2011 Kansas State Preview
Kansas State S Ty Zimmerman
Kansas State S Ty Zimmerman
Posted Jun 30, 2011

Kansas State took a step forward under head coach Bill Snyder, even if the run defense kept getting pushed back. The D was awful and the passing game was inconsistent, but even with some big losses on offense the Wildcats should run wild and should be dangerous. If Ty Zimmerman and the defense can hold up their end of the bargain, this could be a great year. Check out the CFN KSU Preview.

Kansas State Wildcats

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bill Snyder
20th year: 149-80-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 19, Def. 18, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Kansas State Players  
1. LB Arthur Brown, Jr.
2. RB Bryce Brown, Soph.
3. S Tysyn Hartman, Sr.
4. S Ty Zimmerman, Soph.
5. CB David Garnett, Sr.
6. WR Brodrick Smith, Jr.
7. WR Chris Harper, Jr.
8. LB Emmanuel Lamur, Sr.
9. P Ryan Doerr, Jr.
10. WR Tramaine Thompson, Soph.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Eastern Kentucky
Sep. 17 Kent State
Sep. 24 at Miami
Oct. 1 Baylor
Oct. 8 Missouri
Oct. 15 at Texas Tech
Oct. 22 at Kansas
Oct. 29 Oklahoma
Nov. 5 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 12 Texas A&M
Nov. 19 at Texas
Nov. 26 Iowa State

Does Bill Snyder have one more miracle in him?

Chris Ault went 136-56-1 from 1976 to 1995, taking Nevada from D-II into D-IAA superstardom to the Big West. Ault was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002 after being retired for seven years, but then he wanted back in. In 2004, he took his old job back and rebuilt the program back up into the 13-1 monster it became last season. But he's going to be 65 this season. Snyder is going to be 72.

Ault showed that yes, you can go home again and yes, you can recapture the magic. While it might seem improbable that Snyder's second act can be as successful as his first, making Kansas State a Big 12 powerhouse again is hardly as tough a task as it was to make the program relevant in the first place.

It was well documented in the late 1990s what Snyder was miraculously able to do, but considering the turnaround began more than 20 years ago, and back when the program was in the Big 8, it's been forgotten that this used to be a really, really bad football team.

Kansas State hasn't won a bowl game since 2002, and it only came up with one Big 12 title under Snyder's reign – in 2003 – but before 1990, the program was, arguably, the worst of any school currently in a BCS conference.

Snyder took over in 1989 and went 1-10 in his first season. That marked the end of a run of seven straight years with three losses or fewer, but that was par for the course. From 1971 to 1990, Kansas State had one winning season and had just two winning campaigns from 1954 to 1990.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

If Snyder could take a football team that had just two winning seasons in 35 years – and by the way, over that span KSU won four games or fewer 30 times - then going from mediocre to great again shouldn't be that big a deal.

This year's team is molded into the way Snyder wants it. He might not have a great offensive line to rely on, but his backfield is loaded with great rushing prospects that should dominate with just a little bit of a push up front. The ground game might have lost Daniel Thomas, but in comes 2009 super-recruit Bryce Brown, who originally signed with Tennessee before coming home to KSU. The receiving corps is full of speedsters, and the quarterbacks have the running ability to handle the attack like Ell Roberson and Michael Bishop did back in the program's glory days.

The defense is heavy on JUCO transfers, and while the defense has to make a night-and-day improvement against the run to be merely mediocre, it should be better. Both starting tackles are back, Arthur Brown – Bryce's brother – has the look of a superstar at middle linebacker, David Garnett might be the nation's best open-field tackling corner, and Tysyn Hartman and Ty Zimmerman should form one of college football's best safety tandems.

But really, can Snyder take Kansas State from 7-6 to a Big 12 championship? Maybe not this season, but if everything goes according to form, the team will be loaded in 2012 and should really and truly be a major player again in the conference chase.

If nothing else, Snyder has turned around Kansas State football … again. Old coaches sometimes really do know what they're doing.

What to watch for on offense: The new skill stars. Last year, Carson Coffman was the top quarterback option, Daniel Thomas was the key running back, and Aubrey Quarles and Adrian Hilburn were the top two receivers. Thomas was tremendous and will be missed, but it's possible that Kansas State's star players might be better. Justin Tuggle and Collin Klein should be more effective quarterbacks than Coffman for what the offense wants to do, while the healthy return of Brodrick Smith and Tramaine Thompson should be a huge boost for an already strong receiving corps. Bryce Brown has the potential to be even better than Thomas, while John Hubert and DeMarcus Robinson are speedsters who can come up with the home run from the backfield. If the line is merely competent, then the new starting skill players should blow up.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The line was the major culprit for why the run defense was the second-worst in the nation, but the mediocre play of the linebackers was also a problem. Alex Hrebeck was all over the field and was great against the pass, and Emmanuel Lamur grew into the job after moving over from safety, but now the linebackers should go from a weakness into a major strength. Arthur Brown has the look of an All-Big 12 performer in the middle, Tre Walker should be fantastic on one side, and Lamur and Hrebeck should be solid as the defense goes to more of a 4-3 than a 4-2-5.

The team will be far better if … the run defense isn't so disastrous. The precedent is there for an immediate improvement. KSU was 49th in the nation in run defense in 2007, and then fell off the map finishing 112th in the nation in 2008. The run defense roared back to allow just 106 yards per game and finished 16th in the nation in 2009, and last year it finished 119th in the country allowing 231 rushing yards per game. There wasn't a pass rush and there weren't enough tackles for loss as Kansas State got ripped up for 451 yards and five scores against Nebraska and gave up 200 yards or more eight times. The Wildcats were 5-0 when allowing fewer than 200 yards on the ground.

The schedule: It's Kansas State, so the non-conference schedule is … forgivable? Every team should start the season out with a layup to tune things up, and the Wildcats get Eastern Kentucky and an off-week to get their feet wet before hosting a Kent State team in transition. While those two games stink, it's all okay with a road trip to Miami to close out the pre-Big 12 slate. KSU has to get off to a hot conference start hosting Baylor and Missouri before going on the road for three road games in four weeks facing Texas Tech, Kansas, and Oklahoma State wrapped around a home game against Oklahoma. If October wasn't rough enough, November roar in like a lion going to Oklahoma State and Texas and hosting Texas A&M. With this schedule, the Wildcats can't give away winnable home games against Iowa State or Baylor.

Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Bryce Brown. Call this more of a projection than anything that has happened so far. Brown was the prize of the 2009 recruiting class, but he was a pain in the butt during the process. He started out looking at Miami, went to Tennessee, and now is close to home at Kansas State where he's expected to be another Daniel Thomas, and then some. While he hasn't been special in practices – at least compared to the hype – all the tools are there with 6-0, 220-pound size and special speed.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Arthur Brown. While he isn't getting as much hype as his brother, Bryce, he could make a bigger impact. The Miami transfer was fine for a few years as a reserve for the Hurricanes, but he was fantastic this spring for the Wildcats showing off tremendous speed and big-hitting ability. With 14 tackles in the spring game, he was seemingly around every play.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DTs Ray Kibble and Raphael Guidry. When you finished second-to-last in America in run defense – thank you, New Mexico – it would be nice if the defensive tackles started to do a bit more. The linebackers were a problem last year, and the ends didn't do their job, but the big tackles have to be far better. The 6-4, 290-pound Guidry made 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and the 6-4, 305-pound Kibble came up with 30 tackles, and now they have to stronger and tougher on the inside.

The season will be a success if … the Wildcats win eight games with one of them a bowl. There are too many issues to have any real shot at winning the Big 12 title, but KSU should be a factor in the race. The last season with more than seven wins was 2003, and the last bowl victory came against Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday Bowl, making eight victories and a post-season win a nice step forward. It'll take an upset or two over teams like Texas A&M and Missouri at home, and there can't be any hiccups against teams like Baylor and Iowa State, but this team should be able to do it.

Key game: Oct. 8 vs. Missouri. 2005. That's the last time Kansas State beat Missouri with the Tigers winning each of the last five outings by double digits. While that's been a problem for the Wildcats in Big 12 North play, there isn't a North anymore and now this is just another conference game. If KSU has any hope of having a decent season it should be good enough to beat Baylor in the Big 12 opener at home, and then it has to take advantage of the fourth home game in the first five week against Mizzou. Three of the next four games are on the road and there are only three more home games the rest of the way.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Rushing Yards: Opponents 3,008 – Kansas State 2,593
- Rushing Touchdowns: Kansas State 40 – Opponents 21
- Penalties: Opponents 81 for 711 yards – Kansas State 64 for 568 yards

- 2011 Kansas State Preview | 2011 Kansas State Offense
- 2011 Kansas State Defense | 2011 Kansas State Depth Chart
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