MANHATTAN (AP) — Brandon Banks is gone now. Kansas State’s electrifying kick returner and wide receiver has taken his quick feet and dazzling speed to the NFL and a the Washington Redskins.
Just who will wind up replacing him may be anybody’s guess because no fewer than seven candidates headed into preseason drills with a chance.
Tramine Thompson and Aubrey Quarles were listed No. 1 at the two wide receiver positions on the depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against UCLA. But several others, including Chris Harper, Adrian Hilburn and Sheldon Smith, were also competing.
All are bigger than the 5-foot-7 Banks, who was fifth nationally in kickoff returns last season. Probably none is as quick. But all have promise and one — Harper — can boast the advantage of playing quarterback in the Pac-10.
“All of them are basically new in regards to playing time, but I’m pleased with the progress they have made,” coach Bill Snyder said.
Only three have any experience with K-State — Quarles, Smith and Torrel Miller.
But Harper and Brodrick Smith played at other universities in 2008 before redshirting as Wildcats last season. Hilburn, Quarles and Sheldon Smith also have junior college experience.
“This is a little different type of receiving corps,” Snyder said. “They’re bigger, more physical guys.”
Wide receivers coach Michael Smith likes the thought of having more heft in his pass-catchers.
“I think people think that a lot of receivers are finesse guys, but there’s a great deal of toughness that people don’t see because we’re not in the trenches like the O-line or D-line,” he said. “But it takes courage to go across the middle and lay your body out, knowing that you’re going to get hit.”
The coach said the group takes instruction well. He said he just tells them to be consistent, be the hardest-working group of guys on the team, and have fun.
Quarles said while the group is definitely different from last year, he feels they will bond and that they are ready for this season.
A senior, Quarles redshirted in 2009. He played in all 12 games in 2008 and started four times, totaling 34 catches for 407 yards.
“I feel that I have a great set of hands and I run good routes,” Quarles said. “I mean I am not afraid to go across the middle and catch the ball. Not that anybody was afraid, but that is something that I bring to the table.”
Like Quarles, Harper redshirted during the 2009 season. A coveted recruit out of high school, he played at Oregon his freshman year. After five games as a quarterback, he switched to wide receiver and became Oregon’s first player in eight years to score a touchdown running, passing and receiving.
At 6-feet-1-inch and 234 pounds, the Wichita native presents the biggest target for Carson Coffman, who won the quarterback job in competition with Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur.
“He is really smart coming from the quarterback position,” Quarles said of Harper. “He is just an athlete out there. He is just another big body and big target to throw the ball to out there as well.”
The youngest contender is Thompson, a redshirt freshman.
So how effectively will the Wildcats’ receiver corps wind up being?
“Ask me in December and I probably could give you a decent answer,” Snyder said.