CIK Season Preview: WR/TE/Hybrids to Watch
WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) -
Catch It Kansas continues with its position-by-position breakdowns for the 2020 football season. Just like last summer, the WR/TE group also includes Hybrids – players that have a rare, multi-faceted skill set with rushing and receiving and/or can play multiple positions. The best player in this group is the state’s top recruit – Lawrence senior Devin Neal. This season, Kansas has a high number of Hybrids with varying skill sets, along with WR/TE. Players are listed at just one position.
1. Devin Neal, Lawrence – The 5-foot-11, 208-pound Neal is the No. 1 recruit in the 247 Sports list, a recruiting industry leader. He is also the No. 1 Hybrid in Kansas after an historically great year.
Neal helped Lawrence improve from 1-8 to 8-2 and has committed to Kansas for football and baseball. Last year, Neal rushed for 1,687 yards and delivered 523 receiving yards for 221 yards a game. In addition, Neal caught 30 passes and recorded 32 total scores.
In the last several weeks, CIK has combed through MaxPreps statewide lists and KPreps all-state lists from the last decade. Other than Neal, the number of 11-man Sunflower State players who have delivered at least 1,500 rushing yards, 500 yards and 220 yards rushing/receiving a game from 2010-19?
Neal enjoyed an absolutely remarkable season, one that also ranked in the top-five nationally, according to MaxPreps’ lists. From ’10-19, CIK found 10 Kansas seasons (nine players) who recorded at least 1,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards. Lyndon’s Dexton Swinehart made the list twice.
The list features Sedgwick’s Kale Schroeder and Dalton Brandt, La Crosse’s Kip Keeley, Baldwin’s Josh Hoffman, Collegiate’s Nathan Burgoyne and Wichita Northwest’s Breece Hall. Schroeder is the state’s lone player to achieve 2,000 career passing and receiving yards, while Keeley and Brandt enjoyed highly decorated careers. Last fall, Hall was a freshman All-American at Iowa State after huge numbers with the Grizzlies.
Neal, Hall and Brandt were the only ones with more than 1,600 rushing and 500 receiving in a season.
Neal, though, bested them all on a per-game average for rushing/receiving. Neal was at 221 yards per game. Swinehart’s 2017 season ranked second at 216 yards per contest. Hall was third at 209 yards per game. Hall also recorded 20 catches as a senior, 10 fewer than Neal. Brandt ranked fourth at 204 yards a game in ’13, the only other season to rank above 200.
(Mill Valley’s Christian Jegen, a former Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year, delivered 1,274 receiving and 824 rushing in ’15. He averaged 161 yards per game – the only player in the last 10 years with more than 1,000 receiving and 800 rushing).
Nationally, there were eight players, including Neal, who rushed for at least 1,630 yards and had at least 500 rushing yards in ’19. Two came from Texas and two from California, states that generally play several more games than Kansas. Five of the other seven players list themselves as an all-purpose back and/or at multiple positions. That includes Devon Achane, probably the most similar one to Neal. Achane, listed as an all-purpose back, signed with Texas A&M after he was the Houston area player of the year.
Neal ranked fourth among those seven players in yards per game.
In addition, Neal’s signature performance came against Gardner-Edgerton, a 35-34 comeback win in Week 3. This summer, Neal told me the game “put myself on the map.” Neal showed his versatility with more than 260 all-purpose yards, two rushing and two receiving scores.
He scored a pair of late fourth quarter TDs on an 82-yard catch-and-run and an 80-yard run, plays that displayed his versatility and signature Hybrid talents. Lawrence was seventh in 6A at 37.7 points per game. As well, Chesty Lion senior WR Tre’ Jackson was honorable mention all-Sunflower League.
2. Tyson Struber, Canton-Galva – Also one of the state’s top defensive backs, Struber, a junior wide receiver, has earned offers from KU and K-State. Last year, he helped Canton-Galva score 66 straight points and beat St. Francis, 66-36, in the Eight-Man, Division I state title game. Struber, an incredibly smooth route runner with sub-4.5 speed, is part of a loaded C-G squad that returns running back Brayden Collins.
Struber delivered eight catches for 188 yards and three scores and broke the Division I record for receiving yards in a state title game. Struber had 864 receiving yards and 17 scores, along with 230 rushing yards and four TDs. Collins, underrated for a bulk of last year and the summer, picked up his first offer from Hutchinson Community College on Wednesday night.
3. Mack Moeller, Bishop Miege – Moeller, a tight end, is expected to be next in line as the top Miege receiving threat this fall. Miege’s WRs Jafar Armstrong and Daniel Jackson have set state records in recent years and went to Notre Dame and Minnesota, respectively. This week, Moeller picked up an offer from Missouri Western and has an offer from FCS Valparaiso. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder can run a 4.58 in the 40 and delivered 32 catches for 537 yards and six scores. Miege is the heavy favorite to capture its record seventh straight state title. The Stags led 4A with 46.4 points a contest.
4. Jaren Kanak/Carson Kieffer, Hays High – Last year, Kanak delivered more than 1,000 all-purpose yards as a receiver/returner. Kanak, a junior, finally received an opportunity to showcase his immense talent at the Sharp Performance Combine this summer. He ran 4.41 seconds, second-best in the field. The junior quickly earned KU and K-State offers and is one of several HHS players with Division I offers in a sport.
Kieffer, well-known for his assists in basketball, has a chance to have a big fall on the gridiron. This summer, Hays High coach Tony Crough told me Kanak is “an elite, elite athlete” and that Kieffer is “another one who gets forgotten” but started all last year. Crough mentioned Kieffer is “sneaky athletic” and is “expected to have a great year opposite Kanak.”
5. Darrell Jones, Coffeyville – Perhaps no player has benefited more this summer than Jones, a senior. He posted an incredible 4.3s in the 40-yard dash and a 40-inch vertical at the Sharp Combine in July. Jones quickly earned a K-State offer, and then committed to the Wildcats. He caught 46 passes for 845 yards and nine TDs.
6. Daylan Jones/A.J. King/Caquoy Patterson, Wichita East – Wichita East posted a 5-4 mark, its best season since ’12, and looks to contend for a City League title this fall. Jones returned to football last year after he focused on basketball and has picked up multiple Division I offers. King, also a standout free safety, has transferred from Wichita Southeast. Patterson has Division I talent. East has not won the City League in 36 years, according to the Kansas Football History database.
7. Austin Weiner, Gardner-Edgerton – Coach Ryan Cornelsen has two of the state’s top seven recruits. Weiner is the No. 7 prospect by 247 and is listed at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds. Weiner, a Kansas State commit, transferred from Georgia. Listed as a TE/DE on his Twitter feed, Weiner held offers from several Group of Five schools. His father, Todd, was a second team All-American OL for Kansas State in the ’90s and then played 11 NFL seasons.
8. Dorian Stephens, Blue Valley – The 6-foot-3, 182-pound Stephens is ranked No. 6 in the Class of 2021 in the 247 Sports rankings. Stephens has committed to Kansas State. BV doubled its win total to 8-4 and finished as a 6A semifinalist. Blue Valley returns 79 percent of its receptions, and Stephens had 36 catches for 667 yards and six scores. Stephens was second team all-Eastern Kansas League. Senior Tate Gillen and junior Sterling Lockett were honorable mention all-league.
9. Theo Grabill, Blue Valley North – The 6-3, 194-pound Grabill stands tenth of the Class of 2021 in the 247 Sports rankings. Grabill has offers from Cornell, Florida Atlantic, Missouri State, Nevada and New Mexico State. BVN was 5-6 last year, though was a state champion and state runner-up the previous two seasons. He was honorable mention all- Eastern Kansas League. Also in the EKL, Blue Valley Southwest senior Tristen Everard (640 yards) and St. James Academy senior Ty Clairborne were honorable mention all-league.
10. Mill Valley WRs – Last year, coach Joel Applebee told me he was pleased with his brand-new WR corps, a group that helped the Jaguars to their third Class 5A title in five years. MV returns its top-three guys with junior Kendrick Jones and seniors Jacob Hartman and Ty Reishus. Jones, in just nine games, had 24 catches for 377 yards and three TD. Hartman had 24 grabs for 452 yards and four TDs, and Reishus had 21 catches for 493 yards and six scores in nine games. All three were honorable mention all-league.
11. Sheldon Whalen, Leoti-Wichita County/Other top 8-man – Leoti, a preseason top-five in Eight-Man, Division I, returns all-state caliber at QB/RB/WR/OL with Kayde Rietzke, Jesse Gardner, Sheldon Whalen and AC Hermosillo. Whalen collected 61 catches for 1,063 yards and 17 scores. In addition to Whalen, South Central’s Jonny Robles (33 offensive TDs on 119 career touches), Lakeside’s Jace Schoen (677 receiving), Lebo’s Kyle Reese (535) and Caldwell’s Trey Strnad all return.
12. Nic Allen/Trey Harmison, Riley County – Nic Allen noted this summer that Riley County has had a multi-faceted player for coach Steve Wagner “as long as I can remember.” Wagner is closing in on four decades with the Falcons. Allen, another top Hybrid player, said he expects to play slot, running back and even some wildcat quarterback.
As a sophomore, Allen had 18 carries for 92 yards and five catches for 186 yards and three scores. That included a pair of huge receiving TDs in a playoff win versus rival Silver Lake. Allen recorded 134 all-purpose yards in Week 1 of 2019, though had a season-ending injury.
Harmison, an all-state sophomore last season, rushed for 145 yards, and led RC with 44 catches for 716 yards. RC bumps to Class 3A this year and will play in compelling District 5 with power Marysville, along with Concordia and Chapman, two teams expected to improve.
13. Olathe North WRs – Olathe North, the defending 6A runner-up, returns its top-two receivers with seniors Mario Sanchez and Dale Stout. ON’s Arland Bruce, an Iowa commit, was reported this week to transfer to Iowa for his senior year of high school. Bruce rushed for 2,479 yards. Sanchez had 37 catches for 481 yards and three scores, and Stout delivered 30 catches for 591 yards and eight TDs. ON was fifth in 6A with 40.5 points. Both players were honorable mention all-league.
14. Tyler Gerety, Nemaha Central - Gerety, a Hybrid player, had a huge impact for Nemaha Central, the surprise 2A champion. Gerety is a KU baseball commit. He delivered 27 carries for 199 yards and a pair of TDs, and finished with 28 catches for 558 yards and six scores. He is the only one of NC’s top-four receivers back. Gerety helped revamp a new look NC offense. He recorded eight touches, four rushing, four receiving, in the 2A championship game, including a touchdown.
15. Dawson Williams, Perry-Lecompton- As well, Perry-Lecompton, the defending 3A runner-up, returns its top QB/RB/WR from last season. Dawson Williams had 41 catches for 682 yards and six scores, all first or tied for first on the squad. Williams and senior Parker Stone (637 receiving yards) are both seniors. P-L was ninth in 3A at 31.1 points a game.
16. Hunter Renick, Cimarron – A senior with multiple junior college offers, Renick had previously played fullback, but has lost weight and has looked to play tight end this fall. Renick has rushed for 711 yards and is an excellent blocker. Cimarron went 9-1.
17. Matt Friess, Dodge City – Friess, a senior, was the leading target for Dodge City quarterback Beau Foster for the 9-1 Red Demons. He delivered more than 25 catches for a team that threw for more than 1,300 yards. DC won the WAC championship.
18. Tyson Priddy, De Soto – Another standout Hybrid player, Priddy picked up 446 rushing and 505 receiving yards with 20 total scores. De Soto went 10-1 and finished third in 5A in scoring offense at 43 points a contest. Priddy was first team all-state 5A by KPreps.
19. Griffin Kugler, Smith Center – Traditional power Smith Center has finished first, first and second at state the last three seasons. SC was seventh in 1A at 36.3 points per contest last year. Kugler had 44 catches for 684 yards and 12 scores in ’19. He holds the Redmen’s single season receiving touchdown record. His 16 career receiving TDs are tied for the school mark. Also in the Mid-Continent League, Kagan Keeten of rival Phillipsburg was a first team all-conference pick. Phillipsburg senior Ty Sides is also back after he earned all-conference WR earlier in his career, though mainly played QB last fall.
20. Colin Jueneman, Hanover – Like many others on this list, Jueneman is able to impact the game rushing, receiving and in the return game. A Hybrid, he delivered 1,945 all-purpose yards along with 22 offensive scores. Last year, Jueneman had 45 carries for 390 yards and six TDs, along with 31 catches for 791 yards and 11 scores. He delivered five special teams scores. Hanover lost to rival Axtell in the Eight-Man, Division II state semifinals, and both squads again are in District 3. Division II east is expected to be deeper than in past years, though Axtell and Hanover will still be at the top of the pack in the preseason.
21. Cameron Wise, West Franklin/Flint Hills League – Another Hybrid player, Wise started at running back, defensive end, kick returner and kicker last fall. He earned second team all-conference quarterback last fall. Wise could again play all over the field for WF. In addition to Wise, the Flint Hills League returns multiple all-league players at WR/TE. Lyndon senior Luke Detwiler was unanimous first team all-league. Northern Heights senior Colton Tiffany and Osage City junior Tyler Sage were second team all-league WR. Central Heights senior Cauy Newell was honorable mention all-league WR. Detwiler was key in the return game, including a 90-yard kick return touchdown versus Northern Heights.
22. Jonah Ruder, Norton – Norton went 9-4 and finished second in Class 2A, the Bluejays’ first state showing in 30 years. The highly athletic Ruder led the Bluejays with 40 catches for 653 yards and tied for second with three receiving scores. Ruder holds offers from Washburn, Fort Hays and Colorado School of Mines. The 6-1, 190-pound Athlete/WR has a 4.0 GPA and 30 ACT.
23. Bo Reeves, Rossville – Rossville, the likely preseason 2A favorite, returns four of its top-five receivers, led by 26 catches for 512 yards and eight scores. He also paced the Bulldawgs for 24 grabs for 381 yards and four TDs. Rossville was sixth in 3A in 37.8 points per game.
24. Henry Burns, Sedgwick – No 1A team produces great wide receivers like Sedgwick. The Cardinals have averaged at least 34 points per game every season of the last decade. Burns was a key two-way player last year, including a game with five catches for 121 yards and a score against Meade. Sedgwick went 9-1 and led the class with 41 points a game.
25. Ben Hansen, Plainville – A starter since his freshman year, Hansen will be a key junior for the Cardinals. Plainville finished 10-2 and has finished as state runner-up and three straight semifinal showings. Plainville was one of four 1A squads to get double-digit victories and delivered 36.4 points a contest, sixth in 1A. Hansen tied for the team lead with 21 catches and delivered 299 receiving yards and three scores.
While the Cardinals lost Jared Casey (KU signing) and Jordan Finnesy (Washburn), Plainville should again be a strong 1A team. Grant Stephenson is an excellent coach who has molded two all-state quarterbacks and the Cardinals have a veteran staff. Hansen, sophomore RB Kyle Werner, senior DE Peyton Rathbun and senior lineman Jonah Smith are all key returners.
26. Wichita Northwest WRs – Northwest, the No. 1 scoring offense in 5A last season, has no player back with more than 16 catches. However, the Grizzlies have long had players take big strides. Kaleb Coleman had 16 catches for 225 yards and four scores, and senior Mason Ross, who could play quarterback, had 11 grabs for 181 yards and a TD. Ross has been offered at the FCS level.
27. Basehor-Linwood WRs – B-L finished 5-4, though was sixth in 4A at 35.9 points a contest. Two of the top-three receivers return. Senior Ethan Huber delivered 53 catches for 701 yards and five TDs, and junior Jordan Brown had 34 catches for 441 yards and six scores.
28. Preston Reynolds, Shawnee Mission East/other Sunflower League WRs – Reynolds was a second team all-Sunflower League wide receiver. He was the only non-senior named a first team WR/TE in the league. Olathe East senior Kameron Byers was honorable mention all-league. Shawnee Mission Northwest senior wide receiver Duke Henke was honorable mention. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Reynolds enjoyed a big summer on the basketball circuit, too.
29. Aaron Powell/Trey Buckbee, McPherson/Hesston duo – McPherson has reached the semifinals each of the last three years and is still looking to reach its first state final. McPherson ranked fourth in 4A with 36.6 points per game. Powell and Buckbee combined for more than 75 catches and more than 1,100 receiving yards. Further south on I-135 South, Hesston’s Ben Bollinger and Brady Cox also returns.
30. Caden Brinegar, Marysville – Marysville, a preseason state favorite in 3A last year, finished 7-2, though was fourth in the class with 36.4 points per contest. Of the team’s 87 catches, 67 graduated. Brinegar was second with 19 catches for 226 yards.
31. Hever Mercado, Southwestern Heights – Mercado is expected to again play quarterback for SW Heights. However, Mercado was a wide receiver as a sophomore and can play multiple roles for the Mustangs. SWH finished 4-5 as Mercado passed for 353 yards and rushed for 703. As a sophomore, he threw passes in four games, recorded carries in six contests, and had at least one reception in five games. He has also returned kicks in his career.
32. Ethan Abell, Oakley – Also a talented Hybrid player, Ethan Abell is back for the Plainsmen, 3-6 last season. Oakley is expected to take a jump in 1A with Abell and quarterback Eric Cain back, both seniors. Abell led with 104 carries for 824 yards and 10 scores and finished with 22 carries for 282 yards and five TDs. Additionally, Abell finished with 213 special teams yards. Oakley returns all of its top skill players, except Ellis Slack.
33. Emilio Perez, South Barber – SB has won nine games four straight years. Perez has 14 receiving touchdowns in the last two seasons and can be an effective runner and receiver. Perez, a senior, delivered 28 rushes for 205 yards and five scores, along with 22 catches for 311 yards and six TDs.
34. Lorenzo Wilhoite, Manhattan – A possible breakout player this fall, Wilhoite, a senior, had 51 rushes for 379 yards and six scores. Manhattan graduated BJ Young, who delivered 1,256 yards. The Indians’ top-seven players had between five and eight catches, and Wilhoite delivered five catches for 40 yards.
35. Bray Davies, Riverside - Davies had nine interceptions as a sophomore for Troy, and then transferred to Riverside. Davies, who lists wide receiver has his primary position on his NCSA Sports Recruiting profile, is 5-foot-6, 130 pounds and should be a key target for returning quarterback Kobe Davis.
36. Dylan Bice, Thunder Ridge – Another extremely interesting Hybrid player, sophomore Dylan Bice had a big freshman year in multiple ways. TR graduated Reece Struckhoff (2,167 rushing yards) and Bice could step up into a big role. Bice passed for 342 yards, rushed for 176 and delivered 13 catches for 289 yards and six TDs. TR is expected to be another contender in Eight-Man, Division II.
37. Andrew Schields/Tyler Sabatka/Alex Dart, Cheylin – Cheylin, the six-man runner-up is well-known for senior quarterback Colton McCarty with multiple NAIA offers. Schields, Sabatka and Dart are highly impressive players. All three are seniors for a Cougar team that returns every key player from ’19 and is the six-man preseason state favorite.
Sabatka had 21 carries for 296 yards and five scores, and Schields delivered 31 rushes for 244 yards and four TDs. Schields led with 55 catches for 645 yards and 13 TDs, while Dart had 21 grabs for 183 yards and a pair of TDs. Sabatka was a consistent big play threat with 17 catches for 441 yards (25.9 yards per catch) and seven scores.
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