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1. Pro: Jonathan Beasley went 22-4 as a starter
At one point in his career, Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop was 22-1 as a starter. He was the perfect Bill Snyder quarterback: powerful, nearly perfect on the option, and capable of throwing the ball about 150 yards sitting down. He would pound away off-tackle, pitch to Eric Hickson, and throw bombs to Darnell McDonald and Aaron Lockett.
The 1998 KSU offense wasn't the deepest squad in the world (only three players caught more than eight passes, and only one running back averaged even five carries per game). But it was the perfect complement to the patented Snyder defense, one that featured assistants like Mike Stoops and Brent Venables and players like linebackers Jeff Kelly, Travis Ochs, and Marc Simoneau and safeties Lamar Chapman and Jarrod Cooper. The Wildcats could kill you with defense and a terrifying special teams unit (Martin Gramatica at kicker, David Allen in the return game), and after your offense went three-and-out for the fourth or fifth time, the offense would begin to completely gash your tiring defense.
KSU averaged 35 points per game and allowed 15 in 1997, then averaged 47 and allowed 15 in 1998. This was an unfair compilation of talent, the pinnacle of the Snyder era. If the current membership of the Big 12 was in place then as it is now (i.e. without Nebraska or Texas A&M), there's a very good chance that the Wildcats would have finished both regular seasons 11-0.
The 1998 KSU squad featured senior starters at quarterback, tailback, fullback, No. 1 receiver, tight end, right tackle, both guard positions, defensive tackle, strongside linebacker, middle linebacker, No. 1 cornerback, kicker, and punter. With an offense devastated by graduation in 1999, there was every reason to believe that 1998 was the pinnacle of Snyder's stunning building process in Manhattan, and that there was little chance that even Snyder would be able to match his recent feats.
And of course, with a new cast of characters (quarterback Jonathan Beasley, running backs Joe Hall and Frank Murphy, etc.), Kansas State went 11-1 in 1999; and again, if Nebraska had been in the Big 10 at the time, the Wildcats would have probably gone undefeated.
2. Con: Kansas State went 4-7 in 2004
In 2003, Kansas State finally landed the conference title that had eluded Snyder in the late-1990s, when the Wildcats timed a hell of a peak with a hell of a Nebraska peak. After going 22-4 in 1999-00 (same number of wins as 1997-98), KSU had shown brief mortality, going 6-6 in 2001. But as former star recruit Ell Roberson finally began to come into his own, so did the Wildcats. They went 11-2 in 2002, endured a strange three-game losing streak (Marshall, at Texas, at Oklahoma State) early in 2003, romped to the Big 12 North title, and destroyed undefeated Oklahoma in the conference title game.
In 2004, KSU had to replace Roberson, leading receiver James Terry, and a host of defensive starters like linebackers Josh Buhl and Bryan Hickman, safety Rashad Washington, and end Andrew Shull. With only four returning starters on defense and defensive co-coordinator Bret Bielema off to Wisconsin, Snyder faced yet another rebuilding task. But hey, he had done it many times before in his miraculous 15 years in Manhattan, and he still had star power in players like running back Darren Sproles. There was no reason to think he wouldn't succeed this time around.
After a 2-1 start, KSU finished the 2004 season 2-6, then went 5-6 in 2005, and Snyder retired (well, "retired").
No matter what your view of Kansas State is moving forward -- the Wildcats have gone 21-5 in the last two seasons and briefly reached No. 1 in the country last year; but they have to replace quarterback Collin Klein, receiver Chris Harper, their top five defensive linemen, three of four linebackers, three of four defensive backs, and both the kicker and punter from the nation's best special teams unit -- you have evidence on your side. Stats say that KSU is going to have to fight to play at a top-40 level this coming season, but the stats thought that in each of the last two years, too. There was little reason to think KSU was capable of doing what it did in 1999-00, in 2002-03, or in 2011-12, but they did it anyway.
Be as skeptical as you want; you've got just cause. But don't act like you're not at least a little intrigued by what the 73-year-old Snyder has in store for the skeptics this time around.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 11-2 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 9|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Missouri State||51-9||W||28.9 - 41.8||L|
|8-Sep||Miami||52-13||W||38.7 - 16.9||W|
|15-Sep||North Texas||35-21||W||43.1 - 33.4||W|
|22-Sep||at Oklahoma||24-19||W||32.9 - 23.8||W|
|6-Oct||Kansas||56-16||W||46.9 - 30.7||W|
|13-Oct||at Iowa State||27-21||W||24.8 - 16.2||W|
|20-Oct||at West Virginia||55-14||W||42.7 - 11.9||W|
|27-Oct||Texas Tech||55-24||W||45.0 - 25.9||W|
|3-Nov||Oklahoma State||44-30||W||39.9 - 27.6||W|
|10-Nov||at TCU||23-10||W||23.2 - 22.5||W|
|17-Nov||at Baylor||24-52||L||20.2 - 29.3||L|
|1-Dec||Texas||42-24||W||29.6 - 25.8||W|
|3-Jan||vs. Oregon||17-35||L||23.6 - 20.8||W|
|Points Per Game||38.8||12||22.2||27|
|Adj. Points Per Game||33.8||29||25.1||39|
3. Con: The offense faded dramatically
Kansas State is going to have to replace almost everybody from a defense that surged to 16th in Def. F/+ in 2012. That puts the onus on the offense to move the ball consistently, but that could be a scary thought considering what happened at the end of last season.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): KSU 35.9, Opponent 29.0 (plus-6.9)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): KSU 39.9, Opponent 22.5 (plus-17.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 24.6, KSU 24.2 (minus-0.4)
After an up-and-down first month of the season, Kansas State caught fire in October. The Wildcats went from winning without favorable stats to dominating the box score; they went to Morgantown and beat West Virginia by 41. They came back home and beat a smoking hot Texas Tech team by 31. They traded blows with Oklahoma State and eventually pulled away, and they headed to Fort Worth on the cusp of a spot in the national title game (and without a Big 12 title game to trip them up this time around as it had 14 years earlier). And to the eyes of many, Collin Klein was looking the part of a Heisman contender.
Even though they pulled off a win at TCU, they began to sputter. KSU averaged just 4.7 yards per play against TCU, then averaged just 4.4 in a 28-point loss at Baylor. They bounced back a bit against Texas (6.2 per play) but were thoroughly outclassed offensively against a speedy, underrated Oregon defense. And now Klein's gone.
|Q1 Rk||50||1st Down Rk||42|
|Q2 Rk||30||2nd Down Rk||19|
|Q3 Rk||22||3rd Down Rk||33|
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Daniel Sams||6'2, 207||So.||*** (5.7)||6||8||55||75.0%||0||0||0||0.0%||6.9|
|Jake Waters||6'1, 210||Jr.||*** (5.7)|
4. Pro: KSU should be fine at QB ... really
Whoever wins the starting job, be it Daniel Sams or Jake Waters, is not going to become a Heisman finalist in 2013. But both came to Manhattan with a solid recruiting profile, and both will have the luxury of Dana Dimel running their offense. I already called Mike Bobo the best play-caller in the country last year, but Dimel was in the top five. The Wildcats lined up in every formation known to man in 2012, and they were ruthless in exploiting whatever defensive cracks they found. The bag of tricks began to empty out late in the season, and one probably shouldn't expect a top-20 offensive performance, but KSU will fall only so far with this coaching staff and this set of talent.
The Sams vs. Waters race will evidently continue in August. Sams showed impressive dual-threat ability in averaging 7.3 yards per carry last season and showing, at the very least, competence in the passing game this spring. Incoming JUCO signee Waters, meanwhile, was more impressive as a passer but perhaps not as adept in the run game.
It's nice to have versatility in your options, and I am assuming we'll see competence here, even if the winner of the job isn't The Human Third-and-Three Conversion like Klein was.
|John Hubert||RB||5'7, 191||Sr.||*** (5.5)||189||947||5.0||4.9||15||+4.6|
|Daniel Sams||QB||6'2, 207||So.||*** (5.7)||32||235||7.3||5.1||3||+7.6|
|Tyler Lockett||WR||5'11, 175||Jr.||*** (5.6)||7||55||7.9||6.0||0||+2.0|
|DeMarcus Robinson||RB||5'7, 209||Jr.||**** (5.8)||6||25||4.2||2.4||0||-0.7|
5. Con: Running backs will have to contribute a lot more
John Hubert's numbers were perfectly acceptable in 2012; a per-cary average of 5.0 yards is nothing to scoff at, and Hubert showed decent enough speed to get to the corner against a defense that always had its eye on Klein. But after averaging 6.9 yards per carry and scoring eight touchdowns in the first five games of the season, Hubert averaged just 3.7 with seven touchdowns in the final eight games. He is not a vertical threat, and while he is a decent bailout option in the passing game, he hasn't shown much explosiveness there either. KSU was able to get away with simple competence from the running back position in 2012, but unless Sams or Waters is even better than expected, the Wildcats will need more here. Hubert's ceiling is pretty well-defined, and if former star recruit DeMarcus Robinson wanted to start showing the four-star potential he was alleged to have in high school, I don't think anybody would object.
While we're at it, Klein's and Dimel's collective proficiency also distracted from the fact that, as you'll see below, KSU's line wasn't very good. It wasn't bad, per say, but it was only average, and Klein's short-yardage prowess probably did the power numbers some favors. Six players with starting experience return (76 career starts), including all-conference tackle Cornelius Lucas, so improvement should be expected. But KSU might need a lot of improvement.
John Hubert. Matthew Emmons, USA Today.
|Tyler Lockett||WR||5'11, 175||Jr.||*** (5.6)||64||44||687||68.8%||10.7||21.1%||60.9%||10.7||109.4|
|Tramaine Thompson||WR||5'8, 167||Sr.||*** (5.6)||56||37||526||66.1%||9.4||18.5%||44.6%||9.2||83.7|
|John Hubert||RB||5'7, 191||Sr.||*** (5.5)||24||18||98||75.0%||4.1||7.9%||41.7%||4.1||15.6|
|Curry Sexton||WR||5'11, 183||Jr.||** (5.4)||10||7||75||70.0%||7.5||3.3%||40.0%||6.4||11.9|
|Torell Miller||WR||6'2, 216||Sr.||*** (5.5)||8||4||40||50.0%||5.0||2.6%||12.5%||8.3||6.4|
|Zach Trujillo||TE||6'5, 256||Jr.||** (5.4)||3||2||72||66.7%||24.0||1.0%||66.7%||23.1||11.5|
|Kyle Klein||WR||6'4, 210||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Zach Nemechek||TE||6'3, 243||Jr.||NR|
6. Pro: Lockett and Thompson are fantastic
In the end, the best man will win the quarterback job. But from a styles standpoint, you could make the case for either player. Hubert and Robinson have not in any way distinguished themselves as standout players, so the presence of a quality dual-threat quarterback (Sams) in the backfield could help the run game tremendously. At the same time, however, you could make the case that two of the three best players on this offense (along with Lucas) are receivers, and that they could benefit tremendously from choosing the better passer (Waters).
Their production dropped along with the rest of the offense late in the season, but for the season as a whole, both Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson were quite good, just as they were in 2011. Locket avoided any serious injury in 2012 and finished with a team-best 10.7 yards per target; a lot of his damage came in torching iffy Miami and West Virginia defenses (12 catches for 253 yards and two scores in those two games), but he still averaged 13.6 yards per catch versus everyone else. Thompson, meanwhile, has been a steady No. 3 guy for a couple of years now. He has averaged nearly 15 yards per catch for his career. Neither player has any sort of size to them -- for that, you have to look to the tight end position or players like Torell Miller or Kyle, "Yes, That Klein" Klein -- but that's not an outright necessity. And you have to love the video game stats they posted in the spring game; Thompson caught six passes for 161 yards, and Lockett caught nine for 231 yards and this ridiculous grab.
|Cornelius Lucas||LT||6'9, 328||Sr.||** (5.4)||13 career starts; 2012 1st All-Big 12|
|B.J. Finney||C||6'4, 303||Jr.||** (5.2)||25 career starts|
|Nick Puetz||LG||15 career starts|
|Keenan Taylor||RG||6'4, 290||Sr.||*** (5.5)||14 career starts|
|Cody Whitehair||RT||6'4, 309||So.||*** (5.5)||12 career starts|
|Tavon Rooks||RT||6'5, 280||Sr.||*** (5.7)||10 career starts|
|Boston Stiverson||LG||6'4, 312||So.||** (5.4)||2 career starts|
|Tomasi Mariner||C||6'4, 327||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Drew Liddle||C||6'3, 288||Jr.||NR|
|William Cooper||LT||6'4, 307||Sr.||** (5.3)|
|Aderius Epps||RG||6'1, 311||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Will Ash||LG||6'2, 338||RSFr.||NR|
|Q1 Rk||33||1st Down Rk||25|
|Q2 Rk||19||2nd Down Rk||37|
|Q3 Rk||47||3rd Down Rk||18|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Ryan Mueller||DE||6'2, 245||Jr.||NR||13||13.0||1.8%||3||2||0||6||0||2|
|Travis Britz||DT||6'4, 293||So.||** (5.4)||11||6.0||0.8%||2||0||0||1||1||0|
|Alauna Finau||DE||6'1, 258||Sr.||** (5.2)||9||5.5||0.8%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Marquel Bryant||DE||6'3, 241||So.||** (5.4)||5||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Chaquil Reed||DT||6'3, 309||Sr.||*** (5.5)||4||1.0||0.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Laton Dowling||DE||6'3, 254||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Xavier Gates||DT||6'3, 316||So.||NR|
|Demonte Hood||DT||6'0, 303||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Devon Nash||DE||6'5, 260||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Valentino Coleman||DT||6'2, 285||Jr.||NR|
|DeAndre Roberts||DT||6'5, 280||Jr.||NR|
|Tanner Wood||DE||6'5, 247||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Jordan Willis||DE||6'5, 260||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jonathan Truman||WLB||5'11, 219||Jr.||NR||13||23.0||3.2%||2||0||0||0||0||2|
|Tre Walker||MLB||6'3, 225||Sr.||*** (5.6)||8||14.0||2.0%||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Mike Moore||MLB||6'1, 207||So.||*** (5.6)||10||4.0||0.6%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Blake Slaughter||SLB||5'10, 227||Sr.||*** (5.6)|
|Will Davis||WLB||6'0, 223||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Nick Ramirez||LB||6'1, 228||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
7. Con: Wow, is that a lot to lose
The linebackers listed above combined for 205.0 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and nine passes defensed. KSU returns 20 percent of those tackles, 24 percent of those tackles for loss, no sacks, and no passes defensed. Oh yeah, and the defensive line loses 85 percent of its tackles and 88 percent of its tackles for loss.
To be sure, there is potential in players like end Ryan Mueller, who made multiple stops behind the line and batted down more passes than anybody in the front seven despite minimal playing time, and linebackers Jonathan Truman and Tre Walker. But those are three players. KSU will be starting six or seven.
Newcomers will play a heavy role, and while that is nothing new for Snyder, who has mined the JUCO ranks as well as anybody in recent decades (and dealt with said JUCOs' quick departures), it is hard to be too optimistic. KSU blitzed well and raised hell in short-yardage situations; the Wildcats also had a perfect defensive quarterback in Arthur Brown. It's difficult to lose your leader and a majority of your depth and not regress, even if you are coached by Bill Snyder.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Randall Evans||CB||6'0, 190||Jr.||NR||13||62.5||8.8%||3||1||1||6||2||1|
|Ty Zimmerman||FS||6'1, 204||Sr.||** (5.4)||11||44.5||6.2%||3||0||5||2||0||2|
|Dante Barnett||SS||6'1, 186||So.||** (5.4)||13||21.5||3.0%||1||0||0||2||0||0|
|Morgan Burns||CB||5'11, 195||So.||*** (5.6)||12||10.0||1.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Weston Hiebert||DB||6'0, 193||Jr.||NR||12||6.0||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Carl Miles, Jr.||CB||5'11, 190||Sr.||** (5.2)||12||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Jonathan Coleman||DB||6'1, 205||So.||NR||5||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Joseph Bonugli||DB||6'0, 188||Jr.||*** (5.6)||10||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kip Daily||CB||5'11, 180||Sr.||*** (5.6)||6||0.5||0.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Nate Jackson||CB||5'11, 185||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Dakorey Johnson||S||6'3, 200||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Travis Green||DB||6'1, 210||So.||*** (5.5)|
8. Pro: The secondary should hold up
Granted, the secondary could be put in tough positions if the pass rush (and run defense) up front regress. But in terms of general quality and experience, I don't mind the look of this secondary. It feels like Ty Zimmerman, a solid play-maker, has been playing for KSU since Snyder's first term, and Randall Evans emerged as a solid component as well. And KSU got a lot of defensive backs some experience, which is certainly a plus when you're facing the loss of so many seniors.
Between some interesting sophomores and new JUCO transfers, I assume competence out of the back end, the ability to continue preventing big plays and making at least a few plays of its own on the ball. It's the front end that gets most of my concern.
|Mark Krause||5'11, 218||Jr.||4||38.5||0||2||2||100.0%|
|Tyler Lockett||KR||5'11, 175||Jr.||21||32.8||2|
|Tramaine Thompson||KR||5'8, 167||Sr.||10||33.4||0|
|Tramaine Thompson||PR||5'8, 167||Sr.||16||19.8||1|
|Tyler Lockett||PR||5'11, 175||Jr.||3||14.7||0|
|Special Teams F/+||1|
|Field Goal Pct||18|
|Kick Returns Avg||1|
|Punt Returns Avg||3|
9. Con: Special teams can only regress
You can't improve on No. 1, and with a solid punter (Ryan Doerr) and decent kicker (Anthony Cantele) gone, one could certainly see the special teams unit slipping. Special teams has long been a KSU strength (the Wildcats have only once ranked outside the Special Teams F/+ top 20 in the last six years, and in that season (2011) still ranked 28th. So this unit won't fall much, especially considering how terrifying Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are in the return game. But still, if the offense and defense are both staring regression in the face, you want as much quality as possible from special teams.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|31-Aug||North Dakota State||NR|
|5-Oct||at Oklahoma State||6|
|9-Nov||at Texas Tech||42|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||42|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||61|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||+20 / +11.4|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||8 (6, 2)|
10. Pro: Bill Snyder's still around
Kansas State has benefited from probably unsustainable turnovers luck over the last two years, and the heart and soul of both the offense (Klein) and defense (Brown and an underrated set of defensive ends) are now gone. This screams "Sell, sell, sell," but it is a testament to Bill Snyder's record that I am still considering the Wildcats as a potential Top 30 program.
There is a Cajun-shaped landmine in the non-conference slate, and a season-ending trip to Kansas probably won't be as easy as KSU fans prefer. But while the Wildcats aren't going to win the Big 12 again this season (...I think), they should be able to scrounge around for six to eight wins, depending on close-game execution and how quickly the new defensive front can gel. Lockett and Thompson are potentially terrific, the quarterbacks should be competent, and the defense should remain disciplined and steady, even if it has far less star power.
The numbers might be less optimistic than the fans, but since when has that mattered in Manhattan?