Kansas State Wildcats
Head Coach: Bill Snyder
2012 Record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12
2012 Bowl Result: Lost to Oregon 35-17 in the Fiesta Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 8 offense, 2 defense
Odds to Win 2014 BCS Championship game: 280/1
Odds to win Big 12 Championship: 16/1
Regular Season Wins: under 8 -150 / over 8 +120
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In 2012, Kansas State had the best year in program history under legendary coach Bill Snyder. If not for a late November loss at Baylor 52-24, the Wildcats would have played in the BCS Championship game. Kansas St had to settle for a Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Yes, they were smoked by another one loss team Oregon 35-17 but it still didn’t dampen a fantastic season. The Wildcats had wins over Miami-Florida 52-13, at Oklahoma 24-19, at Iowa St 27-21, at West Virginia 55-14, Texas Tech 55-24, Oklahoma St 44-30, at TCU 23-10, and Texas 42-24 to close out the season.
Snyder returns but Kansas St must replace quarterback Collin Klein. Klein completed 64.8% of his passes for 2,641 yards with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He was much more dangerous with his legs though, with 207 carries, 920 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was considered to be the Heisman favorite until the Baylor loss, but ended up finishing third behind Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. Klein was not picked in the NFL draft and had not signed with a team as of this writing.
Here is a look at Kansas State’s offense, defense, special teams, and schedule.
While Klein will be difficult to replace, co-offensive coordinators Del Miller and Dana Dimel still return 8 starters on offense The offense was 11th in scoring with 38.8 points a game, and the Wildcats rushed for just under 200 yards a game.
Sophomore Daniel Sams will likely take over for Klein. Sams could end up being a better all-around playmaker than Klein, but Klein’s leadership will be impossible to replace. Sams threw 8 passes last year in garbage time and also rushed for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns. JUCO transfer Jake Waters was the 2012 NJCAA offensive player of the year for Iowa Western, throwing for 3,500 yards, 39 touchdowns and 3 picks. He is not quite the runner Sams is, but he could take some snaps. True freshman Jesse Ertz was the Gatorade Iowa player of the year and could be the quarterback of the future.
Senior running back John Hubert had 189 carries, 947 yards, and 15 touchdowns, along with 18 catches, 98 yards and a touchdown. He is only 5-7 and 191 pounds but might have to get more carries per game to make up for the loss of Klein. DeMarcus Robinson and Robert Rose will get a few carries, but Hubert is without question the feature back. Tight end/fullback Zach Nemechek and Glenn Gronkowski (brother of Patriots’ tight end Rob) will rotate at fullback.
The Wildcats lose leading receiver Chris Harper but there is still talent among the receivers. Junior Tyler Lockett returns after he was All-Big 12 as both a receiver and a returner. He had 44 catches, 687 yards, and 4 touchdowns, and also had 55 rushing yards. Lockett also returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns last year. Senior Tramaine Thompson will start at the other receiver after making 37 catches, 526 yards and 4 touchdowns. K-State must replace tight end Travis Tannehill. Travis Trujillo and Nemechek will rotate at the position. Curry Sexton, Torrell Miller and LeAndrew Gordon will also get some targets.
The offensive line allowed only 14 sacks last season and returns all 5 starters. Senior left tackle Cornelius Lucas was first team all-Big 12 last year. Sophomore Cody Whitehair moves from guard to right tackle. Center B.J. Finney is a two time All-Big 12 selection. Keenan Taylor and Boston Stiverson will start at guard. William Cooper, Tavon Rooks, and Chance Allen add depth to the unit.
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Wildcat defensive coordinator Tom Hayes must replace 9 starters, including the entire front seven in their 4-3 system. It isn’t a good thing to completely rebuild the defense in an offense first conference like the Big 12, but Kansas State seemingly always finds a way to be productive on defense.
Sophomore Travis Britz and senior Chanquil Reed will likely start at tackle. Demontre Hood, Xavier Gates, and Matt Seiwert will also see time in the tackle rotation. Sophomores Ryan Mueller and Marquel Bryant will start at the ends. Alauna Finau and Laton Dowling will also see time at end. Freshman Taner Wood could be converted to outside linebacker but has the potential to be a star.
Kansas St must replace star linebacker Arthur Brown who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens to replace one Ray Lewis. Senior Tre Walker returns after playing in only 4 games last year due to an injury. Senior Blake Slaughter will likely start in the middle. He made 47 tackles as a freshman, but injuries have hampered him the last two seasons. Junior Jonathan Truman will start at outside linebacker after making 25 tackles and forcing 2 fumbles. Mike Moore, Will Davis, Nick Ramirez, and Isaiah Williams will also see time in the rotation.
Senior safety Ty Zimmerman was a borderline All-American candidate making 50 tackles, 3 for loss, and 5 interceptions. He will anchor the secondary along with corner Randall Evans who made 76 tackles, 6 broken up passes and an interception. Evans could move to safety. If he does he could be replaced at corner by JUCO transfer Nate Jackson. Senior Kip Daily and sophomore Morgan Burns will compete for the other corner spot. Sophomore Dante Barnett will start at the other safety. He made 14 tackles in the loss to Baylor. Dakorey Johnson could play either linebacker or safety.
Sophomore kicker Jack Cantele takes over for his older brother Anthony. The older brother Anthony made all 64 extra points, and made 19 of 23 field goals. Jack is said to have a stronger leg than his brother, as Anthony’s longest kick was 42 yards last year. Freshman Matthew McCrane could challenge Cantele for the job. In high school he booted several kicks over 50 yards, but was inconsistent inside the 40.
Also gone is punter Ryan Doerr who averaged 41 yards per kick and put 15 inside the 20. Junior Mark Krause averaged 37.5 yards per kick at Missouri Southern but has the potential to be much better than that.
Lockett averaged 32.8 yards per kick return with 2 scores. Thompson averaged 19.8 yards per punt return and returned a punt for a touchdown in the season opener against Missouri St.
Kansas St opens with 3 straight home games against two time defending FCS Champion North Dakota St, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Massachusetts. The Big 12 slate opens with tough road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State, before home games against Baylor, West Virginia, and Iowa St. The Wildcats finish at Texas Tech before home games against TCU and Oklahoma. Kansas St finishes at in-state rival Kansas.
The consensus is Kansas St and Baylor are considered a step below Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, Texas and TCU in the Big 12 pecking order. That sounds about right as Kansas St has to rebuild on defense and must replace Klein. Still, Kansas St should win 8 games, or perhaps even 9 if the bounces go their way. The Wildcats should not overlook dangerous North Dakota St or UL-Lafayette, but if they can survive the trips to Austin and Stillwater with even a split they could contend for the conference title again.
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