MANHATTAN, Kan. - There's an old expression that an offense can be only as good as the line allows it to be, and the same is true on defense. While the ‘Cats have headliners in Klein, Hubert and Harper on offense, and Brown, Walker and Zimmerman on defense, both lines will determine whether the team is 2011-good, or only mediocre.

Good or lucky?

What was Kansas State last year when it went 10-3, but eight of those wins were by seven points or less.

So honestly, it was a touch of both skill and luck that produced the 10-win season. Even coach Bill Snyder would say so: "Everybody wants to say you make your own good fortune, and I'm a believer in that. By the same token, every once in a while the chip just falls in your lap the right way. That happened for us from time to time."

Starting Saturday against Missouri State in a 6:10 p.m. kickoff, Kansas State will have a chance to validate that 2011 season in the new-look Big 12 Conference that now includes West Virginia and TCU.

K-State's penciled-in lineup includes nine senior starters on defense and a new coordinator in Tom Hayes, who also serves as the secondary coach.

A new coordinator, but Hayes says the mission statement will remain as it was last year with Chris Cosh, and before that with the likes of Phil Bennett, Bob Cope and Bob Stoop.

"We're all built different," said the 63-year-old Hayes, who has had coaching stops at Iowa, Cal State Fullerton, UCLA, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Kansas, Stanford and Tulane, plus the Redskins and Saints from the NFL. "But we're also all from the same fraternity of making our players play as well as they can possibly play."

In looking at the immediate task at hand, Hayes said the goal prior to the start of Big 12 play would be to create a solid two-deep look on defense, with that starting with replacing the five starters gone from last year: Ray Kibble on the line, Emmanuel Lamur at linebacker, Tysyn Hartman at safety, David Garrett at cornerback and end Jordan Voelker.

The early replacements for those Wildcats are John Sua at tackle, Justin Tuggle at linebacker, Thomas Ferguson at safety, Allen Chapman at cornerback and Meshak Williams at end.

It was after K-State's Cotton Bowl loss to Arkansas that Hayes said, "We started going through the entire season play by play. We evaluated each play so we could build on what was good and fix what was not so good."

Now into fall camp, Hayes said of his defensive priorities, "We need to work on developing a quality pass rush. Part of coverage is getting that quarterback to speed up and make him throw the ball when he's not ready to throw it, which can lead to some take-aways."

While K-State's rush defense of allowing just 131 yards per game was respectable, the pass defense allowed 263 yards per game. That number, however, Hayes says is "skewed" because of allowing 520 passing yards to Oklahoma, 502 to Oklahoma State and 461 to Texas Tech.

"Those teams put up numbers like that to a lot of teams," said Hayes. "Honestly, our defense had some good moments last year, so we don't want to come in and change a whole lot."

The center piece to the defense will be Arthur Brown at middle linebacker, flanked by outside backers Tre Walker and either Tuggle or Jarell Childs.

"He has good size and speed, and is very instinctive when the ball is snapped," said linebacker coach Mike Cox. "He just has that instinct that it takes to go make plays. But like the rest of them, Arthur is so humble and he knows there are areas where his game needs to grow."

The strength will be at linebacker; the weakness, in quality and depth, will be in the middle of the line.

Kansas State ran 290 passing plays that generated 1,970 passing yards last year, while running the ball 606 times for 2,411 grounds yards.

"We want that to be more balanced this year," said run game coordinator Dana Dimel.

"We liked what we did last year, but we'd like to put up a few more yards," said passing game coordinator Del Miller. "We scored well last year, but at times without the yardage that we would have liked."

Defining Miller's words are these statistics from 2011: KSU's scoring offense of 31.8 yards ranked seventh in the Big 12 while the total offense of 337 yards ranked only ninth.

Examples of how K-State won games last year included a 286-yard, 24-point effort in a 24-17 win over Missouri; a 339-yard, but 41-point effort in a 41-34 win over Texas Tech; and a 121-yard outing against Texas in a 17-13 victory. Part of those numbers came from the fact that K-State led the Big 12 and was fourth in the nation in time of possession averaging 33:55 minutes per game. In addition, the Wildcats seldom hurt themselves with penalties, or with turnovers."

If there's an iffy on-paper spot on offense it's with the offensive line that will possibly feature freshmen Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson, plus first-time regular 6-9, 322-pound Cornelius Lucas. Stiverson is injured and will miss the opener.

"We like that line, but with it being as young as it is, you won't know until the lights go on," said Dimel. "That's when you find out what type of players you have." While most in the K-State camp admit to being somewhat surprised by the numbers posted by Collin Klein last year, the Wildcats' co-coordinators were not.

Dimel said, "The only thing that surprised me was how tough he was. You don't expect that out of a quarterback. He's such a leader and so tough that he has that ability to put a team on his shoulders. He fought through injuries because he was a part of so many plays. His intelligence and results didn't surprise me, but how physical he was did surprise me."

The strength of the offense is around the perimeter with Klein at QB, John Hubert at RB, and WRs Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson; the weakness will be with the offensive line, which has three first-time starters and limited depth.

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