Big 12: Kyle Klein

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring, continuing Friday with Kansas State’s projected post-spring depth chart.

OFFENSE (projected starter in bold)

QB: Jake Waters (Sr.), Jesse Ertz (RFr.)

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJake Waters' emergence late last season solidified Kansas State's offense and has the Wildcats set up for a big 2014.
Waters becomes the unquestioned leader and main man behind center with Daniel Sams' move to receiver. The senior was one of the conference’s top quarterbacks during the final month of the 2013 season and gives the Wildcats plenty of confidence as a trigger man of the offense. Ertz showed good potential in the spring and could be the future at the position. KSU is one of the few Big 12 squads with a settled and productive starter and quality depth, as Sams is able to line up behind center at any point if need be.

RB: Charles Jones (So.), Jarvis Leverett (So.), DeMarcus Robinson (Sr.)

The battle to become John Hubert's successor remains wide open. Jones and Leverett had solid spring games while Robinson sat out, but none of the Wildcats running backs currently on campus distanced himself from the competition in the spring. The summer will bring new competitors into the mix, including true freshman Dalvin Warmack.

FB: Glenn Gronkowski (So.), Zach Nemechek (Sr.)

Gronkowski could be ready to stake his claim as the Big 12’s top fullback. He’s an solid runner, receiver and blocker and should continue to see his role in the offense expand as a sophomore. Nemechek has been a special teams performer and provides a solid backup option at the position.

WR: Tyler Lockett (Sr.), Curry Sexton (Sr.), Deante Burton (So.), Andre Davis (Jr.), Judah Jones (RFr.), Daniel Sams (Jr.), Kyle Klein (So.)

Lockett could be considered the Big 12’s best receiver and gives Waters a consistent target when he’s healthy. Sams is a proven playmaker, but it remains to be seen if he can transfer his explosiveness to his new position. Sexton was solid in his role last season and could be a key target during his final season. Keep an eye on Jones, who impressed with a strong spring showing and could be a much-needed playmaker alongside Lockett. If at least two additional targets emerge to join Lockett, this could be one of the conference’s top groups.

TE: Zach Trujillo (Sr.), Cody Small (RFr.)

Trujillo is a returning starter and a veteran in KSU’s offense. He won’t break the Big 12 record for pass receptions but is a productive player who could be a big target in the passing game and a key to the Wildcats' offense.

C; BJ Finney (Sr.), Reed Bergstrom (Jr.)

G: Boston Stiverson (Jr.), Drew Liddle (Sr.), Luke Hayes (Jr.), Will Ash (So.)

T: Cody Whitehair (Jr.), Matt Kleinsorge (Jr.), Reid Najvar (RFr.), Ajhane Brager (RFr.)

Bill Snyder’s desire to get the best five offensive linemen on the field means this group will likely remain fluid with veterans such as Whitehair, who has moved from guard to tackle, and Finney as the foundation of the line. Overall, the Wildcats should have a pretty solid and deep group of offensive linemen despite losing several seniors off last year’s front.


DE: Ryan Mueller (Sr.), Marquel Bryant (Jr.), Laton Dowling (Sr.)

DT: Travis Britz (Jr.), Valentino Coleman (Sr.), Will Geary (RFr.)

[+] EnlargeTravis Britz
Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCTK-State's opponents will have their work cut out for them in trying to block junior defensive tackle Travis Britz.
Much like the offensive line, K-State has a veteran and productive group along the defensive front. There are still jobs left to be won, but Mueller and Britz are among the Big 12’s best at their positions and provide consistent production. Add ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales into the mix and this defensive line group should be a big reason to consider Kansas State a conference title contender.

LB: Jonathan Truman (Sr.), Will Davis (So.), Dakorey Johnson (Sr.), Charmeachealle Moore (Jr.)

Truman returns after breakout junior season which featured 89 tackles in 13 starts for the Wildcats. Davis appears ready to slide into the starting lineup after impressing as a redshirt freshman, while Johnson and Moore should provide solid depth at the position but will have to battle to maintain their roles with ESPN JC 50 linebacker D'Vonta Derricott arriving in the summer.

CB: Randall Evans (Sr.), Morgan Burns (Jr.), Nate Jackson (Jr.), Cre Moore (RFr.), Danzel McDaniel (Jr.), Corey Jackson (RFr.)

Burns was one of KSU’s stars of the spring and appears to have settled into the No. 1 cornerback spot. The rest of the Wildcats cornerbacks are battling for the other starting spot outside of Evans, who started 11 games as KSU’s nickelback in 2013 and is lone returning starter of the group. While KSU lost experience at corner, the Wildcats might have upgraded in terms of overall talent.

S: Dante Barnett (Jr.), Dylan Schellenberg (Sr.), Sean Newlan (RFr.), Weston Hiebert (Sr.)

Barnett is a star and one of the more underrated defenders in the Big 12, while Schellenberg got plenty of experience when Ty Zimmerman was sidelined by injury last season. Barnett is probably the only safety with a secure spot in KSU’s defensive plans, so expect the battle for playing time to continue deep into August.

K-State looking for springboard win

October, 11, 2013
It’s gut-check time for Kansas State.

A year after winning the Big 12, the Wildcats are 0-2 in league play. To avoid falling to 0-3 this weekend, they must slow the hottest offense in college football.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
AP Photo/Eric GayKansas State will need to avoid turnovers that have plagued their offense in losses this season.
With quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown graduated, this was always going to be a rebuilding year. But two weeks into October, K-State already has more losses than it did all of last season.

“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” said wide receiver Kyle Klein, Colin’s younger brother. “Panic has never entered (coach Bill Snyder’s) vocabulary. One of these days, if it’s this week or next week, we’re going to come out on top.”

K-State might not be panicking yet. But if they don’t start coming out on top soon, the Wildcats will risk having just their third losing season with Snyder as coach since 1992.

“I hope from an emotional standpoint there’s some anger about being where we are,” Snyder said, “what could have been.”

The good news is that the Wildcats have been in all three games they’ve lost, too.

“It’s not like we’re getting over-talented,” defensive tackle Travis Britz said. “We have talent. We’re just making too many mental errors.”

In the opener, K-State allowed FCS powerhouse North Dakota State to drive the length of the field in the fourth quarter for the game-winning touchdown.

In their Big 12 opener, the Wildcats lost three fumbles and didn’t force any turnovers of their own in a 31-21 defeat at Texas.

Then last week, K-State had Oklahoma State on the ropes in Stillwater. But quarterback Daniel Sams turned the ball over four times, which helped the Cowboys to hold on, 33-29.

“Everybody still has a positive mindset,” safety Dante Barnett said. “We know we’ve shot ourselves in the foot. This could easily be 2-0 football team (in Big 12 play). We know this weekend, we have to go out and respond and win a conference game.”

That won’t be easy.

The Wildcats are 17 -point home underdogs to the team that knocked them out of the national championship game last season. And this time, Baylor is looking more and more like a team that could match what K-State accomplished in 2012, and possibly more.

The unbeaten Bears roll into Manhattan averaging almost 50 points in their first halves alone, which, with the exception of Oregon and Florida State, is more than anyone else is averaging in a full game.

“It’s gonna be a challenge,” Britz said, “but I feel like we’re up to it.”

While they’ve been unstoppable offensively, the Bears have yet to go on the road this season. Baylor has never won in Manhattan, either. The Bears, in fact, have only one Big 12 road win (at Kansas in 2011) in their last nine tries. Yet the way Baylor has been piling up points, it will require a Herculean effort by the K-State defense to upset the Bears.

“As long as we run to the football and play K-State defense,” Barnett said, “we can slow them down.”

Dating back to last November, however, nobody has slowed down the Bears -- the Wildcats included. In a 52-24 win over K-State in Waco last year, Baylor racked up 29 first downs and 580 yards of offense.

Last week, the Bears became the first FBS team in 83 years to score 70 points in three consecutive games. But that also provides K-State with an opportunity for a springboard victory that could turn its season around. The same kind of springboard the Bears had after beating the Wildcats last season.

“We have a chance to beat a really good team,” Barnett said. “We say week in, week out, we wanna show what we can do.

“We feel this is a week we can really go out and do it.”