Big 12: Gerard Spexarth
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas State turns to legendary coach Bill Snyder to help resuscitate the program. Snyder will find an underrated pool of talent returning, but his immediate success will be largely determined by recruiting at one key position.
With the departure of Josh Freeman early for the NFL draft, it means that Wildcat coaches will turn either to returning quarterback Carson Coffman or look for a junior college replacement to orchestrate new coordinator Andy Ludwig's spread passing attack.
Depth is needed across an offensive line that loses its entire right side in center Jordan Bedore, guard Gerard Spexarth and tackle Penisini Liu. Additional players are needed as projected starting left tackle Nick Stringer and guard Brock Unruh both will be seniors next season.
Allowances also must be made for a receiving corps that returns all four top pass-catchers in wide receivers Brandon Banks, Deon Murphy and Aubrey Quarles and starting tight end Jeron Mastrud. All will be seniors in 2009, meaning that depth must be built.
New defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will likely build his defense with the Wildcats like those at Clemson, where his unit led the ACC in pass defense and turnovers last season. That would put a premium on depth in the secondary and an infusion of playmaker types, although the Wildcats lose no starters from their 2008 defensive secondary.
It will be interesting to see if Koenning thinks his current players are good enough to thrive in his defense or if they make a big jump into the junior college ranks like Snyder's teams have traditionally done.
New starters will be needed along the defensive front as defensive end Ian Campbell and nose tackle Brandon Balkcom both completed their senior seasons last year. But the defense does have a nice building block with the return of Brandon Harold, who led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss as a freshman in 2008.
The linebacking corps needs some players for the future as Reggie Walker finished his senior season last year and starters Olu Hall and Ulla Pomele both will be seniors next season.
The transformation won't be as daunting as the one that faced Snyder when he arrived in 1993 in his first stint as Kansas State's coach. But the Big 12 figures to be even more challenging than the old Big Eight was, meaning the Wildcats must start getting some players quickly.