Among Big 12 football programs, it’s not Oklahoma or Texas, but Kansas State that has the longest active streak of players drafted in the NFL. The Wildcats have had a player selected each of the past 22 years.
That’s one reason Kansas State enters 2015 confident it can find a way to replace all its offensive firepower from a season ago.
Gone are quarterback Jake Waters, who threw for more than 3,500 passing yards and 22 touchdowns; wide receiver Tyler Lockett, a third-round pick who caught 106 passes had 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns; and Curry Sexton, a receiver who added 1,059 yards and five touchdowns.
24Seasons that 75-year-old Bill Snyder has coached Kansas State.
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All that’s certain at this late date in the preseason is that’s uncertain who, if anybody, can make up for the loss of the Wildcats’ triumvirate.
The Wildcats, picked seventh in the preseason poll of coaches, appear to be a work in progress.
I like the balance in our conference. I’d hate to count out many programs in our conference. Strange things happen. And it isn’t really strange things.
Coach Bill Snyder
But Kansas State always seems to be a work in progress, a blue-collar lot that always just seems to make … progress while flying under the radar.
And that’s why a program that has won eight or more games in each of the past four seasons shouldn’t be counted out as a player in the Big 12 and a sixth consecutive bowl game.
A year ago, the Wildcats lurked near the top 10, seemingly lying in wait for its opportunity to sneak into the Top 4, though they settled for third in the conference and a bid to the Alamo Bowl.
“I like the balance in our conference,” said coach Bill Snyder, now 75 and entering his 24th season at the school. “I’d hate to count out many programs in our conference. Strange things happen. And it isn’t really strange things.
“Look at how people who study it [making predictions] diligently … there are more missed than hit it right. It’s guesswork at best. All of us believe, anybody can get anybody on any given day. I’ve seen it happen too many times not to believe it, as have most people who have been in the game. If indeed that is true, everybody has a chance.”
With those three former stars gone, Snyder sees opportunity to get back to a more balanced offensive attack. Last year, the Wildcats were atypically unbalanced, but a return to a productive run game is an objective, Snyder said.
Charles Jones will likely be the lead back, but there exists much hope in the prospects of redshirt freshmen Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack.
“We are most successful when we have balance, equally effective with the run and the pass,” Snyder said. “I remember going through one season we had less than 10 yards difference between total pass offense and run offense.
“The balance is important.”
Four guys are vying to replace Waters.
Joe Hubener was Waters’ backup last season, but Jesse Ertz had a strong spring to assume front-runner status entering fall camp. True freshman Alex Delton joined them — getting a head start by graduating high school in December — as has junior-college transfer Jonathan Banks.
“They all have different strengths,” said Morgan Burns, who has seen each in practice as a cornerback. “I think each could do the job.”
On defense, junior Will Davis of Southlake Carroll will get his chance to take over a prominent role in the linebacking corps.
Davis, the Texas Class 5A defensive player of the year in helping Carroll to the state title in 2011, was one of those guys who progressed a year ago, taking on more responsibility as the season wore on. He played in all 13 games and made six starts.
“He’s prominent in our program because he has that value system,” Snyder said. “He works to get better every day and at the end of the day he is better.”
Said Burns: “I’m excited for him to get more playing time and be that leader in the linebacker room. I think if he continues to grow he’ll be a good player for us.”
Last year’s record: 9-4
Bowl result: lost to No. 14 UCLA 40-35 in the Alamo Bowl
Opener: Sept. 5 vs. South Dakota
Players to watch: QB Jesse Ertz/QB Joe Hubener, RB Charles Jones, CB Morgan Burns, WR Deante Burton, WR Kody Cook, LB Will Davis
Tarrant ties: DB Johnathan Durham (Aledo), WR Steven West (Keller Fossil Ridge), DB Kendall Adams (Fort Worth All Saints), DB Nate Guidry Jr. (Fort Worth Arlington Heights), LB Will Davis (Southlake Carroll), WR Dan Harris (Fort Worth Dunbar), DT Demonte Hood (Arlington Bowie)
Big 12 countdown
The Star-Telegram will spotlight each team leading up to TCU’s Thursday season opener at Minnesota.
Tuesday: Texas Tech
Thursday: Oklahoma State
Saturday: Kansas State
Tuesday: Iowa State
Wednesday: West Virginia