Can you feel it in the air?
With less than 24 hours until Kansas State takes on Stanford at AT&T Stadium, Wildcat fans are pumped for the start of the season. Nonetheless, the countdown to kickoff series marches on with the players wearing No. 1 this season, wide receiver Keenan Garber and defensive back Reggie Stubblefield.
Attending Lawrence Free State High School in Lawrence, Keenan Garber was a highly sought-after recruit as a wide receiver and defensive back. Despite receiving offers from various schools — such as Wyoming, Tulane and Kansas — Garber signed with K-State, saying in an interview with Rivals that the “family aspect” is what won him over.
Garber was a big pickup for the Wildcats as the fourth-best athlete in Kansas, according to 247Sports. The now redshirt sophomore looks ahead to the 2021 season as a chance to explore that athleticism on the field.
A fast, elusive player, Garber caught the eyes of many with his speed and cuts that got past defenders vertically and laterally. K-State head coach Chris Klieman made it clear that Garber will be an important player during a press conference interview this spring.
“Keenan [Garber] needs to be an impactful guy for us,” Klieman said. “He’s really, really fast, catches the ball well, needs to be crisp in his routes and be able to take the top off the defense because that’s what he can do … We need Keenan to be a good player for us.”
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Since coming to K-State, Garber has added 15 pounds to his now 6 foot, 176-pound frame. This hasn’t gone unseen by Klieman.
“Keenan [Garber] is one that is extremely talented, getting bigger, getting stronger, more confident,” Klieman said in an interview in August. “Keenan is going to play a lot of football for us, too.”
In high school, Garber received almost every accolade imaginable. Between First-Team All-State selections from the Topeka Capital-Journal, Wichita Eagle and Kansas Football Coaches Association and a variety of individual nominations for best area player, Garber had a near-perfect high school career.
As a senior, Garber reeled in 34 catches for 814 yards, half of which went for touchdowns (17). On defense, he grabbed four interceptions, including two pick-sixes. These stats earned him a spot in the 2019 Kansas Shrine Bowl. Garber played high school ball alongside Wildcat teammate Jax Dineen.
So far, Garber has seen limited playing time at K-State. He got on the field against Kansas in 2019 but preserved his redshirt title by not playing in any other game. This past season, Garber got the call in a serious role.
In the game against 14th-ranked Oklahoma State, the speedy Garber was brought on to run a jet sweep from the six-yard line, down eight, with less than three minutes to go. The four-yard pickup by Garber set up an option keep by Will Howard, who ran it in for a touchdown.
At wideout, Garber grabbed a few catches in garbage time situations this past season, but that is expected to change this year. With his weight up and experience under his belt, Garber will likely have more playing time this season. Stay on the lookout for a breakout year from this “super athlete.”
Garber was a 2020 Second-Team Academic All-Big 12 recipient and is majoring in social sciences.
The second player wearing No. 1 this season is senior defensive back Reggie Stubblefield.
Stubblefield comes to K-State as a super-senior transfer from Prairie View A&M University. After five years with the Panthers, Stubblefield was thrilled to hear he could close out his career in Manhattan.
“It was one of the best moments,” Stubblefield said in a press conference with K-State athletics. “I remember everybody in my family, when we got the call that I could come up here, just screaming. The house was going crazy, and I got on the road like an hour later with a small suitcase. I was already down here. So yeah, I was excited, and I was waiting for it.”
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Stubblefield wasn’t the only one excited for his arrival, as head coach Chris Klieman said Stubblefield filled a big need in the defensive secondary.
“At nickel for us right now would be Reggie Stubblefield and Aamaris Brown,” Klieman said in a press conference in August. “That’s a position that we feel much better about at the end of fall camp than we did at the beginning of fall camp.”
Stubblefield played high school ball at Sam Houston High School, where he was a two-time All-District performer with five career interceptions. Louisiana Tech showed interest and Sam Houston gave him an offer, but Prairie View A&M won him over.
Stubblefield played right away in his collegiate career, totaling 17 tackles and an interception in nine games as a true freshman. Stepping up his sophomore year, he racked up 51 tackles and two interceptions.
Then, as a junior, Stubblefield suffered a season-ending injury after four games, granting him a medical hardship to keep his eligibility. He didn’t let his injury hold him back, returning the following season with 40 tackles and an interception in six games.
Stubblefield started in each game of the three-game shortened season for his final season with the Panthers, totaling 16 tackles and an interception. He also brings a marquee Manhattan staple in his back pocket — the ability to play special teams. With three blocked kicks during his career, Stubblefield could be relied on heavily in this area as well.
Stubblefield adds some off-the-field flare and flavor as well — his family owns a barbecue sauce brand. As for academics, Stubblefield is majoring in kinesiology.
Reggie Stubblefield explains his family’s role with Stubbs BBQ sauce. pic.twitter.com/VTe7PBpRAL
— John Kurtz (@jlkurtz) August 19, 2021
Stubblefield will likely rotate around different defensive back positions but has shown he plays best in the run game as an explosive tackler and smart player who reads the offense well. Hopefully, coach Klieman can get the most out of Stubblefield’s final season.