Starting On Offense For The 'Cats

MANHATTAN, Kan. - With practices underway and new faces on campus, KStateFans takes a look at the starting Offense position by position. Then we take a look at who might suprise on Opening Day and what we expect from this years' offense.

In looking at who will be the starters for Kansas State this year, we start and stop with Daniel Thomas. Thomas exploded on the scene last year in his first year playing running back and his first year in a K-State jersey. Putting up great numbers, while playing most of the season injured, expectations ar high for him. Let's take a look.

Daniel Thomas, No. 8, "DT."

In 2009, that was Kansas State's offense. And while Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing at better than 105 yards per game, and while his 11 rushing TDs ranked second in the league, it wasn't enough to push the 6-6 Wildcats over the .500 mark. And eventually, teams figured out how to stop No. 8 as K-State didn't score a TD in the final nine quarters of the season.

In 2010, passing game coordinator Del Miller said, "I hope we will be more diversified. Our quarterback will be a year older in our system, and we'll have a better group of receivers." And, Thomas has another year in the system, and in particular, at running back.

"What Daniel did in 2009 was amazing," said running game coordinator Dana Dimel. "He didn't know the system, and honestly, didn't know much about being a running back. All he knew is how to run with the football."

Even Thomas said, "I was just running wild."

What the K-State offense will be trying to do is balance these two sets of figures from 2009:
• K-State rushed for 22 touchdowns … fourth high in the Big 12.
• K-State passed for 7 touchdowns … dead last in the Big 12.

Senior Carson Coffman is the expected starter for the Sept. 4 game against UCLA at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Starting the first four games last year (2-2 with wins over UMass and Tennessee Tech, and losses to Louisiana and UCLA), Coffman completed 61 percent of his passes, but only two of those went for touchdowns. Both of those were in the opener against UMass.

"I'm playing like there's nothing to lose. I'm just trying to go out and have fun," said Coffman, who passed for 860 yards last year. "At times last year I think I was a little uptight."

There's reason for any KSU quarterback to relax more this season with a new cast of receivers that will include Brodrick Smith and Chris Harper as transfers, Aubrey Quarles returning from an injury, redshirt-freshman Tramaine Thompson, plus spot players Adrian Hillburn and Sheldon Smith.

"They are bigger, stronger and run better routes," said Miller. "They don't have a great deal of playing experience, but we're ahead of where we were last year."

K-State appears to have specialists at the tight end position. Returning from last year is Travis Tannahill (6-foot-3, 254), who caught two passes for 37 yards last year, while with his size, Andre McDonald (6-8, 282, Fr) is the better blocker of the two.

Four starters return on the offensive front with Wade Weibert at center, flanked by Zach Kendall and Kenneth Mayfield at guards, and Clyde Aufner at right tackle. Expected to replace Nick Stringer at left tackle will be 6-8, 313-pound Zach Hanson.

"They really started growing toward the middle of last season and now we have all those guys coming back," said Dimel.

Not to be forgotten in K-State's offensive attack is the return of fullback Braden Wilson.

"Braden has all kinds of versatility," said Dimel. "He can catch the ball, he can run, and he has the athletic ability to get to the edge and block. Braden is a Brian Goolsby kind of athlete."

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