Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: John Holcombe, new football uniforms, Baylor and basketball recruiting

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

I could lead off this week’s mailbag with some cool and elaborate introductory thoughts, but there’s no way those would be more entertaining than your questions. So let’s dive right in. Thanks, as always, for your participation.

Oh, come on. My arm isn’t that bad.

I throw a Nerf football with my kids all the time in the backyard and can heave that thing at least 30 yards. There are plenty of worse options out there than me. Well, maybe not. But I’m going to pretend like there are.

To answer your question: quarterback depth is definitely a concern for the Wildcats. But I could have said that at any point this season. John Holcombe announcing that he will transfer doesn’t change anything there.

Skylar Thompson is the only proven passer on the roster.

K-State coaches say all the right things about Cimarron walk-on Nick Ast, and he has completed every pass he has attempted this season (3 of 3 for 28 yards) but we have no idea how he will react under pressure in a live game.

Jaren Lewis and Chris Herron both have good upside and long-term potential, but they probably don’t bring much to the table right now as true freshmen. There’s a reason Herron has split time between quarterback and receiver.

It’s worth pointing out that Holcombe’s departure only hurts quarterback depth beyond Ast. Though Holcombe is a freak athlete and was a popular player with fans, he was the team’s third-string passer. Ast narrowly beat him out for the backup job in preseason camp and played ahead of Holcombe throughout nonconference play.

Holcombe saw action as a wildcat QB, receiver and tight end last week against Oklahoma State, but he also looked confused every time he was on the field. The coaching staff had to burn a pair of timeouts to make sure he was on the same page with everyone else. Had K-State needed someone to take over for Thompson full time at quarterback, Chris Klieman would have turned to Ast instead of Holcombe.

Still, it’s a bummer that he transferred. You don’t come across 6-foot-4, 249-pound quarterbacks that can run and throw the football over them mountains every day. He definitely could have helped the Wildcats somewhere as he matured. But there was no guarantee he was ever going to start at QB in Manhattan. That is one of the reasons he left.

Based on his Twitter activity, it seems like Holcombe is at least open to the idea of playing in junior college next season.

As of Thursday evening, he had reported that seven junior colleges had offered him scholarships.

That might be a good option for him. If Holcombe transfers to another FBS school, he won’t be eligible to play until 2021, per NCAA transfer rules. Everyone was surprised by the timing of his transfer, because the four-game redshirt rule doesn’t apply to him. He already sat out last season with a redshirt and he can’t save a year of eligibility by transferring now.

He could always transfer to another FBS school, but if waiting two years to become a starting quarterback didn’t bother him he could have just stayed at K-State and waited for Thompson to graduate. So he would really need to love another FBS school to transfer there now.

Things will be different if he enrolls at a junior college. He could play immediately there next season, giving him an opportunity to prove he can handle himself as a quarterback. If he turns heads, he could jump back up to the FBS level and play anywhere in two years.

That’s the route former K-State quarterback Jonathan Banks took a few years ago. He left K-State as a reserve quarterback, shined in junior college at Independence for a year and resurfaced at Tulane. I’m not saying Holcombe will definitely try and follow in his footsteps. He could also play next season if he transfers to a FCS school. And he could always play the waiting game if the right FBS school shows interest. But junior college does seem like a decent option.

You can read a few hundred words on that topic right here. I recommend that you do, because there is some good insight in that story from Dalton Schoen and Skylar Thompson.

But I will also expand on K-State’s receivers for the Q&A.

There are plenty of ways to explain why they struggled to get open against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have talented corners, and they won one-on-one matchups against the Wildcats’ receivers most of the night. Thompson also played his worst game of the season and abandoned the pocket a few times when he could have been patient and connected with K-State receivers.

I expect the Wildcats to learn from that and look better against Baylor.

That being said, this is a unit that lacks both talent and experience at the moment. Without Isaiah Zuber, Hunter Rison and now Malik Knowles, the Wildcats are using a bunch of former walk-ons and inexperienced scholarship players at the position. None of them have proven they can stretch the field.

K-State receivers only caught six passes for 38 yards in Stillwater.

Courtney Messingham needs to scheme better and find creative ways to get K-State’s receivers open. He might also want to consider unleashing Joshua Youngblood, even if he doesn’t totally understand the playbook as a true freshman. But this group is going to be limited until Knowles returns to the field.

Take away the top three receivers from any team, and its passing game is going to take a hit. Bottom line: That is what happened against Oklahoma State.

I’m going to have to disagree with you on the premise that Baylor has looked “bad” this season.

The Bears are 4-0 and the only undefeated team in the Big 12 not named Oklahoma. They looked pretty good beating Iowa State 23-21 last week. If they’re bad I don’t want to know the word you use to describe a team like Rutgers.

I’m willing to concede Baylor might be “overrated.” But even that probably isn’t even true, because the Bears aren’t ranked. They played a bad nonconference schedule, beating up on Stephen F. Austin and UTSA before edging Rice 21-13.

The jury is still out on Baylor, but Matt Rhule’s team presents a challenge for K-State this week. Charlie Brewer is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. The Bears haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game this season.

I don’t think they are as good as Oklahoma State, but they are better than “bad.”

A loss to Baylor would probably be more harmful than a win would be beneficial.

Heading into last week’s game against Oklahoma State, I pointed out that there was nothing stopping K-State from starting 6-0 with a win in Stillwater. Fast forward a week, and I now feel compelled to say there’s nothing stopping K-State from starting 3-4 if it loses to Baylor.

The Wildcats have TCU at home next and then they play Oklahoma. The TCU game is a toss-up. The Oklahoma game is probably a loss.

Fans will feel much better about K-State’s chances against TCU with a win this week. If the Wildcats beat the Bears, they are still on track for a strong season. If they lose, the TCU game becomes a must-win.

Let’s put it this way. Kevin Lockett is one of the best receivers in school history, yet many fans don’t even refer to him by name anymore. Now he’s Tyler Lockett’s dad.

That really was a heck of a catch last night, by the way.

Tyler Lockett is up there with Jordy Nelson as the best receivers that have ever played at K-State.

Kansas State will wear new alternate home uniforms that feature white helmets and pants instead of its traditional silver. They look good and are a welcome change for players and fans that have wanted something new for oh so long.

The only thing I wish they would have differently: switch the script “Cats” with the powercat on the helmet. Personally, I think it would be fun to see a new decal on the helmets, and having “Cats” on the sides would have looked great.

But this is a good start.

I know you didn’t ask about any of that. I just wanted type those three paragraphs. I feel confident in saying there will be other uniform modifications this season. One will almost certainly be an all white road uniform. I’m looking forward to seeing that combination. It should look good.

I’m also predicting K-State will wear something else slightly different for another home game this season. There’s only so much they change change without new jerseys, but it will be something. Stay tuned.

It’s like they say ... “Look good, feel good, write good.”

This will probably turn out to be Bruce Weber’s best recruiting class at K-State. He has lined up pledges from three players ranked in the Rivals 150, and that hasn’t happened in Manhattan since 2009.

Nijel Pack and Selton Miguel are both four-star recruits. Luke Kasubke is a touted three-star prospect.

The Wildcats are taking advantage of their recent success on the basketball court.

They will probably end up with a top 25 class. But I doubt this group stays as highly ranked as it is right now. The Wildcats are currently benefiting in the national team rankings because they landed three early pledges, and the rankings are currently weighted toward teams with early pledges. Other teams will pass them as signing day approaches, but that’s no reason to fret about this recruiting class. Weber has done an excellent job on the recruiting trail.

Add a big man to this recruiting class and it will be even better.

Am I worried that the Wildcats don’t have one yet? Not really.

It’s still early in the 2020 recruiting process and Weber has some leads on some quality players. K-State only projects to have three open scholarships this cycle, but it will continue to pursue big men and find room for one if a talented prospect wants to commit. Given today’s transfer climate, it would be foolish not to.

Bruce Weber said last week that Nigel Shadd and James Love could really help the team by providing some depth off the bench. He thinks they are both capable of playing a few minutes each game. That would be an improvement on last year.

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