More than 100 football players flooded the field at Kansas State’s annual media day on Wednesday, filling Bill Snyder Family Stadium with an unmistakable sense of optimism for the upcoming season.
Still, the Wildcats had an incomplete look.
Terrell Clinkscales, D’Vonta Derricott, Isaiah Riddle and A.J. Allen — all hyped junior-college transfers — were absent. They were off campus, finalizing course work and other academic details required before they could qualify to play Bowl Subdivision football and to join K-State’s preseason camp. Bill Snyder downplayed the situation, saying all four are likely to join the team within the week. But they also missed summer workouts, putting them at a disadvantage.
They were billed as immediate-impact talents capable of starting when they signed in February. Can they play catch up and live up to those expectations as late arrivals?
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“Whenever those guys get here, they will get their opportunities to come in and build to our team and help us as a squad,” K-State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said. “They can give us the depth we need and the extra talent we want. That is why we recruited them.
“But it is going to take anybody who comes in new time to adjust. They are going from community college to the Big 12. That is a big jump. I don’t care who you are or how talented you are, there is a process you go through and everybody goes through it. How fast they get acclimated is going to be up to them.”
Danzel McDaniel, a junior cornerback who played alongside Clinkscales last year at Dodge City Community College, sounded more confident.
“I talk to all those guys every day, and I can tell you they will be ready,” McDaniel said. “They will catch on real fast. They are smart guys, and they had to learn a new system real fast when they came into junior college. They are great players, and I think they can come right in and play with this team.”
Clinkscales, a four-star defensive tackle, and Riddle, a talented linebacker from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College, may soon get their opportunities. Both players arrived in Manhattan late Wednesday night and should make their practice debuts before the weekend. Derricott, a four-star linebacker from Garden City Community College, and A.J. Allen, a 315-pound offensive lineman from Grossmont College (Calif.), are still working on an arrival date.
Allen will be expected to provide depth, and possibly challenge for a starting spot, at tackle. K-State lost both its starting tackles from last season. The Wildcats experimented with Cody Whitehair, a former guard, at left tackle in the spring game.
Derricott and Riddle may face the biggest challenges. Linebacker is a more complex position than the offensive or defensive lines. They will need to learn coverage and pass-rushing schemes on top of adding endurance and making tackles in space. Coaches are high on returning linebackers Jonathan Truman, Charmeachealle Moore and Will Davis. Beating them out for playing time won’t be easy, especially in K-State’s predominantly two-linebacker formation.
The most will be expected out of Clinkscales, a gifted run-stopper who originally committed to Nebraska. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, he has the ideal body for an interior defensive lineman.
“We are going to do everything we can to get him ready to play in the opener,” defensive tackles coach Mo Latimore said. “That is our goal.”
Some have said Clinkscales is the most talented defensive tackle on the roster already. He certainly doesn’t back down from that hype.
“My expectations are as big as they come,” Clinkscales told The Eagle in May. “I plan on going in there and being all-conference and All-American — all of it. There is no fear with me. K-State’s defense looks pretty impressive, but I feel like there isn’t that guy out there who is going to be an animal and a presence on the inside. I think I can be that guy.”
Added McDaniel: “Terrell is rare. I have seen him in the weight room squatting 600 pounds, benching 500 pounds. The guy is a monster.”
Is that enough? McDaniel and junior receiver Andre Davis were also viewed as quality additions when they signed, but both learned how difficult K-State practices can be when they transferred in from junior college in January. McDaniel said K-State’s conditioning demands and defensive schemes were overwhelming at first. Davis had to learn how to compete against a deeper unit of receivers than he had encountered. Eventually, they adjusted. Now, McDaniel is projected as a potential starter and Davis is pushing for the fourth receiver slot.
“Coming in early really helped me,” McDaniel said. “I got to learn the plays and I got to work with everybody and become a part of the family. It was a big benefit. I have grown a lot since I got here. I’m a stronger person.”
K-State’s late arrivals hope to experience the same growth, just at a faster speed.
“Everyone in our program will be judged by what they do over the next 30 days leading into the season,” Hayes said. “It’s up to them.”