CFN Preview 2013 - Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State DBs Ty Zimmerman & Randall Evans
2013 CollegeFootballNews.com Preview - Kansas State Wildcats
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Does Bill Snyder have one more miracle left in him?
Head coach: Bill Snyder
23rd year: 170-85-1
Returning Lettermen: 42
Off. 22, Def. 19, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 27
Ten Best KSU Players
1. WR/KR Tyler Lockett, Jr.
2. RB John Hubert, Sr.
3. OT Cornelius Lucas, Sr.
4. S Ty Zimmerman, Sr.
5. WR/PR Tramaine Thompson, Sr.
6. DB Randall Evans, Jr.
7. LB Tre Walker, Sr.
8. QB Daniel Sams, Soph.
9. C B.J. Finney, Jr.
10. QB Jake Waters, Jr.
8/31 North Dakota State
9/21 at Texas
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at Oklahoma State
10/19 OPEN DATE
10/26 West Virginia
11/2 Iowa State
11/9 at Texas Tech
11/30 at Kansas
Forgetting for a moment the work he did just to make Kansas State football relevant 20 years ago, he did one of his most masterful jobs two seasons ago with a program and team that needed a fresh coat of paint. But the 2013 team is something different.
The Kansas State formula worked throughout last season, doing a great job of controlling the ball, keeping the penalties and mistakes to a minimum, and capitalizing on every opportunity, but it also helped that the 2012 version was loaded with experienced veterans and a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Collin Klein to lead the way. This year, the offense should be fine again and should be every bit as productive, and the special teams will be peerless in the punt and kickoff return games, but you can't win in the Big 12 if the defense can't stop anyone.
Yes, the mistake-free, control-the-tempo formula really does work, but there's also a talent gap. Kansas State gets by on JUCO transfers and a few try-hard types with a few fantastic stars sprinkled around in key areas. However, this year's team doesn't have a Klein – at least not yet – and it doesn't have a linebacker like Arthur Brown or a safety like Nigel Malone. The receiving corps gets back two diminutive and explosive playmakers in Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett, but it loses No. 1 receiver Chris Harper and solid tight end Travis Tannahill. There's no No. 2 running back to speak of, and as good as the quarterback situation should be with Daniel Sams and JUCO transfer Jake Waters each able to provide some pop, again, if the defense isn't stopping the top conference teams, nothing else matters.
The entire defensive front seven has to be overhauled, and that sort of includes veteran linebacker Tre Walker, who was banged up last season. There are the same types of talents and high-motor guys up front like Snyder always seems to stockpile, but the defending Big 12 champs are still going to take a major step back while Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU are just a few of the key teams in the league that appear to be stronger and better.
But this is Bill Snyder, and you don't count out Bill Snyder.
There are still plenty of reasons to be excited. The non-conference schedule is a complete and utter joke, but it gives the renovated defensive front seven time to jell and the quarterback situation a chance to sort itself out. If you're going to play North Dakota State, Louisiana and UMass, use the games as pure exhibitions for the big stage, and that comes at Texas followed up by a date at Oklahoma State. However, go 5-0, and there's no one left on the slate KSU can't beat.
The hope has to be that everything that worked so well throughout last season will be great again. No, there won't be a run to a possible BCS championship, and yes, there will be a time or two when the Baylor situation of last year rears its ugly head against and the Cats simply run into an athletic buzzsaw, but the program isn't going to fall off the map. How many teams can lose both kickers, eight defensive starters and an iconic veteran quarterback and hope to keep on trucking?
Basically, expect more of the same, even with lots of new faces, and expect Snyder's Wildcats to once again be Snyder's Wildcats.
What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. Cornelius Lucas, B.J. Finney, Keenan Taylor, Cody Whitehair and Tavon Rooks. This is the Kansas State starting five that paved the way for 42 rushing touchdowns and allowed a mere 14 sacks last season, and now they're all back. Also in the equation is Boston Stiverson, who might end up taking over the left guard job. How do you help out a defense that's undergoing such a massive overhaul? You keep it off the field by controlling the clock and the tempo, and that's what this line should be able to do. With all-stars in Lucas at left tackle and Finney at center, this group might be the best in the Big 12, and KSU needs it.
What to watch for on defense: The tackle rotation. The linebacking corps will find options to work around Tre Walker in the middle, and the secondary welcomes in two fantastic-looking newcomers in Nate Jackson and Dakorey Johnson – if he doesn't move to linebacker – to fill in around Ty Zimmerman and Randall Evans, but the front line is the huge question mark. The pass rush was spotty and inconsistent throughout last year, and now it needs Ryan Mueller and Marquel Bryant to shine on the outside. However, the key to the season might be in the interior with Travis Britz, Demontre Hood and Xavier Gates three underclassmen, and senior Chaquil Reed, who need to grow up immediately and be ready to hold up against the run.
The team will be far better if … the pass rush rocks each and every week. While it didn't matter much against Iowa State's offense when KSU didn't generate one play in the backfield, not coming up with a sack against Baylor was a problem and coming up with just one was a huge issue for a secondary that gave up 417 yards in the win over Oklahoma State. There was just one sack in the loss to Oregon and none against Missouri State, giving up 323 passing yards in the blowout win. The secondary needs help and retooling, and it needs more help from a defensive front that has to invent ways to hit the quarterback.
The schedule: It's Kansas State, so there isn't exactly a killer non-conference game to deal with hosting North Dakota State, Louisiana and UMass to open up the year. To be fair, the Wildcats need the tune-up time – and the Ragin' Cajuns aren't cupcakes – before opening up the Big 12 slate at Texas. Not helping the matter is a date at Oklahoma State up next, but there's a week off to rest up and prepare.
In a strange scheduling fluke, KSU plays OSU and hosts Baylor before getting a second week off in a month before going on a six-game finishing kick. However, it couldn't be much easier with four of the six games at home and the two road games at Texas Tech and the regular season finale against Kansas. Five of the nine Big 12 games are at home with West Virginia, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma making the trip to Manhattan.
Best offensive player: Senior RB John Hubert. He rocked out of the gate and dominated over the first part of last season, but his role was diminished a bit as Big 12 play went on. Receiver and kick returner Tyler Lockett will be the team's most explosive offensive weapon, but it's Hubert who'll be the one the attack will work around until the quarterback situation and passing game are settled. He should be a 1,000-yard back, and for Kansas State to be in the Big 12 title hunt, he needs to be an all-star.
Best defensive player: Senior S Ty Zimmerman. The Wildcats need someone to turn into a superstar on the defensive front, and the hope is for the reemergence of Tre Walker to help make up for the loss of Arthur Brown in the linebacking corps, but Zimmerman will be the steadying force for a secondary that has to be stronger and more effective. Considering the entire front seven has to be rebuilt, Zimmerman needs to be the leader tone-setter. He needs to make the big plays.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Daniel Sams and/or junior QB Jake Waters. Bill Snyder always generates great production from marginally talented quarterbacks – at least in terms of pro potential – and he has two terrific options to try replacing Collin Klein. It wasn't just that Klein was a statistical star; it was his leadership and clutch ability. He could get into firefights, pound away for third down conversions, and do absolutely anything and everything needed to move the offense. Sams and Waters have to show they can do the same.
The season will be a success if … the Wildcats win eight games. With so much turnover they're just not going to be as good, but they should have a nice base of non-conference wins to kick things off and they should be strong enough to go 5-4 in conference play as long as they don't hiccup against Baylor again and can get by Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia to get within range. There isn't enough in the bag to win the Big 12 title, but don't expect things to fall off the map.
Key game: Sept. 21 at Texas. It's be a contrast in styles as Kansas State, who seemingly has to replace everyone of note, kicks off the Big 12 slate against a Texas team that gets everyone back. With an open date before Oklahoma State and a not-that-bad rest of the slate, if the Wildcats can beat the Longhorns again and hold serve at home the rest of the way, they might actually have a shot at shocking the world with another Big 12 championship.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Time of Possession: Kansas State 32:03 – Opponents 27:57
- Sacks: Kansas State 32 for 211 yards – Opponents 14 for 89 yards
- Punt Return Average: Kansas State 29.2 yards – Opponents 2.0 yards
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