Blue Ribbon has put out their 2012 preview of K-State which is free to ESPN insiders, like myself, but is blocked for non-insiders. So here it is for those of you who don't want to pay for it, enjoy. (since I'm pretty certain this isn't getting put on the front page its NOT going to contain a jump)
The Bill Snyder magic returned to Kansas State in 2011. The coach who turned the one-time nicknamed "Futility U" into a national power in his first stint in Manhattan engineered an unexpected 10-3 season after two bowl-less seasons to start his second go-around with the Wildcats.
And K-State did it in typical Snyder fashion -- winning the turnover battle, establishing the run, controlling the clock and making plays in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats started the year 7-0. They won eight games by seven points or less. They trailed in the fourth quarter of four games they won. They were also tied with 6:36 remaining in another win.
Snyder knows it takes a unique team to win some of those games.
Sept. 1 -- Missouri State
8 -- Miami
15 -- North Texas
22 -- @Oklahoma
Oct. 6 -- Kansas
13 -- @Iowa State
20 -- @West Virginia
27 -- Texas Tech
Nov. 3 -- Oklahoma State
10 -- @TCU
17 -- @Baylor
Dec. 1 -- Texas
• 2011 Schedule and Results
• 2011 Statistics
"I applaud them certainly for that," Snyder said. "You look at all those ball games and those are games that could have gone either way, so your record could have been reversed of what it was without too much being different."
And that's part of the message Snyder has for his team this season. K-State had plenty of success in 2011, but it won't mean much this fall if the team doesn't remember how it won games last season.
"The bottom line is don't forget how you got there," Snyder said. "That is what really becomes significant if you boil all the water out of it for the players. You've got to realize we were fortunate a year ago and we've got to realize how we became fortunate."
Head Coach: Bill Snyder (William Jewell '63)
Record at school: 159-83-1 (20 years)
Career record: 159-83-1 (20 years)
Sean Snyder (Kansas State '94) Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator; Dana Dimel (Kansas State '86) Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs/Tight Ends; Del Miller (Central College '72) Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks; Tom Hayes (Iowa '71) Defensive Coordinator; Joe Bob Clements (Kansas State '99) Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Ends; Mike Cox (Idaho '89) Linebackers; Charlie Dickey (Arizona '87) Offensive Line; Mo Latimore (Kansas State '76) Internior Defensive Line; Michael Smith (Kansas State '95) Wide Receivers
A year ago Collin Klein (6-5, 226) was an unknown commodity -- even to K-State fans. Now, he's a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Klein literally carried the Wildcats' offense in 2011, doing more damage in the running game than in the passing game. The senior had 317 carries -- the most by a Big 12 player since Adrian Peterson in 2004 -- and set a K-State quarterback record with 1,141 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
Klein, who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from the Associated Press as an all-purpose player, also completed 57.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,918 yards. He also had 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Those were good enough passing numbers to win with in 2011, but the Wildcats want more out of Klein as a passer this fall. And Snyder is already seeing progress.
"He has gotten very diligent about working on virtually everything," Snyder said. "The passing is a part of it and how he throws the ball mechanically. He's worked diligently on his mechanics. He has worked diligently on going through progressions and attempting to make, and therefore making, better decisions."
The battle to back up Klein will be between true freshman Tavarius Bender (6-3, 210) and redshirt freshman Daniel Sams (6-2, 211). Bender enrolled early to get a head start on learning the offense.
"Tay Bender is really beginning to get it, and consequently given his capabilities, he has a better chance of getting on the field because he is gaining more and more knowledge," Snyder said.
Sams already has a year in the system.
"He is very athletic, which is a very positive thing," Snyder said. "He has capabilities to do certain things, but he has not done them yet. He has the ability to throw the ball, and he has not done that yet, at least this spring. For whatever reason, Daniel really caught your eye as a scout-squad quarterback. Now that he has to accumulate all this information, I think it is somewhat showing in his play. He has a long way to go but is a talented young guy."
The best running back on the roster resided at quarterback, where Klein consistently moved the chains. The expected showcase back, Tennessee transfer Bryce Brown, lasted all of three carries before leaving the team.
That didn't mean there was a talent void left in the backfield. Junior John Hubert (5-7, 191) played Robin to Klein's Batman in 2011. He gained 970 yards and scored three touchdowns. The Wildcats will probably look to lean on Hubert more in 2012, as it's unlikely for Klein to carry the ball 300-plus times again.
Senior Angelo Pease (5-11, 215) will probably start camp as the backup to Hubert. The former Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College quarterback served as QB in the Wildcat formation and gained 144 yards and two touchdowns last season.
He'll be challenged by junior Robert Rose (5-4, 178). The scat back didn't see much action a year ago, gaining 35 yards on nine carries, but he stood out in spring practice.
"He is very competitive with Angelo Pease for the backup spot," Snyder said.
Sophomore DeMarcus Robinson (5-6, 206) will provide depth.
At fullback, Braden Wilson (6-4, 245) returns to open holes for Klein and the tailbacks.
If there is a spot K-State is expecting more from this fall it's the passing game and the wide receivers. Senior Chris Harper (6-1, 229) led the team with 40 receptions, the fewest of any Big 12 team's top receiver. The Wildcats were last in the Big 12, averaging 151.5 passing yards.
But this year things are looking up at receiver.
"We are building on what we did in the fall," said sophomore wideout Curry Sexton (6-0, 186). "We are returning almost everybody with a lot of experience and a lot of depth. I think from the two-deep and then some, we have seven or eight guys at this point who are capable of making plays across the board."
Harper, who had 547 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2011, is entrenched at one starting spot. Junior Tramaine Thompson (5-8, 167) begins the year as the other starter.
Sophomore Tyler Lockett (5-11, 175) was an All-American kickoff returner in 2011. A lacerated kidney caused him to miss the end of last season. He's expected to make a bigger impact at receiver this fall.
"Tyler is a better player today than he was last year," Snyder said.
Sexton and junior Torell Miller (6-2, 214) also saw action last season. Snyder expects a better season from his receivers and Klein in the passing game.
"They have a good feel for each other," Snyder said.
Senior tight end Travis Tannahill (6-3, 252) started five games in 2011 and made progress in the spring.
"He has become a more physical and aggressive player," Snyder said. "He has caught the ball extremely well, and he has become a more physical presence at the line of scrimmage."
"B.J. has taken over a leadership role with our offensive line, and that has been very beneficial," Snyder said. "Nick has really improved his performance."
Everywhere else, though, is full of questions. K-State lost three starting offensive linemen, including both tackles. There are options, but through the spring no one jumped up to claim one of the open starting spots.
Senior tackle Manase Foketi (6-5, 325) started at left tackle in 2010 but suffered a season ending injury early in the 2011 season that still hampered him in spring practice.
Junior Cornelius Lucas (6-9, 322) and junior William Cooper (6-4, 295) could both see time at left tackle, while junior college transfer Tavon Rooks (6-5, 270) and redshirt freshman Cody Whitehair (6-3, 300) are expected to battle for the starting right tackle spot.
Sophomore center Shawn Simon, who started the opener last season, missed the majority of last season because of a leg injury and is taking a medical redshirt this fall.
K-State allowed 43 sacks a year ago. Whoever ends up starting will be asked to help drastically lower that number.
The strength of the Wildcats D-line may very well be at defensive tackle. Senior Vai Lutui (6-2, 289) started 11 games in 2001 while making 34 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack while clogging up space inside.
"Vai Lutui has picked up where he left off and continues to be prominent as an interior defensive lineman," Snyder said.
Senior John Sua (6-0, 290) could start next to Lutui in the fall despite playing in only four games last season.
"John Sua has really made some headway, and I really like his effort and competitive nature," Snyder said.
Senior Adam Davis (6-0, 259) started every game at defensive end last season, recording 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks. He'll probably be joined in the starting lineup by senior Meshak Williams (6-3, 245), who last season specialized in big plays. He had 28 tackles, but 10 were for loss, including seven sacks.
Sophomore defensive end Ryan Mueller (6-1, 245) got plenty of experience, playing in all 13 games in 2011. He'll probably compete with sophomores Laton Dowling (6-2, 257) and Taylor Godinet (6-3, 237) and redshirt freshmen Marquel Bryant (6-3, 239) and Hunter Davis (6-3, 248) for playing time.
The K-State linebacking corps -- and defense -- is in good hands as long as senior Arthur Brown (6-1, 228) is around. The Miami (Fla.) transfer was a revelation in 2011, providing speed and toughness to the defense while earning Big 12 Defensive Newcomer-of-the-Year honors. Brown recorded 101 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
While Brown is the playmaker for the defense, junior Tre Walker (6-3, 225) is the vocal leader. Walker returns at weak-side linebacker after making 52 tackles a year ago.
There is plenty of depth, and intriguing options, for the Wildcats beyond Brown and Walker.
Senior Justin Tuggle (6-3, 233) started the spring game at strong-side linebacker. Tuggle is a former quarterback who switched to linebacker before the Cotton Bowl last season. He's the son of former NFL All-Pro linebacker Jessie Tuggle.
Senior Jarell Childs (6-2, 230) will battle Tuggle for the starting spot in camp. Like Tuggle, Childs didn't begin his K-State career at linebacker. He switched to the position from running back before his sophomore season.
Snyder didn't say much in the spring about his starters, but he did make it a point to praise the play of redshirt freshman Michael Moore (6-1, 213).
"I do not normally like talking about freshmen, but we have a youngster named Michael Moore who kind of got everybody's attention," Snyder said.
Snyder also liked what he saw from senior middle linebacker Blake Slaughter (5-10, 227).
"He is really playing with a great deal of consistency," Snyder said.
Senior Nigel Malone (5-10, 185) was one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12 in 2011. Malone went from City College of San Francisco to second-team All-American in one year. How did he do it? With monster numbers: 58 tackles, seven interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 17 pass deflections.
The Wildcats will need Malone to at least repeat his 2011 feats, if not surpass them, this fall because of the loss of David Garrett, the other corner who was second on the team with 88 tackles a year ago and also had two interceptions.
Junior Ty Zimmerman (6-1, 203) returns at free safety after making 58 tackles and picking off two passes in 2011.
"For the most part you look for mistakes and the good parts you take for granted," said Snyder about Zimmerman. "He just does not show up in the negative column very much. He is a very consistent player."
Snyder may be saying the same thing by the end of the season about senior Jarard Milo (6-2, 195), who is competing with senior Thomas Ferguson (6-0, 202), at strong safety. Both saw limited action last season.
"We have a young safety, who I think is going to be very competitive behind Thomas Ferguson," Snyder said, referring to Milo. "He has really had some consistent performances."
The Wildcats were adept at kickoffs in 2011, finishing ninth nationally in kickoff returns and 30th nationally in kickoff return yards allowed. Sophomore kick returner Tyler Lockett set a school record by averaging 35.19 yards per return. Lockett earned All-American honors as a returner and teams may be more hesitant to kick to him this fall.
K-State was solid in punting as well. The Wildcats were 58th nationally in punt returns and 69th in net punting.
Senior Anthony Cantele (5-10, 181) returns after going 17 of 23 on field goals. Cantele was 4 of 7 on kicks beyond 40 yards. He also serves as the team's kickoff specialist.
"Anthony Cantele is hitting the ball well right now," Snyder said during the spring.
Senior Ryan Doerr (6-3, 184) averaged 40.8 yards on 67 punts in 2011. He placed 14 punts inside the 20-yard line and booted eight punts of 50 yards or more. He also had two punts blocked.
Sophomore Mark Krause (5-11, 212) is the only other returning punter.
As is typical of a Snyder recruiting class, the Wildcats turned to the junior college ranks to fortify their roster. Eight junior college players signed in February, and if history is any indication, a few will make a big impact this fall.
Navarro (Texas) Junior College offensive lineman Tavon Rooks is already on campus competing for a starting tackle spot. Wideout Marquez Clark (6-0, 180), Rooks' junior college teammate, could end up starting at receiver.
Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College defensive tackle Wesley Hollingshed (6-1, 299) took part in spring practice, while fellow junior college defensive tackle Chaquil Reed (6-3, 290), from Butler County (Kansas) Community College will arrive in the fall.
Of the freshmen, Tavarius Bender, from Lincoln Southwest in Nebraska, may have the best long-term prospects -- just don't expect him to unseat Klein in his first year.
K-State went heavy at defensive tackle in this class, signing five. The top high school linemen are Demonte Hood (6-0, 295), from Bowie High School in Texas, and Travis Britz (6-4, 275), from Harrisonville High School in Missouri.
Also, Caroll (Texas) linebacker Will Davis (6-1, 213) and Cedar Hill (Texas) offensive lineman Aderius Epps (6-2, 295) were high school standouts.
BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS
A lot went K-State's way in 2011 as the team won 10 games. The Wildcats can't expect that to automatically happen again this fall -- especially all the close or come-from-behind wins.
Snyder is one of the best coaches in the sport and will consistently put his team in a position to win, even against better teams. The early-season schedule is favorable, with four of the first five games at home, including a non-conference game with Miami. Its Big 12 road schedule is daunting, with games at Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia.
The key for the Wildcats may very well be how much improvement they can get from the passing game. Klein is in preseason Heisman Trophy conversations, but it's mostly because of what he did running the football last season. A more potent passing game will add another level to the offense and make the team more explosive, something needed in the always high-scoring Big 12 conference. The play of the offensive line, as well as the receivers, will have a big a role in the success of the passing game as Klein. K-State was last in the Big 12, allowing 42 sacks last season.
Tom Hayes, the former defensive backs coach, takes over as defensive coordinator and has enough returning pieces for the defense to be solid like last season, when K-State finished middle of the pack in most Big 12 defensive categories.
A bowl game is the minimum for this team. If the passing game comes around, K-State could find itself in a BCS bowl.
Six of the first nine games are at home. The Wildcats could easily win all six. The season could come down to the final three games against Texas schools. K-State travels to TCU on Nov. 10, to Baylor on Nov. 17 and hosts Texas on Dec. 1.
A good close could secure another big season for the Wildcats -- granted they remember what they did to win in 2011.