Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a continuing series previewing 2013 Big 12 football and the prospects for every team in the conference in the coming season.
Kansas State Wildcats
(2012 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in the Big 12, co-champions)
Kansas State’s Big 12 opponents couldn’t wait for quarterback Collin Klein to finish his college career. He almost single-handidly willed the Wildcats to a combined 21 wins his final two seasons and a share of the Cats’ second conference title in the Big 12 era. But in the category of “Be careful what you ask for,” coach Bill Snyder has an uncanny record of finding diamonds in the rough when it comes to underrated quarterback talent.
It appears the longtime K-State coach may have done it once more in 2013, bringing in the National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year in junior quarterback Jake Waters. Waters had a 73 percent completion rate and threw for 39 touchdowns in leading his Iowa Western team to the NJCAA national championship last season. Even before Waters signed to come to K-State, though, the Cats had athletic quarterback Daniel Sams ready to go. Sams has a strong arm, but his biggest asset is what he can get done with his quick feet and deceptive speed.
Defensively, you can always count on a Bill Snyder-coached team to be well-disciplined and fundamentally sound on defense. Kansas State led the Big 12 last season in scoring defense (22.1 points per game) and was second-best in the league at stopping the run, yielding an average of 127 rushing yards per game.
“The game’s just getting faster and faster and faster, and defensively, it takes more than just conditioning,” said Snyder, who is in his 22nd season as head coach of the Wildcats. “So many people say – and I would be one of them – that you have to be a well-conditioned defensive football team in order to stay up or maintain the pace of the game, but there are so many other things that come into play as well, and part of it is just the ability to have the discipline to stay focused on your assignment and alignment and recognizing tendencies.”
The Wildcats’ second leading rusher last season (behind Klein), senior John Hubert, is back for his final year, and even after losing talented receiver Chris Harper, K-State shouldn’t miss a beat in the receiving department. Junior Tyler Lockett, who doubles as a dangerous kick returner, and senior Tramaine Thompson will become even more valuable as offensive weapons with a big, strong passer like Waters firing the ball their way.
About having to replace some key starters from last year’s team, Snyder had this to say at Big 12 Media Days: “Every year is going to be different, regardless of who you have back and the number of people you have back. We’ve been here before.” Indeed he has.
Tough back-to-back road contests at Texas and Oklahoma State in late September and early October will go a long way toward determining how successful the defending co-champions will be in 2013.
Projected 2013 finish: 5th, 8-4 overall, 5-4 in the Big 12
Next up: TCU Horned Frogs