It may only be July, but it’s never too early to talk college football. Get your daily fix with our countdown of the preseason Top 25, the consensus picks of the American-Statesman sports staff:
No. 23 KANSAS STATE
THE WILDCATS WILL CONTEND IF … they develop quickly on defense. The entire front seven has to be replaced.
Coach: Bill Snyder (22nd year, 170-85-1)
2012 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12
2012 bowl: Lost 35-17 to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl
Returning starters: 7 offense, 3 defense
The winner is … we’ll see: Daniel Sams and Jake Waters battled this spring to see who’d replace All-American quarterback Collin Klein. Nobody emerged as the winner. Sams, a sophomore, attempted only eight passes last year, completing six, but he also had 32 carries, averaging 7.3 yards per run. Waters, a junior, was last year’s national college player of the year at Iowa Western Community College, setting an NJCAA record with his 73.3-percent completion percentage. He threw for 3,501 yards and 35 touchdowns, with only three interceptions. Waters is the more accurate of the two, but Sams has improved in that area and keeps plays alive with his legs.
Re-stocking the defense: Defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis, who combined for 18 sacks last season, are among eight starters lost on defense. But Kansas State has several candidates to replace them. The most experienced is junior Ryan Mueller, who played in all 13 games, making 14 tackles, including two sacks. A couple of first-year freshmen — Jordan Willis and Tanner Wood — could be in the mix as well. Wood was an honorable mention Parade All-American last year in high school.
Back at ‘backer: Tre Walker played in eight games before a knee injury against Texas Tech ended his season. Now the senior is back as one of only three returning starters on the defense. Walker missed the spring game, but is expected to be in the lineup. At least one Big 12 pundit predicted that at full strength, he could become an all-conference candidate.
Men of Steele: Phil Steele, who produces a college football preview magazine, lists four Kansas State players on his preseason All-American team. Steele cites B.J. Finney at center and Tyler Lockett as a kick returner as first-team members. Ty Zimmerman is a second-team pick at safety. Tramaine Thompson is listed as second-team as a punt returner. Finney is a former walk-on. Zimmerman received some second-and third-team All-American honors last season. He intercepted five passes in 10 games.
Did you know?:
• Senior tailback Robert Rose, who has had only 13 carries in his career, gained 141 yards on 17 carries in the spring game. Rose is 5-4 and 176 pounds.
• Snyder was 1-10 his first season at K-State, 1989. But he is 169-75-1 during the rest of his career — 20-seasons over two stints. He was not the coach from 2006 through 2008.
• Kansas State has lost five straight bowl games. The Wildcats’ last bowl victory was in the 2002 Holiday Bowl against Arizona State.
THE PAST FIVE YEARS
2012: 11-2, L Fiesta Bowl
2011: 10-3, L Cotton Bowl
2010: 8-6, L Pinstripe Bowl
Total: 40-24, 0-3 in bowls
Passing: Daniel Sams, 6-8-55 yards, 0/0
Rushing: John Hubert 189-947-15 TDs
Receiving: Tyler Lockett 44-687-4 TDs
Tackles: DB Randall Evans, 76
Sacks: DB Randall Evans, 1
RETURNING ALL-BIG 12
RB: John Hubert (1st team)
OT: Cornelius Lucas (1st team)
S: Ty Zimmerman (1st team)
DB Kip Daily (A&M Consolidated)
LB Will Davis (Southlake Carroll)
DL Demonte Hood (Arlington Bowie)
RB John Hubert (Waco Midway)
RB Jarvis Leverett (Katy Cypress Lake)
LB Mike Moore (Dallas Skyline)
Aug. 30;North Dakota State
Sept. 21;at Texas*
Oct. 5;at Oklahoma State*
Oct. 26;West Virginia*
Nov. 2;Iowa State*
Nov. 9;at Texas Tech*
Nov. 30;at KU*
* Big 12 game
TOP 25, BY CONFERENCES
(So far …)
2: Big 10 (No. 24 Wisconsin, No. 25 Northwestern)
1: Big 12 (No. 23 Kansas State)
OUR TOP 25 (SO FAR)
No. 25 Northwestern
No. 24 Wisconsin
No. 23 Kansas State
No. 22: Coming Sunday. Want a hint? This school’s original mascot was the Bugeaters. Seriously.