Kansas State Looks to Future Without Klein
(This is the second of a twelve part series previewing the opponents for Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns for the 2013 season. Today: Kansas State)
When Bill Snyder “retired” the first time as the head coach at Kansas State, he did so after a couple of losing seasons. Yet, Snyder remained beloved in Manhattan, Kansas, where the Wildcats had little success until Snyder started a string of eleven wins in six out of seven seasons.
They even named the stadium Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Ron Prince was hired as the replacement, but after going 7-6 in his first season, Prince suffered two straight losing seasons and was let go.
His replacement? Bill Snyder.
After going 6-6 in his first year back (including a 17-15 loss to the Cajuns), Snyder got Kansas State back to its winning ways, winning 21 games the last two seasons.
Under the direction of quarterback Collin Klein, KSU was ranked #1 in the BCS standings before being shocked against Baylor in week eleven. Klein was the Heisman front-runner before the loss to Baylor. Klein set a new Kansas State record for rushing touchdowns and had over 6500 yards of total offense and a total of nearly 80 touchdowns during his final two seasons.
But Klein is gone now. And, that leaves Kansas State with some question marks.
JC Transfer Jake Waters and sophomore Daniel Sams are vying for the starting job to replace Klein. Both are mobile and Kansas State figures to continue using its quarterback as a running threat. But both might actually have stronger arms than Klein and that might mean the Wildcats will open things up a bit more in their passing game.
Other than quarterback, there’s a ton of experience, with eight starters returning. RB John Hubert had just under 1000 yards last season. WR Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett combined for 81 catches a year ago. Andre McDonald takes over at tight end and he’s a load at 6-8, 278. Making things even easier for the offense is the return of all five offensive linemen, which might be the best unit in the Big 12.
Experience might be the buzzword on the offensive side of the football, but on defense, there will be a lot of new faces in the starting lineup, as only two starters return, and both are in the secondary. The front four doesn’t return anyone who has ever started a game for K-State. The Wildcats will probably start two junior college transfers on the line.
At linebacker, Trae Walker is back after missing much of last year due to injury, but again, there’s not a lot of experience in this unit. But at least the projected starters are all returning players, albeit not starters. Kansas State is noted for having good depth in the secondary and return two starters there. SS Ty Zimmerman was a third team All-American a year ago.
The kicker and punter will both be new. Sophomore Jack Cantele kicked a 51 yard field goal in the spring game, while P Mark Krause saw action in one game a year ago. Their return game could be downright scary with Lockett and Thompson.
There are very few coaches in the top five conferences that have had more success with junior college players than Snyder, and because of that, you can expect both sides of the football to boast good talent. The defense, long a Snyder staple, gave up more than 24 points only once in the regular season last year. But that’s obviously the question mark for this club. Kansas State may not put up the numbers they did last year with Klein at quarterback, scoring 40 points or more seven times, but this offensive team will be plenty talented with lots of options. The Wildcats probably won’t win eleven games again this year, but they’ll win plenty. While Arkansas is a pretty good matchup for the Cajuns in week one, this one isn’t nearly as appetizing. The Cajuns defense will probably be tested more in this game than in any other this season.
(Information from Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and the Sporting News Preason Preview contributed to this story.)