March 19, 2010

Kansas State continues rebuilding effort

Compared to the first time Bill Snyder was asked to salvage Kansas State's program, the Wildcats are way ahead of schedule.

In 1989, the opening season of Snyder's first Manhattan tour of duty, the Wildcats went 1-11 before growing into a national power. Last season, Snyder came out of retirement to direct the Wildcats to a 6-6 finish.

But just like before, he faces a daunting task. An anemic offense has to be rebuilt without a proven quarterback or receivers. The defense was vulnerable to the pass. The special teams were sound, but now are without Brandon Banks, one of the country's most feared kick return specialists who completed his eligibility.

The good news? Snyder's been through this before, so he knew it wasn't going to be easy.

KANSAS STATE AT-A-GLANCE
Bill Snyder's rebuilding project got off to a good start.
THE BASICS
COACH: Bill Snyder
LAST SEASON: 6-6 overall, 4-4 in the Big 12
SPRING DATES: March 21-April 24
RETURNING STARTERS
(minimum of six starts)
OFFENSE (5): T Clyde Aufner, G Zach Kendall, G Ken Mayfield, RB Daniel Thomas, G/C Wade Weibert.
DEFENSE (6): DT Prizell Brown, LB Troy Butler, DE Antonio Felder, CB Stephen Harrison, SS Tysyn Hartman, FS Emmanuel Lamur.
SPECIAL TEAMS (2): K Josh Cherry, P Ryan Doerr.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH

Without question, the Wildcats are most powerful at running back. Daniel Thomas is the reigning Big 12 rushing champion after gaining 1,265 yards. The Wildcats also brought in four-star prospect DeMarcus Robinson, who rushed for 1,720 yards as a senior at Wichita (Kan.) Northwest. Of course, no matter how good running backs are, they will struggle without a sound offensive line. Four starters are back in the line, so the Wildcats should continue to run well. They have to improve in pass protection, though.

HELP IS NEEDED

Well, quarterback is an obvious place to start. Although Carson Coffman has starting experience, he threw for only 863 yards and two touchdowns before being benched last season. He's the only quarterback on the roster with significant playing experience. Sammuel Lamur, a junior college transfer who did not play last season, is a good bet to emerge as the starter. Receiver looks like a problem, too. Last year's receptions leaders, Brandon Banks and Attrail Snipes, completed their eligibility and Lamark Brown left the program. No receiver remaining on the roster had more than six catches in '09. Defensively, the Wildcats surrendered an average of 234.5 passing yards per game and allowed 25 touchdowns, so the secondary could use a boost, too. Depth at defensive tackle is thin. Javonta Boyd is one of three juco tackles signed and the only one that is available this spring.

THREE GUYS TO WATCH

WR Chris Harper: A transfer from Oregon, Harper provides an injection of speed and athleticism. In '08 with the Ducks, he got action at quarterback and receiver, and scored touchdowns via rush, pass and reception.

WR Brodrick Smith: A native Kansan, Smith started his career at Minnesota. He had five catches in '08 and sat out last season after transferring to Kansas State.

QB Sammuel Lamur: The twin of starting FS Emmanuel Lamur, Sammuel sat out the '09 season after transferring from Joliet Junior College. He's a good athlete with the ability to play various positions. The Wildcats are counting on him at quarterback, though he didn't throw much in junior college.

THE PRESSURE IS ON

CB Terrence Sweeney: A senior, Sweeney didn't see much action last season. But the former junior college transfer will get a chance to replace Joshua Moore, who declared for the NFL draft. Is Sweeney ready to take that leap? He'll have all spring to answer that question.

THE BUZZ

Last season, Banks returned four kickoffs for touchdowns. That's twice as many touchdowns as any Kansas State receiver managed. Crippled by a passing offense that ranked 106th in the nation last season, the Wildcats were held to 21 or fewer points in eight games. Imagine how good Thomas could be if K-State had other players that concerned opposing defenses. Obviously, finding other scoring threats and upgrading the offense is Job One in Manhattan. Job Two? Well, replacing Banks on kick returns has to rank high.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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