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Dr. Saturday

Spring football 25: Kansas State Wildcats

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Dr. Saturday will be looking at the 25 most interesting teams headed into spring football through March, examining which programs have the biggest questions, the most expectations and the best storylines. This isn’t a list of the 25 best teams going into the spring, just the 25 we’re keeping the closest eye on. Previously: USC.


What happened in 2012
There was a point during the 2012 season where Kansas State was the nation’s No. 1 team and just two wins away from playing for a national title. But that dream died quickly when, less than a week after earning the No. 1 ranking, the Wildcats were upset by an upstart Baylor team which used its high-speed spread offense to take advantage of the Wildcats, who weren’t nearly as athletic.

The same result would later happen against Oregon in Fiesta Bowl and the Wildcats would finish 11-2.

Now, that’s not a terrible season. In fact, it was the first 11-win campaign since the heyday of the program in the late 90s and early 2000s, but it was a far cry from the season Kansas State was having before it ran into the Baylor Bears.

What makes them interesting in 2013
A year ago, this team was built around quarterback Colin Klein and the Big 12's best defense.

All of that is now gone.

Coach Bill Snyder has made his career by plugging holes with transfers and junior college players, but that’s catching up to the Wildcats this season, especially on defense where they lose nine starters, including the entire front seven. And not only are the starters gone, many of the key backups have departed as well.

So now what?

Kansas State is coming off its second consecutive double-digit win season and has some pieces in place to be decent, but it’s going to take a major effort to get the defense where it needs to be to compete with the high-powered offenses in the Big 12.

[Also: NBC to air Jerry Sandusky interview on Monday]

What needs to happen this spring
With so many holes to fill, it’s hard to make one a priority over another, but finding a defense has got to be the most important task this spring. Safeties Jarard Milo and Ty Zimmerman, who suffered a leg injury in late November, return from a defense that ranked first in the conference in points allowed, second in rushing defense and third in total defense. Nickelback Randall Evans also returns and could take one of the cornerback positions. As for the rest of the defense, it’s kind of up in the air.

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Quarterback Daniel Sams (AP)

If defense is the top priority, finding a new quarterback is right behind it.

The Wildcats don’t have anyone who could replace Collin Klein’s rugged style, but they do have a couple guys who could lead the offense. Last season’s backup, Daniel Sams, showed he was a good runner with 235 yards and three touchdowns, but he didn’t throw the ball enough to prove that he could be an accurate and consistent passer. It should be Sams' position to lose while junior college transfer Jake Waters challenges this spring.

Game changers
Even though there are a lot of players missing from last year’s team, the offensive line remains wholly intact and that’s great news as it was one of the best offensive lines in the country a season ago. The Wildcats allowed just one sack per game, which should make both new quarterbacks happy as they gain experience throughout the season.

Wild cards
DeMarcus Robinson had six carries for 25 yards last season, but he’s the teams’ third-leading returning rusher behind John Hubert and Sams. And if Kansas State intends to take some of the rushing onus off its quarterback, then Robinson might be the guy to help make that happen. There’s no question Collin Klein was a main piece of the Wildcats running game, so they’re going to have to make up that yardage somewhere.

Key games
Sept. 21 at Texas
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 12 Baylor
Nov. 23 Oklahoma

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Check out Dr. Saturday's other spring previews: Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, Stanford, South Carolina , Baylor, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Clemson, West Virginia, Missouri , Tulsa, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Louisville, Northern Illinois, Florida State.

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