August 25, 2007

Cats hope return game stays strong

Senior cornerback Justin McKinney was one of three players on the nation's No. 1-ranked unit to return a kickoff for a touchdown last season. He would like to take two kickoffs the distance during 2007, something no Kansas State player has done in 39 years. Only one problem: Junior college transfer Deon Murphy might beat him to it.

McKinney, who averaged 24.7 yards on a team-leading 12 returns and had an 88-yard touchdown last season, said, "I'm the one that knows kickoffs better than anyone else, but Murphy is going to be a game changer. You get him in there and if he gets his hands on the ball, he'll change the game."

As second-year Coach Ron Prince wrapped-up training camp last weekend at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, starting duties for both kickoff and punt returns remained undecided but were whittled down to some clear candidates, including a few that might have managed some separation.

"Cleary Deon Murphy and Leon Patton right now in both the phases, kickoff and punt (are doing well)," Prince said. "But Justin McKinney has done a nice job. We've whittled a couple guys down that can't seem to hold onto the ball. We're working Dee Bell back there. I think he's got a bright future in returning kicks.

"That's the group we're working with right now. We always feel we can put Jordy Nelson back there if we need to."

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