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Kansas State Football: 2018 Wildcats Preview and Prediction

Alex Barnes, Kansas State Football

Alex Barnes, Kansas State Football

Kansas State has been the model of consistency in the Big 12 under Bill Snyder. This fall will be a transition season of sorts for the Wildcats with two new coordinators in place and nine starters having to be replaced on both sides of the ball. Kansas State should be able to run the ball effectively, but the passing game is an unknown with so many unproven pieces. The defense will be very inexperienced in the front seven, which could lead to growing pains in the pass-happy Big 12. But never count out on a Snyder-coached team.

Previewing Kansas State Football's Offense for 2018

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Kansas State Football/Big 12 Magazine

Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson both seem ready to start for the Wildcats, but only one of them can do so come September. Thompson, a sophomore, looked like K-State's quarterback of the future while completing 51-of-83 passes for 689 yards and five touchdowns last season. But then Delton, a junior, rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns in a Cactus Bowl victory over UCLA. New offensive coordinator Andre Coleman will likely wait until the end of summer practices to choose a starter.

The Wildcats won't lack backfield talent or depth this season. Alex Barnes, Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack are all back, and Mike McCoy seems ready to contribute. Barnes, a junior, returns as the lead back after rushing for 819 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He seems poised to top 1,000 yards this season.

Receiver could be a different story. Without Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath, it's unclear who exactly will be on the field for passing plays this season. Isaiah Zuber returns after catching 51 passes for 510 yards and four touchdowns. Dalton Schoen is also back coming off a 470-yard, three-touchdown season. They each should see larger roles. But K-State returns little else at the position. Former backups Isaiah Harris and Zach Reuter figure to get first crack at playing time.

Offensive line will be a strength. The Wildcats return all five starters up front. The best of the group is Dalton Risner, a senior who should be one of the best blockers in the Big 12, if not the country.

Previewing Kansas State Football's Defense for 2018

Trent Tanking and Jayd Kirby, the leading tacklers on last year's team, have both moved on. That means K-State is about to get a lot younger, and possibly more athletic, in the middle of its defense. The main candidates to start are Elijah Sullivan, Da'Quan Patton and Justin Hughes. Sullivan seems poised to take on the lead role after making 28 tackles and playing as the No. 3 linebacker last season.

Up front, K-State must try to replace defensive tackle Will Geary, the team's best run stopper and pass rusher last year. That's a lot to replace. The Wildcats will turn to Trey Dishon to lead in the middle with Drew Wiley, Eli Huggins, Joe Davies and Texas State transfer Jordan Mittie to help. Reggie Walker is back at end along with Bronson Massie and Kyle Ball.

In the secondary, Duke Shelley, Kendall Adams and Denzel Goolsby all return. But D.J. Reed, by far the team's top defensive back, left early for the NFL. That will put extra pressure on Shelley at cornerback and Adams and Goolsby at safety. It will be fascinating to see how new coordinator Blake Seiler adjusts.

Previewing Kansas State Football's Specialists for 2018

K-State will need a complete overhaul on special teams without Matthew McCrane (placekicker), Nick Walsh (punter), Byron Pringle (kick returner) and Reed (punt returner). Look for Warmack to be involved at the return slots, but competition will be wide open.

Final Analysis

K-State coach Bill Snyder has enough returning talent and experience to remain a factor in the Big 12, but it won't be easy with two new coordinators and uncertainty at key positions. The Wildcats started slow in each of the past two seasons before finishing strong and winning bowl games. They will need to play well from the get-go, especially with Mississippi State on the schedule, to reach higher levels this season.

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