Wildcat fans have to be pleased by the job Bill Snyder has done with "Miracle in Manhattan-Part II". Kansas State is 4-0, and received more votes for the AP Top 25 than Southern Cal and Texas this week. Daniel Thomas ranks fifth nationally in rushing, averaging 157 yards a game. But Kansas State's passing game has been a work in progress this season, ranking 103rd in division 1-A. Senior quarterback Carson Coffman's hold on the starting quarterback job might only be because he doesn't make as many mistakes as the others on the roster.
Defensively, the Wildcats seem to have taken a step backwards, ranking 57th nationally in total defense. Sophomore defensive end Brandon Harold seems to have regained his 2008 freshman all-American form, but the secondary seems to have regressed, especially junior safety Tysyn Hartman. Cornerback Troy Butler has been missing since the Iowa State game; no word if it's disciplinary or injury related. (And getting an answer out of Bill Snyder will be an exercise in futility.)
Kansas State fans aren't terribly confident of their chances on Thursday night...but as the Nebraska/South Dakota State game proved, anything is possible if one team is ready to play and the other one isn't. And don't discount Carson Coffman. With K-State trailing Central Florida late in the game, it was Coffman making the plays, with two key third-down completions and scoring the game winning touchdown in the final minute.
After the jump, you'll find our preview of the Wildcats from July for comparison...
Last season, things didn't look so good for the Wildcats initially. A 17-15 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, followed by a 66-14 loss to Texas Tech had to raise questions just how long Bill Snyder's second rebuilding process was going to take. But KSU rebounded strongly the next week, defeating Texas A&M 62-14. And after a win against Colorado, the Wildcats suddenly found themselves in position to win the Big XII North. But a loss at home to Missouri put the Wildcats into a strange situation: beat Nebraska, and the Wildcats win the north and play for the Big XII title. Lose, and the season is over, as the Wildcats didn't have enough victories to be bowl eligible. Needless to say, Bo Pelini's squad took care of business and ended the Wildcats' surprising season.
Can Snyder work his magic again this season? Never count him out, though looking at the state of the Wildcats in the summer, it looks like this squad has some work to do. Only thirteen starters return from last year's squad, with key questions on both sides of the ball. Doesn't mean the Wildcats will regress (especially with a proven coach like Snyder in charge), but the question marks are obvious.
On offense, seven starters return, lead by all-Big XII running back Daniel Thomas, who rushed for 1265 yards and eleven touchdowns last season. He's already gaining mention as an all-American candidate, and he's likely the Big XII's best offensive player going into the 2010 season. He'll be operating behind an offensive line returning four of five returning starters, so expect the Wildcats to depend heavily on the rushing game. The passing game is where questions emerge offensively. Quarterback Carson Coffman started the 2009 season opener, but was replaced by sixth year transfer Grant Gregory after losses to Louisiana and UCLA. Look for Coffman to start, especially after his 38 for 51 performance in the spring game.
The 'Cats top three receivers and tight end from last season all graduated, so an all-new receiving corp will need to step up in 2010. Senior Aubrey Quarles redshirted last season, but started four games in 2008, catching 34 passes for 407 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore transfer Broderick Smith started two games for Minnesota in 2008, catching a 43 yard touchdown pass against Wisconsin.
On defense, six starters return from a defense that actually wasn't that bad...ranked 39th in the country despite giving up 66 points to Texas Tech. They were stout against the run, ranking 16th in the nation...but they lose 4 of last season's top seven tacklers. If defensive end Brandon Harold is fully recovered from injuries that limited him to one game last season, the former freshman all-American should lead this squad up front. The real depth is in the secondary where safeties Troy Butler, Emmanuel Lamur, and Tysyn Hartman return. Lamur was the leading tackler on the 'Cats last season, while Hartman was honorable mention all-conference.
On paper, the Wildcats look like they have quite a few holes, but never count out the Miracle Worker who's back on duty in Manhattan. Coffman looked good in the spring game, and frankly, looked like twice the quarterback Josh Freeman was back in 2008. If the unproven receivers develop, with Daniel Thomas carrying the load at running back, this offense could be fine. The sportswriters pick K-State to finish third in the North, which seems about right. The Huskers won't be able to look past the Wildcats towards Texas. It will be interesting to see how the Thursday night game affects the game, as it may limit the crowd as people may need to use two days of vacation to attend.