Wildcats improve athleticism, speed

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

The Kansas State University football team liked what it saw from its namesakes in Blue Springs, Mo.

The feeling clearly was mutual.

K-State announced a 27-member recruiting class Wednesday -- the opening of the NCAA signing period -- and three of them came from the Blue Springs Wildcats' two-time Missouri Class 6 championship team.

Running back Dalvin Warmack, the state's Class 6 offensive player of the year, was the first player to commit to the Class of 2014, announcing his decision last March. Linebacker Elijah Lee, the state defensive player of the year, and safety Kaleb Prewitt eventually followed suit.

K-State coach Bill Snyder was immediately attracted to the trio's success at the high school level, where Blue Springs went 13-1 on the way to the 2012 state title, then completed a perfect season last fall with a 35-14 victory over Columbia Rock Bridge in the championship game.

"The fact that they've been a very, very successful program -- that could be whether it's one of them, two of them, three of them -- they bring a confidence factor, they bring the experience of playing and competing and being a part of and being leaders in a very successful program," Snyder said of the decision to pursue three players from the same high school. "Outside of that, I don't know what it does."

The Blue Springs signees match the three K-State signed out of Mesquite North in Mesquite, Texas, in 1999, when the Wildcats picked up linebackers Josh Buhl and Bryan Hickman, plus defensive tackle Corey White. Buhl and Hickman were mainstays on the 2002 team that won the Holiday Bowl and the 2003 Big 12 championship team that made it to the Fiesta Bowl.

Warmack, Lee and Prewett bring some solid credentials of their own from high school, where all three received all-state honors.

Warmack, a 5-foot-9, 183-pounder, was a two-time winner of the Simone Award, which honors the top high school player in the Kansas City metro area. He rushed for 2,223 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior and 2,300 yards with 40 scores his junior season.

Lee (6-3, 210) recorded 85 tackles, including 36 for loss and 12 sacks his final year and was two-time recipient of the Buck Buchanan Memorial Award for the best lineman or linebacker in the metro area. Prewett, who also caught 30 passes as a receiver, intercepted four passes as a senior.

"I think all three of them, sitting down and visiting with them are, No. 1 good students, No. 2 really do have those intrinsic values in place, No. 3 are really serious about the game of football and being competitive," Snyder said. "And all three of them have that leadership capacity within them to be able to assist our program in that way as well."

All three had three-star ratings from Rivals.com and were ranked among the top 40 nationally at their positions by at least one recruiting service.

Looking for immediate help at several positions, K-State dipped into the junior college ranks for nine players, their biggest juco haul since 1997. The biggest prizes were Dodge City Community College defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales and Garden City linebacker D'Vonta Derricott, a pair of four-star prospects who could step in right away to fill key vacancies.

Clinkscales, who originally committed to Nebraska, was a second-team all-NJCAA All-American and was ranked No. 4 among juco defensive tackles by ESPN. Derricott, the third-ranked outside linebacker by ESPN, was an all-Jayhawk Conference selection and played for defensive coordinator Jeff Kelly, a former K-State All-American.

"I think every community college guy that we have, we have a firm and honest belief that they have a chance to come in and compete immediately to help this program," Snyder said. "All of them - incoming freshmen certainly have that over a period of time - but with junior college guys we're talking about immediate needs.

"As far as balance is concerned, normally we probably don't take quite that many. We might end up taking one more."

Three of the juco transfers - wide receiver Andre Davis from Santa Rosita (Calif.), offensive lineman Luke Hayes from Butler CC and cornerback Danzel McDaniel from Dodge City - are enrolled for the spring semester. So are 2013 grayshirts Dayton Valentine, a tight end, and offensive lineman Bryce Fitzner.

A breakdown by position shows eight offensive linemen in the class, five linebackers, five defensive backs and four wide receivers. Warmack is the lone running back and Zach Davidson from Harrisonville, Mo., who is expected to walk on, the only quarterback.

Snyder, reiterating his annual warning that it takes a year or two to truly evaluate the strength of a recruiting class, said he did believe the Wildcats improved their speed and athleticism, especially on defense, with the 2014 group.