The Kansas State Wildcats are far from a complete team in the second year of Bill Snyder's rebuilding job in Manhattan, but they were good enough in enough areas to get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2006. Say what you will about the Wildcats, but they're moving in the right direction, as would be expected under Snyder.
The Wildcats did nothing better than run the ball, and they did it in a variety of ways late in the season. Early on, it was all about Daniel Thomas, but enough teams -- namely UCF and Nebraska -- slowed Thomas that it was evident Kansas State had to add another aspect to the offense.
Enter Collin Klein. He started out of nowhere against Texas and ran for a game-high 127 yards as the Wildcats opened up a 39-0 lead against the Longhorns. He added 141 yards against Missouri the next week and looked unstoppable at times while running a zone-read scheme with Thomas.
Carson Coffman's experience and superior passing prowess meant he'd still split time with Klein, a former receiver, but the fans were clamoring for the sophomore by season's end. He'll be the presumptive starter in 2011.
Kansas State's biggest problems were on defense. The Wildcats couldn't handle speed all year, and it cost them against Nebraska, Baylor and Colorado. The same was nearly true against North Texas. K-State finished 11th in the Big 12 in total defense, which is a very, very bad thing for a team with a supposed ball control offense. That will have to change if the Wildcats want have bigger successes than just a bowl game.
Offensive MVP: Daniel Thomas, RB. No doubt about this one. Thomas almost single-handedly carried this team to wins against UCLA, Iowa State and North Texas, and was the most consistent contributor for the Wildcats. He finished the regular season with 1,495 yards rushing, which ranked ninth nationally and second in the Big 12. He also tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with 16.
Defensive MVP: David Garrett, S. The junior led Kansas State with 86 tackles, including 64 solo stops, and had a team-high 13 tackles for loss. He made three sacks and broke up nine passes on the year, also adding an interception.
Turning point: Klein's game against Texas. It established the zone read as a big weapon for Kansas State, and gave the Wildcats their best win of the season. It probably laid the groundwork for next year's offense, too.
What's next: Replacing Thomas will be difficult, especially since the No. 2 option this year was fellow senior William Powell, a former walk-on who emerged in the season opener as a reliable backup. Kansas State will need to recruit speed on defense to prevent repeats of 2010, and knowing Snyder, he'll be hard at work mining junior colleges to go get it. It was the 'Cats most glaring weakness in 2010, and improving the unit will be the first step toward getting the program back in contention for conference titles.