Over at Football Study Hall I "demystify" Bill Snyder's Kansas State strategies.
In my preseason Big 12 poll I put Kansas State #2 behind Oklahoma but ahead of Baylor, Texas, and the rest of the league.
Amongst their assets for the 2014 season:
-A very strong run-blocking group on OL. BJ Finney is an All-B12 center, guards Stiverson and Whitehair are also legitimately good players. I'm currently betting on Kleinsorge and Luke Hayes winning the tackle jobs but JUCO transfer AJ Allen may compete for a spot as well.
At any rate, this will be a deep group.
-Too many capable targets to cover. If Waters knows where to go with the ball, there will always be someone open to catch it. I don't believe there's a single cornerback in the B12 who can handle playing Lockett without safety help over the top and everyone else on this team is too good and too precise to not take advantage of the focus.
-Packaged plays. KSU has some of the best packaged plays in the game today and I have it on good authority that their usage of these plays will expand in 2014.
-Multiple pass-rushers. Ryan Mueller is a stud with an inside move that is hilariously beyond the ability of most B12 OT's to adequately handle. However, KSU is also developing some other weapons. DT Travis Britz is a reasonably solid pass-rusher and the Wildcats will often play Mueller inside with Britz on 3rd and long while playing Marquel Bryant and speedy Sam linebacker Mike Moore outside.
Since KSU is often terrible at disguising blitzes, it's helpful that they can find 4-man groups to play on the DL to get a pass-rush.
-Tackling at every position. Even if they have to play Dylan Schellenberg at safety, the Wildcats have willing and solid tacklers at every position. That means a defensive backfield that will leverage ball-carriers into pursuit. When you can manage space and tackle as a team you remove a big part of what makes B12 offenses so effective.
-A 3rd corner at nickelback with Randall Evans. We've used this space before to explain how Randall Evans protects their safeties from having to play with tremendous range on the back end. That makes it easier to handle the vertical stresses caused by some of the Big 12's better offensive teams.
-It's hard to know how soon they'll be ready but Dvonta Derricott and Terrell Clinkscales could upgrade the Mike linebacker and nose tackle positions for KSU to near-all conference levels, if not this year then the following year. How well they acclimate in spring ball will be a big story for this team and could make them an even firmer #2 in the conference (still not catching OU).
Finney, Gronk, Evans, Barnett, Mueller, Waters, Lockett, and Whitehair are all players that could see the field at other schools in the Big 12. I'm guessing that Snyder will have a good plan in place to leverage an underrated team and win a lot of games this year.