We're going to shift gears away from the offense — and that nagging little question of who the starting quarterback will be — for a while and focus on what's usually one of K-State's most perennially underrated units — special teams.
From Sean Snyder to Martin Gramatica, from David Allen to Terence Newman, from Crash Ekeler to Corey Adams, special teams have been part of the equation to winning Bill Snyder football. Putting our best players, even our starters, on special teams has helped us bridge the talent gap that exists between K-State and more powerful programs.
This year should be no exception. We return our kicker, our punter and our long snapper, and a slew of talented and speedy players will battle to replace the departed Brandon Banks, who's already making a special teams impact in the NFL.
Follow the jump to see who will contribute in the third — and perhaps most critical — phase of the game.
Brandon is a Manhattan native who had a few opportunities last year while Josh Cherry was struggling (which, admittedly, was a large part of the season). He made the most of them, booting a 46-yard field goal against Texas A&M and making two extra points against Tennessee Tech. I expect he will continue to receive limited opportunities in blowouts in preparation for next season.
#10 Anthony Cantele
Don't look now, but there's a rumor floating around this fall that redshirt freshman Anthony Cantele has stolen the starting place-kicking job from Cherry. I guess we'll find out whether that's true or not when the depth chart comes out next week, but given Cherry's struggles and Cantele's sterling high school record (he made 20 of 23 field goals and 145 of 147 PATs as a four-year letter-winner at Kapaun Mt. Carmel in Wichita), it's not inconceivable that Snyder will elect to make a change.
#12 James French
French, like Cantele, redshirted last season. I haven't heard quite as many things about him as I have Cantele, but that doesn't mean he can't get into the competition if Cherry falters again. If nothing else, we're pretty damn deep at kicker. I hope we at least can find a strong leg for kickoffs, because Cherry left quite a bit to be desired in that department last season.
#14 Evan Engwall
The stream of transfer kickers into Manhattan continues with Evan Engwall, who had a pretty darn good season at Stephen F. Austin (follow the link for stats). He was the No. 14 kicker in the nation a few years ago out of Derby, and I remember being pretty pissed when he didn't accept our offer back then — so I'm pleased as punch that he apparently got a little homesick and followed the HarperSmithBrown Express route back to Manhattan. Engwall will have to redshirt this season as a transfer, but look for him to push for the starting job immediately in 2011.
#19 Josh Cherry
From the goat blamed for the loss at Louisiana to the only person to score against Missouri, Cherry's junior season was one of ups and downs. I hope he has more consistency as a senior and gets the shanks — and the way-too-low, blockable extra points — out of his system, because we're likely to be in a ton of close games again. He'll certainly be pushed by the talented freshman kickers Snyder brought in.
#9 Ryan Doerr
After the disaster of a season that ensued when we lost four-year starter Tim Reyer to graduation, I feel lucky that we found another likely four-year starter last year in South Carolina transfer Ryan Doerr. He demonstrated great talent in the long-range punting game last season, but with the departure of pooch punter D.J. Fulhage from the team in the offseason, Ryan will he asked to hone the short-range aspects of his game, as well.
#17 George Pierson
George Pierson probably best is remembered as the disastrous replacement Prince gave a scholarship to after Reyer graduated. I think at one point in 2008 he had a 25-yard average or something abysmal like that. Anyhow, Fulhage soon emerged as a slightly more decent option, and that was the end of that ... or so we thought. Snyder must see something in him, because he redshirted last season and he appears to still be on scholarship. Plus, he's rooming with Daniel Thomas, which has to count for something. Maybe he can replace Fulhage as the pooch punter, I dunno.
#42 Corey Adams
The best thing Ron Prince ever did was offer a scholarship to the then-No. 1 long snapper in the nation, Corey Adams.
Four years later, he hasn't missed a single snap, he's a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award and he often can be seen streaking down the field to make key tackles in kickoff coverage. You gotta love him. He does one thing and he does it extremely well, and as a result, he's probably going to have a longer NFL career than any other Wildcat to date.
#44 Chandler Smith
Young Chandler picked a bad school to walk on at, because he's got about as much chance of up-ending Adams for the starting job as I have of nailing Megan Fox. I suppose he can redshirt and make a run at the spot next season, but as I expressed yesterday, I think that job is Jordan Allred's to lose. And how much depth do you really need at long snapper, anyway?
#63 Marcus Heit
Ditto for Marcus Heit, who's coming off a redshirt season. His chief advantage is that he played for former Wildcat receiver Brandon Clark at Derby High School, which means he has a pre-existing rapport with kicker Evan Engwall. If Engwall wins the kicker job next year, Heit might have a leg up (pun fully intended) on the competition.
Depth Chart Predictions
- Starters: Tramaine Thompson and William Powell
- Backups: Aubrey Quarles and Terrance Sweeney
- Third-String: Brodrick Smith and John Hubert
- Starter: Josh Cherry
- Backup: Ryan Doerr
- Third-String: Anthony Cantele
- Starter: Corey Adams
- Backup: Jordan Allred
- Starter: Josh Cherry
- Backup: Anthony Cantele
- Starter: Tramaine Thompson
- Backup: Terrance Sweeney
- Starter: Ryan Doerr
- Backup: George Pierson