The case for opening the playbook early

COLUMBIA MO - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Collin Klein #7 of the Kansas State Wildcats passes during the game against the Missouri Tigers on November 13 2010 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

More or less since the end of last season a lot of people, here on this site and elsewhere, have been pointing out the fairly obvious fact that other teams are going to read the K-State scouting report and put massive numbers of defenders in the box to stop Collin Klein and the 'Cats' run-centered attack.

This is quite true, I'm sure, but it may not be giving enough credit to Snyder and his schemes. The fact is K-State does have a lot of different running plays and when you give yourself the extra blocker by running with an able quarterback, even 9 or 10 guys in the box isn't guaranteed to stop anything.

If they wanted to, I think K-State could probably more or less run over its first three opponents (even Miami) without much more than a few passes every now and then to keep the defense at least slightly honest. That being said, I really hope they don't.

In case you hadn't noticed, Kansas State has a very difficult schedule this season, beginning with the Sept. 22 Big 12 opener at Oklahoma. We also have a quarterback whose throwing abilities are very much in question, but have undoubtedly improved since the last time he took the field.

Norman is not a place where you want to have to see if your quarterback has what it takes to lead a much-needed air attack, and it's not like Oregon is on the noncon schedule. I really want to see everything except the trick plays in those first three games, even if Klein is actually unbreakable and capable of running the ball 25 times per game.

I still think someone should make sure Klein has a bloody elbow prior to the Missouri State game, but let's see him throwing balls short and long from the start. By no means should he be trying anything he can't do in practice, but it's an ideal time for him to gain some confidence and find out which receivers he can trust.

In the worst-case scenario, things go awry and the Missouri State game is a little closer that we would like (it wouldn't be the first time). Either way, the 'Cats should be able to make some of their better Big 12 opponents think twice of leaving receivers alone and by the end of the season, ideally we'll have a well-oiled, balanced offense to end the season with the brutal four-game stretch of OSU in Manhattan, at Texas TCU, at Baylor, and TCU Texas at Bill Snyder Stadium.

In fact, in a perfect world, K-State's passing game would become enough of a threat by then that they could switch back to the run-centric offense and destroy unsuspecting defenses. I know, I know. Now I'm just getting greedy.

Though it's certainly in Snyder's character to not show too much early in the season — which has led to many near disasters — I'm a little more optimistic the playbook will be opened up a bit more this year with a senior quarterback. Just take a quick look at the stats of the last 4 Snyder QBs who started in their final two seasons.

QB Comp./Att. Pct. Yds. TD INT Rat.
Bishop '97 80/185 43.2 1,557 13 8 128.5
Bishop '98 164/295 55.6 2,844 23 4 159.6
Beasley '99 90/203 44.3 1,805 14 7 134.9
Beasley '00 156/313 49.8 2,636 17 10 132.1
Roberson '02 91/175 52.0 1,580 7 4 136.5
Roberson '03 152/294 51.7 2,545 24 12 143.2
Coffman '09 71/117 60.7 860 2 4 121.2
Coffman '10 171/263 65.0 2,060 14 7 143.1

Of course, Coffman's numbers are a little misleading since he split time with Grant Gregory as a junior, but he also ceded some time to Klein the following season. Either way, he was certainly trusted to throw the ball more frequently in his final year at K-State.

That was the obvious trend for all of these quarterbacks, and it's also an encouraging sign that all of them (with the possible exception of Beasley) definitely had better senior seasons. Whether that was because they threw the ball more or if they threw the ball more and got better is something I suppose is open for debate.

What the table above doesn't mention is that every year, the team with a senior quarterback won at least as many or more games as the team the year before. If that trend's going to continue, Klein and the K-State passing attack will almost certainly have to step up to the next level.

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