Big 12 Preview: Kansas State Wildcats

Coming off the first Wildcat Big 12 Conference Championship, as well as the first BCS Bowl bid in school history and even the casual fan can see that expectations are high for the program. In talking with players and coaches however, that's all in the past.

Gone are seniors Ell Roberson, Nick Leckey, Josh Buhl and James Terry and with them a good part of the senior leadership. Once again, however, Coach Bill Snyder has replenished the cupboard signing 26 recruits in this year's class, and the words potential and talented are associated with this year's squad.

The cupboard is not bare, but as usual, these ‘Cats will look to field new faces at new positions and find the best combinations. Darren Sproles is geared for a run at the Heisman and undoubtedly will be looked to carry the offense early on while Coach Snyder revamps an offensive line.

When the Wildcats are on offense
It all starts and stops with Darren Sproles who finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 2003. Darren is the heart and soul of the offense and will be looked to early and often to carry the load offensively for the Cats. Darren will be running behind a less experienced line this year, due to graduation hits and Cat fans may need to have patience, as the OL will need time to gel. Keep in mind that this is the running back that ripped off 247 yards against the Sooners and what Bob Stoops made a painful effort to point out on national television as the "number one rated defense in the country". Yea those Sooners.

The bigger question mark is the QB position where the Cats will go to a sophomore for the first time since 2001 when Roberson was first breaking in under center. Dylan Meier and Allen Webb are the candidates and both have shown the ability to win the starting job during spring ball. Both are talented and capable of moving the ball and the chains, while Webb has been described as the second coming of Ell. Right now it is a toss up and only Snyder himself probably knows who gets the nod under center.

Early on look, for the Cats to run the ball and break in new faces along the OL while trying to find the QB that will provide the offense that Snyder desires in his 16th year in Manhattan.

When the Wildcats are on defense
The Lynch Mob took a hit again but around these parts it is not rebuild, it is reload. The Cats will be looking at lots of new faces again on defense, but the style of play will be the same — aggressive and stifling.

The Cats got great news this off-season as Andrew Bulman was awarded another year of eligibility and will be the workhorse along the DL. Although the loss of Josh Buhl cannot be understated, this year's squad is loaded with senior leadership. All but one senior will man the secondary with Cedrick Williams highlighting what could be a very stingy defense.

The Cats will again look to completely shut down opposing team's running games and then use pressure to get to the quarterbacks and force play. Berry, Bulman and "the Freak" Kevin Huntley will be counted on upfront to apply the push and will determine how aggressive the Cats can get on defense.

Look for the Cats to again put their corners on islands and turn loose the Lynch Mob from an assortment of blitz packages.

Final Statement
The Cats will have to work out a new QB and new faces along the Offensive Line. Darren Sproles will certainly alleviate a great deal of pressure on whoever lines up at QB as he will not be counted on to produce immediately. Whoever Coach Snyder settles on at QB will have the luxury of being able to settle into the position and have a Heisman frontrunner to hand the ball off.

The defense is loaded with seniors and experience and will be counted on in the clutch to force three and outs and put the offense back on the field. Special teams will be a concern this year as there are no proven commodities that can be counted on for kicking duties.

Key games
Oct. 2 – @ Texas A&M
Oct. 16 - Oklahoma
Oct. 23 - Nebraska

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