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College Football Preview 2014-2015: 19. Kansas State Wildcats

Daniel Sams
19. Kansas State Wildcats

Coach: Bill Snyder (23rd year)
2013-2014 Record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12)

August 30th vs. Stephen F. Austin
September 6th @ Iowa State
September 18th vs. Auburn
September 27th vs. UTEP
October 4th vs. Texas Tech
October 18th @ Oklahoma
October 25th vs. Texas
November 1st vs. Oklahoma State
November 8th @ TCU
November 20th @ West Virginia
November 29th vs. Kansas
December 6th @ Baylor

Considering the fact that the Wildcats lost their heart and soul when Collin Klein graduated, going 8-5 and posting a winning mark in the Big 12 was a major success. Junior college transfer Jake Waters and speedy Daniel Sams manned the quarterback position left vacant after Klein, while the defense proved to be one of the Big 12's strongest. With Waters returning at QB and a ton of offensive weapons surrounding him, the Wildcats have the legitimate talent to make a run at a conference championship.

Backfield: Coach Bill Snyder did what he does best; develop a JUCO recruit into a fantastic player at the FBS level. Waters, the top ranked QB recruit coming out of the JUCO ranks last year, threw for 2,469 yards with 18 touchdowns and grew better as the season progressed. He split time with Sams, a dual threat, in 2013-2014 but Sams moved to wide receiver this offseason, resting the quarterback duties fully on Waters. Waters has a huge arm with deceptive mobility and he rarely makes mistakes, he could be a breakout talent this season. John Hubert, who rushed for 1,048 yards last year, is gone at running back, opening up the door for either senior DeMarcus Robinson or talented freshman Dalvin Warmack. Robinson has been very quiet in his career in Manhattan and had just five carries last season but the tools are there for him to have a big year. He is an elusive back with pretty decent speed and he is very shifty. If he doesn't put it together expect Warmack to get some opportunities. Warmack is a speedy offensive weapon from Blue Springs, Missouri who had a monster senior season in high school. Rob Gronkowski's brother, Glenn, is likely the starter at fullback, the sophomore is a decent blocker who can make plays coming out of the backfield as a receiver.

Receivers: Once just a special teams demon, senior Tyler Lockett has developed into one of the nation's best receivers. Lockett had 81 receptions and 1,262 yards in his junior campaign and will benefit from Waters' move to full-time quarterback; the two seemed to have a great connection in 2013. Lockett is a versatile receiver that can burn you deep and can also do severe damage after the catch. Returning alongside him is senior Curry Sexton, another experienced, proven pass-catcher. Not nearly as explosive as Lockett, Sexton relies on his great hands and ability to find the soft spots in defenses. Sams' move from quarterback to receiver should give the 'Cats another explosive threat on the outside to work with. His impressive speed was on display last year when he racked up 807 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground as a QB. JUCO product Andre Davis arrives from Santa Rosa, California, to give K-State another weapon. Senior tight end Zach Trujillo returns and could make some plays in the passing game.

Offensive Line: Even with three-time All-Big 12 center B.J. Finney returning, the offensive line has some notable holes on it. Finney is a great overall center with experience and pretty impressive athleticism. Junior Cody Whitehair is also back, and he could move to left tackle this year, he is gifted with valuable versatility. Starting alongside him on the left side of the line will likely be guard Will Ash, a sophomore with a very high ceiling. Ash towers over defenders, he is 6'2" and nearly 340 pounds, but he still moves pretty well for being that big. Two Colorado commits, offensive tackle Alec Ruth and center Dalton Risner add depth to the unit, very important considering the unit is not very deep at all.

Ryan Mueller
Defensive Line: Defensive end Ryan Mueller came out of nowhere to have a monster 2013 season, racking up 11.5 sacks along with 18.5 tackles for loss. Those 11.5 sacks were good enough for eight nationally and with seven starters gone on this defense, Snyder and the Wildcats will rely on Mueller even more. The senior has great athleticism and the high motor to make plays all across the field, he could put together an even more impressive season. Up the middle, junior Travis Britz returns to give Kansas State another valuable talent on the D-Line. Britz has a big frame, at 6'4", 290+ pounds but he is exceptionally quick for a defensive tackle and he can be very disruptive, he had 3 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss last year. The other defensive tackle slot is a bigger question, as Chris Brown, Valentino Coleman and JUCO commit Terrell Clinkscales will compete for the job. Clinkscales is the fourth-rated DT in this year's junior college class and a four-star stud who has the talent to put together an impressive year; even if he doesn't start he could still find ways to make an impact. The other defensive end spot will be platooned by the combination of Laton Dowling and Marquel Bryant, with Bryant likely getting the bulk of the snaps.

Linebackers: Although Blake Slaughter, the team's leading tackler last season is gone the Wildcats still have some hope for this linebacker group because of the return of Jonathan Truman. Truman was second on the team in tackles in 2013, recording 89 and also managing to rack up 4.5 tackles for loss. Senior Dakorey Johnson returns to man the middle linebacker position and provides valuable experience and is a great wrap-up tackler. The strength of this recruiting class is at the linebacker position as Snyder landed a number of junior college talents and also some other impact recruits. Outside linebacker D'Vonta Derricott is a ferocious beast of the edge who was dominant in the JUCO ranks. He could give them a dynamic pass rusher who can make his impact felt on every single play. Starting at one of the outside linebacker slots should be junior Charmeachealle Moore, an experienced 'backer with great instincts and developed coverage capabilities.

Secondary: Much like the rest of this defense, the secondary also loses a very important contributor, as four-year starter Ty Zimmerman graduated this off season. Zimmerman was an athletic safety who was a hard-hitter who could also be very important in coverage. The loss of Zimmerman will hurt but junior Dante Barnett returns ready for a big year at free safety. Barnett struggled early last year but improved dramatically and was the star of Kansas State's 31-14 beating of Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Versatile senior Randall Evans can do it all; the experienced playmaker can play either safety or cornerback and has the athleticism and knowledge to play either very effectively. The other cornerback position could go to another junior college transfer, in Danzel McDaniel. The talent from Dodge City CC in Kansas, has good size and has the makeup of a shutdown corner. The big question is who will replace Zimmerman at that strong safety spot. Nobody emerged in the spring and it could be a glaring weakness for this team. Perhaps true freshman Kaleb Prewett, a young versatile star, can spend time there. Also expect him to contribute at cornerback or even on special teams.

Special Teams: The return of Lockett is not just pivotal in the passing game, the senior can do severe damage as a returner. The explosive athlete has been one of the nation's best kickoff returners for years but has also grown into a player who can make plays as a punt returner as well. Kicker Jack Cantele returns for his senior season after knocking down 11 of 13 on his field goal attempts.

Although once more Kansas State suffers a number of losses on both sides of the ball, Bill Snyder has built a formula for winning: landed junior college players who can fill specific needs. If Waters continues to improve and Sams can develop into a deep threat this offense could be very fun to watch, although perhaps one-dimensional. If defensive end Mueller continues his dominance the defense should still be solid and the Wildcats could very well be a darkhorse in the Big 12 and in the nation.

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