Countdown to Kickoff: 4 days away with wide receiver Malik Knowles, linebacker Wayne Jones

Leading up to the start of K-State's 2021 football season, the Collegian takes a look at what to expect and highlights every player on the roster. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

With just four days until the start of Kansas State football, the Collegian looks at two players hoping to impact the team this season — wide receiver Malik Knowles and linebacker Wayne Jones.

Malik Knowles comes to Manhattan as a junior from Mansfield, Texas, standing at 6 foot 3 inches and weighing 195 pounds.

Knowles played at Lake Ridge High School under head coach Kirk Thor, tallying 40 receptions for 846 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior and earning First-Team All-District 10-5A honors.

He helped the Eagles advance to the state quarterfinals in the 2017 Texas Class 5A D1 Playoffs, which included a stat line of 113-yards and three touchdowns in the final game of his senior season.

Out of high school, Knowles was rated a three-star athlete by 247Sports and was ranked the 235th best receiver in Texas. He received offers from Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe before committing to the Wildcats on Jan. 28, 2018.

Knowles saw action in four games as a freshman in 2018 — including a start against Texas Tech — while maintaining his redshirt status.

He hauled in 10 catches for 100-yards and two touchdowns. His 10 catches were the most by any Wildcat true-freshman wide receiver since Tyler Lockett in 2011.

In 2019, Knowles played in 11 games with eight starts, recording 27 receptions for 397 yards and three touchdowns to rank him second on the team in each of those categories. His performance earned him Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year votes from the league’s coaches.

Knowles returned kicks his sophomore year, returning six kickoffs for 222 yards and a touchdown, most notably a 100-yard return against Mississippi State to help the Wildcats edge out a road victory. His efforts against the Bulldogs earned him Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week.

Most of his production came in the final two games of the 2020 season, hauling in 13 receptions for 204 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing six times for 100 yards and another touchdown. Knowles also saw production in the return game, taking 11 kickoffs for 203 yards to finish sixth in the Big 12 in kickoff-return average.

Toward the end of the season, Knowles took a 75-yard sweep play to the house against Baylor, which ranks as the 11th longest run in school history and the second-longest by a K-State wide receiver.

He also had a career-high six catches in the final game of the year against Texas, tying his career-high stat in touchdown receptions with two in the same game.

Heading into the season, Knowles will likely remain K-State’s number one receiver option, playing opposite Chabastin Taylor, Tyrone Howell or smaller slot receivers like Phillip Brooks and Keenan Garber.

The second player on today’s countdown is 6 foot, 210-pound junior Wayne Jones, who recently switched from his safety position to linebacker for the 2021 season.

Jones comes to K-State from Owasso, Oklahoma, where he played ball for head coach Bill Blankenship at Owasso High School.

He helped lead the Rams to a 2017 Oklahoma Class 6A-I State Championship season and was named a second-team All-State performer by The Oklahoman and Tulsa World publications.

Jones was the No. 10 athlete in The Oklahoman’s Super 30 rankings before his senior year and was also the third-best safety in Oklahoma according to the Tulsa World’s preseason rankings.

Out of high school, Jones was rated as a three-star athlete, the 80th best safety in the nation and the 16th best player in Oklahoma by 247Sports.

Jones received offers from schools like Arkansas State, Illinois, Louisville and Memphis before committing to the Wildcats on May 30, 2017.

Jones played in two games his freshman year in 2018, preserving his redshirt status with the team. He saw playing time against Texas Tech and Iowa State, recording one tackle against the Cyclones.

In 2019, Jones started in all 13 games, finishing fourth on the team in tackles with 57 to go along with a half tackle-for-loss and a pass breakup.

He had a career-high 11 stops against TCU and recorded his first pass breakup against Texas Tech. Jones also recorded seven tackles in games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia and made six stops at Mississippi State and Texas Tech.

Jones played in all 10 games of the 2020 season, starting at safety and nickleback during the year. He tallied 24 total tackles, a half tackle-for-loss and one pass breakup, along with a pair of fumble recoveries. He ranked third in the Big 12 and 12th in the nation in fumble recoveries this past season.

He recorded a season-high seven tackles against Texas, including a monstrous hit on Texas quarterback Casey Thompson.

Jones looks to be a productive member of the linebacker core this season, with members Cody Fletcher, Daniel Green and Nick Allen there to hold down the middle of the field against Big 12 offenses.