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.