Redskins

Hodge-podge group of players propels No. 4 K-State

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Hodge-podge group of players propels No. 4 K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) The star quarterback used to be a wide receiver, and the top wide receiver used to be a quarterback.

There are junior college players from the most out-of-the-way places imaginable, and Division I transfers getting a fresh start. Small-town high school stars from the Heartland, and a motley collection of talent overlooked by most of college football's marquee programs.

This is No. 4 Kansas State, arguably the most diverse team in the country.

One of the best, too.

Listening to quarterback Collin Klein describe the hodge-podge that makes up the only unbeaten team in the Big 12, it's as if the Heisman Trophy candidate is likening sagely coach Bill Snyder to the Statue of Liberty - ``Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,'' as the Emma Lazarus poem goes, only this time it's the overlooked and the underappreciated.

``We do come from pretty diverse parts of the country, diverse backgrounds, different roads that have brought us here,'' Klein said. ``I mean, it goes back to his formula of taking whoever is here and bringing us in and molding us together and creating a true team to where it doesn't matter where you came from, how you got here, anything like that. What matters is now.''

Right now, the Wildcats are the hottest team in the country.

They've already won at Oklahoma and West Virginia. They're 7-0 overall, 4-0 in the conference, and for once a favorite going into this weekend's game against No. 15 Texas Tech.

Poring over the roster, though, this isn't the kind of team that should be stacking up against top-ranked Alabama, high-flying Oregon or even high-profile Notre Dame.

The vast majority of these guys weren't five-star prospects coming out of high school. Heck, most of them didn't even arrive at Kansas State out of high school, instead going through a junior college for reasons ranging from academics to lack of interest the first time around.

Eight of the 11 starters on defense went that route, including All-American candidate Nigel Malone, the team's top cornerback. Defensive tackle John Sua went to California's Allan Hancock College, hardly a pipeline to national prominence, and defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis formed quite the pass-rushing tandem during their days at Hutchinson Community College.

Then there are the guys who WERE high-profile recruits but opted to go elsewhere, such as linebacker Arthur Brown, a semifinalist for the Butkus Award.

He had his choice of schools coming out of Wichita, Kan., and opted for the sunshine and warm weather of Miami. When things didn't go how he foresaw, Brown headed back to the often-overcast, usually blustery and far more frigid life of Flint Hills.

``We have guys from all over, guys from different backgrounds, and it definitely adds character to our team,'' he said. ``That's one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.''

The offensive side of the ball is a similar collection of castoffs, misfits and guys who were never expected to compete for a national championship - at least, by people on the outside.

Certainly not by Snyder, though. He welcomed them with open arms.

Klein has emerged as one of the nation's most valuable players - he had seven touchdowns in the 55-14 rout of West Virginia - after being largely overlooked coming out of high school in Loveland, Colo. His only other interest came from the likes of Colorado State and Utah.

Just how highly sought were his quarterback skills? Even the coaches at Kansas State turned him into a wide receiver when he first got on campus.

Chris Harper went precisely the opposite direction.

He was a coveted quarterback recruit coming out of high school, and ultimately chose the swagger of Oregon over the old-school approach of the Wildcats. He switched to wide receiver early in his career, and ultimately decided to transfer to Kansas State for his sophomore season.

Now, he's an NFL prospect and the team's leading receiver.

``We have guys from all over,'' fellow wide receiver Curry Sexton said. ``That's something our coaching staff has been able to do, bring in players from around the country that fit our program, what we do here, and I think that's been important to our success.''

Wide receiver Tyler Lockett went to high school in Tulsa, Okla., but barely got a sniff from the Sooners. Running back John Hubert is from Waco, Texas, but the Longhorns didn't bite.

Tight end Travis Tannahill wasn't even among the top 10 players in Kansas coming out of high school, much less the country. Offensive linemen B.J. Finney is from tiny Andale, Kan., population 928. Fullback Braden Wilson is from Smith Center, a booming metropolis by comparison.

The one thread that ties them together? Their values, Snyder said - and their talent.

``The recruiting environment has turned upside down in regards to the timing. You look around right now and everybody has 25 commitments and the season's not half over,'' Snyder said. ``You have to get to know them to see if they fit in.''

If they do, well, it doesn't matter where they come from.

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O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

We are nearing the start of the NFL Draft, less than three days to be exact, and right now there are a ton of names circling around whom the Washington Redskins should take at No. 13.

You’ve probably read countless mock drafts at this point (if you haven’t or need another here is ours), and there’s one thing that is consistent: nothing.

So let's concern ourselves less of ‘who’ and exactly what each player will bring to the Redskins.

There are very few evaluators of talent better than the NFL Network’s Charles Davis, so he got to talk with J.P. Finlay and Mitch Tischler on the latest edition of the Redskins Talk podcast.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST WITH CHARLES DAVIS HERE

He broke down EVERYONE that Washington could be taking at No. 13 overall. If you don’t have time to listen (which we highly recommend that you do), here are some of the highlights:

“This could be a wild first night,” said Davis. “All of these different trade scenarios are out there right? My experience has been that most of that calms down as we get closer. There’s a lot of discussion and chatter about it, but we don’t usually have it.”

REDSKINS NEEDS:

“At 13, when you’re really down to it, Mitch I think you had said to me even before we began ‘O-line, D-line man, let’s talk O-line, D-line,’ and I think that is the perfect place for this Washington team.”

VITA VEA, DT, WASHINGTON

“If Vita Vea from Washington somehow is sitting there at 13, and the idea that you could go up there and put him a line and get Jonathan Allen back from last year, I think that’d be a great place to go. This is a top-10, top-5 talent in this draft that possibly could still be around at 13.”

“When we’re talking about the people that are in our business, the talking heads that people kind of go to and kind of get held accountable for their mock drafts… you don’t really see Vea in any consistency in the top ten.”

“Eleven is kind of the breakpoint for him.”

MAURICE HURST, DT, MICHIGAN

“I like him. I don’t know that I like him quite that high.”

DA’RON PAYNE, DT, ALABAMA

“I like Payne, better than Hurst, but again I don’t know about quite that high.”

“The medical, you can’t help it when you’re talking about a heart. You can’t help but be a little bit concerned. Now he has gotten clearance, that has come through, but we all know that each team is going to do it’s own research and got to decide how comfortable they are with that.”

QUENTON NELSON, OL, NOTRE DAME

“I doubt he is falling to 13, because if somehow he falls to eight to the Bears and if the Bears don’t run up to the podium and plug him in, I’d be stunned.”

ORLANDO BROWN JR., OT, OKLAHOMA

“Normally when you have a combine and you have some things that you have some questions marks on, normally you have some balancers. Orlando Brown had zero balancers. Everything was historically bad.”

WILL HERNANDEZ, G, UTEP

“Now Will Hernandez has had about as good a postseason as an offensive lineman can have.”

“This kid Hernandez has become a massive road grater, quicker than you would think, better pass protector and he did all of this on an 0-12 team last year. So he is another guy to keep an eye on, especially if as you said they are able to move back.”

DERRIUS GUICE, RB, LSU

“I’d be surprised at 13.”

“Get back to 19 and then I think Guice is in play at 19. If that indeed is the runner that they like. I think the running back renaissance is real.”

JOHN KELLY, RB, TENNESSEE

“I think this John Kelly kid from Tennessee is a really good runner. He had a little trouble off-field last year, missed a game because of all that, but this kid runs hard, plays hard, he’s not Alvin Kamara… but this kid is more of a pure running back than Kamara is, he’s just not a bulky guy.”

TRADING BACK

“They’re in a tough spot because of the number. We’ve got all of this stuff now.”

“That’s a tough one, because if I’m Dallas and I want to come up and get my guy [Calvin Ridley], I don’t need to come up as high as 13 anyway, if you really think about it.”

BILLY PRICE, OL, Ohio State

“He’s a really good player. The kid played guard, he played center. Price is a really good technician. 44 a possibility? Possibility. Before the injury he was going late-first, early second.”

This is only scratching the surface of what the expert talked about. Get the full experience and listen to the full podcast.

MORE DRAFT COVERAGE:

- SEVEN ROUND REDSKINS MOCK DRAFT

- ODDS ON FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS

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Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

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USA TODAY Sports

Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants right-hander Chris Stratton will seek to duplicate two impressive efforts when he takes the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET.

The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.

The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.

Stratton wasn't with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER HOME RUN TRACKER

Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.

It's the only time he has faced Washington.

Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.

The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.

Stratton wasn't the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.

Strickland saved Sunday's 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.

"Win a series," is all he would say.

RELATED: LATEST MLB POWER RANKINGS

In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.

Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49) will oppose Stratton.

The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.

He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

That pitch total wasn't even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning.

Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.

Afterward, Belt apologized.

"When I'm in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off," he insisted. "I'm like, 'Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go.' So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that."

RELATED: HOW NATS DROPPED FINAL GAME VS. DODGERS