball as well, but it seemed that too many times he was used ineffectively in the offense.

If Saturday was any indication, it appears that tight ends and fullbacks will be a part of new offensive coordinator Andre Coleman’s version of the offense, just in a different way.

Newcomers Luke Sowa and Adam Harter, both juniors who transferred from Butler Community College, saw a lot of action in the spring game.

Harter finished with 37 rushing yards, 70 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown, while Sowa rushed for a 39-yard touchdown.

I would describe the position K-State uses for these two as more of an “H-back” than a fullback or tight end. They will sometimes line up on the end of the line but also join the quarterback and running back in the backfield.

K-State has not used their tight ends in the passing game for quite some time. Passing to tight ends and the use of an “H-back” can cause problems for a defense, and it appears that Coleman plans to implement their use into the offense in 2018.

Wide receiving corps will prove doubters wrong

There has been a lot of talk this offseason of how K-State is going to have a weak group of wide receivers. Yes, Byron Pringle, last year’s leading receiver, is heading to the NFL, and Dominique Heath, a steady contributor over the last two years, has transferred to Appalachian State. Although, despite that, hope and promise remains among this group.

We have seen what juniors Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen can do, and there is no doubt they will be productive. There are two receivers next in line to be targets for whoever gets the nod as starter at quarterback.

First up is senior Zach Reuter. Reuter saw action toward the end of last season when Schoen suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He caught just four passes for 49 yards last season, but he had a crucial 25-yard catch on the game-winning drive against Iowa State. Reuter surely boosted his stock in the spring game, with five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Then there is redshirt freshman Chabastin Taylor. Taylor is a freak athlete, measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds. Snyder said while he has immense talent, he needs to grasp the offense better. Maybe Taylor paid attention to that constructive criticism because he had himself a game on Saturday.

He grabbed two impressive touchdowns on the day, both of which showed off his strength. His first score came in the first quarter when he caught a pass from Alex Delton, side-stepping a defender and then trucked his way into the end zone by spinning off another.

Taylor was not done yet and would go on to make another crowd-stunning play. In the second quarter, he hauled in a 45-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Hunter Hall. The pass came up short and appeared like it would be an interception. Taylor reached over the defender and stole the ball before trotting into the end zone.

It is worth keeping in mind that K-State, historically, does not throw the ball a ton. The passing game was shown off in the spring game, though. Big plays from Reuter and Taylor, combined with the likes of proven receivers Zuber and Schoen, give me much confidence in the receivers.



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Jarrett Whitson is a sophomore in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Jarrett Whitson
I’m Jarrett Whitson, the sports editor this semester. I’m from Blue Rapids, KS, a town of just over 1,000 people about 40 miles north of Manhattan. I’m a junior in Public Relations, and a member of FarmHouse Fraternity. I love playing and talking about sports— especially college football