Sticking with my alliterative subject titles, let's nominate today as Offensive Tackle Thursday, shall we?
Although K-State's offensive line is considered by most to be a position of real strength in 2010, and perhaps one of the best units in the Big 12, that's mostly predicated on the returning experience in the middle of line.
There's considerably more uncertainty at the tackle positions, however. How those questions are answered will have a big say in the amount of success the Wildcats' offense can have this season.
At left tackle, there's an extremely heated battle to replace four-year starter and All-Big 12 honoree Nick Stringer.
Meanwhile, a rumored injury to returning junior starter Clyde Aufner could throw into flux a position thought to be solid.
After the jump, I'll the highlight the six major candidates to bracket this group of hogmollies for the next four months.
Since I have limited time to compose this post, I'll cover all the walk-ons and bench players tomorrow when I address the interior offensive line — even though I fully acknowledge some of those players may end up at tackle in the future.
#70 Zach Hanson
I remember being impressed when Ron Prince signed the 6-8, 320+ Hanson out of a California junior college. After all, he was unusually tall and large for a Prince recruit. Ol' Ronny liked 'em skinny, athletic and insanely weak, I guess. Anyhow, Zach lucked out by having to redshirt in 2008 and thus avoided ever having to play for B&D*. After a season spent as Stringer's primary backup, Zach entered spring as the nominal favorite to claim Nick's spot. But as you'll see below, he's facing some stiff competition from ... who else? Another 300-pounder from a California junior college.
*Bold & Daring
#71 Ethan Douglas
Sophomore Ethan Douglas has followed a similar career trajectory to Hanson, redshirting in 2008 and appearing as a reserve in two games in 2009. He's versatile enough to play multiple spots on the line, but was spotted taking first-team reps at right tackle during Aufner's absence at Fan Appreciation Day.
#72 Kaleb Drinkgern
Aside from having an awesome last name, Kaleb brings two games' worth of backup experience at tackle from both 2008 and 2009. He nearly didn't redshirt in 2007 when Stringer was suffering from some injuries and he actually traveled to Auburn as a reserve, so he's no stranger to big atmospheres.
#73 Manase Foketi
This darkhorse to start the UCLA game at left tackle potentially could make the biggest juco impact on the O-line since Alesana Alesana (although hopefully without all the damn false starts). What do we know about him? Well, he weighed 350 when we signed him, although he showed up to fall camp at 325. He hails from Mt. San Antonio College in California, which might be where he got his nickname — "Mt. Foketi." Finally, we know that Bill Snyder was impressed with his film, describing him as "blocking kids clear across the screen" on running plays. He's also supposed to be a hell of a run-blocker. Foketi has a redshirt year available, but given our pressing need for a solid left tackle to protect Carson Coffman's blind side, I'm not sure he'll be using it.
#75 Clyde Aufner
Fear the beard! Aufner, if healthy, will give us four returning starters on the offensive line who started at least 10 games last season — a first in either Bill Snyder era. But he missed the entire spring due to injury, and some rumors have him potentially out for the season. However, he was in pads at Fan Appreciation Day, which doesn't seem like something you'd be wearing if you were staring at a lost year. Some attendees said they were told he and center Wade Weibert merely were sitting out Saturday's practice after a taxing 140-play scrimmage Friday. I guess we'll see in a week or so.
#78 Cornelius Lucas
The coaches were extremely high on this kid last season, but Aufner's emergence allowed them to redshirt the youngster from "Nawlins." Good thing, too, because we'll need him in the years to come. Hell, if Aufner's out for the season, we might need Mr. Lucas this year. We're probably one more injury from this 6-8, 318-pound monster seeing significant playing time or even starting as a redshirt freshman.
Depth Chart Predictions (if Aufner is healthy)
- Starter: Zach Hanson (spring gives him the edge — for now...)
- Starter: Clyde Aufner
Depth Chart Predictions (if Aufner is out for the season)
- Starter: Manase Foketi
- Starter: Zach Hanson