Big 12: Kansas State Wildcats

Video: Kansas State moves

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
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video

Brandon Chatmon talks about Daniel Sams' move to receiver at Kansas State. The former quarterback could become a key playmaker this fall.
We've been doing something different with the mailbag, including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...

Trotter: At this point, I think it's only a matter of time before Grant Rohach is named the starter. He was clearly the best QB in the spring game, and coming off the way he played at the end of last season, momentum is in his corner. I know the Cyclones are high on the potential of redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, and Rohach will have to perform once the season begins to keep the job, but at this point, it's difficult envisioning anyone other than Rohach starting the opener against North Dakota State.

Trotter: Texas' Cedric Reed, Kansas State's Ryan Mueller, Oklahoma's Charles Tapper, TCU's Devonte Fields and Baylor's Shawn Oakman. On the next tier, I'd have Oklahoma's Geneo Grissom, Texas Tech's Branden Jackson, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey and Oklahoma State's Jimmy Bean.

Trotter: My two darkhorse picks at this point would be Texas Tech and TCU. Schedule is a big part of this, and Tech gets Oklahoma and Texas at home, and Baylor in Arlington, Texas. If the Red Raiders could escape a September Thursday night clash at Oklahoma State, then they could be a factor. QB Davis Webb has made tremendous improvement since December, and he's going to have plenty of firepower surrounding him. Assuming Fields is back to his old self, the Horned Frogs will again be a formidable defense. The big question, as always, is, can they score enough points? But if Matt Joeckel can step in at QB and direct what is essentially the same offense he had at Texas A&M to respectability, TCU could be a handful.

Trotter: Charlie Strong can't get destroyed by Oklahoma. Can't enter any fourth quarter without a legitimate chance to win. Can't lose more than three games. If he avoids those three potholes, he has chance to take Texas a step forward. To me, that's the litmus test.

Trotter: Anytime a team loses its leading tackler, it hurts. Fortunately for the Sooners, they're deep at linebacker, and can absorb a key loss there better than they'd be able to at some other positions. Jordan Evans played well as a true freshman, and shined in place of Shannon in the spring game. A linebacking corps of Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Dominique Alexander, sack-master Eric Striker and Evans would still be stout. Of course, it would be even better with Shannon.

Trotter: That's a tough question. It was startling how much the K-State defense suffered when Ty Zimmerman wasn't on the field last year, but I have faith Dante Barnett is ready to assume a leadership role in that secondary and stabilize the defense. I have less faith right now in K-State's running backs. So far this spring, no one has really emerged from a crop of backs with almost no meaningful experience. The K-State attack has always been predicated on a strong running game, so this is no small issue. Maybe freshman Dalvin Warmack can jumpstart the position when he arrives this summer. But running back looks like the biggest question on a solid-looking team with not many questions elsewhere.
Kansas State heads into the 2014 season with its entire coaching staff intact for the first time since Bill Snyder returned to lead the program he built in 2009.

Normally, the thought of continuity would bring great piece of mind for a head coach. But Snyder is a unique man and coach, one who is always covering every angle and thinking of every possibility.

[+] EnlargeBill Snyder
AP Photo/Matt YorkBill Snyder's entire coaching staff is back this season. While that's comforting, Snyder isn't happy with just maintaining the status quo.
“I think that it is something that you have to be cautious about, not taking that for granted,” Snyder said of having the coaching staff intact. “Just the fact that you have the same people in place, it will be very easy to think it will just be done how it has always been done. Then you get yourself into some dire straits if you accept it that way.”

The Wildcats staff features several coaches who have been at KSU for more than a decade. Special teams coordinator Sean Snyder, co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, co-offensive coordinator Del Miller and interior defensive line coach Mo Latimore have combined to spend 82 seasons in the program. The program does feature some newer faces in receivers coach Andre Coleman and defensive ends coach Blake Seiler, who just completed their first season as position coaches in Manhattan.

Snyder’s response to the question about continuity could be a glimpse at what helps separate him from other coaches. In his mind, there’s no advantage to having his entire staff return if they return as the same coaches they were during the previous season. He expects his staff to grow as coaches, much like he expects his team to grow as players.

“It is a plus to have all of your staff returning, but it is a plus only if that staff continues to grow and continue to provide the foundation for our players to improve on a regular basis,” Snyder said. “When you have been in a position -- yours, mine, anyone else’s -- the longer that you are in it, the more susceptible you [are to] take certain aspects for granted. We need to be awfully careful about that.”

Clearly the coaches on his staff buy into that mindset, and it’s working. The Wildcats have averaged 8.4 wins per season since Snyder’s return five years ago, including 29 wins during the past three seasons. KSU averaged 5.6 wins per season in three years with a 17-20 overall record under Ron Prince from 2006-08.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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I'm guessing this is how Usain Bolt plays soccer.
Kansas State went into the 2013 season with hopes of defending its Big 12 title. Those hopes quickly vanished after the Wildcats lost their first three Big 12 games.

But after a sizzling finish coupled with the return of several key performers, K-State opened spring ball this month with its eyes turned back to the Big 12 crown.

“I definitely think we have the confidence and talent to play with anyone,” quarterback Jake Waters said. “I’m not saying we’re going undefeated. But we can play with anyone in this league and anyone in the country. We’re going to have a chance to win every game.”

The Wildcats have good reason to feel confident about contending for the Big 12 title again.

They closed out last season winning six of their final seven games, including a 31-14 dismantling of Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

They also have a confident returning quarterback in Waters, who rapidly improved after transferring in from junior college. In fact, during that seven game stretch, Waters produced a better Adjusted Total QBR than All-Big 12 quarterback Bryce Petty while throwing for 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions (he threw four interceptions alone in K-State’s first two games against North Dakota State and Louisiana-Lafayette).

“My confidence is night and day from when I first got here and even maybe during the season,” said Waters, who eventually bumped Daniel Sams out of K-State’s two-quarterback system (Sams is playing receiver this spring). “Towards the end of the year, it started to click for me. The game started to slow down. I was able to see the coverages better and see the things I wanted to get to.”

Of course, Waters also benefited from having one of the best security blankets in all of college football in All-Big 12 wideout Tyler Lockett, who could be a preseason All-American going into his senior season.

Despite missing two games earlier in the season with injury, Lockett led the league in receiving yards per game (105.2). As Waters settled in, Lockett became almost uncoverable, hauling in 278 yards and three touchdowns in late November against Oklahoma before reeling in three first-half touchdown catches in the bowl game against Michigan.

“It’s pretty awesome for a quarterback to have a guy like him,” Waters said. “I’m confident he’s going to get open every single time. I know where he’s going to be, what he’s going to do, and that’s a big help. Me and him have a great connection.”

The Wildcats, however, won’t merely be a two-man show next season.

Veteran center BJ Finney and guard Cody Whitehair are All-Big 12-caliber offensive linemen. The Wildcats also inked one of the top-rated juco wideouts in the country in Andre Davis, who enrolled early and is participating in spring ball.

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
AP Photo/Matt YorkQuarterback Jake Waters' strong play was a big reason for the Wildcats winning six of seven games to end the 2013 season.
“He can fly,” Waters said of Davis. “That’s another weapon we need to be able to use.”

The Wildcats also welcome back All-Big 12 defensive linemen Travis Britz and Ryan Mueller, who was second in the league last season with 11 sacks.

With the playmakers on both sides of the ball, Mueller said he sees likenesses this spring between the makeup of this team and the one that won the Big 12 title two years ago.

“I do see some similarities as far as talent level,” Mueller said of the 2012 Wildcats, who featured both conference players of the year in quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown. “We have strong impact players. The teams are very similar that way, and we’re looking forward to showcasing that.”

These Wildcats still have obstacles to overcome before matching what those Wildcats accomplished.

K-State has no experienced running back to replace graduated three-year starter John Hubert, and coach Bill Snyder didn’t seem overly pleased with the position thus far while speaking with reporters Tuesday.

The Wildcats must also find a place in the offensive gameplan for Sams, who, outside of Lockett, is the team’s most explosive playmaker.

K-State will also be leaning heavily on several junior-college players, including defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales and linebacker D'Vonta Derricott, who won’t be joining the team until the summer.

But the way they finished last season, the Wildcats have the same goal they did early last year.

And that’s to be a contender.

“We showed (late last year) what we’re capable of doing,” Mueller said. “We’re looking forward to doing bigger and better things in 2014.”

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 16, 2014
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This kid might have just saved a life.
Even though almost 10 months remain until the next national singing day, teams across the Big 12 have jumped off to fast starts in putting together their 2015 classes.

To catch you up on all the recruiting storylines that have developed so far, we checked in with ESPN.com senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles for their takes:

Which team has impressed you the most with its 2015 recruiting?

Crabtree: With all of the questions West Virginia faced in the offseason and the product the Mountaineers put on the field in 2013, you would think they would be struggling out of the gate with the 2015 class. But it has been the exact opposite. WVU has 10 commitments, including from one of the best receivers in the country, Jovon Durante. West Virginia is selling kids on an opportunity to play early and make a big difference in getting the program back on track. Plus, it has gone back to its roots and mined the very familiar recruiting territory of Florida for some of its best pledges.

Sayles: As much as I like what Texas Tech and TCU have done so far, I have to tip my hat to what West Virginia has accomplished. The Mountaineers have a pair of ESPN Junior 300 players in safety Kendrell McFadden and Durante. The Mountaineers are recruiting the state of Florida well; five of the 10 pledges are from the Sunshine State. West Virginia is off to a fast start, and with the program fresh off a successful spring game, more big-time commits could be coming soon.

Who has disappointed?


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Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 14, 2014
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It's not like bringing a cat to the spring game but Kliff Kingsbury is still winning ...

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
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Happy Friday, everybody. Here are the links...
We've been doing something different with Friday's Big 12 mailbag. From now on, we'll be including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...
Trotter: So far, Oklahoma State running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, TCU safety Kenny Iloka and Kansas receiver Nick Harwell. With his speed, Hill could lead the league in all-purpose yards. Iloka is going to be a key piece in the best secondary in the Big 12. And Harwell should finally give the Jayhawks that go-to receiver they haven’t had since Dezmon Briscoe.

Trotter: The Cyclones get K-State in Ames the second week of the season, which could be a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who might get caught looking ahead to that Thursday night clash with Auburn. Another team that must pay heed is Oklahoma. The Sooners go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor in a game that could determine the Big 12 crown. OU can't afford to be looking ahead, either.

Trotter: I'm going to set it at 1 1/2, and I think I would actually bet the over. The Jayhawks are going to be better this season, and quite possibly good enough to steal two conference wins.

Trotter: Right now, the Red Raiders have one on campus, and that's well below the national average. I don't see an issue. The way Davis Webb has improved in the last five months, he's going to be the guy the next three seasons barring something unforeseen. That would still give Jarrett Stidham three seasons of eligibility to be the starter, if he redshirted next year. Patrick Mahomes will get this chances, too. Seems like what TTU is going to do is be really good at quarterback the next six years.

Trotter: I have no inside info here, but if the game is at 11 a.m. again, hit me up in the fall and I'll share with you my shortcut to the Texas State Fair.

Trotter: It was a move that had to be made. Sams is too talented to be standing on the sidelines. He's not going to instantly become an All-Big 12 receiver. But if they can devise ways to get Sams the ball in space, the move could work out well. I see Sams getting a lot of his touches through flares, screens, reverses and maybe a handoff or Wildcat formation here or there. If they can get Sams the ball 10 times a game, that will only help the K-State offense. Think Trevone Boykin in TCU's offense late last year. That's how I see Sams best fitting in.

Trotter: Playing? Yes. Starting? No. I think Williams ultimately favors one side of the ball. The most likely scenario is he still keeps a major role at running back, then gives coordinator Matt Wallerstedt 15-20 plays at outside linebacker, which is more than I would have predicted at the beginning of the spring. Williams can really help the defense, but not at the expense of playing 130 snaps.

Trotter: Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson have ironclad job security. Paul Rhoads and Kliff Kingsbury have nothing to worry about, either, and Charlie Strong is too new to have to worry (though in Austin, that could change fast). That leaves Charlie Weis and Dana Holgorsen, whose seats are warmest among Big 12 coaches. I think Weis just has to show improvement this season. He can't go 0-12. Holgorsen is the most interesting to watch. Considering the brutal schedule, it's very possible West Virginia is better than last year and still goes 5-7, which might not be enough for Holgorsen to keep his job. But if the Mountaineers go, say, 7-5 against that slate, then I would think Holgorsen would be deserving of another year. West Virginia has been recruiting at an impressive clip, and the schedule will line up more favorably in 2015.


jrodxc07 in Dallas writes: Jake, love the blog, nice work sir. I think you could make a case for incoming Baylor receiver K.D. Cannon as Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Can you explain why you left him off your list?

Trotter: Appreciate it, sir. Cannon was actually on the poll for Offensive Freshman of the Year two weeks ago. The newcomer poll was for transfers, which is why you didn't see him there.


I only care about the Big 12 writes: Please go ahead and give us your way-too early power rankings? That is, if you haven't already...

Trotter: I actually released a power poll in January that went this way: OU, Baylor, K-State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas. I'll be updating it, though, after spring ball concludes.

Athlon ranks the Big 12 coaches

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
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Athlon Sports has always been big on lists. And this week, Athlon’s Steven Lassan ranked all 128 FBS coaches. He also pulled out the top 10 Big 12 coaches.

As a disclaimer, this is NOT our list. This is Athlon’s. So forward all hate tweets and emails to them. Not me. I already get enough.

[+] Enlarge Art Briles
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesArt Briles' status has grown in the eyes of Athlon.
Without further ado:

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

2. Art Briles, Baylor

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

5. Gary Patterson, TCU

6. Charlie Strong, Texas

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Some observations:

  • Athlon prefers coaches who win conference championships. Briles, Snyder, Gundy and Stoops, the top four on this list, have won the past four Big 12 titles.
  • I went back and checked and noticed some interesting changes. Snyder was No. 1 in 2013, but dropped two spots this year (why, I’m not sure; K-State did win six of seven to close out the season). Mack Brown was No. 6 -- the same slot that Strong opened up here. Kingsbury moved up only one spot after going 8-5 in his first season.
  • In the eyes of Athlon, Patterson’s stock is falling. He was the No. 2 coach going into his first year in the Big 12 and was ranked third going into last season. On the flip side, Briles has made the biggest rise in the last two years, going from sixth to second after winning the Big 12 last season.
  • Athlon actually had Snyder fifth in 2012, which is hard to believe. We’re talking about one of the best coaches of all-time, right?
  • As you can see, I have a bigger beef with the 2012 and 2013 rankings than the 2014 one.
  • Kingsbury has the potential to ascend the most of anyone on this list. I don’t know that the No. 8 spot is completely unfair, considering he’s only been a head coach one season. But if he can turn Texas Tech into a Big 12 contender on a quasi-regular basis, he could jump several spots.
  • This is obviously not an easy list to compile. How do you weigh what Briles has done the last five years against what Snyder has the last 25? It’s all a matter of subjectivity.
In 2013, Charles Sims transferred to West Virginia from Houston for his final college season. After finishing third in the league in rushing, Sims deservedly was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

This year, several offensive transfers have the potential to impact their teams in their first year in the league the way Sims did last season.

But who will win this year’s award?

SportsNation

Which of these transfers will win Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 2014?

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    23%
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    4%
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    23%
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    7%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,647)

Oklahoma State running back/wide receiver Tyreek Hill already has the look of a serious contender. Hill was the No. 4 overall juco recruit this year and figures to be one of the fastest players in college football. He was named Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Outstanding Freshman of the Year and finished fifth at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 200-meter dash. Though he’s been splitting time this spring between track and football, Hill has been almost as impressive on the gridiron as on the track. The Cowboys are hoping to utilize Hill the way the Mountaineers did Tavon Austin two years ago as a slot receiver and backfield threat. Hill has spent the spring working mostly at running back, the position he played in junior college. But he also has good enough hands to line up at receiver, too, which would give Oklahoma State more ways to get him the football.

Hill isn't the only intriguing offensive player to transfer into the league from the juco ranks.

Kansas State is counting on big things from receiver Andre Davis, who most likely will be lining up opposite All-Big 12 performer Tyler Lockett. Davis averaged more than 20 yards per reception last season at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, and should get plenty of opportunities in single coverage downfield with defenses keyed on Lockett. Davis could also help out in returns with Tramaine Thompson gone.

The Big 12 has other talented receivers joining the league, especially Kansas newcomer Nick Harwell, who was second in the country in receiving in 2011 for Miami (Ohio). Harwell, who transferred to Kansas last summer, has 229 career receptions, 3,166 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He should instantly give the Jayhawks a go-to receiver, something they’ve desperately lacked in recent years. Kansas, in fact, hasn’t had a top-20 Big 12 receiver the last four seasons.

Iowa State is also getting help from a transfer receiver in D'Vario Montgomery, who arrived from South Florida. Montgomery was a top-100 player in Florida, coming out of the same high school as Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Montgomery gives the Cyclones a physical presence on the perimeter. And with him, Quenton Bundrage, slot man Jarvis West, tight end E.J. Bibbs and hotshot freshman Allen Lazard, Iowa State could field its most talented group of wideouts in a long time.

The West Virginia offense is also getting a shot in the arm with another high-profile running back transfer. Rushel Shell, who transferred in from Pittsburgh last year, set a Pennsylvania high school record with 9,078 career-rushing yards. He was formerly rated the third-best running back in the country and had offers from programs such as Alabama and Ohio State before signing with Pitt and rushing for 641 yards as a freshman. The Mountaineers have plenty of other options at running back in Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the 6-foot, 220-pound Shell gives West Virginia a potentially devastating power back between the tackles.

Could he give the Mountaineers a second consecutive Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year? Or will one of the other aforementioned candidates snag the award? Weigh in with your opinion in this week’s poll.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
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You missed a crazy night in Ames, including riots and car flipping.
Near the end of last year, one of Kansas State’s most dynamic playmakers wasn’t on the field.

He was standing on the sidelines.

This spring, Daniel Sams will get another chance to get back on the field.

Only this time, the former quarterback will be at a different position.

Tuesday in his first news conference of the spring, K-State coach Bill Snyder confirmed the worst kept secret in Manhattan, Kan. -- that Sams is making the switch to wide receiver.

[+] EnlargeSams
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesDaniel Sams wants back on the field this season for Kansas State.
“Right now he is just focusing at the wide receiver position,” Snyder said. “He wants to play there. I’m going to give him the opportunity.”

Giving Sams another opportunity could pay off for him. And it could pay off for a K-State offense that is brimming over with potential.

“We’re definitely going to find a way to use him,” said quarterback Jake Waters, who beat out Sams last season. “He’s a great athlete, and we need to get him touches.”

As a quarterback last season, Sams was spectacular at times while touching the ball. Despite the limited role, he still finished ninth in the Big 12 with 807 rushing yards while averaging 5.31 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Sams went completely off in an early October clash with eventual Big 12 champ Baylor. With starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson out with injuries, Sams almost willed the Wildcats to the upset, rushing for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

But including at the end of that Baylor game in which he threw a costly late interception, Sams also struggled at times with his decision-making. Eventually, Waters emerged out of the quarterback time share with Sams to become the clear-cut starter the second half of the season, while leading the Wildcats to wins in six of their final games. Sams attempted only one pass combined in K-State’s final three games.

“The dialogue I had with Daniel was, I want you to be happy, I want to see you on the field,” Snyder said. “He approached me about playing as a wide receiver, I made my recommendations to him, but I said I would certainly abide by his and give him a chance. There’s a lot of places Daniel can play. If he wants to go out and be a wide receiver, he needs to go out and be a wide receiver and let reality set in.

“I like the way he is working at it. He’s made some headway. There have been some ups and downs in there, as well. But I feel that he can be competitive in that arena.”

Snyder has a track record of finding the right position for his best playmakers. Collin Klein was a receiver before he became a Heisman finalist quarterback in 2012. Daniel Thomas was a junior college quarterback before he became an All-Big 12 running back in 2009.

Sams is far from mastering his new position. But he’s also begun to show signs he can be a weapon there, too.

“You’ve all seen him. He is a great playmaker, especially with the ball in his hands and in space,” said sophomore wideout Deante Burton. “He’s got a few tips and little tricks to learn, but he’s a tremendous playmaker. His athleticism is [among] the best in the country.”

This spring will serve as the first proving ground. But if Sams’ athleticism translates to receiver, he’ll only augment an offensive attack that should be among the best in the Big 12.

Lockett is one of the top-returning receivers in the country and figures to garner preseason All-American consideration after finishing 11th nationally last season in receiving yards per game. Possession receiver Curry Sexton is back, as well, after placing second on the team last year in receptions. The Wildcats also added one of the top juco wideouts in the country in Andre Davis, who is already on campus.

But to maximize their full potential offensively, working Sams back onto the field in his new role will be paramount.

“He has got to be on the field,” Snyder said. “We’ve just got to find the spot for him.”

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 4, 2014
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A bad day for Ball State.

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