In 2011, the Kansas State Wildcats were picked by many experts to finish 8th place in a tough Big 12 conference. Very few journalists had Kansas State even going to a bowl game. But in classic Bill Snyder fashion the Wildcats far exceeded expectations and landed in the prestigious Cotton Bowl against a rising SEC school in Arkansas. The Wildcats started off very slow and found themselves down 19-0 early but fought hard throughout the game and eventually cut the lead to three in the start of the third quarter. Arkansas eventually pulled away for good, winning 29-16.
After such a successful season one might think it would be safe to assume that writers would be a little more skeptical when doubting Bill Snyder, but that was not the case as K-State has been picked to finish 6th in the Big 12 by many media outlets to start the season. The Wildcats will start the season ranked 22nd in the nation, but that is behind TCU (#20), Oklahoma State (#19), Texas (#15), West Virginia (#11), and Oklahoma (#4). It’s not difficult to understand the skepticism against the Wildcats as the Big 12 is loaded with talent this season. Further, K-State won 8 of their 10 games last season by only one score (including a game against FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky).
2012 Offseason Recap
The 2012 offseason for Kansas State has been a wild one, to say the least. Highly-touted JUCO recruit Marquez Clark never made it to campus and ended up Division 2 Central Oklahoma. According to reports there was a dispute about a summer English class that didn’t transfer over, making him ineligible to play at Kansas State. The Wildcats also lost a starting offensive lineman in Manase Foketi who did not wish to play for the Wildcats during his redshirt senior season. Despite going to local newspapers about not getting released from his scholarship the Wildcats remained firm on their decision and did not release him. Foketi will play his senior season at FCS West Texas A&M. True freshman backup QB Tavarius Bender has also left the team, as well as Broderick Smith. Starting guard Boston Stiverson was injured with a foot injury and his return time is unknown.
Another offseason distraction has been JR TE Andre McDonald who was arrested and forced to spend five days in jail for not having his dog on a leash (McDonald will not play against Missouri State). There have also been some coaching changes with coaches Chris Cosh and Joe Gordon leaving the program. Tom Hayes was promoted as DC to replace Cosh, who left to coach the same position at USF . Joe Gordon left to take a GA position at Mississippi College. Gordon’s son, LeAndrew, remains committed to Kansas State for the class of 2013.
The 2012 Wildcats have a lot to prove. They return many playmakers from last season’s 10-3 Cotton Bowl season. However, eight of Kansas State’s ten wins were decided by one score or less which has led to many predictions being less than generous for K-State in 2012. Still, a talented group of returning starters remains and that should lead to a successful season.
For the first time since Snyder returned to the sidelines, K-State has a set starter at QB. In 2009 the battle was between Grant Gregory and Carson Coffman. In 2011 it was between Coffman and Collin Klein. Then in 2012 it was expected that Blinn QB Justin Tuggle would start for the Wildcats. Instead he was bested by then unknown QB Collin Klein. But after an outstanding 2011 season, Klein set himself up to not only be the starter in 2012, but to possibly go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Kansas State history. Last season Klein rushed for an impressive 1141 yards and came up one touchdown short of Ricky Williams’ Big 12 record of 28 touchdowns. He also threw for 1918 yards with 13 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions.
In order for Kansas State to be successful Collin Klein must be successful. Defenses will be keying in on him and will try to force him to throw the football more than last season. But if history is a sign of things to come, Kansas State fans have a lot to look forward to. In 1997 as a junior, K-State legend Michael Bishop threw for 1557 yards with 13 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. The following year Michael Bishop finished 2nd in Heisman voting while throwing for 2844 yards with 23 touchdowns to a mere 4 interceptions. In his two years at Kansas State he amassed 1304 rushing yards. Another example could be Ell Roberson, who passed for 1580 yards as a JR with 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Roberson relied more on his legs than his arm, much like Klein, and rushed for 1032 yards with 16 touchdowns his junior season. In his senior season Roberson passed more often throwing for 2545 yards with 24 touchdowns compared to only 12 interceptions, and still managed to rush for 975 yards with 15 touchdowns.
If Klein happens to get injured, depth is a major issue at this position for the Wildcats. Backup QB Justin Tuggle has moved to linebacker where he is expected to start this season. Another backup in true freshman Tavarius Bender has left the program. This leaves just redshirt freshman Daniel Sams and junior walk-on Sam Johnson as K-State’s only other options at QB. Sams was one of the most hyped-up recruits in Kansas State’s 2010 recruiting class, but with no experience under his belt there would be much cause for concern if he must be relied upon to step in.
The half back position is a major position of depth for Kansas State. They return Junior running back John Hubert as well as senior Angelo Pease. Pease has added a reported 15 pounds to his frame and will most likely still be the lead “wildcat” package runner. Hubert ran for an impressive 970 yards on only 200 carries last season. His touchdown numbers were low, but that was due to the fact that when K-State entered the red-zone it was Optimus Klein time. Let’s be fair–who are you going to run on the goal line: a 6’5 226 lb QB or a 5’7 190 lb HB? Hubert may be the most under-appreciated part of Kansas State’s success last season.
The comparison to former 5’7 K-State running back Darren Sproles is strikingly similar. Sproles had much more break-away speed, but the part of both of their games that is similar is their power. Hubert is often considered to be a speed back, but he is not. Despite being 5’7, Hubert can pack quite a punch. As a sophomore Darren Sproles ran for an ungodly 1465 yards and 17 touchdowns. Hubert was a few hundred yards off those numbers, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that Hubert had a very impressive season last year and is only a Junior. Another back to keep an eye on is RS Sophomore DeMarcus Robinson. Robinson had an impressive spring game including a kickoff return for a touchdown. K-State also returns stud senior fullback Braden Wilson. Wilson hasn’t had many carries in his career at Kansas State but has been a major factor to the rushing success of Daniel Thomas, William Powell, Collin Klein, and John Hubert.
The wide receiver unit took quite a hit this off-season. Broderick Smith was suspended for much of last season and will not be returning this season. Highly-touted recruit Marquez Clark couldn’t get eligible and will not make it to Kansas State. Still K-State returns their three top receivers from last year’s team. Senior Chris Harper took some major steps forward last year, leading the team in receiving with 547 yards and touchdowns with 5. Sophomore Tyler Lockett will return from an injury in the Oklahoma State game that cost him the rest of last season. Lockett was a major kick and punt return threat as well as being a shifty and speedy receiver. He had 246 receiving yards and 3 scores last season. Tramaine Thompson also returns. Thompson started slowly last year by not recording a reception in the first four games, but rebounded nicely with 21 catches for 336 yards in his final 9 games including a big 68-yarder to record his first career touchdown against Iowa State.
This unit is a very fast unit, but it is a bit undersized. Harper is the only receiver taller than 5’8 in the front 3. The Wildcats will need these three—especially Harper—to step up to help Collin Klein carry the load. The depth is a little thin now with the departures of Smith, but newcomers Kyle Klein (Collin’s brother), and Curry Sexton also will look to get involved this season. Also returning for the Wildcats will be senior TE Travis Tannahill and JR TE Andre McDonald. McDonald will not play in the season opener.
The offensive line is a spot for concern for Kansas State. When the summer began it appeared that the line would be a major area of strength for the Wildcats. Tavon Rooks (a one-time 4-star prospect, lowered to 3 star on rivals.com) joined the team, and Manase Foketi was going to return from an injury that kept him out all of last season. Instead, Foketi left the team and Rooks hasn’t cracked the starting lineup. That can be one of two things for K-State: a good thing in terms of the Wildcats’ depth, or a disappointing fact that he hasn’t matched his hype out of Junior College. The starting line-up looked to be LT Cornelius Lucas, LG Nick Puetz, C BJ Finney, RG Boston Stiverson, and RT Cody Whitehair. But an injury will keep Stiverson out, so filling in for him will be RG Keenan Taylor.
The offensive line has improved tremendously since the arrival of offensive line coach Charlie Dickey. But this year there is very little depth. Finney is a sophomore, Stiverson and Whitehair are both redshirt freshmen. Senior Nick Puetz and junior Cornelius Lucas are the vets on the line. The good news for Kansas State is that this looks to be an experienced line for next season, but a very inexperienced one for this season.
The biggest question mark for Kansas State this season (once again) will be the defensive line. At the ends K-State looks to be very talented with SR’s Adam Davis and Meshak Williams returning. Davis finished the season hot, getting 4 sacks in the final three games and ending the season with 34 tackles. Williams had a big season last year, leading the team with 7 sacks. But at the defensive tackle position there is a major hole. Vai Lutui returns on the defensive line, but the other tackle spot (filled by Ray Kibble last season) will be occupied by a relatively-unknown player in John Sua. Sua, a SR, didn’t record a tackle last season. Look for Javonta Boyd and Travis Britz to have major roles on the line as well.
Two seasons ago K-State had one of the worst run defenses in the nation. Last year the rush defense improved tremendously. To avoid taking a step back the defensive line needs to step up this season. Depth is a major issue with this group as well. Additionally, all four starters are seniors. The Wildcats will need to add defensive line help immediately for next season.
The linebacking unit is the strength of the Kansas State defense. Senior Arthur Brown leads the charge at Middle Linebacker. Junior Tre Walker also returns. There was one hole that needed to be fixed with Emmanuel Lamur graduating, and that will be filled with former QB Justin Tuggle. Tuggle is the son of former Atlanta Falcons all-pro line-backer Jessie Tuggle. Tuggle could also split time with Jarrell Childs.
Arthur Brown was the hero in the Baylor game as he intercepted a pass from Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III to set up the game-winning field goal. The preseason defensive player of the year led the team in tackles with 101 last season and had 2 sacks. Tre Walker had 56 tackles on the season, none more important than the goal-line stand against Miami that clinched the win for the Wildcats. This unit is a very clutch and dependable unit that should wreck havoc on Big 12 opponents
The Wildcat secondary loses star corner David Garrett and 3-year starter at SS Tyson Hartman. These losses are pretty big losses. Garrett was one of the Wildcats’ best tacklers, and Tyson Hartman was a reliable player for three seasons. Thomas Ferguson and Jered Milo will look to fill the spot for Hartman, and Allen Chapman will look to replace Garrett.
Chapman had significant playing time last season, including a game against Tech where he had 11 tackles. He also had one interception which he returned 60 yards for a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Nigel Malone led the team in interceptions with 7 last season. Malone may have been the surprise of the 2012 season. He will not be able to sneak up on teams this season and must step up to anchor this secondary. The Wildcats also return JR Ty Zimmerman at free safety. Zimmerman had 58 total tackles last season and two interceptions.
K-State returns two great pieces in special teams. SR K Anthony Cantele and SR P Ryan Doerr both return. Doerr will be starting for the fourth consecutive season, and Cantele will be starting for his second season. Doerr averaged 40.8 yards per punt last season. Cantele was successful on 17 of 23 field goals last season with a long of 54 yards. The Wildcats also return both returners in Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson.
Quick Look at the Missouri State Bears
Missouri State is not frightening on paper. They are even less frightening knowing who their head coach is. Terry Allen, the most beloved KU coach to K-State fans, brings a career record of 0-7 against the Wildcats, including memorable losses such as 16-48 in 1997, 6-54 in 1998, 9-50 in 1999, 13-52 in 2000, and 6-40 in 2001 as the head coach of The University of Kansas. As the head coach of Missouri State he has actually had a smidge more success against K-State, losing 10-61 in 2007, but only 24-48 in 2010. The 24 point loss was the closest Allen has ever come to beating K-State.
Missouri State was 2-9 in 2011 in the FCS and luckily for them they don’t return much on offense from that team. Missouri State will have a new Quarterback, Halfback, and lead receiver. They do bring in a QB transfer in Ashton Glaser from Missouri who will likely play on Saturday. Glaser said some pretty strong words on a radio interview for 810 radio in Kansas City. He was quoted for saying that he believes Missouri should have beaten K-State last season and that he believes the Bears have a good chance to win on Saturday. It was also noted that he has certain distaste for Manhattan KS. It should be interesting what the K-State crowd has in store for him on Saturday. Missouri State does bring back 9 starters on defense which should lead to a much more successful season than 2-9, but I don’t see it doing much against K-State.
Marshall @ West Virginia – West Virginia 48 – 13
The Mountaineers had a minor scare against them at Marshall last season, but I don’t see it happening again.
South Dakota State @ Kansas – KU 31-10
Charlie Weis will pick up a relatively easy win in his first game. In Turner Gills first game at the helm of the Jayhawks they lost to North Dakota State. If Weis loses to South Dakota State everyone needs to pray for Jayhawk nation…or laugh…either way…basketball is coming boys.
Savannah State @ OK St – Ok State 52-19
It will be interesting to see how the cowboys replace Branden Weedon and Justin Blackmon. I see them having no problems this week, but watch out in future weeks.
Tulsa @ Iowa State – Iowa State 17-16
Last season I underestimated Iowa State tremendously. So why change. Tulsa brings in former Nebraska QB Cody Green. They also bring a very talented group to Ames. Iowa State will be a very tough team to beat with one of the best defenses in the Big 12. I think they will be given all they can handle in week one, and would not be surprised if Tulsa pulls the upset (if you can call it that).
Northwestern State @ Texas Tech – Tech 64-10
Tech returns their stud QB, and HB. Could be dangerous this season, wins easy week 1.
Wyoming @ Texas – Texas 41-3
The Longhorns are back. They will have an impressive win over Wyoming.
OU @ UTEP – OU 56-0
OU Had a frustrating end to their 2011 season. They will take their rage out on UTEP.
Baylor vs SMU – Baylor 28-24
Baylor will play a tough SMU team. If one of the Big 12 teams do go down week one I see it either being Baylor or Iowa State.
K-State vs Missouri State – K-State 62-3
Terry Allen has never figured out K-States offense, and I don’t think he will this season either. Last year K-State was stunned by only beating Eastern Kentucky 10-7, but I don’t see the Wildcats floundering at home like that in this one. There is just something about Terry Allen coming to Manhattan that makes me feel really great.