Dayton Valentine caught a pass from Jesse Ertz against Stanford. The play went for six yards and gave Kansas State a first down.
Why is this worth mentioning nearly two weeks later?
It was the first catch by a K-State tight end in more than a year, snapping a streak of 14 consecutive games in which the Wildcats mostly ignored the position as a receiving threat. Zach Trujillo can breathe easy. His three catches for 88 yards and a touchdown against Baylor in 2014 won’t go down as the final receptions by a Kansas State tight end.
Nor will Valentine’s grab against Stanford. That’s the plan, anyway.
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“I would like to see him get his hands on the ball more,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of Valentine, “the reason being to help create that balance that we need. When we talk about balance, it’s not just run and pass, it’s how the ball is distributed so you don’t have one receiver catching 10 passes and everyone else gets one. From a defensive standpoint, you have to defend all of it.”
Don’t expect Valentine, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Baldwin City, Kan., to become a major part of the passing game anytime soon, but the first catch of his college career was no fluke.
He has potential.
“Dayton has really made tremendous progress from a year ago,” Snyder said. “He is a pretty physical young guy, and he has pretty good size for a tight end, at least bulk-wise in the 250 range. He is running reasonably well with that kind of weight. He has enhanced his ability to block, and I think he has enhanced his ability as a receiver. He has got good hands.”
Valentine, who hasn’t spoken with reporters this season, battled drops last year.
Teammates hope his catch in the opener will help him move past that issue. It was an important grab, as it occurred on a third down in the third quarter on a drive that ended with a field goal. Coaches may continue to trust him when K-State takes on Florida Atlantic on Saturday (1:30 p.m. on Fox Sports KC).
“Our tight end, when we release him, he is every bit as much a viable a receiver as anybody else is concerned,” Snyder said. “We hold him to pass protect sometimes so we have max protection if we need to help a tackle out. More often than not he is out in routes.”
That wasn’t the case last season. And if K-State’s young offensive line needs help against the blitz or a physical defensive front, Valentine may spend increased time blocking this season.
Still, his next catch won’t come as such a surprise.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett