Kansas State was one of the nation's biggest surprises last season and has the talent to again contend for the Big 12 title. The difference this season, though, will be that the Wildcats won't be able to sneak up on anyone.
Picked to finish in the lower half of the Big 12, the Wildcats instead went 10-3 and finished second in the league.
The Wildcats were extremely one-dimensional on offense last season, averaging 185.5 rushing yards per game (29th nationally) but just 151.5 passing yards per game (108th nationally). They were able to overcome that by being solid against the run and by having a plus-12 turnover margin, thanks to 27 forced TOs.
|Coach: Bill Snyder (21st season)
Last season: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12
Spring practice dates: April 4-April 30
(minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (5): C B.J. Finney, WR Chris Harper, TB John Hubert, QB Collin Klein, G Nick Puetz
Defense (6): LB Arthur Brown, E Adam Davis, T Vai Lutui, CB Nigel Malone, LB Tre Walker, SS Ty Zimmerman
Special teams (2): K Anthony Cantale, P Ryan Doerr
Collin Klein ran for 1,141 yards and was the nation's third-leading rusher among quarterbacks, behind Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish and Michigan's Denard Robinson. While Klein is a tough runner, he has miles to go as a passer. He has a funky motion and threw for fewer than 175 yards 10 times. But he did ramp it up in shootouts against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M and has a solid receiving corps with which to work.
Along with coaxing more consistency out of Klein as a passer, coach Bill Snyder has to worry about rebuilding his offensive line. Three starters are gone, though there are some upperclassmen who appear poised to battle for playing time.
One of the issues defensively will be improving the pass rush. K-State gave up 26 TD passes and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 63 percent of their passes. But that's not all on the secondary, as K-State managed just 21 sacks. In a league as pass-happy as the Big 12, that's not going to cut it. E Meshak Williams had seven sacks, but he needs help.
While the secondary was quite porous at times, K-State did have 18 interceptions. CB Nigel Malone, who had seven of them, returns, as does SS Ty Zimmerman. But the other two starting spots in the secondary are up for grabs, and depth was an issue last season.
[ Bad mark: Former LSU CB scores a four on Wonderlic test ]
The biggest problem: The secondary. Kansas State must rebuild the back end of its defense. The Wildcats lost the leaders of their secondary in FS Tysyn Hartman and CB David Garrett, and depth was not a strength of the unit. Allen Chapman, last season's nickel back, likely will step in at corner opposite Nigel Malone, with junior college transfer Kip Daily, who redshirted last season, getting a chance, too. The race at safety may belong to Thomas Ferguson. In addition, replacing LB Emmanuel Lamur, a converted safety who was good against both the run and pass, will not be easy. Converted QB Justin Tuggle may get the first shot at linebacker; his dad, Jessie, was a longtime NFL 'backer.
On the spot: TB John Hubert. He had his moments last season – he rushed for 1,034 yards – but he must be better this season to take pressure off Klein. K-State's running game was centered on Klein last season, and it took a toll on him. Hubert needs to be more consistent or may see his minutes diminish.
On the verge: WR Tyler Lockett. He showed signs of being an elite return specialist last season, but suffered a season-ending kidney injury in K-State's shootout loss at Oklahoma State. Lockett stood out as a kick and return specialist, but he will see his role in the receiving game grow dramatically this season. He needs to show he can handle the increased responsibility.
General overview: K-State will try to rekindle the magic that led to a 10-3 season in 2011, and that starts with the leadership and play of Klein at quarterback. Klein's spring goal is to improve his passing efficiency, which would take pressure off his need to run. Defensively, veteran assistant Tom Hayes was promoted from secondary coach to take over as coordinator and will put his own stamp on the unit following Chris Cosh's departure for USF. With Snyder at the helm, expect a workmanlike spring session.
For in-depth coverage of Kansas State athletics, go to GoPowercat.com
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