Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
2011: 10-3 overall, 7-2 in Big 12, lost in Cotton Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 8, defense 6.
Kansas State won 10 games, finished second in the Big 12 and earned a bid to the Cotton Bowl to become one of the most surprising stories last season.
In 2012, Kansas State goes from the hunter to the hunted. The Wildcats return 18 starters (second-most in the Big 12, eighth-most nationally) and will favored to again contend for the Big 12 title. K-State's motivation last season involved disproving the preseason rankings that had it pegged to finish 8th. This year's motivation is to stay hungry.
"Complacency is a major aspect of college athletics," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "I would like to think that won't take place but it will be interesting to see how this team responds. It's gonna require some great leadership. The bottom line is 'Don't forget how you got there.'
"We played a lot of close games that could have gone either way. Our record easily could have been the reverse of what it was. We have to realize we were fortunate in last year and we have to realize how we became fortunate."
A number of Kansas State's victories were nail-biting head scratchers. The Wildcats were outgained by its Big 12 foes by nearly 107 yards per game and they ranked 101st in total defense. Despite those statistical disadvantages, K-State's only regular-season losses came to Big 12 champion Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, the preseason favorite to win the title.
Quarterback Collin Klein had a remarkable season. He provided a bulk of the team's offense, often by running the football. Klein carried it 317 times and scored 27 rushing touchdowns. One of the main objectives this spring has been to improve the passing game. Klein has a number of talented receivers plus running back John Hubert gained 970 yards rushing in the Wildcats' grind-it-out attack.
"Distributing the ball and finding more balance has been a goal of ours," Klein said. "We want to be the best we can possibly be in all facets, but we know there's more out there."
The defense should again be solid. Senior middle linebacker Arthur Brown made an immediate impact last year in his first season as a starter. Replacing safety Tysyn Hartman and tackling machine David Garrett will be challenging but senior corner back Nigel Malone had seven interceptions last season. Tom Hayes replaces Chris Cosh as the defensive coordinator.
Left offensive tackle Zach Hanson, right offensive tackle Clyde Aufner, guard Colten Freeze, defensive tackle Ray Kibble, safety Tysyn Hartman, linebacker/defensive back David Garrett.
Linebacker Mike Moore, safety Jarard Milo, running back Robert Rose, running back DeMarcus Robinson, quarterback Daniel Sam, quarterback Tay Bender.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Klein, younger brother of Kansas State's senior quarterback, arrived on campus last season expecting to play defensive end. He was moved to tight end and now has been moved to wide receiver. At 6-3, 217 pounds Klein gives Kansas State size at a position where most of its players are less than six feet tall.
Darren Sproles is a K-State legend. The diminutive running back helped the Wildcats record one of its greatest uspets when it shocked top-ranked Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 Championship game. Kansas State has two more pocket-sized backs who have impressed the coaching staff. Robert Rose is 5-4 and gained 88 yards on 10 carries in the spring game. DeMarcus Robinson had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He's 5-6.
Redshirt freshman Daniel Sams and freshman Tay Bender are the leading candidates to be Collin Klein's backup at quarterback. Not only is it important to find someone in case Klein gets banged up, Klein is a senior and K-State will need a new starter in 2013. "That's very significant and very important for us," coach Bill Snyder said.
"We've been getting better since last season. Everybody who was out there played last season, so we knew what we wanted to do. We were still pretty basic, but it was just a glimpse of what we can do. All us guys, we've been there about three years, so we're really comfortable in the system."
- senior receiver Chris Harper on the spring game
"We're working hard as a unit, and that's one thing that we have to do. We know that the success of the team is very much riding on the offensive line, and we are stepping up to the challenge to hopefully make this a successful season."
- offensive lineman B.J. Finney
"This spring ball is the first time we've had a returning quarterback who knows the offense inside and out. We started right where we left off in the fall. We've been able to progress and move forward from that and put in a more complex system."
- tight end Travis Tannahill
|Sept. 1||Missouri State|
|Sept. 8||Miami (Fla.)|
|Sept. 15||North Texas|
|Sept. 22||at Oklahoma*|
|Oct. 13||at Iowa State*|
|Oct. 20||at West Virginia*|
|Oct. 27||Texas Tech*|
|Nov. 3||Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 10||at TCU*|
|Nov. 17||at Baylor*|