Spring practices are beginning to wind down across the Big 12 and teams are sending their squads into summer workouts. As they move forward, we’ll provide some thoughts and observations on things we’ve learned after the past few weeks.
The Wildcats began spring practices in mid-March and wrapped everything up last weekend. Kansas State enters 2018 somewhat under the radar, having come off a season where they ended up wining eight games when it looked at points that they wouldn’t even be bowl eligible.
Head coach Bill Snyder is a legend whose retirement seems to constantly be a topic of discussion, at least as of late. Snyder’s teams are known for their discipline, toughness and ability to execute when it comes to the fundamentals of football. His teams also seem to always sneak up and surprise everyone.
Will 2018 be another season where they do that? Below are some thoughts on Kansas State football following the end of spring ball.
1.THERE ARE SOME POTENTIAL ANSWERS AT WIDE RECEIVER
If there’s any area of the game where the Wildcats probably need to make some strides, it’s in the passing game. Last season they were 93rd in Passing S&P+, a number that is no doubt linked to the quarterbacks, but also speaks to the lack of game-breaking wide receivers.
The answer to the problem could come from an offensive staff shakeup. With former Wildcat wide receiver Andre Coleman taking over at offensive coordinator, there is some speculation that the passing game will get more attention.
Of course, players like Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen stepped up last season and will be back as likely full time starters.
Additionally, Kansas State fans have got to like what Chabastin Taylor showcased in last Saturday’s spring game. Granted, he wasn’t going up against the starters, but Taylor showcased some speed and good hands as he continued to make plays all day. The redshirt freshman receiver is 6’ 4” and weighs 227 pounds, making him the kind of physical specimen that Kansas State could use next season.
Snyder was of course very even keeled in how he talked about the young pass catcher. “He has been up and down,” Snyder noted. “He has just got to learn to get into the system and the process.”
2. BOTH QUARTERBACKS WILL PROBABLY PLAY NEXT SEASON
It’s difficult to see how either player rides the pine for all of 2018, regardless of the who is the proclaimed starter. Delton is easily the better runner, but his arm is limited, so Thompson would likely come in as a change up if Delton were named the starter.
Thompson can move the ball with his legs if need be, but he can’t punish a defense in that regard like Alex Delton. Should Thompson be named the first guy on the depth chart, you’d expect Delton to still be a major part of how Kansas State tries to pick up yards next season.
Snyder himself confirmed as much, saying that even though he’d like to have a starter named, “you have two guys that are going to play, there is no doubt about it.”
He may very well need both if injuries become an issue once again. Not that it’s impossible, but it’s difficult to see how either Delton or Thompson can endure an entire season healthy as the lone quarterback.
3. THE BIGGEST QUESTION MARK MIGHT BE SPECIAL TEAMS
Bill Snyder’s teams are known for having great special teams. If the Wildcats hope to move from the middle to the top tier of the Big 12, they’ll need to be able to give themselves good field position and make field goals. Matthew McCrane was a stalwart at kicker for three seasons, but in his absence Kansas State is looking for answers.
The Wildcats tried three different kickers in Saturday’s scrimmage, suggesting that the search is ongoing.
At the returner positions, Alex Barnes and Isaiah Zuber are set to take over for players that are now on their way to the NFL. Both guys can likely be serviceable returners, but can either one of them provide the kind of big play ability that has been characteristic of Snyder’s best teams? That will likely be a project that special teams coordinator Sean Snyder has to continue to work on throughout summer and fall camp.
4. THE DEFENSE IS IN A POSITION TO PROGRESS
Despite having players leave due to graduation and the NFL, there are still reasons to believe that the Wildcats can take some positive steps forward.
That starts at the linebacker position, where Da’Quan Patton has stepped up this spring and probably secured a starting spot for himself. Patton is a former junior college player who was redshirted last season and will look to have a big year come fall.
Defensive line looks like it’s shaping up well. Lineman Kyle Ball turned heads and junior Trey Dishon has received praise all spring. Dishon, in fact, might end up being the best defensive tackle in the conference in 2018. Kansas State also has two transfers coming in during the summer, something that should bolster the position group.
With so much coming back in the secondary, it should be expected that the group will take steps forward as well. That means that the defensive side of the ball, which has new defensive co-coordinators in Blake Seiler and Brian Norwood, could improve on some of the below average play that plagued them last year.
There’s not a lot of buzz right now around Kansas State, a team most expect to finish in the middle of the conference next season. That could very well happen, but despite some of their losses, the Wildcats have veteran players across the board. Not many teams in the Big 12 can say that.
Offensively, Kansas State will probably be productive in running the ball, but maximizing the talent they have at wide receiver will be a priority. Doing so will probably be the difference between an average season and a serious run at a Big 12 championship.
The Wildcats open their season on September 1st at home against the South Dakota Coyotes.