***** NCAA Football Preview - Kansas State Wildcats *****
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Last year was another highly successful one in the
storied career of Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, the Wildcats streaking
out to a 10-0 start before suffering their first setback at Baylor. The team's
only other loss came in the Orange Bowl against Oregon.
K-State is often thought of as a middle-of-the-pack squad in the Big 12, but
has exceeded expectations in each of the past couple of years, finishing
second in the conference in 2011 and winning the title last season.
Snyder has never been one to clamor for the spotlight, so if the prevailing
thought is his team isn't quite on par with the Big 12's best, particularly in
the preseason, then that's just fine with him.
"As I look at it this year right now where we stand, I'd probably echo the
same thought," Snyder said at the Big 12's media event last month. "It's
precarious trying to make those kinds of decisions as the season gets started.
Our program is no different than any other in that the dynamics of the program
change year in and year out regardless of how many you do or do not have
returning. It's just a different environment, and I would suggest that it's
just a difficult task."
OFFENSE: The Wildcats were effective running the football last season,
churning out 194 ypg behind an offensive line that returns in tact this fall.
Running back John Hubert is hoping to make the most of his final year in
Manhattan after rushing for 947 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior.
Replacing dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein (920 rushing yards, 23 TDs;
2,641 passing yards, 16 TDs) won't be easy, but Snyder has all the confidence
in the world in sophomore Daniel Sams, despite his relative inexperience.
Sams brings his own athletic talents to the backfield, and while his running
skills aren't a concern, demonstrating consistency in the passing game is
Helping ease their new signal-caller into his expanded role will be standout
receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, the duo combining for 81 grabs,
1,213 yards and eight scores a season ago.
As mentioned, the line should be a real strength for Snyder's squad, anchored
by junior center B.J. Finney and massive offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas.
Snyder spoke about what it means to have a seasoned group of veterans in the
trenches, even as he prepares to break in a new quarterback.
"If you have all five of your offensive line starters coming back, they're
aware of that as well. Now, whether or not they take some things for granted
because of that, that would put us in dire jeopardy, I believe. If they
don't take anything for granted and they commit themselves to becoming better,
then it's a very, very positive thing."
DEFENSE: The Wildcats were tops in the Big 12 last season in scoring defense
(22.1 ppg), with their effort against the run (126.9 ypg) also ranking among
the best in the conference (second). They weren't nearly as effective against
the pass (248.5 ypg, 82nd nationally), but they proved to be an opportunistic
bunch in leading the league and ranking third in the country in turnover
Unfortunately, the unit lost nine starters, including standouts Arthur Brown
and Meshak Williams, leaving secondary battery mates Randall Evans and Ty
Zimmerman as the lone holdovers. That duo combined for 126 tackles last
season, and Zimmerman was one of three KSU defenders to log five interceptions
en route to All-Big 12 and Third-Team All-America honors.
With so many holes to fill, Snyder reached into the junior college ranks for a
handful of guys who he believes have the talent and drive to earn starting
jobs. Time will tell if any have what it takes to become stars, but defensive
end Devon Nash, defensive back Travis Green and linebacker Dakorey Johnson
could see their stock rise as the season wears on.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K-State had the nation's top overall special teams unit in
2012, but both kickers (Jack Cantele and Ethan Hammes) are new. The one area
the 'Cats should be fine is in the return game where Lockett and Thompson hold
down the fort. Both returned kicks for touchdowns last season.
OUTLOOK: Even with so many question marks, the Wildcats should head into the
conference opener at Texas (Sept. 21) undefeated. Navigating their way through
the always tumultuous Big 12 waters won't be easy, particularly in those first
two games as they head from Austin to Stillwater for clash with Oklahoma
Three straight home games against Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State are
winnable, but then again, this is the Big 12. Few things are that
Winning at Texas Tech on Nov. 9 should set the team up favorably as it
welcomes TCU and Oklahoma to town before closing the regular season against
bitter rival Kansas.
Winning a second straight conference crown isn't likely considering all that
needs to go right for the 'Cats, but selling a Snyder-coached team short, even
before the season starts, has proven futile in the past.
08/20 10:46:54 ET