The good news for Kansas State's offensive line is all five starters are returning, led by first team All-Big 12 senior Cornelius Lucas and former Freshman All-American B.J. Finney, now a junior. The bad news, of course, is they lost their best runner in quarterback Collin Klein.
Of course, it's quite possible he could be replaced by a guy whose an even better runner in some ways, though probably not as hard-nosed and tough to bring down. That would be Daniel Sams, the possible K-State quarterback of the future.
Regardless of who's running the football, it sure wouldn't hurt to see a great offensive line become incredible with a boost from some young lineman with a year of college experience under their belts. That's where Boston Stiverson and Cody Whitehair (pictured above) come in.
I put these guys together for two reasons, beginning with the fact that I'm not especially fond of offensive lineman and am unable to do any kind of remotely in-depth analysis on the valuable services these big guys could provide. Secondly, their profiles are so similar they might as well be clones.
Stiverson stands at 6-4 and weighs 312, hailing from Andover, where he went to the newer Andover Central and likely destroyed some kids from my alma mater on his way to earning First Team All-State honors. Whitehair is also 6-4 and weighs 309, and of course he earned First Team All-State honors at little Abilene High School.
Both guys redshirted as freshman in 2011 and played in every game last season, with one or the other starting each time, mostly at left guard. Whitehair started 11 games, and Stiverson started at Baylor and against Texas.
Occasional starter Nick Puetz graduated, so I guess there's a little bit of an opening. But what I wouldn't mind seeing is both of these guys emerge as dominant forces up front after their first full year of collegiate weight training and conditioning, giving Snyder no choice but to take one of two seniors, Keenan Taylor or Tavon Rooks, out of the lineup.
It's probably going to be a bit more of a challenge for Stiverson, who doesn't have the benefit of being a primary starter a year ago. Still, it's certainly achievable for a guy his size who had the athletic ability to be a solid basketball player and track and field athlete in high school.
Whether we see more of Sams running the read option with John Hubert or Jake Waters dropping back to get the ball out to his receivers, they're going to need some guys able to clear out space against the often relatively weak Big 12 defensive fronts. This offensive line has a chance to be special, and if these two guys post breakout seasons in 2013, it could set the course for another special year next fall.
Kansas State may have lost a Heisman-level quarterback, a Second Team All-Big 12 wide receiver and a First Team All-Big 12 tight end, but a dominant offensive line can make up for a lot of deficiencies. If you don't believe me, recall how good Matt Cassel looked playing for the Patriots.