When Kansas State left Lincoln last November, it went from having a chance to win the division with a victory over Nebraska and punching a ticket for the Big 12 Championship to not even going to a bowl game with a 17-3 loss to the Huskers.
Since then, the Wildcats have been determined to make sure it finishes what it starts this season in the second year since head coach Bill Snyder's return.
HuskersIllustrated.com caught up with Powercat Illustrated and GoPowercat.com's Tim Fitzgerald to get his breakdown coming out of spring practice.
Kansas State essentially lost the Big 12 North championship last year in Lincoln, and they went from playing in the Big 12 title to not even making it to a bowl with the loss. How much do the Wildcats still think about that and are they using that as motivation this year?
"That's interesting. Snyder talked about that, that he wanted that to linger, and he said it did kind of linger throughout the off-season program, and it really built the team quite a bit. They were so close. It was just a really strange situation to where you win a game and you win the division and play for a conference championship, or you lose and you don't even go to a bowl. I think it indicated to them how fine the line is between success and failure and how close they were and they couldn't get the job done. I think it did inspire the team during the off-season, and they were incredibly focused."
What's been one of the biggest differences between the second spring practice under Snyder and his first last year?
"Well, what's interesting about their spring is between their grayshirts and juco transfers and a couple of early high school graduates, they had more than half of their recruiting class in spring football. It was really unique. They had 13 out of 24 guys or something that were actually a part of spring football. Snyder was pretty upbeat about his team, which I think says a lot, because he usually so demanding that he can't see much progress at times. He said he really liked the way his team entered the spring because he thought they had a great off-season."
How about quarterback? Who do you see taking over as the new starter this off-season?
"Their emphasis was on finding a quarterback, and apparently it's neck and neck between Carson Coffman and Collin Klein, who was the third quarterback and a receiver last year. I think most people suspect that it'll end up being Klein because he's going to be a sophomore and probably has a bigger upside."
So even though Coffman completed 38-of-51 passes for 440 yards and seven touchdowns in the spring game you still think Klein is going to be the guy?
"That's what's interesting. I was being told from people inside the program that Klein had pulled ahead a little. Snyder always likes to keep a competition between his quarterbacks through the summer, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if Carson starts the first game, but I think it will end up being Collin Klein unless Carson really invents himself, because he had problems in the heat of battle last year with making some bad throws."
Either way, I assume that running back Daniel Thomas is going to be the workhorse in that offense, especially early on. What kind of spring did he have?
"Here's what's amazing about the guy - last year was his first year as a running back. He had never played running back before. It turns out he never even worked out in like a serious lifting program, and if you would have seen Daniel Thomas, you'd be amazed by that, because he's just a huge human being. I guess he's bigger, faster, stronger now, which is a little bit terrifying. I think he's going to be really special, because they return four starters on the offensive line, and I think that's going to play a big role. His fullback last year was in his first year as being a fullback, so I think both of those guys together are going to be a lot better."
How about on the other side of the ball? Have they made any improvements so far defensively from last season?
"They're still trying to sort out their front seven. They hit the juco ranks really hard with defensive linemen. They had two of their four (recruits on the defensive line) in camp this spring, but the other two guys might be the best two. I think they're counting on them quite a bit. They're still trying to figure out linebacker. That's an ongoing problem for the team. It was an under-recruited position by the previous staff, and in fact they shifted their fourth-string running back, Jarell Childs, to linebacker, and he emerged as probably the best linebacker on the team. He's penciled in as a starter now. They should be pretty good on the back end. They feel pretty good about their corners, and they're really good at safety. They play a 4-2-5, so they have three safeties out there. They're really sound at safety. That's one of the strengths of the team."
Obviously the big talk around here in recent weeks has been over Nebraska possibly jumping to the Big Ten Conference. What has the conference re-alignment talk been like down in Manhattan and how do you see all of this effecting Kansas State?
"I think Texas holds the keys to everything. I mean, if Texas remains in the Big 12, which I don't see them leaving, because as you know, they pretty much run the conference, so I'm not sure why they would go to the SEC or Pac-10 where they couldn't run the conference. So as long as Texas remains, I think the conference will remain viable.
"It was interesting, (Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe) said earlier this week on Kansas City radio that they'll look for new schools beyond their current states, so they wouldn't go pick up another Texas school or Colorado State. He said they were looking for schools in states that are not currently in the Big 12, which I thought was really interesting. So I think the thought is that if they go east they add Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis. It hurts in football to lose Nebraska in particular, but all of sudden you've got an incredible basketball conference.
"So I don't know what they'll do, but K-State has no cards to play, you know? There's just not a big enough market for them, so they better hope the Big 12 survives this, and it will in some form. I mean, even if Texas would leave, the Big 12 name has enough clout that there will still be a Big 12, it just might end up like the Big East was a few years ago where it's not quite as good."
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