- David Ubben, College Football
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2012 record: 11-2
2012 Big 12 record: 8-1
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 1; kicker/punter: 0
Key losses: QB Collin Klein, LB Arthur Brown, WR Chris Harper, DE Meshak Williams, LB Justin Tuggle, CB Nigel Malone, CB Allen Chapman, DE Adam Davis
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Passing: Collin Klein (2,641 yards)
Rushing: John Hubert* (947 yards)
Receiving: Chris Harper (857 yards)
Tackles: Arthur Brown (100)
Sacks: Meshak Williams (10.5)
Interceptions: Ty Zimmerman*, Nigel Malone, Allen Chapman (5)
1. Emerging talents up front. K-State's defense lost all four starters from its defensive line last year, but don't be surprised if the dropoff is minimal next season. Travis Britz, Chaquil Reed, Matt Seiwert and Demonte Hood all stood out with nice springs for the Cats. Stopping the run and a good pass rush is a great start to developing a great defense.
2. The new QBs can definitely play. Neither Jake Waters or Daniel Sams are Collin Klein, but they both look capable of being very good quarterbacks in Big 12 play. You can't take much from their eye-popping stats against second-teamers in K-State's spring game, the lone open practice for fans and media in Manhattan, but you can buy into Bill Snyder's encouraging reports on the duo and how they looked while shredding those defenses.
3. Receivers ready to step up. Chris Harper is gone, but K-State's receiving corps is in good hands. Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett impressive this spring, and Lockett even earned the distinction of being a team captain. They've both been productive with limited opportunity in K-State's run-heavy offense, but both guys are capable of being serviceable No. 1 receivers in the Big 12.
1. Who's the quarterback? Sams and Waters can both play, but which will actually do the playing? Is a two-quarterback system still a possibility? Waters can move, but he can't move like Sams, who's first step into a hole is lightning quick and good enough to give any defenses some major issues. The spring ended with this race tied, but Snyder has to pick one of them eventually.
2. Can K-State sustain its success? Is there still magic in Manhattan? On paper, the returning talent in Manhattan isn't title-worthy, and there will be tons of inexperience, but simply looking like a Top 25 team or finishing in the top half of the Big 12 would be a big-time accomplishment for a team that returns fewer starters than only a handful of teams in college football. Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 title and bounced back with eight wins. Can K-State do something similar this year?
3. Will the defense bounce back? Just two starters return from one of the Big 12's best defenses. The defensive line had some standouts, but replacing guys like linebacker Arthur Brown and both cornerbacks Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman won't be easy. Juco transfer Nate Jackson should earn a starting spot, but the entire unit has a ton to prove in 2013. Inexperience is always hard to overcome in a Big 12 constantly full of high-powered offenses.