Wednesday saw Kansas State offensive assistants Conor Riley, Brian Anderson, Brian Lepak and Thad Ward meet with the media after practice inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
After sharing that he’d love to have nine of his players ready for the spotlight of college football Saturdays, Riley pointed out that he felt good about eight.
Presumably, that group would consist of Christian Duffie, Taylor Poitier, Hayden Gillum, Hadley Panzer, Cooper Beebe, KT Leveston, Andrew Leingang and someone else that we are not privy to at the moment.
Later on in his media session, two others named were Dawson Delforge and Carver Willis.
A spot can be earned by the player. It is up to them, according to Riley. As long as they have worked for it, belong in the mix and their teammates trust them, they will play.
That’s a bigger number than we’ve heard in the past from the offensive line coach in Manhattan, and quite frankly, he was more complimentary and glowing of his group than we typically hear from him.
I’ll take that as a strong sign about the room in general. Riley is a heck of a coach with very high expectations and that lends him to be a bit more critical just by nature. We heard him be about as optimistic as ever earlier this afternoon.
Leingang and Panzer were mentioned again, and that is very fair. It is difficult to remember that both are just in their second year with the Wildcats. The future remains bright in Riley’s room.
A few others that have really caught his eye and popped out are true freshman offensive tackle Drake Bequaeith and walk-on interior offensive lineman Michael Capria. Bequaeith is from Texas and Capria was playing for Liberty High School in Kansas City this time last year.
Bequaeith is probably not in striking position to land any significant snaps this season, but his position coach shared that he will eventually be a heck of a football player for K-State. In the case of Capria, he has blown Riley away at how well he’s embraced the center position after never having played it before.
Both have received reps with the second-string already.
Though, to be fair, Riley mentioned how he was pleased with all five newcomers, and that includes walk-on Alex Key and scholarship players Jalen Klemm and John Pastore.
Conor Riley (Drew Galloway/KSO)
The battle for the starting left tackle is a three-horse race. Riley named KT Leveston, Andrew Leingang and Cooper Beebe as the three vying for the role.
Of course, Beebe was a first team All-Big 12 selection at the spot a season ago, but his more natural position is on the interior of the offensive line. Beebe will play guard in the NFL as well, though Riley pointed out that it would have no bearing on what they do.
They will do what’s best for Kansas State.
Leveston was the first name mentioned when the left tackle question was asked about, and Riley noted that he is a fan of the offseason work and preparation that he has seen from Leveston, his maturity level and his approach.
He’s also proud of him after the progression he has made as a man after starting from such a low spot on the totem pole when they arrived as a staff in Manhattan. He has now graduated and is in graduate school.
A lot of the credit belongs to strength coach Trumain Carroll and his staff, Riley said.
Leingang is still developing and sounded like a bit of a work in progress. He was seen in a boot earlier in the week. If neither are ready to grab the bull by the horns, they can always turn to what the conference chose as the best left tackle in the Big 12 a year ago.
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Once again, Riley answered a question about Taylor Poitier by raving about his talent. It is clear he thinks that Poitier is one of the more skilled players he’s ever mentored and tutored as a coach.
He has called him an all-conference caliber player before and he shared that he is one of the more talented players in the room when speaking to the media on Wednesday.
“You guys are going to enjoy watching that young man play the game of football because he is explosive and he is damn, damn good.”
However, Riley did make sure to note that he hasn’t played competitive football in a year and a half.
Because of that, he’s a little too anxious at times in fall camp. He is so excited to be back and playing alongside his teammates once again. But he’s knocking off some rust day by day.