RETURNING STARS: Campbell and Freeman

During the next few days, mini-profiles on Kansas State's returning stars, brightest newcomers, and biggest question marks will be featured on offense and defense. Today's segment is on the heroes from last year returning in 2008.

DEFENSE --
Ian Campbell is back home at defensive end, and is happy about it after spending the 2007 season shifting between end and outside linebacker.

Perhaps it's part of the reason that his numbers dipped from a record-setting 17.5 tackles for negative yards to 11 from 2006 to 2007, and his total tackles slid from 67 to 45.

"I didn't mind playing both positions, but d-end is where I have the most comfort," said Campbell, who is on the 'Watch List' of every major defensive award and will serve as a two-time Wildcat captain. "This is where I feel natural. Playing linebacker just wasn't natural for me."

High on his star is line coach Mo Latimore: "Ian is a very good football player, who understands the game. He's played the position long enough that things come very natural to him. He's a student of the game and understands the game. He knows what's happening and why it's happening."

In some listings, Campbell is ranked among the top five defensive ends in the nation. K-State will again play a 3-4 defense, but Campbell also says the Wildcats will be "multiple" in looks. Multiple, and Campbell hopes, sound.

"We need to understand that playing fundamental football is the biggest reason why you lose or win. It's more important than anything else," said the 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior. "You can play with as much heart as you want, but if you're not in the right spot, you're going to be in for an uphill battle."

OFFENSE --
"Our kid has charisma, he's intelligent, and he's personable with his teammates, along with our coaching staff," said the third-year coach Ron Prince. "I have all of the confidence in the world with him."

Prince is talking about junior quarterback Josh Freeman. The Wildcat coach went as far to say that Freeman, should the Wildcats excel in 2008, could be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

"That's what NFL people tell me," Prince said. As a freshman, the 6-6, 250-pound Freeman completed 52 percent of his passes, but with 15 interceptions to six touchdowns.

In his sophomore season, he improved to 63 percent, 18 TDs and 11 interceptions. Entering his junior year, Freeman needs only 226 passing attempts, 1,076 passing yards and 46 completions to break Lynn Dickey's career records. He also needs 14 touchdown passes to break the career mark of Ell Roberson.

Fancy numbers, but as new quarterback coach Warren Ruggiero sees it, the figures have been posted basically on natural talent.

"He was basically just thrown in there as a freshman. He knew where people were, but wasn't exactly sure how the play was to be run," Ruggiero said. "With our offense, and any passing offense, it requires detail at the highest level. I think his first couple years he did a lot only on his own ability."

While Freeman ranked third in passing yards per game last year, he was only eighth in the Big 12 and 60th in the nation in pass efficiency.

In a word, better "efficiency" is Freeman's key to success in 2008.

"This is my team and I think I can lead it. I felt like I had the respect last year, but as a unit we need to prove that we can be as good as people say we can be," Freeman said. "For that to happen, I need to be a more efficient quarterback."


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