After hauling in just three passes through the first five games of last season, wide receiver Chris Harper has inserted himself into the thick of Kansas State's first 5-0 start since 2000. This year, The junior has leads the team in both catches and receiving yards, while also establishing himself as one of the mouthpieces for this year's Wildcats.
On Tuesday, he addressed the media about the progress the program has made since his arrival, expectations for the season and what he feels was a calamity of a bowl appearance a year ago.
You have a couple years of playing wide receiver under you now. You came to K-State to play quarterback originally. Are you more comfortable in the position than you were?
It was my decision to change positions. I talked to Coach (Michael) Smith and Coach (Bill) Snyder before I did it, so I'm totally comfortable with it. Playing receiver now fells natural to me.
But why wide receiver? You were a running back in high school and split time between quarterback and wide receiver at Oregon.
After I hurt my shoulder (as a quarterback) at Oregon, initially they didn't want me to move. They didn't have any other quarterbacks on the roster. Then, when we played USC, I talked to them and they let me move out to the slot. That's when I started playing receiver. I started that first game. Well, one of those games. I can't even really remember. That was a long time ago.
Coach Snyder said he'd like to see more big plays out of the offense. What's the key to making that happen?
I don't know. We just have to keep doing what we do. We had a couple of opportunities last week. One of them, we didn't connect on and the other one, (Quarterback Collin Klein) just came off of it kind of quick. We talked about it, though. The opportunity is definitely there. We know that we have the big-play capability. A lot of people question our speed and things like that, but we kind of showed it last week.
How much different are the things you guys are doing offensively this year?
Not much, really. Carson (Coffman) did a lot of that stuff last year. Collin (Klein) is just a better runner than Carson. It looks different because he has a little bit better vision and he's faster and bigger.
Do defenses get pretty demoralized after Collin breaks a run on them?
I think so. The Miami game was a perfect example. We were back at the goal line. We had like 25 penalties in a row. They are in their stances and acting crazy. The players are flashing their "U" and all that. Then, Collin busts this 30-yard run, and they're like, "Awww." I'm like, "Come on, man."
Coach Snyder was talking about how he's seen much better spirit out of the defense this year. Watching from a distance, would you agree with that?
It's especially our linebackers. Those guys are real spirited. I don't know where they find the energy all the time. I don't know if they drink the Spark or the Five-Hour Energy. They always have some kind of energy. That defense definitely is a catalyst for us. This offense is going to feed off of them. I knew this team had changed during that first practice in pads. It was real hype.
What about you personally? You seem to be a lot more involved in the offense this season. Is that a product of having a new quarterback in there or is it something internal?
It's just me. A lot of guys didn't buy in to what was happening here with the coaching change. I was one of those guys. I wasn't totally in last year. This year, me and coach talked and I told him I was in. I bought into what he was saying. You see the product on the field.
So what changed? Why accept what he's saying now?
I came from another program. As a scout team player, I wasn't involved in the game planning or things like that. I wasn't even really having a full practice. Coming from Oregon, I already had an idea of what a practice and a program should be like. It wasn't the same here. Eventually, though, you have to look at past history. You see that what (Snyder) does works. That's what I saw. As far as me, having aspirations to play in the NFL, a lot of guys who come back say how tough it is here makes it that much easier when they leave here.
Which NFL players have you been talking to?
Daniel (Thomas) was the last one. Daniel talks about how much smoother it is for him now that he's playing for the Dolphins because it's really tough here. He really thinks that made it a lot easier for him.
Is getting complacent at 5-0 a real worry for this current team?
It is a worry. It's a worry because last year we were 4-0. After that, we lost, and the whole season kind of went downhill from there. Seeing how that happened makes you learn from past history. We did it before, and we saw the result of it. We barely made it to a bowl game, and not a great one at that.
That bowl game was a disaster from a media standpoint. What was the experience like for a player. I mean, you guys had to practice in the hotel ballroom one night. It seemed like it was just one thing after another, right?
It was ... yeah. It was bad. I remember the snow being at my shoulders on the sides of the streets. Awww, man. It was ... it was terrible.
Tell me about the practice in the ballroom.
I didn't think we were even going to practice. I didn't think there was any way. Then, Coach Snyder was like, "Oh, they have a ballroom? We're going to go practice in there." So we put on our shoes and had a little practice in there ... It was more like a sped-up walk-through. We had balls out there and everything.
Was that the strangest thing about the week?
No. The strangest thing was just landing in New York. We weren't supposed to do that. We were the only plane that landed that day. I was scared for my life. I had my eyes closed. That was the weirdest thing. They told us that we weren't going to land in New York, but we landed. We got towed into the terminal by something. Coach Snyder, I guess he has power everywhere.