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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #35

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 10, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#35 Kansas State Wildcats

 

2012 Recap:

Kansas State was riding high for much of the season and head coach Bill Snyder looked like he was doing it again, getting Kansas State into the National Championship picture. After their upset of Oklahoma all looked well but with a loss along the way and a bowl loss to Oregon that put them at 11-2, it was not what many had hoped for after the surprising start to the season.

Coaching:

Bill Snyder continues to defy the odds and in little Manhatten, Kansas he brought Kansas State back to the college forefront for a second time after his return to coaching just a few seasons ago. Snyder and his 170 wins is a number he is looking to increase with a familiar recipe for 2013; plenty of JUCO transfers.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

To say departed Collin Klein was the heart and soul of this team would be an understatement. He was deserving of Heisman consideration, even if we all knew he had no chance beyond the FBS level. Daniel Sams was the backup from a season ago and many expect him to ascend to the starting spot, but I am not so sure. Kansas State does as well as any institution in the country when it comes to finding JUCO talent and they have a quarterback in Jake Waters that is turning some heads. Waters led Iowa Western to the JUCO national title and he is the dual threat Kansas State likes to employ. His arm-strength and overall passing skills are superior to Sams. If he can show the same command behind center in his new surroundings, I expect Waters to be the starter when the season starts or not long after.

John Hubert is a serviceable running back and he has a skilled fullback in front of him in junior Zach Nemecheck. I don’t see any real NFL prospects at these positions.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Tyler Lockett gives Kansas State the big time receiver they need to keep defenses honest in the Big 12. Lockett is a 3rd round draft candidate who has a penchant for making highlight reel-type catches. Lockett could see his value increase and allow him to go even higher if you factor in the special teams ability where he has four kick return touchdowns in the last two seasons. Lockett is a junior but with a weak senior receiving class he seems to be a lock to declare early.  If the name Lockett sounds familiar from Kansas State you may be thinking of his dad Kevin who is the all-time reception leader at the school. Fellow starting wideout Tramaine Thompson is another serviceable receiver who is just as valuable to special teams, as he is the punt return man and like Lockett, he is one of the best in the nation at his position.

Zach Trujillo is an underrated tight end who should make more people notice him this season. As a whole this is not a deep group but Kansas State will likely rely more on the ground game as they have in years past.

Best Draft Prospect: Tyler Lockett WR 3rd Round 2014 (Candidate to declare early).

 

Offensive Line:

This is without a doubt, the strongest portion of the Kansas State football team in terms of both talent and experience. All five starters return and two of these players are not only NFL prospects, but both look to be high picks at this time. Left tackle Cornelius Lucas comes in at just under 6'9" and 335 pounds and he has a ton of talent to go along with his size. His footwork is better than you see out of most players his size who tend to be slow or a bit clumsy. Lucas is in different mold in that he has real technique and can play a finesse type game; he isn’t just a mauler. Lucas has some bouts with inconsistency and will need to cut down on the holding penalties. Right now Lucas is a 2nd/3rd round prospect who is solid and his size will attract many teams as he looks the part of a natural left tackle. Cody Whitehair, Boston Stiverson and Keenan Taylor are also returning starters with our other standout center BJ Finney. Finney is my #2 center for 2015 and with a strong season he may decide to come out a year early, especially if he asserts himself as the best center for the class of 2015, which he has a shot at doing. This is not only the strength of the team but this may be the best starting unit in the Big 12 and that is saying a lot since the Big 12 cranks out quality lineman for the NFL year after year. If Kansas State has any shot at repeating as Big 12 champions the offensive line must stay solid and Kansas State could once again surprise.

Best Draft Prospect: BJ Finney OC 3rd Round 2015 (could declare for 2014 although unlikely), Cornelius Lucas OT 2nd/3rd Round 2014.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Meshak Williams was the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2012 and he has left a huge void along the line. Kansas State is still solid as they will employ a number of formations and players shifting positions to keep opposing offenses guessing. While Kansas State lost 8 of its top 10 tacklers from last year, they have always shown they are a deep team and that some talent is here, but just unproven. Defensive end Ryan Mueller will step into a starting role and he has shown glimpses of being a very solid player when given the chance. I have Mueller as a 7th round prospect for 2015 although he probably projects better as a pass rushing linebacker than at defensive end where he will line up for Kansas State. Devon Nash also comes to the Wildcats from Iowa Western, like quarterback Jake Waters, and we may see him earning a starting role at defensive end at some point.

Best Draft Prospect: Ryan Mueller DE/LB 7th Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

I chronicled how important Meshak Williams was to the line but the loss of linebacker Arthur Brown is even greater. Brown had exactly 100 tackles and is now in the NFL where I think he has a shot at being one of the most important rookie contributors in the league for the Baltimore Ravens as he tries to help a smooth transition from legend Ray Lewis. Blake Slaughter took a redshirt last year and sat out, and even though he stands just 5'10" he is a pesky defender who should emerge as the leader of the group. Jonathan Truman is another player who will see plenty of action and he will slip into the secondary as a rover for some of the Wildcats five defensive back formations.

Best Draft Prospect: Blake Slaughter UFA 2014.

 

Secondary and Special Teams:

The secondary is packed with players who know how to pick a quarterback's offering. Three players picked off 5 passes a piece in 2012 and cornerback Randall Evans was among the conference leaders for tackles from the cornerback position. Safety Ty Zimmerman is currently projected to go in the 3rd round in 2014 and has the ability to play both free and strong safety. Dante Barnett is another safety who seems to have a bright future. This group still needs the defensive line to get consistent pressure but they are among the better units in the Big 12 with speed at every position. We already talked about the special teams and how important Tyler Lockett and Trumaine Thompson are to the return game, but it should be a strong group.

Best Draft Prospect: Ty Zimmerman S 3rd Round 2014.

 

Schedule:

Three relatively easy games to start the season before reality sets in with road games at Texas and Oklahoma State. Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU all have to make the trek to Manhattan, Kansas this season, so after the first two road games the schedule is not too brutal for the Wildcats. Everyone expects a down year but I don’t think the dip will be as drastic as many seem to think. 7 or 8 wins seems easily attainable with solid quarterback play and some new blood stepping up on defense.

Draft Outlook:

There are some very nice players here but I want to wait until the end of the year to see just how many Wildcats declare (Lockett and/or Finney). Regardless while there doesn’t seem to be a first rounder on this team we could see five or even six Wildcats among rounds 2-3 in the next couple of campaigns.

 

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