MANHATTAN, Kan. — He’s arguably the best punt returner in the FBS and still growing as a receiver.
Phillip Brooks stands only five-foot-seven and weighs 170 pounds soak and wet, but he’s lightning in a bottle with the ball in his hands. The sophomore wideout has three punt return touchdowns under his belt, including two in the blowout win over Kansas.
However, that was Kansas State’s last win. Since then the Wildcats have lost two-straight games and fell out of the rankings. The offense has been the team’s achilles heel and quarterback Will Howard threw four interceptions during that span.
Which is why Brooks wants to help out the true freshman signal-caller by becoming his safety blanket in the clutch. After all Brooks has the speed to stretch the field on any Big 12 defense. The two have been grinding non-stop in practice during the time off and are hoping their hard work leads to positive results on the field. Brooks just wants the Wildcats’ offense to build on some of the success the unit had against Oklahoma State.
“Yeah, I feel like we have increased our receptions and our yardage in the past game,” Brooks said. “We still have work to do of course, but chemistry is definitely building.”
Kansas State (4-3) will need all of it approaching a pivotal matchup on the road against Iowa State Saturday. The loser will pretty much be out of the Big 12 Championship Game, so it’s all or nothing. Not to mention the 17th-ranked Cyclones will be looking for revenge after they lost last season’s game by double digits.
Brooks wants to be a factor on the ground, through the air and on returns. Coach Chris Klieman and his staff are trying to get the Missouri native more touches. Brooks’ touchdown catch against the Cowboys was his first since the season opener.
In hindsight it seems like the rest of the Big 12 has figured out what Kansas State has been successful with. It’s no mystery special teams has been a big deal with Klieman, but the explosive plays have been missing in that aspect. Brooks wants to bring back that spark. Still, he understands his opportunities have been limited because opposing punters know what he’s capable of.
“Yeah, I mean, we’re Special Teams U, so we plan on making a big play on special teams every week,” Brooks said. “We go into every week trying to return things, trying to block kicks, trying to create big plays, flip the field.”
In a game of this magnitude field position will be vital and Brooks plans on taking full advantage. Kansas State hasn’t lost three conference games in a row since the 2018 season. The players know what’s at stake Saturday and their backs are against the wall. The Cyclones should be expecting the Wildcats’ best, plus there won’t be any fans inside Jack Trice Stadium because of the pandemic surge.
“We have three weeks left and if we win out, we can get to the championship,” he said. “So, we have to have the mindset of winning, taking each play that is given to us at a time.”