Bill Snyder is a mad scientist when it comes to building a roster and developing talent.
His challenge this offseason for Kansas State might be one of his biggest, however, as the Wildcats lose a glut of elite senior leaders.
Will Kansas State likely outperform their preseason expectations anyway? Probably. But that will require more wizardry from Snyder this spring.
5 Storylines to Watch in Kansas State’ Spring Practice:
1. Who replaces Jake Waters at quarterback?
Waters wasn’t an elite talent but he was a great leader and consistently willed his team to wins. He must be replaced this spring. Joe Hubener will have the first crack at earning the starting job as he brings a similar skill set to the table as Waters and previous starter Collin Klein. However, Jesse Ertz and early enrollee Alex Delton will be in the mix this spring.
2. Find pass catchers
Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton both topped 1,000 yards receiving last season, the first time a WR duo had done so in Kansas State history. Both are gone along with dependable tight end Zach Trujillo. Kody Clark has some upside and played well in a supporting role last fall. Deante Burton, Judah Jones, Stanton Weber and Andre Davis should all get plenty of looks on the outside. Someone needs to step up as KSU looks to find dependable pass catchers.
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3. Plug holes in the front seven
End Ryan Mueller and leading tackler Jonathan Truman are both gone along with tackle Valentino Coleman and linebacker Dakorey Johnson. Mueller will be the toughest one to replace, so finding a pass rusher is a top priority this spring. Jordan Willis needs to take the next step. There are plenty of linebackers on the depth chart prepared to step in and fill voids — Will Davis, Elijah Lee, Charmeachealle Moore — but setting the depth chart this spring is key.
4. Find a consistent running game
All-American center B.J. Finney needs to be replaced up the middle on an offense that ranked just 104th nationally in rushing offense last year. Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson return to the left side of the line but this unit must improve on the ground. Leading rusher among running backs Charles Jones is still around, but there is no experienced depth behind him. Settling the O-line, finding some backs and getting a push up front needs to be a focus this offseason.
5. Junior college contributors
Snyder has made a living on providing instant depth with junior college transfers during his time in Manhattan. Kansas State didn’t enroll a single JUCO prospect this spring, but a large group that failed to contribute much last season could be ready to step into prominent roles. The aforementioned Davis, offensive lineman A.J. Allen, nose guard Terrell Clinskcales and cornerback Jesse Mack could be the top names to watch from a ’14 class that included nine JUCOs.
Pre-Spring Outlook on Kansas State:
Kansas State is always better than most expect. But this team has major holes to fill at key positions after losing historically great players. Quarterback and the defensive front seven are big areas of concern but there are options in the cupboard for Snyder. Should these two areas come into focus, the Wildcats could once again surprise in the Big 12.