By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: A closer-than-expected (21-17) win over FCS foe Massachusetts in the season opener had folks in Manhattan wondering whether or not the Wildcats were going to be able to compete against their Big 12 brethren. Those feelings of doubt grew stronger as losses to both UL-Lafayette
(17-15) and UCLA (23-9) exposed Kansas State as pretenders early in the
campaign. A 49-7 pasting of FCS member Tennessee Tech evened the team's
record, but the league slate was up next, and it promised to offer more than a
few speed bumps as the 'Cats looked forward to challenging for a division
A one-point win over Iowa State was a good start, but an embarrassing 66-14
loss at Texas Tech brought the team back to reality. Consecutive wins over
Texas A&M and Colorado restored some confidence, but losses in three of its
final four games cost K-State a shot at playing in the Big 12 title game.
Despite going 6-6 on the year, the Wildcats were left out of the postseason as
two of their wins came against FCS teams. Still, it was a positive turn of
events for Kansas State, and fans are clamoring for more as 2010 approaches.
OFFENSE: Running the ball was K-State's strength on offense last season, and
with four starters back along the offensive line, and 1,000-yard rusher Daniel
Thomas healthy and ready to make his senior year a banner one, expect the same
kind of production this fall. Thomas, who gained 1,265 yards and scored 11 TDs
in 2009, is already one of the better backs in the Big 12, but if the Wildcats
don't get steady QB play he could hear his number called even more, which
could result in him breaking down at some point.
Coach Bill Snyder not only likes the way Thomas plays the game, but also his
demeanor on and off the field, saying, "Daniel is a pleasant young person and
very team oriented, and he's very easy to communicate with, and he gets along
Senior Carson Coffman appears to have the inside track on nailing down the
starting QB job, but he will be pushed for playing time by some skilled
youngsters just waiting for their chance to shine. The KSU offense accounted
for just seven passing TDs all of last season, so getting the ball down the
field will be instrumental in keeping opposing defenses from cheating too much
in an attempt to limit the run game's ability to move the chains and score
points. The receiving corps is unproven, but there is talent in the form of
senior Aubrey Quarles and a couple of transfers in Brodrick Smith and Chris
DEFENSE: Last year the Wildcats were pretty stingy against the run (105.4
ypg), but somewhat lax in defending the pass (234.5 ypg). Maintaining the
former while improving the latter will obviously help K-State achieve its
goals this season. Only a handful of starters return, but the majority are in
the secondary which should help against the pass, but a lack of experience in
the front seven could mean a slide down the rankings when it comes to stopping
Coach Snyder had high praise for junior safety Tysyn Hartman when asked
recently about which players had impressed him the most in recent workouts.
"Tysyn [Hartman] has gone through some injuries, but I am pleased with the
progress he made during the spring, and he's a transformed QB/S. I think he's
developing into a leader, which is extremely important."
Outside of junior DE Brandon Harold, there isn't much in the way of proven
talent up front. Add a rather green collection of linebackers and it's really
anyone's guess as to how the Wildcats are going to measure up against the
better teams they will play this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Brandon Banks (four returns for TDs) was one of the more
electric kick returners in the country last season, but he is gone. Smith
could see the bulk of the kicks, although it wouldn't surprise anyone to see
Thomas back there. As for the kicking duties, senior Josh Cherry will be the
placekicker while sophomore Ryan Doerr is expected to handle punts.
OUTLOOK: It won't take long to see just how good this year's K-State team is
as it takes on UCLA right out of the chute. Continuing with a five-game
homestand to open the season, the Wildcats will then face Missouri State, Iowa
State (Big 12 opener), UCF and Nebraska before hitting the road to battle
Kansas on October 16th. Getting both Oklahoma State and Texas at home will
help them be competitive in those games, but a three-game trek to close the
regular season (Missouri, Colorado, North Texas) could prove daunting.
Do the 'Cats have what it takes to get the required six wins to earn bowl
eligibility this year? The jury is out on that one. What we do know is that
Snyder will have his team ready to battle week in and week out, and that kind
of preparedness, along with a solid defensive effort and efficient QB play
could get the team in a favorable position.