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With the turnover of starters from 2012 to 2013, K-State offers a number intriguing position battles heading into this season. The greatest race is between Daniel Sams and Jake Waters for starting quarterback, which everyone has their eyes on. I’m also excited to see who wins the primary backup role behind running back John Hubert – a spot Robert Rose appears to have the inside track on. Linebacker will also be an important unit to figure out with what appears to be only one spot left to fill. However, the tight end spot may turn out to be one of the best and most important races of the year.
A quick look at last year’s depth chart and recruiting would suggest the position is Zack Trujillo’s to lose. The backup to departed starter Travis Tannahill last year, Trujillo caught two passes for 72 yards in 2012. His 6’5″ and 256 pound frame lends itself well to the receiving tight end skills expected of the position at K-State, and he brings the agility to get out and make blocks against linebackers and safeties in the option game.
With no significant tight end recruits coming to K-State, Trujillo would appear to have the position on lock. However, fans should remember that fellow tight end Andre McDonald is returning after a one year hiatus from the team. McDonald’s absence in 2012 was due to disciplinary issues as he found himself in legal trouble multiple times. He was sued in Riley County Court after his pitbull bit a Manhattan resident and was eventually found guilty of violating the city’s dangerous dog ordinance (while pit bulls are not banned by the city, owners are held to a higher standard if they own an “aggressive breed,” and having your dog bite someone several times would appear to violate that standard).
McDonald’s problems ran deeper than just violating this ordinance – his troubles constituted a violation of probation that resulted from a 2011 arrest when he was charged with an minor in possession of alcohol and domestic battery in Aggieville. The issues were enough for Snyder to tell McDonald that he did not have a spot on the team in 2012, and would be welcome to compete for playing time in 2013.
It is now 2013, and McDonald is back in the weight room and on practice field. Standing at 6’8″ and 264 lbs, Andre is more of a throwback tight end and the sort of guy you want knocking heads in goal-line situations. However, he is a capable threat in the pass game and caught 14 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns during his first two years with the team. He had eight catches for 80 yards in the spring game this year.
Because of the different skill sets each player provides, McDonad and Trujillo may see playing time based on which formation K-State chooses to trot out. Expect the offense will throw several different looks at opponents throughout the game, so there will be times when a Trujillo’s speed is required, and others when McDonald’s brute strength is the desired attribute. In addition, we should expect to see both on the field in two-tight end package. Finally, it should be noted that once the ball does find its way into McDonald’s hands, look out – watching a single defender try to bring him down should remind Chiefs fans of Christian Okoye rumbling over would-be tacklers back in the day.