Kansas State Wildcats
Bill Snyder will one day star in a film where he plays a character called "Time Immortal". He has now been at Kansas State forever, with that short hiatus where some very foolish administrators actually believed Ron Prince to be a head coach. Health is starting to show some issues for the venerable old coach, and the end of his run may truly be coming, but is this a season where he could pull one last rabbit from his sleeve and lead a dark horse team into the trenches to steal some thunder?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
It can be said that Jesse Ertz was never 100% last season, and he underwent shoulder surgery immediately after the season ended. He is in full recovery, and Snyder has stated in recent days that he has never seen Ertz throw the ball as well as he is right now in rehab. Ertz should be ready to go full speed in fall camp, and if his shoulder is better, and he gets unleashed in the passing game, he could be one of the more interesting stories at QB in the nation. He passed for a limited 1755 yards last fall, and added over 1200 yards rushing. If he can pass for over 2000 yards this season and keep the rushing totals churning, he could be a dark horse Heisman guy when all is said and done.
Ertz should have a solid wall in front of him, as four starters return on the line. Abdul Beecham, Scott Frantz, Reid Najvar, and Dalton Risner will all anchor up front this fall, with one position left open. Six other lettermen all return.
Byron Pringle, the leading receiver and biggest deep threat on the team will return to lead the receiving corps. Pringle caught 39 passes for 631 yards and four scores last fall, and averaged 16.18 yards per grab. Five of the top six WRs from last season also return in Dominique Heath, Isaiah Zuber, Isaiah Harris, Corey Sutton, and Zach Reuter. Matthew McCrane wil return as a senior to anchor the kicking game after finishing with 11 FGs in 14 attempts last fall. He also managed to nail all 29 PAT attempts he tried.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Ertz has got to be healthy this season, because the Wildcats can really use a top notch passer to keep them in the track meets that Big 12 games can often turn into. The Wildcats did manage to score 32.2 points per game last fall, but one area of concern that can effect that to the negative is their run game. After Ertz, there is no true home run threat in the run game. Charles Jones has moved on, leaving a trio of backs in Justin Silmon, Alex Barnes, and Dalvin Warmack who combined for 163 carries as a group last fall. Someone needs to seriously step up and become a 150 carry back this fall, and 200 carries would be even better.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Kansas State is annually one of the only teams in Big 12 play that chooses to make a stand on defense, as the Wildcats allowed just 22.3 points per game last season.
Three starters return on the line in DTs Trey Dishon and Will Geary, and DE Reggie Walker. Walker was a leader in this unit last season despite playing as a freshman. He finished with 11.5 TFLs on the year from the edge. Geary and Dishon combined for 11 TFLs coming up the middle and through the gaps.
The secondary also returns three starters in Kendall Adams, DJ Reed, and Duke Shelley. Reed was one of the best coverage guys in the nation, as he finished with 16 PBUs last fall. He also tied for the team lead with three INTs. Adams picked off two passes and finished with 62 tackles. Shelley also finished with three INTs and four PBUs, and finished with 48 tackles.
Nick Walsh is back at Punter after averaging 42.78 yards per punt last fall. If he should falter, Mitch Lochbihler averaged 46.6 yards per punt on just five tries last season.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The entire middle of the field is a huge void right now, as every starting LB must be replaced in fall camp. One of the most productive LB corps in the nation last year loses a massive amount of production, and the answers will have to be found quickly. Chase Johnston, Jayd Kirby, Sam Sizelove, and Elijah Sullivan are the only letter winners from 2016 that are returning, and that will not be enough for finding new starters and providing decent depth. This may be one of the deepest voids that you will find anywhere in the nation this season.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Central Arkansas, 9/9 Charlotte, 9/16 at Vanderbilt, 9/30 Baylor, 10/7 at Texas, 10/14 TCU. 10/21 Oklahoma, 10/28 at Kansas, 11/4 at Texas Tech, 11/11 West Virginia, 11/18 at Oklahoma State, 11/25 Iowa State
Kansas State has enough on this roster on offense to make some noise in Big 12 play, but their questions, specifically on defense at LB, are too many to actually see the Wildcats being able to get close to contending for a conference title. I do see the Wildcats taking somewhat of a step back this season, but the biggest question may be at this point, after a throat cancer scare, how many of these seasons does Bill Snyder have in the tank? Kansas State likely finishes in the middle of the league, gets a bowl game, and we get to assess this question again next spring.