Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Kansas State Wildcats

2009 Record: 6-6 (4-4 in Big 12)
2009 Bowl: N/A
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Bill Snyder (142-74-1 at Kansas State)
Non-Conference Schedule: UCLA (9/4), Missouri State (9/11), UCF (9/25), at North Texas (9/27)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 23.0 points per game (9th in Big 12)
Rushing Yards/Game: 179 (3rd in Big 12)
Passing Yards/Game: 169 (last in Big 12, 106th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 349 (9th in Big 12) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 23.3 points per game (7th in Big 12)
Rushing Yards/Game: 105 (5th in Big 12)
Passing Yards/Game: 234 (7th in Big 12)
Total Yards/Game: 339 (5th in Big 12)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.50 per game (2nd in Big 12)
Penalties: 60 yards per game (5th in Big 12)

Returning Starters
Offense: 7
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 2

Phil Steele All-Big 12 Pre-Season
RB Daniel Thomas (First Team)
S Tysyn Hartman (Third Team)

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Carson Coffman, Sr (71 of 117 for 860 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT)
Rushing: RB Daniel Thomas, Sr (247 carries for 1265 yds, 11 TD, 5.1 ypc, 105 ypg)
Receiving: RB Daniel Thomas, Sr (25 rec, 257 yds, 2.1 rec/game)
Tackles: DB Emanuel Lamur, Sr (68)
Sacks: LB Antonio Felder, Sr (3)
Interceptions: DB Tysyn Hartman, Jr (5)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Lindy's: Not Ranked
Mark Schlabach: Not Ranked
Rivals: Not Ranked
Scout: Not Ranked
Sporting News: #85
Sports Illustrated: Not Ranked
Athlon Sports: #66

2010 Pre-Season Big 12 Predictions:
Athlon Sports: #5 in Big 12 North
Phil Steele: #5 in Big 12 North

Kansas State went 6-6 last year. They lost to Louisiana-Lafayette in the 2nd game of the year and then rebounded to win 4 of 5 before dropping 3 of their last 4.  This year schedule is not that intimidating as they do play UCLA in their first game but they don't have to face Oklahoma, Texas Tech or Texas A&M from the Big 12 South (although they did handle A&M quite easily last year). In Billy Snyder's first run as Kansas State coach he won 10 games in 6 of his last 10 seasons. Can he get Kansas State back to where they were from the mid-90s to the early 2000s? We turned to the SB Nation Kansas State blog Bring On The Cats to get caught up on K-State.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The biggest strength will be the running game. Senior running back Daniel Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing last year and was 21st nationally with 1,265 yards. He amassed most of those yards playing with a bad shoulder, too. Helping Thomas' cause will be fullback Braden Wilson, a powerful blocker who should improve with age, and an offensive line that returns four out of five starters from last year.

Defensive line and linebacker play appears to be the biggest weakness. We lost easily our best two players on the DL in Jeffrey Fitzgerald and Daniel Calvin, from a unit whose only real strength was stopping the run. We also lose two starters at LB in Ulla Pomele and John Houlik. Neither were tremendous players, but there doesn't appear to be anyone ready to step in and make an impact. What we would give to have Arthur Brown eligible immediately after transferring from Miami.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Our first major test is right out of the gate, when UCLA comes to Manhattan. We lost to the Bruins in Los Angeles last year, before they fell apart and barely qualified for a bowl game after a promising start. I haven't spent any time analyzing UCLA yet this offseason, but anytime you open with a school from an automatic-qualifier conference that went to a bowl game the previous season, you have to be ready to play.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Surprisingly, our schedule doesn't contain an unstoppable juggernaut that I look at and think "Oh God, I just hope they don't blow us out." Texas will be sporting a new quarterback and loses some big contributors on defense, the game is at home, and we have this weird hex on UT wherein we seem to win against all odds. Still, the Longhorns are almost certainly the best team on our schedule, and the most likely to lay an embarrassing loss on the Wildcats. A close second is Nebraska, although the Huskers have big questions on offense and are an unproven commodity without Ndamukong Suh single-handedly blowing up opposing offenses.

From a pure "they may blow us out" standpoint, Missouri is the most feared team on the slate. With Texas at home and offensively-challenged Nebraska, Blaine Gabbert and the Tigers' high-powered passing attack are the most likely to put up a lot of points.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Right now, nobody is talking much about Brandon Harold, who was supposed to be part of a fearsome defensive line last year, but barely played due to injury. We'll have to see how he bounces back from the injury and some alleged off-the-field issues -- nothing was ever specified -- to perform in 2010. Among the more proven players, I'll go with DB Emmanuel Lamur. Although he was out of position in coverage more often than you'd like to see, Lamur is a physical specimen and has a tendency to make big hits. With another year in the defensive system, he could push for all-conference honors.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Daniel Thomas, easily. Scouts see him as a first-round NFL draft pick at running back.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

This is a hard choice. I'd like to say Harold, but that would be based on pure potential, not results. Tysyn Hartman anchors a defensive backfield that will be the defense's strength this season. He's not a flashy player, but he's one guy the other 10 defenders never need to worry about compensating for.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Whomever plays quarterback. Carson Coffman began last year as the starter before being replaced by fifth-year senior Grant Gregory. We have the makings of a very good offense this season, if we can just find a quarterback to run the show. And we don't even need a Michael Bishop, Jonathan Beasley or Ell Roberson at QB, we just need someone to pick up a few yards on the option when defenses key on Thomas and who can get the ball to our talented receiving corps. Coffman threw for seven touchdowns in the spring game, but I'm loathe to put any real stock in that. If he has a coming-out party against UCLA, it will be a different story.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

This may be cheating, but it's probaby a tossup between transfers Chris Harper and Brodrick Smith. Harper was a highly touted quarterback out of Wichita who went to Oregon initially, while Smith went to Minnesota. Harper has been moved to WR, whereas Smith has always played there. The two are big, physical players who could give smaller defensive backs fits. If they can, and have a QB who can accurately deliver the ball, the K-State offense will provide some fireworks with a workhorse like Thomas in the backfield.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I'm going to have to punt on this one. We have a couple recruits coming in along the DL who I am interested in watching, such as Javonta Boyd (DT) and Adam Davis (DE), and Tre Walker at LB could be a nice addition. Alas, I am not a recruiting guru, and would rather just wait until I see the player in action on campus, so any judgment I made on any of these guys would be nothing more than a wild guess.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

I'm going to say 7-5. Our schedule just doesn't look very difficult at first glance. We should be able to handle Missouri State, Central Florida and North Texas in the non-conference. UCLA, Iowa State, KU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Colorado are varying degrees of the proverbial "tossup" game. We will have to have a lot of things go right to beat Texas, Nebraska and Missouri. With three of those tossup games on the road and another at a neutral site, I have to assume that we will lose at least two of them, and if you go strictly by odds, you have to assume you lose three games in which you assume you have a 50/50 shot of winning. As an optimist, though, I'll say we win four of them and end up 7-5.

If we do end up 7-5 and go to a decent bowl game, then I would consider the season a success. As much as I love what Frank Martin has done with K-State basketball, I hate having to turn my full attention to basketball by the end of November. A late-December trip to a bowl game would be a welcome change.

Thanks to the SB Nation blog Bring on the Cats for answering our questions. Visit them year round for all your Kansas State Wildcats sporting needs. You can also follow them on Twitter @bringonthecats.

Next Up: Texas Tech Red Raiders

2010 Previews
Big 12- Missouri Tigers
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies


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