National Signing Day was good for the Kansas State football team.
One after another, the Wildcats gained signatures from a handful of their most-sought recruiting targets Wednesday, adding some notable sizzle to an incoming class that entered the day in need of a boost. The late flurry of pledges changed K-State’s recruiting class from a group that addressed the team’s most noticeable roster needs to a mixture of 22 players that could begin showcasing their talents next season.
Daniel Green was the biggest addition of the day. The 6-foot-3, 228-pound linebacker from Portland is K-State’s top-ranked incoming player, according to Rivals. The nation’s 245th-ranked prospect, according to the recruiting service, was originally committed to Southern California but re-opened his recruitment in early December. Utah, Oregon State and Mississippi all made late pushes for him, but Green chose K-State.
He was a priority addition after junior linebacker Elijah Lee, the team’s leading tackler, declared for the NFL Draft.
“He is a very aggressive player,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “He has got good speed and quickness and good size to go along with it. He just flies around and hits you. He’s a good tackler, an aggressive tackler, and he does it well in open space. That’s what you need in our conference.”
Add on the surprise recent signing of junior-college linebacker Da’Quan Patton, who is already on campus, and K-State has some new potential playmakers in the middle of its defense.
Patton had previously signed with California, but he flipped to K-State after the Bears made a coaching change. Snyder said his name flashed on the Wildcats’ recruiting board a few months back and quickly pursued him when they realized he might become available. Patton was an All-American last season at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College.
“He fits the bill,” Snyder said. “He is a good, young guy. He runs around well. I like the way he flies around and tackles. He can play inside and outside. In all likelihood we will utilize him right now on the outside.”
The day’s other big signing was Elijah Walker, a skilled defensive back from Cerritos College in California.
Walker took a strange path to K-State. He was one of the team’s earliest oral commitments, but then re-opened his recruitment last month when TCU made a push for him. Most K-State fans expected him to land with the Horned Frogs, but he had a change of heart and ended up back where he started. He chose the Wildcats for good early Wednesday afternoon.
A former teammate of current K-State cornerback D.J. Reed, Walker could help the Wildcats replace Dante Barnett at safety or Donnie Starks as a slot corner next season.
“I liked his ability to run, but I liked the way he processed information, too,” Snyder said of Walker. “That’s how you play the game fast, by being able to process information. When you play at those safety spots you have to process information quickly so you don’t waste those initial steps, and you have to play quickly. He defends the run and the pass well.”
K-State also added Gervarrius Owens, a 6-1, 188-pound defensive back from Moore, Okla. on Wednesday.
The Wildcats picked up early commitments from a number of offensive linemen and defensive linemen. They added linebacker and secondary help late.
Recruiting services, which always rank K-State low, moved the Wildcats up in their team rankings, because of those late additions. Rivals ranked the Wildcats 63rd nationally and 10th in the Big 12, 247Sports had them at 67th and ninth, while Scout put them 66th and ninth. Far from glowing grades, but an improvement from where they stood Tuesday.
Two scholarships left
Snyder said K-State will leave two scholarships open and continue to recruit during the spring and summer. If the Wildcats can find quality unsigned players, especially ones from junior college, they will add to their current class. If not, they will award those scholarships to walk-ons. Snyder said K-State is also bringing in as many as 14 new preferred walk-ons next season.
To redshirt or to grayshirt?
Newton offensive lineman Aidan Mills wasn’t included among K-State’s 22 signings on Wednesday, but that could change in the near future.
Mills, a long-time commitment, told the Eagle he still intends to play for the Wildcats, but he is still deciding whether it is best for him to redshirt next season or delay enrollment for a semester (grayshirt) and join the team as a member of the 2018 recruiting class. Mills said he suffered an injury this season and is waiting on medical results that will help him make his choice. Mills said he will make a decision “in the next few days.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett