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CIK 2021 Season Preview: WRs/TEs/Hybrids to Watch

Hays High's Jaren Kanak
Hays High's Jaren Kanak(Everett Royer)
Published: Aug. 15, 2021 at 1:11 PM CDT
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Catch It Kansas continues its annual positional breakdowns. Next up: WR/TE/Hybrids. This group is probably the most talented of any positional group for 2021. The group includes multiple top-10 Kansas recruits, the returning Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, and many who should see time at several positions.

1.Jaren Kanak/Jordan Dale/Bryce Salmans/Carson Kieffer, Hays High – Hays High has elite athletes with seniors Jaren Kanak, Jordan Dale and Carson Kieffer and junior Bryce Salmans (H-back/TE). Kanak’s recruiting rise is well-known and is the No. 1 recruit in Kansas for the Class of 2022, per 247 Sports, a recruiting leader. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Kanak recently committed to Clemson. HHS coach Tony Crough told CIK in early August that he expects Kanak to play “everywhere,” including likely in all three phases. Dale enjoyed a highly decorated junior season. He stepped in for Dylan Dreiling at quarterback in Week 2 and cleared 200 rushing yards in a road win versus rival Great Bend. Dale eventually finished as WAC Offensive Player of the Year and took more than 75 percent of the team’s offensive snaps under center.

Dale is listed as a WR per Hays High’s depth chart in early August. Dale was a key player on a Hays High’s 23-1 boys’ basketball season and was the 5A runner-up in the high jump. Salmans is a 2023 riser. Kanak delivered 842 total yards and 10 touchdowns in six games, including 379 rush, 203 receiving and 91 passing. Dale rushed for 482, passed for 472 and accounted for 11 scores. Salmans (6-2, 220) recorded 20-plus knockdown blocks. Senior Carson Kieffer is back after 21 catches and is one of Kansas’ best point guards. Hays High has some question marks with some other positions, but probably the Indians and Blue Valley Northwest have the state’s top units with WR/ATH.

2. Tyler Claiborne, St. James Academy – Perhaps no player had more of an impact on a team’s passing game than Tyler Claiborne in 2020. SJA’s Tyler Claiborne enjoyed a breakout season and FBS interest after he helped the Thunder to a 4A state title in 2020. Claiborne was a first team all-state wide receiver. He helped the Thunder to an 8-4 mark. Claiborne caught 76 passes for 1,171 yards and 12 touchdowns. SJA passed for 2,862 yards for 29 scores and a 110.8 quarterback rating. In 2019, the Thunder passed for 1,416 yards for nine TDs and a 66.7 quarterback rating. The 6-2, 195-pound Claiborne has a 4.37 GPA and has interest from Kentucky and North Dakota State, among others.

3. Mekhi Miller, Blue Valley North – Mekhi Miller is the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2022 and has committed to Missouri. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Miller, who lives in Topeka per 247, was offered by Indiana, Middle Tennessee State, Utah and California, among others. Miller is the top target for BVN quarterback Henry Martin, who has the chance to break several Kansas career passing records this season. BV North is the defending 6A runner-up to Derby.

4. Tyson Struber, Canton-Galva – Canton-Galva senior Tyson Struber is probably Kansas’ most well-known eight-man player. Struber is 6-2, 185 and ranked No. 10 among the Sunflower State prospects for 2022. Struber has helped C-G to state semifinal, state champion and state quarterfinalist in three years. Struber has a strong chance to break the eight-man career record for receiving touchdowns. A Kansas State commit, Struber has posted 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Defensively, Struber could easily be mentioned as a defensive back, though coach Shelby Hoppes told me he expects to be move to linebacker. Last season, Struber caught 45 passes for 901 yards and 17 TDs.

5. Will Anciaux, Kapaun Mt. Carmel – The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Anciaux is a top-five recruit in the Class of 2023 class. Anciaux is listed as a tight end/athlete and is a terrific basketball player with a 4.3 GPA. Anciaux has been offered by Iowa State, Kansas, Michigan State and Kansas State. He helped KMC become possibly Kansas’ top surprise in 2020. In ‘19, KMC went 2-7 and tallied just 95 points. That year, the Crusaders passed for 1,251 yards for 47 percent completion with 10 passing scores. Anciaux had two catches for 21 yards. Last season, KMC went 8-2 with new coach Weston Schartz. KMC upped its completion to 64 percent and had a much higher passing efficiency at 105.7. Anciaux had two receiving scores and easily paced the Crusaders with 18 catches for 339 yards. His sister, Ella, signed with Wichita State basketball.

Kapaun's Will Anciaux
Kapaun's Will Anciaux(Everett J Royer | Everett Royer)

6. Silas Etter/Jaden Hamm, Eudora – Etter is the No. 8 prospect for the Class of 2022, according to 247. Etter is 6-2, 200 and is listed as an Athlete. Hamm, a tight end, is 6-6, 225 and ranked as the No. 3 prospect for the 2023 class.

7. Sterling Lockett/Lucas Bullock, Blue Valley/EKL – Lockett continues the great success of Blue Valley wide receivers. Lockett comes from a great lineage of Locketts at Kansas State and has committed to the Wildcats. He is ranked No. 12 in the Class of 2022, pe 247.  The Blue Valley schools are part of the Eastern Kansas League, the state’s best conference and well-known for its passing. A high number of BV area wide receivers return.

In addition, Blue Valley Southwest senior Zach Atkins was first team all-Blue Valley with 42 catches for 802 yards and seven TDs. Miller and Blue Valley Northwest senior Max Muehlberger (6-4, 210, NC State offer, 23 catches) collected first team, too. Blue Valley Northwest senior Steven Whittier was second team with 26 catches and three TDs. Lockett and Blue Valley senior Cole Stratton each earned second team.

Blue Valley North junior Jaxon Goldberg, Blue Valley Northwest seniors Nick and Josh Cusick, and Blue Valley West seniors Charlie Johnson and Braxton Symonds were honorable mention. Josh Cusick has a Friends offer. He is 5-10, 175 who can play wide receiver, running back and special teams returner. BVNW averaged 32 points a game, the highest for the school since at least 1999.

Northwest quarterback Mikey Pauley threw for close to 1,400 yards and has a lot of his top players back. He has 34 career passing touchdowns, which has already broken the school career record. BVNW returns its entire offensive line from a breakthrough 5-2 season last fall. Blue Valley North’s Lucas Bullock, listed as an Athlete, has a full offer from Ivy League Columbia University and Colgate University.

8. Trey Buckbee/Gus Ruddle, McPherson – Trey Buckbee (6-3, 185) has posted a 34-inch vertical jump. McPherson posted a 10-2 season and another Class 4A semifinal showing last fall. Buckbee delivered 47 catches for 618 yards and seven scores. Gus Ruddle has 28 catches for 486 yards and seven TDs.

9. Jordan Brown, Basehor-Linwood – Also a standout basketball player, Basehor-Linwood’s Jordan Brown hauled in 73 catches for 1,048 yards and 16 touchdowns. B-L passed for 2,683 yards and 32 touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Brown has an Independence Community College offer.

10. Bo Bantz, Goddard – Goddard improved to 7-3 and collected 29.7 points per game with a healthy Kyler Semrad at quarterback last year. Two seasons ago, Goddard went 4-6 and posted 19.4 points a game. Bo Bantz was overshadowed some by Jake Shope, who led Kansas with 1,191 receiving yards. However, Bantz actually led Goddard in receptions with 83 for 708 yards and one TD. That included 14 catches versus Andover Central in a 34-26 loss on Sept. 25. Bantz set school records for single game and single season receptions. He can play multiple positions, including slot back and special teams returner.

11. Kendrick Jones/Jared Napoli, Mill Valley – I talked with Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee in early August. MV has won back-to-back 5A state titles. The Jaguars return just four starters, though Applebee is very excited about his WR group. Kendrick Jones earned second team all-league, only one of the top-eight Sunflower League WR/TE back. MV finished 9-2 with wins against Derby, the eventual 6A state champion, and Wichita Northwest in the 5A title game. Jones delivered 32 catches for 548 yards and nine TDs.

12. Caquoy Patterson, Wichita East – Caqouy Patterson is known as “Cheetah,” after Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill because of his speed. Patterson has finished second in the City League in receiving for each of the last two years. Patterson especially stood out in a 49-42 playoff loss in Junction City with multiple long touchdowns. East is especially loaded at wide receiver.

East's Caquoy Patterson
East's Caquoy Patterson(Matt Henderson)

13. Levi Knoll, Holcomb/GWAC – Holcomb finished 7-2 and tallied 33.3 points per game. Both of the Longhorn losses came by a combined 19 points. The Longhorns are expected to be an electrifying offense. Knoll led with 40 catches for 705 yards and nine touchdowns, all easily team-bests. Holcomb brings back quarterback Kaden Johnson, who completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,715 yards with 21 touchdowns versus seven interceptions. In the GWAC, Hugoton has 6-5, 210 senior Cade Meklenburg at DE/TE. Holcomb is a strong 3A contender.

14. Mason Ellis, Mulvane – Mulvane senior Mason Ellis displayed his impressive athletic talents in football last fall, though missed the majority of the season with injury. In basketball, Ellis helped Mulvane to its best showing in several decades. Ellis could be listed at multiple positions on CIK’s preseason list. He has recently committed to North Dakota State. Ellis is 6-2, 183 and lists himself as an Athlete on his Twitter feed. Ellis blew up at the Sharp Combine this summer with a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash and 4.18 in the pro agility. Ellis also has some quarterback experience. In just three games (two complete), Ellis still led Mulvane with 165 rushing yards. Ellis completed 17 of 36 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.

15. Kendyn Blank, Inman – Inman’s Kendyn Blank is the Teuton’s top running back and is known for his versatility with rushing and receiving. Inman advanced to the 1A semifinals last year and is a definite 1A contender this fall. Blank rushed 86 times for 742 yards with 11 touchdowns. He caught 20 passes for 369 yards and three TDs. Blank helped in the return game with four kick returns for 84 yards.

16. Trey Harmison, Riley County – Riley County enjoyed an 8-2 mark and averaged 40.4 points a game in the last year under longtime coach Steve Warner. Harmison has seen significant time in his first three seasons. Last year, he delivered 45 carries for 466 yards and eight touchdowns. He collected 27 catches for 661 yards and eight TDs. RC is well-known for its multi-purpose players and after Nic Allen graduated, Harmison could have a big season. Harmison has 835 rushing (8.9 yards per carry), along with 71 catches for 1,377 yards and 26 total offensive TDs in his career.

17. Dion Slyvester, Parsons – Parsons enjoyed a big passing season from Ethan Houk and Tanner Barcus, a Shrine Bowl receiver. Senior Dion Slyvester posted a big season with 52 catches for 647 yards and seven TDs.

18. Cadon Clark/Lucas Barnes, Arkansas City – Led by its passing offense, AC made a surprise run and earned Class 4A runner-up to St. James Academy. QB Gabe Welch threw for 2,679 yards. Junior Cadon Clark enjoyed a huge 2020 with 74 catches for 638 yards and a touchdown. Senior Lucas Barnes recorded 33 catches for 613 yards and four TDs.

19. Jace Wentling, Thomas More Prep-Marian – A standout WR/DB/K and the Monarchs’ vocal leader, TMP senior Jace Wentling was a four-sport standout in football, basketball, track and baseball. Wentling, known for his weight room work, helped the Monarchs to a 7-2 record, the program’s best record since ‘02. Wentling had a rare feat in a 16-12 win versus Cimarron when he tallied all 16 of the team’s points via receiving scores or kicking. He won the 3A long jump title and has posted 4.74 in the 40-yard dash. Wentling delivered 21 catches for 433 yards and seven TDs and had a game-winning pick-six versus Ellis. TMP returns its top-four tackles with Kade Harris, Bryce Seib, Lucas Lang and Wentling. Harris/Wentling should be one of the best QB/WR combinations in 2A. Seib is a top returning 2A linebacker.

TMP's Jace Wentling
TMP's Jace Wentling(Everett J Royer | Everett Royer)

20. Will Schmidt, Oakley – Oakley’s Will Schmidt, like several other players on this list, will likely assist in all three phases. Schmidt helped Oakley to the 1A state runner-up and the best season in school annals in 2020. Schmidt will take over at quarterback. He completed 5 of 10 passes for 123 yards with three scores against one interception and was the team’s leading receiver with 15 catches for 276 yards and one TD. Schmidt assisted in the return game and was second in Kansas with 489 all-purpose yards. He delivered 44 tackles, three interceptions and was the team’s primary kicker. Schmidt kicked 22 extra points and two field goals, including one in the 9-0 semifinal win versus Inman.

21. Wichita Northwest WR corps – Coach Steve Martin believes Northwest has its best receiving group in the last several years. Junior Trenton Salisbury was limited to four games last fall, though recorded nine catches for 120 yards. Sophomore Michael Lopez (5-5, 141) is a shifty player who has highly impressed this summer.

22. Scott Price, Bucklin – Bucklin went 6-4 and averaged 40.2 points a game with coach Trever Powell. Scott Price has helped engineer the turnaround for the Red Aces’ most wins since 2007. Bucklin has not won more than six games since 1996, per the Kansas Football History database. Price rushed 179 times for 972 yards and 17 scores, and easily paced Bucklin in receiving with 21 catches for 285 yards and six touchdowns. Overall, Price delivered 1,577 all-purpose yards, including 295 in the return game. Price is expected to be one of eight-man’s top all-around players.

23. Braxton Lafferty, Little River/8-Man group/Hanover duo – Braxton Lafferty served a key supporting role in Little River’s Eight-Man, Division I state title last fall. Lafferty, like many of the Hybrids, could play in several positions. Lafferty could see time at QB, RB and End. Last season, Lafferty finished with 30 catches for 582 yards and 10 TDs.

Downs-Lakeside’s Jace Schoen recorded 943 receiving yards, while Sharon Springs’ Cade Johnson had 657 receiving. Medicine Lodge’s Theron Wedel finished 506 receiving yards, while Lebo’s Kyle Reese had 458. South Barber’s Caden Rathgeber and Thunder Ridge’s Kaleb Wagenblast had 435 and 433 receiving yards, respectively. Otis-Bison has its combination of Dalton Regan and Christian Roth. Wheatland-Grinnell’s Jett Vincent had 809 receiving, though is one of Kansas’ top-5 DBs and will be listed there.

Hanover enjoyed another dominant season with an 11-0 mark and Eight-Man, Division II state championship. Coach Matt Heuer now has six titles, tied for the most all-time among eight-man coaches. Hanover scored 55.5 points a contest in 2020. Seniors Keagan Dimler and Emmitt Jueneman are top returning offensive players. Dimler rushed 26 times for 223 yards and five touchdowns. Jueneman delivered five rushes for 139 yards and two TDs. Jueneman finished with 22 catches for 418 yards and a team-high nine TDs. Dimler had 10 catches for 295 yards and four scores.

24. Carter Dewberry, Shawnee Mission South – The 6-foot-1, 206-pound Carter Dewberry is listed at multiple positions, including Fullback, Defensive End and Athlete. He is known for his power and speed combination. SMS went 0-7 last season but should be improved this year. The Raiders had two one-point losses and a nine-point defeat.

25. Tyler Lohmeyer, Alma-Wabaunsee – Wabaunsee posted a 4-6 mark and averaged 27.5 points a game after three consecutive one-win seasons. QB Cade Oliver and WR Tyler Lohmeyer should be a strong 1A passing combination. Lohmeyer delivered 38 catches for 795 yards and eight touchdowns.

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