2014 Opponent Preview: Kansas State

We continue our look at Auburn's 2014 opponents with a look at the Kansas State Wildcats.

Finishing 2013 as one of the hottest teams in the country after winning six of its last seven games, Kansas State enters the season as a team expected to contend for the Big 12 Championship under the guidance of Bill Snyder, the most successful coach in K-State's history.

With an overall record of 178-90-1 at Kansas State, Snyder has transformed one of the nation's worst programs into a consistent winner because his focus on defense and his willingness to recruit the multitude of junior college programs in the area for talent. That's where he found star quarterback Jake Waters.

Playing for Iowa Western Community College in 2011 and 2012, Waters (6-1, 210) was named the NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore when he led his team to the national championship. Last season he started all 13 games for the Wildcats, throwing for 2,469 yards and 18 touchdowns. He returns as the school leader in career passing efficiency (156.8).

Making Waters even more effective is his top target, speedy receiver Tyler Lockett. Back after catching 81 passes for 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns, Lockett is also one of the top return men in the country. Last season he totaled 440 all-purpose yards against Oklahoma, the fifth-most for a single game in FBS history.

He'll be joined outside by veteran Curry Sexton. Last season he made 39 receptions for 446 yards. Helping to take some of the pressure off will be senior running back Demarcus Robinson as well as dynamic freshman Dalvin Warmack. He ran for over 4,500 yards and scored 74 touchdowns in high school. Fullback Glen Gronkowski (brother of New England Patriots star Rob) returns as well for an offense loaded with skill talent.

The offensive questions are up front for Kansas State as just two starters are back on the line. Fortunately for the Wildcats one of those is senior center B.J. Finney (6-4, 303). A former walk-on, Finney has started all 39 games in his career and is a three-time Rimington Award candidate and All-Big 12 selection for the Wildcats.

Defensively, the star of the show is end Ryan Mueller (6-2, 245). A senior leader for Kansas State, Mueller tied the school's single-season sack record a year ago with 11 1/2 in 13 games. He also added 18 1/2 tackles for losses for the year, making him one of the most dangerous defensive ends Auburn will see this season.

That is about the only bright spot for the Wildcats on the defensive side of the ball as just three other starters return from a season ago. Up front tackle Travis Britz (6-4, 293) is back as well to give the Kansas State front four some hope of slowing Auburn's punishing running attack. He had six and a half tackles for a loss last season and should be a force in the middle. By week three junior college transfer Darrell Clinkscales (6-4, 315) should be up to speed and be able to provide some punch as well up front.

Linebacker Jonathan Truman (5-11, 219) is back to anchor the defense after making 89 tackles a year ago. Junior college transfers Isiah Riddle (Newnan, Ga.) and D'Vonte Derricott are players to watch this season as both could make an early impact. Safety Dante Barnett (6-1, 186) is back after winning defensive MVP honors in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He finished the season strong with 22 tackles and three interceptions the last three games of the season. Also back is hybrid defender Randall Evans (6-0, 190).

Kicker Jack Cantele is back after connecting on 11-13 field goals, but the strong leg of Ian Patterson may make him a threat to take the job away during the season. He was the regular kicker the last three games of the 2013 season for the Wildcats.

San Jose State Preview

Order the 2014 Inside the Auburn Tigers Football Guide

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories