K-State’s Offensive Issues a Reflection of Recruiting Struggles

| October 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Cole Manbeck

 

Following the previous week’s 52-45 loss to second-ranked TCU, I was critical of the Kansas State coaches on the offensive side of the ball for abandoning the running game. And after the first half of the Oklahoma loss, I figured I’d just re-run the same article we published last week. But the Wildcats were so overmatched against the Sooners that I’m not sure the play-calling really mattered.

 

However, I’ll start off by saying this: I think it’s a really bad idea to go 12 plays before handing the ball off to a running back against the Sooners – a team whose weakness is stopping the run and strength is pass defense. I think it’s strange to run an option with a freshman fullback as the pitch man. The vertical routes K-State continues to run with this group of receivers is baffling.

 

But as I sat back and reflected on Saturday, ultimately what I kept coming back to wasn’t the in-game coaching, but rather, what’s being done in the offseason. The Wildcats need to get better at recruiting – much better.

 

K-State lacks explosiveness on the offensive side of the football. Who on this offense strikes fear into opposing defenses? If you’re a defensive coordinator, who is going to beat you for a big play? This is what the Wildcats will face going forward this season. Defensive coordinators are going to stick seven to eight defenders in the box against K-State to take away the running game. If I’m an opposing coach, I’d line up consistently in man-to-man defense in the secondary, play press coverage and challenge K-State’s receivers to beat them one-on-one. And that’s what teams are starting to do. They’re baiting K-State into passing, and that’s a really good strategy to utilize against this offense.

 

Against FBS opponents, the Wildcats have completed just 44.9 percent of their passes, which ranks 121st out of 128 FBS teams. In K-State’s last three games, it has completed 38.8 percent of its passes. Only two teams in the country have completed passes at a lower percentage during that time. Over the last six quarters of football, K-State is 10-of-40 (25 percent) passing with four interceptions and no touchdowns.

 

K-State’s pass efficiency rating against FBS teams is 105.2, ranking 110th in the country and last in the Big 12. Over the last three games, the passing efficiency is 77.4. Only three teams in the country have been worse during that time. For comparison, West Virginia is next-to-last in passing efficiency in Big 12 games with a rating of 108.7, so the Wildcats are the worst passing team in the league by a good margin at the moment. K-State’s 6.6 yards per pass attempt against FBS teams ranks 85th and ninth in the Big 12 – only KU is worse. And the Wildcats’ 5.1 yards per pass attempt over their last three games ranks 118th nationally.

 

When K-State drops back to pass against FBS opponents, it has been sacked 11.6 percent of the time. Only six FBS teams have been worse at protecting the quarterback. Over the last three games, K-State has allowed 14 sacks, the most in the Big 12, while allowing a 15 percent sack rate on drop-back passes.

 

So passing the football frequently seems like a bad idea. And this is where we get back to recruiting. The following are the wide receivers K-State has signed to a scholarship in its 2011-14 recruiting classes:

 

2011 wide receivers signed

 

Player Career Stats
Tyler Lockett 249 receptions, 3,710 yards
Jade Cathey Never made it to campus
Steven West (greyshirt) 2 receptions, 21 yards

 

 

2012 wide receivers signed

 

Player Career Stats
Marquez Clark (juco) Never made it to campus
Vernon Vaughn Left program, never produced a stat
Judah Jones 4 receptions, 51 yards (left program)
Deante Burton 32 receptions, 393 yards

 

2013 wide receivers signed

 

Player Career Stats
LeAndrew Gordon Left program, never produced a stat

 

 

2014 wide receivers signed

 

Player Career Stats
Tyler Ahrens Left program, never produced a stat
Andre Davis 9 receptions, 100 yards
Zach Reuter (grayshirt) 1 reception, 9 yards
Dominique Heath 15 receptions, 192 yards

 

Out of the 11 receivers K-State signed to a scholarship during that time, six either left the program or never made it to campus after signing. Five of those six never produced a single stat. The 2012 and 2013 classes have caught up to K-State at the receiver position. In those two classes, K-State signed five wide receivers. Four of them left the program or didn’t make it to Manhattan. Those are the guys who should be the veterans producing right now. Instead, all that remains is Deante Burton.

 

There needs to be a focus on bringing in more speed, particularly at the skill positions, something the Wildcats sorely lack. I believe – emphasis on believe – they’ve done a better job recruiting over the past couple of years, but that remains to be seen. K-State didn’t fully capitalize on the recruiting trail after being a top-10 team in 2011 and a national-title contender in 2012 and it has caught up to them at several positions.

 

Because of the misses at receiver, the Wildcats need to stick to the run, right? Well, K-State is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, ranking 97th out of the 128 FBS teams (I should point out the rushing statistics are hurt by the large number of sacks K-State has given up). And while I have been clamoring for K-State to run the ball at a higher rate, the Wildcats have run the ball on 59 percent of their offensive plays against FBS competition, the 29th-highest rushing percentage rate in the FBS this season. In 2009, K-State ran the ball on 58 percent of its plays – a team that had Grant Gregory at quarterback and a very talented Daniel Thomas at running back. In 2012, with Collin Klein and John Hubert leading the running game, K-State ran the ball on 61.8 percent of its plays. K-State isn’t running the ball at a much lower rate than it has in the past.

 

The reality is that K-State – partially because of injuries and largely due to recruiting misses – lacks talent on the offensive side of the football. And that’s not to say this team can’t have success, because despite all of this, nearly knocked off two of the Big 12’s best teams. It could be argued that the Wildcats actually overachieved offensively up until the Oklahoma loss. That might not be a good thing, as K-State averaged just 3.9 yards per offensive play in its last three games. Only six teams have averaged fewer yards per play the last three weeks. The numbers say that this team really struggles to throw the football and that it is particularly average in the ground game as well. So what are the coaches supposed to do? The answer: get after it on the recruiting trail.

 

It’s really tough to survive in the Big 12 over the course of the season if you aren’t an explosive offensive team, because holding down opposing offenses in this league consistently is almost impossible. You have to be able to score to keep up, something the Wildcats will struggle to do until more playmakers arrive on that side of the football.

 

K-State passing offense by the numbers against FBS opponents

 

Statistical Category Stat National Rank
Completion percentage 44.9% 121st
Passing efficiency 105.2 110th
Yards per pass attempt 6.6 85th
Sack rate 11.6% 122nd

 

K-State rushing offense by the numbers against FBS opponents

 

Statistical Category Stat National Rank
Yards per rush 3.7 97th

 

K-State total offense against FBS opponents

 

Statistical Category Stat National Rank
Yards per play 4.5 108th

 

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