Kansas State was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 conference last year, and the Wildcats wound up sharing the conference title with OU. They were picked eighth two years ago and finished second.
The Cats are expected to place sixth again by the media pundits this year, but no one should be surprised if they finish higher. Head coach Bill Snyder knows how to build a football team.
It might be difficult to surprise the pundits this year because he has lot of reconstructing to do and, once again, he has a cupcake schedule to refine his team. The Cats host North Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Massachusetts before embarking on the Big 12 schedule.
Last year, Snyder had an experienced quarterback. Collin Klein, a finalist in last year’s Heisman Trophy race, has graduated. This year sophomore Daniel Sams (6-1, 211) and junior Jake Waters (6-1, 210) are battling it out for the job. Sams was Klein’s backup last year. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 55 yards in 2012, but he carried the ball for 235 yards and scored three times. Waters, a JUCO transfer, earned the NJCAA Player of the Year honor after leading Iowa Western to an undefeated season and the NJCAA championship.
Whoever is chosen as the starter, he will have a full compliment of the line returning. Senior left tackle Cornelius Lucas (6-9, 324) leads the pack as an All-Big 12 first teamer last year.
Two of the top four receivers from a year ago will return. Tyler Lockett (5-11, 175, Jr.) and Tremaine Thompson (5-8, 167, Sr.) finished second and third in 2012. Lockett grabbed 44 passes for 687 yards and 4 TDs. Thompson had 37 receptions for 526 yards and 4 TDs. The Cats will be looking to replace the tight end and a fullback. But, All-Big 12 running back John Hubert (5-7, 191, Sr.) returns. He ran for 947 yards and 15 TDs last year.
Kansas State Statistics, 2012
|Offense (Nat'l. Rank)||Defense (Nat'l. Rank)|
|38.8 (11)||Scoring (PPG)||22.1 (28)|
|194.0 (32)||Rushing (YPG)||126.8 (20)|
|207.4 (89)||Passing (YPG)||248.5 (82)|
|401.4 (59)||Total (YPG)||375.3 (45)|
Perhaps the media members were looking at the K-State defense when making their choices. The Cats return only two starters.
K-State had three players receive all-conference honors last year, and safety Ty Zimmerman (6-1, 203, Sr.) was one of them. He also is one half of the returning secondary this year. In 2012 he picked off five passes and made 50 tackles. Fellow safety Jarad Milo (6-2, 197, Sr.) is the other returnee. He was second on the team with 82 stops a year ago.
Snyder loaded up with 10 defensive players, including four from the JUCO ranks, in February. The Cats’ 2013 class was rated 65th by Rivals and 68th by Scout.com.
The special teamers will have to replace the punter and placekicker from last season, but the return specialists will be back. Lockett and Thompson shared return duties in 2012. Lockett was the main kickoff return man. He averaged 32.8 yards per return and scored 2 TDs, best in the Big 12. Thompson led the team and the nation in punt returning with an average of 19.8 yards per return and one score.