Now that we appear to have things (mostly) settled on the basketball front, I'm finally ready to reluctantly move forward to football season. After all, spring practices began almost two weeks ago, and even though Bill Snyder keeps The Bill locked down tighter than a North Korean press tour, we still have plenty to discuss.
It's going to be a long offseason, so let's try to take things one at a time, beginning with what I see as the most important question for next season. While many will ask, ‘how much can/will Collin Klein improve as a passer?,' I think the more important question is: ‘how much does K-State need Collin Klein to improve as a passer?'
Obviously, HBCK's 147.5 yards per game and QB rating of 125.6 aren't impressive by any stretch of the imagination, and the visual evidence that goes along with those numbers rarely wowed anyone.
And yet, only a select group of quarterbacks got as much praise and meant as much to their teams as Klein did last season, thanks to his abilities as a running back that can also occasionally throw the ball.
It's easy to say that if Klein could develop more of a passing game, this team would be even better, but honestly I think it's fair to say that K-State caught some breaks (and made its own luck, to be sure) that just might not be there this season.
With that in mind, click the jump for what Klein needs to do this season for K-State to maintain its high level of success.
It would be great if we had a quarterback who could throw perfectly timed slant routes and curl or out patterns, but let's be honest, a Bill Snyder offense doesn't need that to function. In fact, I'm not sure he's ever had that, with the possible exception of Chad May (my memories are a bit fuzzy due to youth).
Plus, I'm still not sure about the quality of K-State's receiving corps, though Tyler Lockett has turned out to be a pleasant surprise with a ton of potential.
Even with him playing his best, it's hard to find a guy who could really be called a possession receiver or someone who's a threat to make people miss at any time (think Jordy Nelson or even James Terry).
The most inconsistent part of Klein's game last season was the downfield passes, and it's going to be crucial that his connection rate increases. When he was finding open targets downfield (@ OSU, vs. A&M), the offense has so many more options, and typically, more room to run.
It's definitely encouraging that Klein's deep-ball accuracy seemed to improve as the season went along, with the exception of the Arkansas game, which can be forgiven because of the long break.
Still, if I were to watch the spring game (to be clear, I refuse to do this), the results of passes traveling 15 yards or more downfield would be something I'd pay attention to quite closely.
One other thing is making the simple passes. Coaches must have confidence if they're going to call the little screens that can keep a defense off-balance, and Klein must be able to make the dump-off pass if deep receivers are covered.
It doesn't help that those incompletions were surely the most painful to watch last season, because it's the kind of pass I feel like I could make.*
*I'm aware that in that situation, with a lot of very large men trying to tackle me in front of 50,000 fans, I probably could not make that play most of the time. In my mind, though, it seems like something I should be able to do.
The good news is that Klein already takes care of the ball fairly well, as he had just one interception for every 47 passes and (this is from memory as I couldn't find the stats) 0 fumbles lost, which is absolutely incredible. That's one area where I wouldn't be disappointed with a slight regression, though it would be nice if we could avoid it.
Notably, Klein seems like the type of player that doesn't really get rattled often, and his 2011 splits would seem to support this.
The only thing worrisome from these remarkably detailed numbers ESPN has conveniently put together is the fact that the completion percentage dips down to 48% inside the opponent's 40 (compared to 57.3% overall), so that's something worth keeping an eye on this fall.
I'll leave it to the rest of you to decide if Klein is really capable of significant growth as a passer, since I'm no expert on the technical aspects of his throwing motion. All I know is it doesn't look great, and as greedy as it might be, I want the results to look better.