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2008 Kansas State Preview - Offense
Kansas State QB Josh Freeman
Kansas State QB Josh Freeman
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 28, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Kansas State Wildcat Offense

Kansas State Wildcats

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Kansas State Preview | 2008 Kansas State Offense
- 2008 Kansas State Defense | 2008 Kansas State Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Kansas State Preview | 2006 CFN Kansas State Preview 

What you need to know: There's certainly an interesting mix of talents for new offensive coordinator James Franklin to play around with. The line is experienced, deep and talented, the running backs are fast, receiving corps is really fast, and QB Josh Freeman is a rising junior with 20 starts under his belt. The big issue will be the experience of the skill players with top RB James Johnson and All-America WR Jordy Nelson gone. There are fantastic prospects who look the part, but can they play? If nothing else, Freeman will get plenty of time to bomb away. Scoring and yards won't be a problem, but it would be a big plus if there was more balance. KSU had to throw out of necessity, the defense gave up points in bunches. Freeman can handle the work, but the more help he gets, the better.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Josh Freeman
316-499, 3,353 yds, 18 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Leon Patton
83 carries, 390 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Deon Murphy

57 catches, 605 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Josh Freeman
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Leon Patton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Lamark Brown
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Alesana Alesana
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Alesana, 2) Freeman, 3) TE Jeron Mastrud
Strength of the offense: Speed, offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Sure-thing running backs, proven receivers other than Deon Murphy

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
This is the third year for junior Josh Freeman as the starter, and now he has to start winning. The jewel of the 2006 recruiting class has started 20 straight games and showed tremendous promise last year throwing for 3,353 yards and 18 touchdowns with 13 scoring passes in the final six games. The light bulb went on as he was a consistent 300-yard bomber by the end of the year, but the wins didn't come losing four of the final five games of the year to miss out on a bowl game. Don't blame him. He kept his picks to a minimum, considering he threw over 40 passes in five of the last six games, and he kept the offense moving. A mobile 6-6 and 250 pounds, now he has to make the offense even more consistent. With star receiver Jordy Nelson gone, Freeman will have to make everyone around him better.

Projected Top Reserves: There's no question that Josh Freeman is the main man for the Wildcat offense for the next two years, so sophomore Carson Coffman will likely be working to get ready for the 2010 season while also fighting to stay the No. 2. A tall, accurate passer with good mobility, the 6-3, 200-pound brother of Missouri star tight end, Chase, saw a little bit of mop-up time completing three of five passes for 22 yards.

Battling with Carson Coffman for the backup job will be redshirt freshman Tysyn Hartman, a fantastic athlete who'll bring a different element to the mix. While only 6-2 and 190 pounds, he's the team's most athletic quarterback and the best runner of the bunch. While not a bomber by any means, he's accurate enough to get the offense moving once he gets a little experience.

Watch Out For ... Freeman to continue to progress. He might not have the best receiving corps to work with compared to last year, but he's going to keep growing into his role. He's the rare junior with 20 starts.
Strength: Freeman. In a league full of good quarterbacks, he'll fly under the radar. However, he could be the conference's best NFL quarterback prospect. He'll have two years to show it.
Weakness: Experienced backups. Coffman has only seen spot duty and Hartman isn't ready for primetime. The more meaningful work these two can get in, the better.
Outlook: Freeman is growing into an elite talent. While the team didn't have a good year, it might have been a good thing. All the problems with the defense and all the points allowed gave Freeman a chance to fire, fire, and keep firing. No, the wins weren't there, but he got a lot of work in and should be a more complete quarterback now that he knows what he's doing. The backups are questionable, at best, with Coffman and  Hartman each needing work.
Rating: 7.5


Running Backs

Projected Starter
:
Assuming he's in the mix still after a theft conviction, it'll be the Leon Patton show early on as he looks to take over the full-time role from 1,106-yard back James Johnson. At 5-7 and 184 pounds, the junior is hardly built to take a steady pounding, but he's a scary speed back and can run between the tackles when needed. While he's not Darren Sproles, he's a home run hitter who's been a great kick returner over the last few years and a nice receiver. Now he needs to get the ball in space so he can do more after running for 390 yards and four touchdowns, with 113 of the yards coming in a blowout over Baylor, and averaging a mere 4.1 yards per catch on 15 grabs with a touchdown.

Projected Top Reserves: It'll be backup running back-by-committee with a slew of new faces competing for time. The best of the bunch should be speedy redshirt freshman Dee Bell, a 5-8, 170-pound flash of lightning who tore off a 10.5 in the 100 meters in high school. While even smaller than Patton, Bell is tough enough to see plenty of of work if needed.

Coming out of spring ball, the No. 2 man on the depth chart is Keithen Valentine, a JUCO transfer from Mississippi Delta CC who basically walked up to the coaching staff and asked if he could walk-on the team. The 5-9, 195-pound speedster showed in spring ball, especially the spring game, that he could be a decent option to handle the workload from time to time.

Even faster than Bell is fellow 5-10, 180-pound redshirt freshman Justin Woods, a 10.4 runner in the 100 with the potential to be a star return man. With decent hands, he could find a role early on as a third down back, and he'll find his way into the rotation if he can be a dangerous breakaway runner early on.

KSU signed five running backs to its recruiting class, but only one, JUCO transfer Daniel Thomas, will likely be in the hunt for playing time early on. At 6-2 and 227 pounds, he brings desperately needed size and power along with good toughness. The former quarterback had a nice year for NW Mississippi CC averaging over six yards per carry with six scores while throwing for 450 yards and two touchdowns.

Watch Out For ... the newcomers. Patton is too small to be a 25-carry back, so it might be Thomas or top freshmen Logan Dold and Kwamaine Brown who get into the rotation early on. Throw new recruits Jarell Childs and Kenny Session into the mix and KSU has a slew of interesting options.
Strength: Speed. If nothing else, the Wildcats have an impressive track team. Patton, Bell and Woods might be the fastest trio of backs in the Big 12, and there's more speed on the way.
Weakness: Proven production. Patton's fine, but that's about it as far as proven runners. KSU only really used two backs last year, Patton and James Johnson, and could use a better rotation of at least three to get the ground game moving.
Outlook: The potential is there for a big year if all the home run hitters can find a little room to move. Patton, Bell and Woods can all fly, and cranking out big runs needs to be what the running game is all about with defenses looking to mainly deal with Josh Freeman and the passing game. With five new backs on the team this season, the competition for the backup jobs should be fierce.
Rating: 6.5


Receivers

Projected Starters
:
How does KSU possibly replace the 122 catches, 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns of Jordy Nelson? It's asking for the world, but senior Deon Murphy has to go from being a strong number two to a more dangerous number one after finishing second on the team with 57 catches for 605 yards and five touchdowns. As good a receiver as he was, he was a better punt returner averaging 17.5 yards per try with a touchdown against Missouri State, and he also ran for 83 yards and two scores. Not huge at 5-10 and 170 pounds, he might not be able to handle the workload of getting more than 100 touches, but he needs to be the offensive weapon for everyone else to worry about.

Filling in one of the open starting spots should be senior Cedric Wilson after making just five catches for 46 yards as the backup behind Murphy. The former JUCO transfer has tremendous speed, but the former defensive back, who was recruited by almost all the big boys as a receiver, has to turn into a player. He has decent 6-1, 190-pound size, phenomenal athleticism and the potential to become a major playmaker both as a receiver and a kick returner, and now it has to happen.

Adding size to the rotation is 6-4 senior Ernie Pierce who caught six passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. He has the size, he has the 4.5 speed, and he has the potential to become a breakout star more than as just a special teamer. The tools are all there, and now he has to use them to become a major factor.

Junior Jeron Mastrud is a good-blocking tight end with decent enough hands to be used more in the passing game. The 6-6, 250-pounder became a bigger part of the offense as the season went on finishing fourth on the team with 30 catches for 316 yards averaging 10.5 yards per grab. He has all-star potential if he grows into Josh Freeman's go-to guy on third downs.

Projected Top Reserves: How fast can Aubrey Quarles become a factor? Considered the jewel of a huge recruiting class, the 6-0, 190-pound JUCO transfer is an elite talent with No. 1 material. While he's not going to take over all the lost production of Jordy Nelson, he has the skill to be a special receiver once he gets his feet wet. Expect him to be a big-play performer every time he gets the ball on the move, and also look for him to become a top kickoff returner after averaging 38.8 yards per try for Santa Rose JC.

Along with Quarles from the JUCO ranks will be 6-1, 180-pound Attrail Snipes who comes in from Bakersfield CC after catching 55 passes for 800 yards and 13 touchdowns. There's speed on Kansas State, and then there's Snipes, who won the 2006 Washington state high school 100, 200, and 400 meter spring titles.

5-8, 170-pound Brandon Banks was Snipes' running mate at Bakersfield CC catching 93 passes for 1,397 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Even though he was more productive than Snipes, he's not quite the same sort of prospect. Even so, he can quickly get into the lineup and be a factor as a third receiver or a kick returner.

Yet another interesting prospect is 6-3, 229-pound sophomore Lamark Brown, a huge target with all the next-level skills. Expected to be a big factor right away, he only caught three passes for 33 yards as a true freshman while spending most of his time on special teams. With his combination of size and athleticism, he might be too good to keep off the field for too long.

Once again combining with Mastrud at tight end is 6-4, 229-pound senior Brett Alstatt after making just one catch last season. Mostly a special teamer and a blocker so far, he's seen enough overall action to step in and produce if something happens to Mastrud.

Watch Out For ... the new guys. Last year was supposed to be when a slew of new prospects were going to take over, and then veteran Jordy Nelson went out and became an All-American. This year will be different. The JUCO transfers are scary-good.
Strength: Speed. Kansas State doesn't mess around when it comes to finding the wheels. There's fast, faster and even faster with a dizzying array of speed at all the spots.
Weakness: A proven number one. The concern last year was over a possible No. 2 next to Nelson and Murphy more than answered the call. Can he make the jump up and become the team's dangerous receiving threat?
Outlook:
The KSU receiving corps certainly looks the part with a combination of size, athleticism, and a whole bunch of speed, but for all the potential from the big-time class of recruits, there has to be production to replace the jaw-dropping All-America season from Nelson. Murphy is a sure thing, and then the hope is for strength in numbers. Out of all the central casting receiver recruits like JUCO transfers Quarles to Snipes to Burks to Brown, there has to be one or two top players to count on. Mastrud is on the verge of becoming an All-Big 12 star.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
The line desperately needed former JUCO transfer Alesana Alesana to come in and dominate right away, and he was everything KSU could've hoped for. The 6-3, 299-pound senior earned All-Big 12 honors as he took over at left tackle and was a rock from day one. A tremendous pass protector, he has the quickness and the strength to keep Josh Freeman clean. The scary part is that he's just scratching the surface of how good he can become as he keeps on learning the finer points of playing on the line after growing up playing rugby.

The only open spot on the line is next to Alesana at left guard, but all-star JUCO transfer Wade Wiebert, a 6-5, 300-pound mauler who's built for tackle but, is a good one. He led Butler County CC to the NJCAA national championship as the main blocker for the top offense, and now he's expected to be, at the very least, a top backup in the rotation.

There should be a good fight all season long for the starting center job, but
senior Jordan Bedore should be the main man again after missing the second half of last year with a hand injury. The former defensive lineman struggled early in his career with his consistency, but he started to grow into the job. While he's a big 6-3, 308-pound mauler, he can't stay healthy and can't be counted on for a full season.

It took a little while for JUCO transfer Penisini Liu to get the hang of things, but he grew into an impressive right tackle by the end of the year. At 6-6 and 325 pounds, he's a huge sun-blotter who became every bit as good as the more heralded Alesana as a run blocker. While he's not the athlete Alesana is, if he gets his hands on a defender, it's over.

Next to Liu will once again by senior Gerard Spexarth at right guard. At 6-6 and 285 pounds he's built more like a tackle than a guard, but he's more than strong enough to handle himself inside. The former tackle spent last year learning the ropes after missing time as a freshman with a broken hand, and he came through with a big season starting every game and using his athleticism to grow into a good pass protector and decent run blocker. Now that he's had a year to get his strength and weight back up to normal, he could be special.


Projected Top Reserves: Battling for a spot somewhere on the line will be junior Brock Unruh, who has a few games of starting experience and is expected to be productive at left guard. While not as big as the 318-pound Logan Robinson was, the 300-pound Unruh is a strong, experienced blocker with nine career starts.

While Jordan Bedore is the biggest and best option at center, 6-4, 259-pound junior Trevor Viers will get a chance after filling in over the second half of the season. A versatile lineman who can play tackle or center, the former defensive end was solid as the year went on. As good as he is, he just doesn't have the size.

Somewhere in the mix at tackle will be junior Nick Stringer, a part-time starter over the last two seasons who was pushed aside with the emergence of Liu. The former tight end is a strong 6-6 and 275 pounds and is more than good enough to be a top starter if he gets another chance. At the very least, he's a terrific reserve.

Watch Out For ... this to be among the Big 12's best lines. It's not as good as Oklahoma's line, but with four great starters returning, good backups, and more good players coming in from the recruiting class, it's all there.
Strength: Pass protection. The tackles turned into something special and it led to a huge offensive season. The running game was fine, but it was the pass protection that was stellar allowing a mere 17 sacks in 510 pass attempts. That's a sack 0.03% of the time.
Weakness: Blasting run blocking. This isn't exactly a bad group when it comes to paving the way for the ground game, but it's not the type of front five that'll pound out long drives. Finesse is the wrong word to use, but it's an athletic group that relies on its pass blocking.
Outlook: A major issue two years ago, now the Wildcats might have one of the strongest front lines in the Big 12, at least when it comes to pass protection. Alesana and Liu are fantastic tackles, there are options at the three interior spots, and there's more competition on the way with JUCO transfers Prince and Wiebert good enough to start from day one. Expect this to be one of the team's biggest strengths.
Rating: 8