Jake Horner’s sophomore season started with the kind of performance that signaled a breakout season was upcoming for the speedy receiver.
Horner hauled in a career-high 158 yards in last year’s season opener against Northeastern State and continued to emerge as a deep threat through the first half of the season.
However, Horner was denied the opportunity to put the finishing touches on the promising season, after a high-ankle sprain took him out of the equation for the Ichabods down the stretch.
“It was just a new experience, new problem that I’ve never had to deal with,” said Horner, who injured the ankle in Week 8 against Central Missouri and didn’t fully recover until after the season.
“It was different, because you could walk around on it and not really feel that it was there, but when I started to push off and run, like full speed, that’s when I really started to notice the pain in it. It was frustrating, for sure.”
Still, Horner accomplished enough before the injury to show he can be a dangerous weapon for the Ichabod offense.
“I couldn’t wait to get started and get back to camp and get to work with these guys,” said Horner, a 6-foot, 183-pound junior from Lenexa. “We got a great group and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Despite missing the last three regular season games and being limited in the Mineral Water Bowl, Horner was WU’s second leading receiver on the year with 467 yards on 18 catches with three touchdowns, averaging a staggering 26 yards per catch.
Washburn coach Craig Schurig said the Ichabods are looking forward to having Horner’s explosiveness back in the offense.
“Just about every offense needs someone that can take the top off the defense,” Schurig said. “You have to have that to make the safeties kind of back off, and if they don’t, that’s when you throw over the top and make them pay. We’re always looking for that. If you have the speed to do it, it really works.”
Horner is one of three returning wideouts who saw significant playing time last year, along with junior James Brania-Hopp and senior Carey Woods.
“We got a really good group of receivers,” Horner said. “All the guys have the potential to make huge plays at any moment.”
Horner was a multi-sport athlete in high school at Shawnee Mission Northwest, where he was basketball teammates with Washburn All-MIAA forward Brady Skeens.
“I always knew he was destined for big things,” Horner said of Skeens, his roommate. “We actually started playing basketball together in like early elementary school in kindergarten. I’ve known him my whole life, always been a good friend.”
Horner said Skeens’ commitment to the Ichabods played a factor in his own decision to head to Washburn.
“Just knowing people and knowing that I’d have a base of friends at the school, for sure, helped a lot and influenced my decision,” Horner said. “Other than that, it’s just a great program, great coaches, great men in the program. It seemed like an obvious choice.”
The Ichabods, who went 7-5 last year, open the season at Northeastern State on Aug. 31 in Tahlequah, Okla.
“I think everyone’s fully bought in and ready to take it to the next level,” Horner said. “We’re really close, and we were really close last year. Last year, we had a couple games that we let slip away and I think that’s going to change with our maturity level.
“I think we’re all ready and committed to build on last year’s success.”
FRANKLIN WAIVED BY 49ERS: Former Washburn cornerback Zach Franklin has been waived/injured by the San Francisco 49ers, the team announced on Tuesday.
Franklin, who signed with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie free agent, suffered an ankle injury during training camp last week.
The Wichita Northwest product appeared in 45 games with 34 starts for the Ichabods, recording 109 tackles, 32 passes defended and four interceptions. He received All-MIAA honors his junior and senior seasons.
Franklin was cut to make room for the 49ers to sign cornerback Asa Jackson.