No more Newman, but offensive stars return for Kansas State

Updated: August 12, 2003, 2:06 PM ET

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The first round of the NFL draft cost Kansas State the nation's best defensive back, a dangerous kick returner and a guy who could play wide receiver now and then.

Think the Wildcats will miss Terence Newman?

"Everybody's eyes will be on us and how we survive through that," safety Rashad Washington said. "As long as we come together as a secondary and our newcomers become comfortable with what we want to do on defense, we'll be fine."

There are other are question marks -- especially on the defensive line and at wide receiver -- and not much time to answer them before the Wildcats open Aug. 23 against California in Kansas City, Mo.

But Kansas State returns its share of stars from a team that went 11-2 and won the Holiday Bowl before finishing at No. 7 in the final rankings.

In senior quarterback Ell Roberson and junior running back Darren Sproles, the Wildcats have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers capable of going up the middle or turning the corner on the option.

Even though he didn't become Kansas State's starter until the fourth game, Roberson ran for 1,032 yards -- a school record for a quarterback -- and 11 TDs. He also threw for 1,580 yards and another 11 scores.

"The thing that has impressed me about Ell is his improvement year after year," coach Bill Snyder said. "He made a lot of improvement last fall in certain aspects of his game and I think he has continued to make improvements through the spring."

Sproles ran for a school-record 1,465 yards last season -- his first as a starter -- and shredded the school single-season record for 100-yard games with 10. One more will make him Kansas State's career leader in that category. He also will take over Newman's return chores.

Fullbacks Thomas Wilson, Ayo Saba and Victor Mann all saw significant action last year, and tight end Thomas Hill and wide receiver James Terry are both returning starters. The other receiver position is less settled, with the arrest of projected starter Derrick Evans last month on drug charges.

Evans, who caught the game-winning pass in the Holiday Bowl, is no longer with the team -- a situation that could lead to significant playing time for freshman Jermaine Moreira. That would be unusual for Snyder, who prefers to ease in first-year players. However, he made a point of singling out Moreira at the Big 12 media day.

Only two starters are back on the interior line -- and only one of those is at his old position. Guard Nick Leckey has moved to center, with Mike Johnson returning to his other guard spot.

The defensive line suffered similar losses, with the departure of tackles Tank Reese and Corey White and end Henry Bryant. Only end Andrew Shull returns.

The Wildcats were set to bring back their entire "TNT" (Three Nasty Texans) linebacking corps of Josh Buhl, Bryan Hickman and Terry Pierce, but Pierce turned pro after his junior season.

Sophomore Matt Butler is listed as Pierce's replacement, with transfer Marvin Simmons -- a junior college All-American at Compton (Calif.) College -- and sophomore Ted Simms behind him.

"Simmons still needs to get more familiar with our system," Hickman said. "Once he does that, we'll be really comfortable having him in here."

Newman wasn't the only departure from the secondary. Free safety Bobby Walker, who led Kansas State with six interceptions, is also gone. Louis Lavender is listed as Newman's replacement, with sophomore Jesse Tetuan holding a slight edge at free safety over senior James McGill.

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