COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Bill Snyder, 170-85-1 (21 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Dana Dimel, Del Miller | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tom Hayes
Will Daniel Sams take over as starting quarterback? Or is Jake Waters the man for the job? Those questions will hang over Kansas State until late August. The two quarterbacks were on an even footing throughout spring practices, and coach Bill Snyder is in no hurry to name a starter. Why should he be? He has two promising options.
Sams showed his athleticism while serving as Collin Klein’s backup last season, running for 235 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter of blowouts. He also has a strong arm but has rarely been asked to pass during games. After improving his playbook knowledge in the offseason, he believes he is ready to lead an offense. Waters comes to K-State a year removed from leading Iowa Western Community College to a national championship. He put up eye-popping stats along the way, and teammates rave about his throwing ability. Though he isn’t as quick as Sams, he is known as a mobile quarterback.
Whoever wins the job will be walking into a good situation. K-State’s entire starting offensive line is back, led by junior center B.J. Finney and massive (6'9", 328) left tackle Cornelius Lucas.
There is also ample talent at the skill positions, with the return of explosive receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson as well as running back John Hubert. Now a senior, Hubert has rushed for just under 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons.
Ty Zimmerman has earned all-conference honors in all three of his seasons with K-State and was named third-team All-America by the Associated Press last year. The safety may need to be even better as a senior.
K-State returns an inexperienced group on defense that will be looking to Zimmerman for big plays and leadership.
The Wildcats lose nine starters on defense, including all-conference linebacker Arthur Brown and talented pass-rusher Meshak Williams. K-State will break in four new defensive linemen, replace three starting linebackers and both cornerbacks.
Tre Walker, a former starter who is coming back from an injury, will be asked to lead at linebacker along with fellow senior Blake Slaughter. Ryan Mueller (two sacks in 2012) and Travis Britz will need to do more up front. Randall Evans is coming off a promising season as a member of K-State’s nickel defense, but he may need to switch to cornerback full time this year with the losses of Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman. Several junior college transfers will be in the mix for key roles in the secondary.
Anthony Cantele and Ryan Doerr were staples of K-State’s special teams unit in past seasons, so they won’t be easily replaced. Cantele’s younger brother, Jack, is the favorite to take over as kicker while a handful of players are competing at punter. The Wildcats are more stable in the return game. Thompson is always a threat as a punt returner, and Lockett is one of the nation’s top kick returners. They both scored touchdowns on returns last season.
K-State has improved its record each and every season since Snyder came out of retirement in 2009. From six wins his first year back to seven victories and a bowl game to 10 wins and the Cotton Bowl to 11 victories and a Big 12 championship last season — the Wildcats have continually gotten better.
But that upward trend will be difficult to continue with the losses of Heisman finalist Klein, wideout Chris Harper, Brown, and several other key defensive starters.
The Wildcats return enough talent to be a threat in the Big 12, but not enough for another BCS bowl.