Future stars: Walk-ons impress senior peers at K-State
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
MANHATTAN — As the Kansas State Wildcats count down to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., their full attention now has turned to Michigan, their opponent at 9:15 p.m. (central time) Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium.
But the extended bowl preparation also allow teams to focus briefly on the future, namely up-and-coming players in the program who spent the regular season on the scout team.
Several K-State veterans — junior receiver Curry Sexton, junior defensive end Ryan Mueller and senior linebacker Blake Slaughter — took time before the Wildcats departed for the Valley of the Sun to discuss some youngsters they think might have a bright future in purple.
"There's a lot of good, young players on this team," said Sexton, a former grayshirt from Abilene and the team's second-leading receiver with 36 catches for 409 yards. "I see more of the defensive guys than the young offensive guys because that's the scout squad we go up against."
The most prominently mentioned defenders were freshman nose guard Will Geary, a 6-foot, 290-pounder from Topeka High, who made all three players' lists, along with Blue Valley West defensive end Davis Clark and redshirt freshman linebacker Will Davis from Southlake, Texas.
"Will Geary's going to be a stud," Sexton said.
"I know the coaches are really excited about him and seeing what he can do during this bowl prep to get extra reps," Mueller said of Geary. "If you talk to some of the weight coaches about Will Geary, they love him because he's a freak in the weight room."
More praise for Geary from Slaughter, the Wildcats' leading tackler: "That kid's something special, just his brute strength."
Mueller was especially enthusiastic about Clark, who, like Geary, is a walk-on.
"I'm always looking at the walk-ons because that's the path I went through," said Mueller, an all-Big 12 pick in his first season as a starter. "(Clark) works extremely hard and reminds me a little of how I was my redshirt freshman year.
"I saw his work ethic in the summertime and fell in love with it. I loved how he pushed himself."
Davis already has established himself on special teams for the Wildcats, ranking third on the team with six tackles in kick coverage, and recording 16 stops overall.
"He's quite an athlete and quite a player," Slaughter said. "He's smart and he's picked up the game.
"You can tell he's been paying attention all year and gotten ready for his time."
Sexton also mentioned true freshmen Kip Keeley of La Crosse and Trent Tanking from Holton as potential stars at linebacker. Tanking was coached at Holton by former K-State linebacker Brooks Barta.
In the secondary, Phillipsburg safety Sean Newland and cornerback Cre Moore from Broken Arrow, Okla., have caught Sexton's eye as well.
Each veteran had their favorites on offense, where Sexton stuck with the receiver group in naming wideout Judah Jones of Shreveport, La., and Cypress, Texas, tight end Cody Small.
"I see more of those guys than anybody else," Sexton said.
Mueller mentioned redshirt freshman Deante Burton, a home-grown wideout from Manhattan High School, who generated some buzz a year ago, as well, but has been somewhat hidden in a deep, experienced receiving corps.
"(Burton) is a tremendous athlete, really athletic," Mueller said.
Two of Slaughter's candidates for future stardom were offensive lineman Will Ash and running back Jarvis Leverett, both redshirt freshmen.
"He has been consistently improving, just because he's been put in a position that he has to be ready week in and week out," Slaughter said of Ash, a 6-2, 338-pounder from Indianapolis, who has played in 10 games on field goal protection. With top running backs John Hubert and Robert Rose completing their careers, Leverett (5-11, 203 pounds), from Katy, Texas, could emerge from the pack next season.
"He's a guy who cares and has the athletic ability and has all the gifts and talents that you want a running back to have, and he's working hard at it," Slaughter said.
"He's a guy I've gone against all year on scout team and he's challenged me and kept me on my toes."