KSAL Staff - August 25, 2014 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Kansas State begins the 2014 football season this Saturday against Stephen F. Austin. The Wildcats have a nationally respected passing combo in QB Jake Waters and WR Tyler Lockett; both are considered to be among the best players at their positions in the Big 12.
Receivers coach Andre Coleman recently said, “A lot of teams didn’t know who Tyler was a couple of years ago and he wasn’t considered a big-time receiver last year, but I saw what he did during the spring and my expectations for him shot through the roof. He may have surprised a lot of people, but he didn’t surprise me.”
Waters is an exceptional passer and Lockett is a superb receiver. There’s just one issue: Tyler Lockett is no longer a secret with opposing teams and he will be double-teamed by every Big 12 defense that K-State plays.
Lockett’s numbers may go down; regardless, when opponents focus on him it will open up passing lanes for the other receivers. Two of K-State’s pass catchers who are being counted on are senior Curry Sexton (5-11, 183) from Abilene High School and sophomore Deante Burton (6-2, 205) from Manhattan High. Last season Sexton had 39 catches for 446 yards.
During fall drills, offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said, “Curry is a playmaker. He has that football instinct, and that is how Curry makes those big plays and catches. He knows how to get open in the offense. Deante is really stepping up and taking on that role as a starter.”
K-State will win easily this Saturday and Coach Bill Snyder will be ultra-conservative in his play calling, getting ready for Iowa State and Auburn. The Wildcats may not fill the air with passes, but that weapon will be lethal when it’s unsheathed.
Kansas University’s football team received a severe jolt last week when not one, but their top two running backs were injured and lost for the season.
Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox were KU’s only experienced running backs and they will be missed. The injuries left the Jayhawks with three RBs—JUCO transfer De’Andre Mann (5-9, 198) and true freshmen Corey Avery (5-10, 195) and Joe Dineen (6-2, 210)—to fill the void. What a mess.
However, hope springs eternal. Avery has the credentials to be a special RB for KU; he averaged 10.6 yards per carry for storied Dallas Carter High School last season. That’s not Kansas high school football, it’s big-time Texas high school football.
After he signed with KU, Avery said, “It’s easy to go to a place where people are already winning . . . it takes someone that wants to actually do something or be something to go somewhere that’s trying to do something.”
Lawrence native Dineen has been playing defensive safety and was a QB in high school; Mann, Dineen, and Avery have never played a down at the Division I level.
These three young running backs are in for a shock when they are called on to block mature and quick defensive ends that go about six-foot-five and 300 pounds. The lack of blocking ability has caused many promising college running backs to be phased out. JUCO transfers and freshmen RBs are notoriously poor blockers when they first play Division I football.
In addition to the issue at running back, KU’s offensive line doesn’t appear to be up to Big 12 standards; those two flaws are connected and spell nothing but trouble for the new offense.
After years of having their preseason expectations dashed, KU’s fans have a new problem: There are no expectations.
The Kansas City Royals’ three leading relief pitchers have been the talk of the baseball world: Wade Davis has an ERA of an astounding 0.80; Kelvin Herrera has a 1.51 ERA; and closer Greg Holland has 40 of 42 saves and a 1.79 ERA. All three have been terrific.
KC’s problem is the front end and middle of the bullpen; the back end has been so effective that a number of recent poor performances have been swept under the rug. But danger lurks. Jason Frasor (2.16), Aaron Crow (3.65), Francisley Bueno (3.71) and Bruce Chen (6.56) have been faltering. It’s not that their ERAs are substandard, but in recent games they have all been cuffed around by the opposition. Herrera, Davis, and Holland can’t do it by themselves.
There’s hope in Omaha: Tim Collins (2.56) and Louis Coleman (4.17) have been pitching effectively with the Storm Chasers. Collins and Coleman have had success with the Royals at the major league level—watch for them to be called up soon.
Kansas City needs at least one, preferably two, new faces for the front end of the bullpen. If Collins or Coleman or both come through in the stretch run, the Royals can compete with anyone.