New and Old Must Mesh for Offense to Succeed

Yes, Josh Freeman returns, and so do the majority of the Kansas State offensive linemen, but there are still significant holes to fill on the offensive side of the football. K-State's offense will be coordinated by Dave Brock this season after the departure of coordinator James Franklin. Here's his look at KSU's offense.

Offensively, Kansas State coach Ron Prince says he has a "very veteran" quarterback in Josh Freeman, a "very confirmed" running back in Leon Patton, depth on the offensive line and firepower at wide receiver.

That's pretty big talk for an offense that lost running back James Johnson (1,106 yards) and four of its top six receivers, which includes Jordy Nelson (112 catches for 1,606 yards).

Without the services of Nelson, first-year offensive coordinator Dave Brock said, "Our philosophy is to replace the production. I'm not sure if you can replace Jordy Nelson, but we need to replace the production he had with new people."

Deon Murphy, while not taking part in spring ball due to academic deficiencies, will return in the fall trying to better his junior season of 57 catches for 605 yards and five touchdowns.

Other wide-outs returning include 6-foot-3, 209-pound senior Ernie Pierce (6 catches for 59 yards), 6-0, 181, senior Cedric Wilson (5 for 46) and 6-3, 229, freshman Lamark Brown (3 for 33).

Also in camp this spring is newcomer Adrian Hilburn (6-2, 190, Jr), who was ranked as the fifth best junior college receiver in the nation. At City College of San Francisco, Hilburn had 40 receptions for 516 yards last year.

"Jordy had 39 catches the year before (2006), so no one expected him to get 122 catches," said Brock, who is also KSU's wide receiver coach. "Now we have to look for somebody else to emerge. We're counting on multiple people emerging."

At 5-7, 187, junior Leon Patton returns as the only Wildcat with any dashing experience. As a sophomore, he rushed for 390 yards and four scores, which followed a freshman campaign of 609 yards and six scores.

Depth will come from the cast of redshirt-freshmen in Justin Woods (5-10, 180) and Dee Bell (5-9, 175), true-freshmen Kwamaine Brown (5-8, 185) and Jarell Childs (6-3, 216), plus Northwest Mississippi Community College transfer Daniel Thomas (6-2, 227).

"We're not very confirmed behind Leon," Prince said of the running back position. "What we do know is that you can't go through a whole season with one running back."

What Prince wants to see is for the young backs to develop into the total package of being a runner, understand blitz protection and being able to catch the ball.

Jeron Mastrud (6-6, 259, Jr) and Brett Alstatt (6-4, 224, Sr) return at tight end. Last year Mastrud caught 34 passes for 220 yards and Alstatt 1 pass for 1 yard.

Prince also mentioned Jayson Cuba, a 6-2, 216-pound gray-shirt freshman as a tight end prospect.

Returning on the offensive line are centers Jordan Bedore (6-3, 308, Sr) and Trevor Piers (6-5, 270, Jr); guards Brock Unruh (6-5, 301, Jr) and Gerard Spexarth (6-6, 280, Sr); and tackles Alesana Alesana (6-3, 299, Sr), Penisini Liu (6-5, 3-8, Sr) and Nick Stringer (6-6, 270, Jr). Depth could come from newcomers Wade Weibert (6-5, 300, Jr) and Edward Prince (6-5, 280, Jr) from the community college ranks.

And then there's the quarterback position with the 6-6, 245-pound junior Mr. Freeman.

"He played a full season last year as opposed to basically a half-year the year before," Brock said. "He is obviously a very talented young man, who has only gained in maturity."

Freeman passed for 3,353 yards while completing 63 percent of his passes in 2007 when he also passed for 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In earning honorable mention all-Big 12 honors, Freeman established five single-season school records.

Freeman's two-year yardage total of 5,133 ranks fourth on the KSU career charts only behind Lynn Dickey (6,208, 1968-70), Chad May (5,253, 1993-94) and Carl Straw (5,223, 1987-90). Prince believes he has the best at that position, adding, "It's a quarterback driven game, and this is a very quarterback driven division (Big 12 North).

Every team in this league has a terrific quarterback, as do all three teams coming out of the South (Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M).

Overall, Brock said, "Our areas of emphasis this spring will be with execution and precision, and getting people to understand exactly what their job is. Coaches and players have to be on the same page to become successful whether you're Josh Freeman or somebody else. That's the only way you're going to become a good team."

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