<
>

Strong and weak: Kansas State Wildcats

5/20/2015

This week, we’ve begun examining the strongest and weakest positions for each team in the Big 12 going into the fall.

We continue the series below with the Kansas State Wildcats:

Strongest position: Defensive back

This has a chance to be one of the best defensive backfields that Bill Snyder has ever coached.

"We are experienced," strong safety Dante Barnett said, "and we have the talent."

Barnett, who will be a four-year starter, will be the anchor of the unit after finishing second on the team last season with 77 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions. Barnett gives the defense a presence it enjoyed when All-American Ty Zimmerman roamed the secondary two years ago.

Like Barnett, cornerback Danzel McDaniel was a second-team All-Big 12 selection last season. He quickly won a starting role after transferring in from junior college, and just as quickly developed a reputation as a big hitter.

While McDaniel brings the hammer at one corner, senior captain Morgan Burns brings the speed at the other. He was clocked at a sub-4.3 during winter conditioning and boasts the athleticism to hang with most any receiver in the Big 12.

"We have a physical corner and a speedy corner that both weigh almost 200 pounds," Barnett said. "Anytime you have a secondary come back that's the backbone of the defense, you love it."

How free safety Kaleb Prewett and nickelback Nate Jackson adjust to being first-time starters alongside the three veterans will ultimately determine whether the K-State secondary truly becomes elite. But with Barnett, McDaniel and Burns being proven performers, the Wildcats have the pieces in place to have a dominant defensive backfield.

"I think we have the potential to be a great secondary," Burns said, "to continue to build on some of the success we had last year.”

Weakest position: Quarterback

Wide receiver or running back could easily have gotten the nod here. But the uncertainty at quarterback figures to be the dominant storyline at K-State through the fall.

Former walk-on Joe Hubener and sophomore Jesse Ertz added to the uncertainty by struggling in Kansas State's spring game. Ertz tossed two pick-six interceptions after getting the starting nod; Hubener didn't fare much, completing just 7 of his 19 attempts with an interception.

For those reasons, true freshman Alex Delton actually was the most impressive quarterback in the scrimmage despite completing only 3 of 12 passes.

He led the first-team offense on a touchdown drive late in the scrimmage. He also shined with his wheels, rushing for 61 yards. Delton had impressed Bill Snyder all spring, and in the spring game showed why he could be a serious contender in the competition.

The Wildcats have big shoes to fill at quarterback. Jake Waters set several school records in 2014 while keeping the Wildcats in the Big 12 title race up until the final week of the regular season. Whoever wins the starting job will have to perform better than they did in the spring, or the position could take a major step back this season.