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May 25, 2013

2013 Spring Recap: Kansas State

Kansas State, like most of its counterparts in the Big 12, enters the summer offseason with a question mark at quarterback. Collin Klein led the team to 21 wins, two premier bowl games and a conference championship in his two seasons as a starter but his eligibility has been exhausted, leaving a huge void for the Wildcats and legendary head coach Bill Snyder to fill.

KANSAS STATE AT-A-GLANCE
Kansas State has finished the last two seasons ranked in the top 15 of the AP Poll .
THE BASICS
Coach: Bill Snyder
Last season: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in the Big 12. Lost 35-17 to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
RETURNING STARTERS
(minimum of seven starts in 2012)
Offense (7):OC B.J. Finney, RB John Hubert, WR Tyler Lockett, OT Cornelius Lucas, OT Tavon Rooks, OG Keenan Taylor, OG Cody Whitehair
Defense (2): DB Randall Evans, DB Ty Zimmerman,
Special teams (1): LS Marcus Heit
Finding a replacement for Klein will get most of the attention, but K-State's defense also took a huge hit from graduation and returns just two players who started seven or more games in 2012.

We caught up with GoPowerCat.com's Tim Fitzgerald for the latest on the Wildcats.

THE SPRING LEAD

"The headline grabbing story is the fact K-State needs to replace Collin Klein," Fitzgerald said. "They have some pretty good candidates. Daniel Sams was his backup last year and will be a sophomore and then they signed the national junior college player of the year, Jake Waters, out of Iowa Western who was here for the spring too.

"They had their first true quarterback duel in a long, long time. They have kind of contrasting styles. Sams is a little bit of a runner and Waters completed more than 70 percent of his passes at the JUCO level. They're advertised to be different, but they're really a little more similar than people maybe realize. Sams has improved his passing and Waters can run the ball."

While it's likely all in good fun, there is a noticeable division among the K-State fanbase between fans of Sams and Waters.

"You'll see K-Staters hashtagging 'TeamWaters' or 'TeamSams,'" Fitzgerald said. "It's something more just for fun. They're pretty good friends. It's intriguing. It's a throwback to many years ago when Ell Roberson was a sophomore -- a junior college kid came in and pushed him.

"So it's really meant for competition. It seems like Daniel Sams has responded by working out some of the things some of the coaches maybe had some doubts about him -- leadership, decision making with the throwing game. I think it was a tie at the end of the spring and it will pick up in the fall just the way Bill Snyder would like it after competing all summer."

Quarterback should be okay, aside from the usual first-year issues, regardless of who Snyder chooses between the two.

The more pressing issue is replacing six players of the Wildcats' front seven from last season.

"The one player who returns out of that group is Tre Walker and he's recovering from a knee injury so he wasn't even available for full contact," Fitzgerald said. "That really is a rebuilding process of a defense that was pretty productive last year.

"I'd say to two big stories had different types of results. I think they left the spring pretty pleased with quarterbacks and there are a lot of questions on defense."

BIGGEST SURPRISE

The Wildcats are almost the opposite of Texas Tech on defense -- lots of questions about the front seven, but feeling good about the defensive backfield.

"They turned out to have some pretty good depth at cornerback," Fitzgerald said. "That was another position they were a little bit worried about. They had some young guys really learn at that spot and some guys that we thought might move into starting roles really found themselves in competitive environments.

"They haven't sorted out who the starters will be, but they've got five or six guys at corner they feel pretty good about. I think that was a big surprise so many players emerged all at one spot."

KEY CONCERN

With just two players returning that started seven or more games, KSU's biggest concern at this point is obviously the defense.

As Fitzgerald said, Snyder and company aren't convinced their defensive front is ready for the Big 12's best.

"They have some high school kids that they might be counting on for depth along the defense," Fitzgerald said. "They have some more junior college kids coming in. Those guys are going to have to do an incredible job of getting themselves ready to play in the fall. If they're not ready, K-State's defense won't be ready."

QUICK HITS

Missed Significant Time: LB Tre Walker (knee), RB John Hubert (knee), RB B.J. Finney (undisclosed).

Position Switches: Glenn Gronkowski, brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, was at one point expected to play tight end but will likely end up as the starting fullback.

Schedule Note: Kansas State will only leave the state of Kansas three times during the regular season. ... The Wildcats open up Big 12 play with back-to-back road games at Texas and Oklahoma State. ... KSU will end the season with the Sunflower Showdown. In Bill Snyder's 21 seasons as head coach, Kansas State is 17-4 against Kansas -- only one loss since 1992 -- and has outscored the Jayhawks 754-276.


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