•  Register
6

2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #14 Kansas State

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 6, 2014

#14 Kansas State Wildcats

 

2013 Recap:

A 3-game losing streak near the start of last season along with a loss to North Dakota State caused many to write off the Wildcats. Yet Kansas State responded winning 6 out of 7 down the stretch with only a 41-31 loss to Oklahoma as a blemish on the record. 8-5 with a bowl victory over Michigan sets the table for a team that could contend for the Big 12 title this season.

 

Coaching:

What more can you say about Bill Snyder. Snyder and Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech are to their programs what Joe Paterno was to Penn State. Without Snyder there is no Kansas State football program and he has a veteran quarterback at the controls in 2014. This looks like the start of something special in Manhattan.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Having Jake Waters as the quarterback really improved the play of the Wildcats as a whole. When you think of Big-12 quarterbacks you think about Bryce Petty at Baylor and young Trevor Knight at Oklahoma. After that there is a big dropoff when you think about who is the #3 quarterback in the conference. For us Waters is that quarterback and he got better and better as the season wore on. It's not always about what Waters did, but what he didn't do. He shows uncanny instincts when avoiding trouble, stepping up in the pocket  when feeling a rush or throwing the ball away. The decision making is already there so Waters is way ahead of the game as he enters his senior season.

The question on offense is the running game as John Hubert is gone and the top returning rushers are the quarterbacks. This looks like a running back by committee approach as nobody has stepped up and assumed the starting spot. There is enough depth that the Wildcats should get their yards, but they need a face for the running game or they could come out of the blocks sputtering like last season.

Best Draft Prospect: Jake Waters QB UFA 2015.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Kansas State system has been known more for their running backs and running quarterbacks, but we have a change from the norm in Tyler Lockett. Lockett had an amazing 81 catches for nearly 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is currently listed as a 2nd round prospect and that is aided by his return ability, another area where he is near, if not at, the top of return men in the country. Lockett had 42% of the Wildcats catches and his work in the open field makes him dangerous, reinforcing the fact that you want the ball in his hands. Curry Sexton is back as a starter and he should primarily be working the slot as he did last season. Sexton did not visit the end zone often or at all for that matter but was responsible for moving the chains often.

Zach Trujillo is back at tight end and he is capable of stretching the field if utilized a little more often. The interesting note about the receivers is that last year's opening day starting quarterback Daniel Sams is now at receiver himself. We will see how well knowing the offense from the quarterback position translates when trying to be a target for the current quarterback.

Best Draft Prospect: Tyler Lockett WR 2nd Round 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

Kansas State should challenge Oklahoma as having the best overall offensive line in the conference, with a very underrated unit that only has two returning starters from last season. Cody Whitehair has an outside shot of going pro after this season with a strong campaign. Whitehair has been a starter since his freshman season and has played both tackle spots and left guard, with at least 5 starts at each position. He has started in 25 of the 26 games in which he has appeared for Kansas State. Whitehair is currently graded as a 3rd round prospect for 2016, and senior center B.J. Finney is among the top 5 at his position in the entire country. Finney is a terrific run blocker with a low center of gravity and is the natural leader for Kansas State. Will Ash looks like he has won the left guard job while the right tackle spot is down to Luke Hayes and Matt Kleinsorge. Aderius Epps should get most of the snaps at right guard with freshman Dalton Risner getting some playing time before taking over for Finney next season. This is one of the ten best offensive lines in the country and Kansas State needs to utilize their strengths to make a run at the Big-12 title.

Best Draft Prospect: Cody Whitehair OT 3rd Round 2016.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Ryan Mueller came out of nowhere last year to post one of the most impressive defensive campaigns in the country, with 62 tackles, 18.5 coming for loss, 11.5 sacks, and 6 pass breakups. Yes, he was even 3rd on the team breaking up passes. Can he do it again now that teams will know about him at the start of the season? There is some other talent returning along the line but the player other than Mueller who we feel will make the biggest impact is Terrell Clinkscales, who was not at Kansas State last season. Anyone who follows or knows the Kansas State program knows they utilize the JUCO ranks as much and as well as any team in the nation. Clinckscales seems to be the big prize this year and he should help the interior pass rush along with the returning Travis Britz, who contributed 3 sacks in 2013. This should be an active line with some help off the bench. The real key here is for someone other than Mueller to show they can get a consistent pass rush, to take the pressure off him and avoid teams constantly double teaming him.

Best Draft Prospect: Ryan Mueller DE/LB 4th Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

D'Vonta Derricott will be a new starter at linebacker and like Clinkscales he comes to K-State via the JUCO ranks. Will Davis and Charmeachealle Moore will battle for the other outside linebacker position and neither one is a returning starter. This means the only returning starter at linebacker for the Wildcats is middle linebacker and late round 2015 Draft prospect Jonathan Truman. He led the Wildcats in tackles with 89 last season, although he is not known for having huge range. What Truman brings is leadership and sound tackling skills. Nick Ramirez is another big player at linebacker but he is a freshman which shows the inexperience Kansas State has at linebacker. The Wildcats have remarkable athletes in the middle of the defense, but they just have to gain some experience early on so they don't look lost when conference play begins.

Best Draft Prospect: Jonathan Truman LB 7th Round 2015.

 

Secondary:

The secondary was the key component to last year's team and with players like Ty Zimmerman they also brought the most returning experience to the table. This year Dante Barnett is the man and the question is whether he will be the man for one or two years. Barnett is a junior but he is already a high draft prospect, currently carrying a 3rd round grade for 2016. He will be a fringe player for this draft but with a big year he could move up the board and make the plunge. After a 75-tackle and 4-interception season there isn't that much room for improvement. Randall Evans is also a draft prospect and the senior cornerback seems most comfortable in zone although his man-to-man skills seem to be improving. Danzel McDaniel is yet another JUCO player that could be a starter on defense for Kansas State as he is in a neck-and-neck battle with junior Morgan Burns to play opposite Evans at corner.  Kansas State will have some formatiosn where they flirt with a rover or add a 5th defensive back, so look for Travis Green to be the player they use most in these situations outside the normal starting lineup.

Best Draft Prospect: Dante Barnett S 3rd Round 2016.

 

Special Teams:

Tyler Lockett has four touchdowns in the last two seasons, which is all you need to know about his abilities. If Lockett is not used on punt returns expect Morgan Burns to be the likely starter on special teams. Mitch Lochbihler is the new punter to go along with returning kicker Jack Cantele. Cantele missed only 2 field goals last season and he was perfect inside of forty yards.

Best Draft Prospect: Tyler Lockett WR/KR 2nd Round 2015.

 

Schedule:

A home game against Auburn will be a quick litmus test to see just where this team stands early on. The bad part of the schedule is the two toughest teams in the conference, Oklahoma and Baylor, are both road games for the Wildcats. This is a rougher conference schedule than last season but certainly not impossible to score a high win total.

 

Draft Outlook:

Tyler Lockett and Ryan Mueller will certainly represent Kansas State well and ensure they have some high round prospects if things go according to plan. Cody Whitehair and Dante Barnett are interesting in that each has a chance to come out as a junior. As you can see the cupboard is far from bare for Kansas State.

 

< Previous: #15 USC   Next: #13 LSU >