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Kansas State again looks for quick fix from recruits

Big 12 Conference football

POSTED February 1, 2012 8:14 p.m.

MANHATTAN (AP) — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has a bit of a variety show on his hands with this year’s recruiting class.
Fullback Glenn Gronkowski’s family has a football background, pure and simple. Among his brothers are New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski — who is preparing for Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Giants — and Chris Gronkowski, the starting fullback for Indianapolis.
Wide receiver Judah Jones comes from a musical background. He’s the drummer of his family’s Grammy-nominated gospel band, Forever Jones. Offensive lineman Aderius Epps owes much of his athleticism to basketball. He’s a former team captain for Cedar Hill (Texas) High School, the same program that produced Kansas State freshman Thomas Gipson, one of the surprising newcomers in the Big 12 this season.
In all, there are 13 offensive players and 11 defensive players, and two more classified as “athletes” who could play either side of the ball — the essence of variety.
And as Snyder pointed out, even the ages vary greatly, from junior college players who have some experience in college to wide-eyed freshman who he hopes can contribute right away.
“You’ve got so many youngsters from last year who gray-shirted and came in, so you have that mixture,” Snyder said. “You have the community college mixture. You have the high school mixture.
“We have people at every single position on the board,” he added Wednesday, “so we were able to be diversified in that respect.”
Some positions are particularly essential for a team that regularly faces potent quarterback-wide receiver duos — think Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright, and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles.
In the pass-happy Big 12, there’s always a need for pressuring the quarterback and covering those wide receivers, and Kansas State’s 10-2 record and Cotton Bowl berth last season were earned in no small part to the play of some junior college transfers: cornerbacks Nigel Malone and Bubba Chapman and defensive linemen Vai Lutui and Meshak Williams.
Another set of junior college defenders will bolster the ranks this year.
Between transfers Wesley Hollingshed and Chaquil Reed, this year’s signing class includes nearly 600 pounds of pass-rushing and run-stuffing potential.
Hollingshed won consecutive state championships with his high school team and is ranked the No. 47 junior college player in the country by Rivals.com. Reed played with Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown at Wichita East High School before going off to junior college.
Four other defensive linemen will arrive from the high school ranks.
Tavarius Bender is the only quarterback in this year’s signing class.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback from Lincoln, Neb., is rated the No. 20 dual-threat quarterback in the country, following in the same mold of Collin Klein and others who have played the position for Snyder at Kansas State.
As a high school senior in the shadows of the Cornhuskers’ program, Bender passed for 1,025 yards, ran for 699 and accounted for 20 touchdowns.
He should have plenty of options down field, too.
Kansas State’s most high-profile recruit is wide receiver Marquez Clark, who was a standout last season at Navarro Junior College. He’s joined by local products Deante Burton and Vernon Vaughn, Louisiana native Judah Jones and Steven West from Keller, Texas.
Snyder’s recruiting classes are typically heavy on junior college players, and this year is no exception; six of them are part of the 26-man class. They’re also often undervalued by those who rank the classes, usually falling in the bottom half of the Big 12.
The Wildcats’ 10-win campaign last season is a pretty good reason why Snyder puts little stock into projected how a class will turn out, or how many stars are next to each name.
Seven players in the 2011 signing classes started throughout the breakthrough season.
“Based on that,” he said, “you’d probably have to say it was probably a pretty successful recruiting class.”

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