by Mason Voth & Alec Busse – EMAW Online Staff
With three weeks to go until the Allstate Sugar Bowl kicks off in New Orleans, there are plenty of questions swirling around K-State football about what moves come in the transfer portal, who returns to the team for another season and more that needs to be addressed. Mason Voth and Alec Busse from EMAW Online give their answers to a few of the questions surrounding K-State football over the next month.
How many of K-State’s juniors (Cooper Beebe, Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Deuce Vaughn) return for another season next year?
Mason: This is probably the most important topic on the minds of K-State fans at the moment. As is always important in these conversations, none of the three should be faulted if they go, it makes sense to start the career as soon as you can. It worked out for a guy like Byron Pringle, and the three that we are discussing here have higher status than Pringle.
It seems unlikely that all three players return, if so that would be a major win for Chris Klieman’s staff. Starting with Felix Anudike-Uzomah, he would likely be the highest selection of the three players we are discussing and most have him expected to be taken in the second or third round as it currently stands. One NFL scout before the Big 12 Championship game explicitly told us that he thought Anudike-Uzomah should go back to school. I still think he gets taken high enough and decides to take the leap and go now.
As for Deuce Vaughn and Cooper Beebe, their decisions will be a little bit more interesting to follow. For Beebe it might come down to demand for an offensive lineman early in this draft and the fact that he could spend a season with his brother on the roster next season in Manhattan. I think he would be the most likely to return, but at the end of the day it probably hinges on where in the draft he goes.
Vaughn being a running back changes the dynamic a little bit, there might be a team that sees Vaughn as the perfect fit for what they need and as Alec mentions below, the injury risk is always there. It’s unlikely based on his size that Vaughn could drastically improve his draft positioning if he came back another season. What could bring him back is the passion he has for K-State and NIL.
Short answer after my long deliberation, I think the Wildcats get at least one player to come back and I would not be surprised to see two return.
Alec: If I was to set a betting line on these three players returning to K-State, I would probably set it at 0.5. I don’t think Deuce Vaughn should even consider returning to K-State next season. While he’s not projected to be a first or second-round pick, the life of running backs in the NFL is already really short, don’t make it even shorter by playing another year of college football when your draft stock is not likely to increase or decrease — assuming there’s not a serious injury — based on your performance next season. Vaughn should go to the NFL after this season, and that shouldn’t change the way Wildcats fans remember one of the all-time greatest.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Cooper Beebe, though, have more difficult decisions. Anudike-Uzomah is more likely to be a second-round pick than Beebe is, I think. But being a third-rounder is nothing to scoff at. I would peg Beebe more likely to return to K-State than Anudike-Uzomah, and some of that has to do with positional value at the next level. The only thing more valuable to NFL teams than a quality edge rusher is a quarterback, and Anudike-Uzomah is a pretty darn good edge rusher.
Does Adrian Martinez score a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl?
Mason: I say yes. Adrian Martinez seems like he should be back in good health for the Sugar Bowl and I think not only would the Wildcats like to give him the chance to play in his final college game, I think they would have some fun finding the way to do it. There is no doubt Will Howard is starting the game and getting the majority of the reps, but if Martinez is healthy by December 31st, I see him getting a few snaps and scoring on a red zone run.
Alec: I’ll say no. The only way I see Adrian Martinez getting on the field in the Sugar Bowl is if Will Howard gets hurt, or if K-State wants to give Martinez a ceremonial snap or opportunity. Bowl games certainly allow for this opportunity because they’re only a glorified exhibition in many people’s eyes now, I don’t think Martinez finds the end zone. However, I do think it would be kind of fun to run a two QB formation and see if Collin Klein can do something imaginative with Howard and Martinez on the field together.
K-State already has four players in the portal, how many more end up leaving the program?
Mason: We know the four that have already entered:
. I think K-State is probably towards the bottom of the Big 12 when it comes to portal entrants, much for the reasons that Alec lists below. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wildcats’ final portal number is under 15. Last season K-State had 17 players enter the transfer portal, but a handful didn’t come until after spring practice.
It would be unfair of me to directly mention who I think are candidates to hit the portal, but if you were to go through the roster you could likely do some calculating as to who may look for a new home. It may be a while before more enter though, as the current window is open until January 18th and many might want to wait until after the Sugar Bowl.
Alec: The rush to the transfer portal seems to have slowed just a bit after Monday’s tsunami. The Athletic’s Max Olson reported that more than 400 players entered the transfer portal on Monday. Generally, programs that see a lot of players enter the transfer portal are schools with loaded, talented depth charts. It’s why Alabama had six players enter the transfer portal on Monday and it’s part of the reason why Texas A&M has seen close to 20 players enter their names into the transfer portal over the last two weeks. But, I think, another common reason for players to enter the portal is a program’s culture. I think K-State has a good one, and Chirs Klieman deserves credit for that. I didn’t expect K-State to have a lot of players enter the portal entering the week, and so far I’ve been proven correct with just four as of Thursday morning.
Which position does K-State need to add more of in the 2023 class or transfer portal?
Mason: Wide receiver is the must-have position in the portal for K-State. Their top three wideouts are all seniors (Knowles and Brooks could return if they want) and RJ Garcia is the only one that showed anything to get excited for, and that didn’t happen until the Big 12 Championship Game.
I also think running back is an important box to check in both the portal and to finish off the 2023 recruiting class. Whether Deuce Vaughn returns or not, K-State has a solid option behind him in DJ Giddens, but only one other carry this season went to a running back not named Vaughn or Giddens. Finding a solid portal running back in case anything were to happen is important. In addition to Joe Jackson who is already committed in 2023, I would like to see one or two more join the class that could help replenish the depth in the Wildcat running backs room.
from Oklahoma State is an intriguing name to watch to see what buzz he gets and if K-State could get in the serious mix. His story is fascinating because he wanted more time at running back but almost exclusively was used at receiver, and one of the main reasons he entered the portal.
Other transfer portal spots that would be nice are in the secondary and at linebacker.
Alec: I think wide receiver should be at the top of the list, personally. Even if the Wildcats get Phillip Brooks and Malik Knowles back for another season, K-State got pretty lucky this year that none of Kade Warner, Brooks or Knowles had to miss any significant time with injury because they were really the only wide receivers to play for K-State this season. Removing tight end Ben Sinnott and running back Vaughn from this equation, the only K-State players with more than 10 receptions this season were the three primary receivers. RJ Garcia is a promising option, but K-State should add depth to this position and boost the floor with an additional piece or two.
Make the case for and against K-State as an attractive portal destination
Mason: K-State can be a pretty easy sell right now to recruits, Chris Klieman turned a 5-7 team into a conference champion in four years, while dealing with COVID and locker room troubles in just his second year on the job. He has an offense that features an undersized running back turning into one of the most dynamic players in the sport. The biggest thing to note though is what K-State has been able to do for transfers in Manhattan. Adrian Martinez and Kade Warner had to clean the stink of Nebraska off of them when they showed up, and both proved that the problem was Lincoln and not them. Reggie Stubblefield, Josh Hayes, Kobe Savage, Julius Brents, and many others have come into the fray on defense and made immediate impacts.
The only thing hurting K-State might just be the feeling that they aren’t as attractive as other destinations because they might lack the flash. I do think that Klieman’s staff is doing a lot of things to change that perception and another thing this staff will have to point to is the number of guys that they are starting to put on NFL radars. One other thing to consider if K-State misses out on portal targets is to watch where they end up. This team is at a level right now that they are going to be competing with teams that are at a much higher level than in years past. It is just a sign of where K-State sits right now in the world of college football and that isn’t a bad thing.
Alec: I think K-State is an attractive program for transfers because the coaching staff has proven to be good a developing talent that other staffs may not value as much as others. The Wildcats also have a nice facility and a brand new indoor practice field, which should only appeal more to transfers. On the field, if you’re an offensive player, Will Howard appears to be a quality quarterback to play with and the offensive line should remain solid. Defensively, Joe Klanderman’s crew has proven to be one of the Big 12’s better and more consistent defenses over the last couple of seasons as well.
As far as why not to transfer to K-State, the NIL package that the Wildcats are offering might not be as luxurious as other transfer destinations. I think places like Nebraska will prove to be good programs for transfers in the coming years partly because of NIL, but also because I think Matt Ruhle’s staff is going to be good a developing talent. Another reason I think K-State might not be the most attractive place for the portal is that it might lack a bit of a “cool” factor. But I would counter that by pointing to a high floor, a Big 12 title and an engaged fanbase. I also don’t think transfers are as likely to get as swept up in the perceived image of a program as a high school player is because they’re older and, I think, have a better understanding of what best fits their needs as a player.