April 13, 2008

Receivers battling for position

The starting gun on Kansas State's race to replace All-American wide receiver Jordy Nelson has officially sounded, and as the former Wildcat wideout's date with the NFL Draft grows closer, so too does the first game of life after Jordy in Manhattan. Though K-State Coach Ron Prince and his staff realizes replacing the school's departed star is a task not to be scoffed at, making up his jaw-dropping production is starting to seem a little more crucial as spring practice continues to move forward.

With 2007 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Deon Murphy forced out of all spring practices due to academic struggles, and incoming community college wide receivers Brandon Banks, Aubrey Quarles and Attrail Snipes yet to arrive on campus, the pickings at the position seem slim to say the least. Prince insists that quality far outweighs quantity in this situation, however, as the third-year head coach appears to like what he sees out of the few wide outs that are currently under his day-to-day tutelage.

Prince is nothing if not a pusher, however, and by design, no receiver on the roster feels completely comfortable in their role just yet. This spring is nothing short of a wide open competition at the position, but that hasn't stopped the players that are vying for the opportunity to catch passes from quarterback Josh Freeman on game days from attempting to assess where they stand.

"(If the season started today) the top wide receivers would be me, Cedric Wilson, Lamark Brown and (Tony Purvis)" said second-year Wildcat Ernie Pierce.


If Pierce's projected depth chart seems strange, which it definitely should, look no further than the missing name at the top of it for an explanation.

Murphy, who has not laced up his football cleats once this spring, must get his academic life in check before he so much as sniffs the turf, and Prince is in no rush to get his top returning wide receiver back on the practice field. Murphy's suspension goes well beyond making a statement, and though it's far too early to call his status for the fall "in doubt", nothing has been promised to him by Prince or anyone else. It seems as if the staff is truly playing his status by ear.

"What we're trying to do right now is prevent life without Deon," Prince said. "We're not just making a point to him, but we're trying to make sure he can meet all of his academic requirements and obligations. We want him to leave this institution with a degree. I have that expectation of every player. All these guys will tell you that when it comes to academics, I'm not messing around."

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