Talented and Deep - 'Cats Ready for UCLA

MANHATTAN, Kan. - First game of the year, it is almost here and from the early returns, these Wildcats look deeper and more talented across the board this year. We break down the Offensive Depth Chart position by position, update injuries and take a Look Across the Two-Deep to what Kansas State will look like against UCLA.

ON OFFENSE: ‘CATS MORE TALENTED, AND DEEPER

It's certainly subject to change, but here's how things could look on Saturday when the Wildcats take the field against UCLA. The strength of the offense is in the backfield with Daniel Thomas and Braden Wilson; the worry on offense is with early injuries in the offensive line; and, the most improvement is expected to come from the wide receivers.

There's every reason to believe that Kansas State will be able to score in 2010 with all-Big 12 running back Daniel Thomas leading the way whether the ‘Cats are in a single-back set, or the "Wildcat" formation.

The second-year starter at QB will be Carson Coffman, who has settled into a comfort zone after admitting that he was too "up tight" last year when he started KSU's first four games. Injuries on the offensive line will have K-State starting Manase Foketi and Ethan Douglas, over the preseason projected starters of Zach Hanson and Clyde Aufner.

Here's a projected two-deep look at the offense heading into the Sept. 4 opener against UCLA.

QUARTERBACK

CARSON COFFMAN, 6-3, 211, Sr

Collin Klein, 6-5, 233, Soph Carson Coffman started the 2009 season and has earned the right to be behind center when the 2010 campaign opens against UCLA.

"Carson has improved tremendously," said K-State co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Del Miller. "His comfort level and command of the offense has improved, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio in the spring was excellent."

During spring camp, Coffman completed 78 percent of his passes with just one interception in 108 throwing opportunities. In the spring game, Coffman was 38-of-51 for 440 yards and seven touchdowns.

"His confidence was shaken last year, but he's now playing with a great deal of confidence," said Miller of Coffman, the son of former KSU tight end Paul Coffman.

Of Klein, Miller said, "Collin just needs time. He hasn't had as many snaps," said Miller. "But his work-ethic is unbelievable and his leadership skills have improved. He definitely has some talent."

RUNNING BACK

DANIEL THOMAS, 6-2, 228, Sr

John Hubert, 5-7, 182, Fr
William Powell, 5-9, 205, Sr

Daniel Thomas enters the season with a goal of 1,600 rushing yards and 20 rushing scores.

While those are record-setting type numbers, KSU running back coach Dana Dimel says of last year when Thomas led the league with a 105-yard average, "It's amazing what he did without a great knowledge of the position."

Dimel called Thomas' improvement "50 percent" better throughout the spring, and hopes for another "25 percent" this fall.

While Thomas' 4.6 40-speed is modest by Big 12 standards, Dimel says, "He may be a 4.6 guy, but he's also a 4.6 guy with his pads on, and he's a 4.6 guy on his 25th carry. He's strong enough to maintain his speed. I hope he will play even faster this year because of an off-season of conditioning, which he didn't have during the summer of 2009."

William Powell, who has been nagged with injuries, will give the ‘Cats a change-up at the position with 4.45 speed in the 40, with freshman John Hubert also sure to see snaps.

FULLBACK

BRADEN WILSON, 6-2, 244, Soph

Lucas Hamm, 6-1, 229, Sr

Dimel describes Braden Wilson as a "Brian Goolsby-type" in reference to the Wildcat fullback from 1995-98.

"He gives us nice versatility because he can catch the ball so well and he's athletic enough to block on the edge. He has the size and toughness to block in the box and he can run the ball," said DImel.

Argue if you like, but K-State might have the best running back/fullback duo in the Big 12.

WIDE RECEIVERS

AUBREY QUARLES, 5-11, 202, Sr

BRODRICK SMITH, 6-2, 206, Soph

TRAMAINE THOMPSON, 5-7, 165, Fr

Chris Harper, 6-1, 234, Soph
Sheldon Smith, 5-11, 180, Sr

Returning wide receivers caught four passes for 40 yards a year ago. Yet, coach Michael Smith says, "We are very, very, very comfortable. We have a nice collection of athletes, and the quarterbacks have a confidence in the guys in that they are going to be where they're supposed to be."

Coach Smith called Brodrick Smith "… like Quincy Morgan, but not as explosive," while the Wildcat coach marvels about Thompson's routes.

After missing the 2009 season due to injury, Smith said of Quarles: "Aubrey has given us nice leadership. I think sitting out last year made him hungry."

With Harper (Oregon) and Smith (Minnesota), Smith said, "That's big because they're not going to have stage fright. They've been in the big stadium which will help them get rid of those nerves a lot faster, plus they know the speed and routine of big-time football."

TIGHT ENDS

TRAVIS TANNAHILL, 6-3, 254, Soph

Andre McDonald, 6-8, 282, Fr Big shoes must be filled at tight end with the graduation of Jeron Mastrud. At least early in the year, the position will be shared between Andre McDonald and Travis Tannahill.

"Andre has that size and power that you like, but Travis knows how to play, and has played," said coach Ricky Rahne. "Andre gives you a bigger target, yet Travis has the ability to make great catches. Both are doing some nice things."

OFFENSIVE LINE

CENTER – WADE WEIBERT, 6-4, 303, Sr

Trevor Viers, 6-4, 297, Sr

GUARDS – ZACH KENDALL, 6-2, 312, Sr

KENNETH MAYFIELD, 6-4, 338, Sr

Colten Freeze, 6-4, 300, Jr
Keenan Taylor, 6-4, 280, Fr

TACKLES – MANASE FOKETI, 6-5, 325, Jr

ETHAN DOUGLAS, 6-6, 295, Soph

Zach Hanson, 6-8, 313, Jr
Clyde Aufner, 6-5, 300, Jr
Cornelius Lucas, 6-8, 312, Fr

"We're like a band of brothers," said KSU center Wade Weibert on the return of four starters from the 2009 season.

Line coach Charlie Dickey adds of the return of Weibert at center, Zach Kendall and Ken Mayfield at guards, and perhaps Clyde Aufner at tackle, "The snaps that they've had together is very valuable. We're considerably further ahead of where we were last year. It's so important to have that continuity in terms of understanding the offense and what to expect from each other.

The group was fundamentally better in the spring, so we hope that will continue over into the fall."

Between them, these four ‘Cats have started 46 games.

Injuries at the two tackle positions have the positions in limbo with Hanson and Aufner missing much of the early fall-camp. At least for now, the spots will be filled with Manase Foketi on the left side and Ethan Douglas on the right.


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