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THE MANHATTAN MERCURY

2012

k-state

FOOTBALL PREVIEW


KANSAS STATE

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Page 4 Big 12 picks — K-State, coming off a 10-3 season, finds added motivation in being picked to finish sixth in the league this season.

Page 6-7 Players to Watch — Offensively, K-State will be led by senior QB Collin Klein and sophomore RB John Hubert, while the Wildcats look to linebackers Arthur Brown and Tre Walker on defense.

Page 16 On lockdown — The secret is out on the Cats’ dynamic cornerback Nigel Malone. The senior lead the Big 12 and was third nationally with seven interceptions a year ago. Malone is a preseason Thorpe Award candidate.

Page 22 Long journey — Chris Harper has come a long way since his days as the Oregon quarterback, considering he’s the Wildcats go-to wide receiver as a senior.

PREVIEW STAFF EDITOR/SECTION DESIGNER: Joshua Kinder WRITERS: Grant Guggisberg, Joshua Kinder, Joel Jellison, Brady Bauman and Kelly McHugh PHOTOGRAPHERS: Rod Mikinski and Sarah Midgorden OTHER CONTRIBUTORS: Brett Hawes and Landon Obee COVER: Photo by Rod Mikinski VERY SPECIAL THANKS: Kansas State Sports Information Department and Scott Weaver

The Manhattan Mercury

Big 12 begins era of stability Joshua Kinder jkinder@themercury.com If this were blackjack, the Big 12 Conference just opted to stand. New league commissioner Bob Bowlsby said this summer that the Big 12 has no intention of adding any new members anytime soon. So while rumors of Louisville, Clemson and maybe even Florida State wanting to jump from their leagues to join the Big 12 swirled this spring and summer, the message from the new Big 12 commissioner has been clear and to the point. "If the Big 12 had to vote on it today, we wouldn't take any new members in," said Bowlsby, who took over his post in July. "This is a group of 10 institutions that if we were press for raised hands in a meeting room around the issue of expansion, I don't know that we'd get two votes for moving to a larger number. "We believe it should be very difficult to get into this group of institutions. It should be the toughest fraternity in America to join, and the only people that have a chance to join it are those that bring something that is very substantial." Bowlsby, who was athletic director at Stanford since 2006, also knows he can't sit by and completely ignore the conference realignment issue either. "Now, having said that, expansion is on every conference's list of discussion items," he said. "I don't think we can ever afford to not think about it." The Big 12 looks to be on sturdier ground now after more than two years of uncertainty riddled with defections, hurt feelings and mudslinging splattered across the league's footprint. Nebraska and Colorado have been gone for more than a year, while Missouri and Texas A&M

are getting ready for their first seasons in the SEC. Former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who presided over the initial realignment shakeup, is also gone. With Bowlsby now running the show, the league is welcoming new members West Virginia and TCU into the fold. WVU, which won the Big East last season, was picked to finish second in the league, behind Oklahoma. Last season's Mountain West champion TCU was tabbed fifth, just ahead of Kansas State. "I think we have a stability that is far better than perhaps the public perception," Bowlsby said. "I think we have members that represent the best qualities of intercollegiate athletics. And I think we are going to do some really remarkable things in the years ahead." Helping that future along is the new television first-tier rights deal the Big 12 agreed to — in principle — with ESPN last spring. The reported 13-year agreement that hasn't yet been signed, along with a done deal with Fox for the second-tier rights, is to generate $2.6 billion in total revenue for the league through 2025, about $20 million per school. It's not a done deal just yet, but it's close, Bowlsby said. "We will end up with a package that will give us national exposure on two cable and broadcast television giants," he said. "It's going to be unprecedented national exposure for our conference and it will be remarkable — the breadth and depth of the reach that we will have during that course of that coming decade." Part of Bowlsby's plan also includes making sure teams

from the Big 12 are preparing to play late into the season once the new four-team playoff begins in 2014. That doesn't mean playing powder puffs in September to pad the schedule. It's actually the contrary. "The second two-thirds of the season are terrific, but the first month of the season is not always terrific," Bowlsby said. "Don't mistake what I'm saying. I think September is a part of the season that we use to get teams ready for the rest of the season. And so playing a steady diet of Top 25 teams is not necessarily what any coach wants to do, and most cases, is not what's required to get a team ready to play in the conference schedule." Bowlsby wants Big 12 teams to play challenging games in September, but he wants a fair system that rewards the tough schedule, not one that discourages it. He pointed to his former Pac-12 neighbor Oregon, which lost to LSU in September and subsequently watched its title chances fall by the wayside a year ago. "It's not satisfactory to lose a game in September and be taken out of the national championship dialogue," he said. "I think the University of Oregon had to do it over again, they might not have played that game against LSU last year because they fought back from behind for the entire season as a result of it." Bowlsby wants those kinds of games to remain on the schedule, for the most part, but said the system needs to be fair, so a team that loses one game to an opponent like LSU isn't penalized the rest of the season. It's not yet known how the

Bowlsby

SEE

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Becoming a leader key to Brown's success Joshua Kinder jkinder@themercury.com Kansas State coach Bill Snyder wouldn't go as far as to say Arthur Brown was the perfect football player, but he came awfully close. Brown, who made an immediate impact on the Wildcats last year after transferring from Miami, enters his senior campaign as the clear-cut face of the defense. And with that comes an enormous amount of pressure to live up to the standard Brown set a year ago when he led the Wildcats with 118 tackles. But could Brown be even better this year? After all, he does enter the season as the defense’s most decorated preseason award candidate in school history. "My belief is that there isn't a ceiling for anybody," Snyder said during Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. "But I will say this, when you look at guys like him and guys like Collin (Klein), if there were a ceiling, they're awfully close to it." That's high praise from Snyder, for sure, but he also said his prized linebacker "can always get better." One of the reasons that makes Brown so special, Snyder said, is his leadership on a team that's coming off a 10-3 season and Cotton Bowl appearance. It's leadership that has grown and developed since arriving in Manhattan

“I found out what was important and valuable from my time in Miami. Those two years really shaped and molded me so I could make the most out of my time here at K-State” Staff photo by Rod Mikinski

— Arthur Brown

Kansas State senior linebacker Arthur Brown is a preseason candidate for the Bednarik, Butkus and Walter Camp Awards this season. after a pair of disappointing seasons at Miami. "I found out what was important and valuable from my time in Miami," said Brown, who became the first Wildcat last year to reach 100 tackles in a season since Brandon Archer in 2006. "Those two years (at Miami) really shaped and molded me so I could make the most out of my time here at K-State."

And that he has, as Brown was named first-team All-Big 12, honorable mention AllAmerica and the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year last season. Off the field, junior linebacker Tre Walker said Brown has started to make a similar impact as well. "He talks a lot now," Walker said. "It was weird at first to see a guy who was so quiet,

start to open up and become more vocal. It was like, 'what's going on here?" And in Brown's case, becoming that vocal leader wasn't an easy thing to do. "Arthur was always humble and didn't say too much," Walker said. "He didn't speak a lot at all. He was always very quiet and kept to himself. But we found out really quick that he could talk with his pads."

But getting the 6-foot-1, 228-pound Wichita native to open up vocally still took some time last year, despite the immediate impact Brown made on the field with 19 stops in his first two games as a Wildcat. "It takes certain things to signify how you are as a team and what you do," Walker SEE

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College football changes the rules for better safety Staff reports Big 12 coordinator of officiating Walt Anderson outlined several new rules on Tuesday during the conference's media days that go into effect this college football season. First and foremost, Anderson said all the rules that have been changed were done so in an attempt to make the game safer. 1. Kickoffs: The ball will now be kicked from the 35-yard line, not the 30. Touchbacks will now put the ball on the 25-yard line, not the 20. Other than the kicker, all members of the kickoff team cannot start from more than 5 yards from the kickoff spot, so to

limit running head starts and violent collisions with the receiving team. 2. Blocking below the waist: Players can no longer use peel-back blocks, which is when a player who is beyond the neutral zone turns and blocks toward his own goal line. Other players banned from blocking below the waist include a lineman who at the snap is more than 7 yards from the middle lineman on the offensive formation, a running back who at the snap is aligned with the frame of his body completely outside the tackle box or completely outside the frame of the body of the second lineman from the snapper in either direction toward a sideline and a back who is in

motion at the snap and at any time in his motion that was outside the tackle box. 3. Helmet comes off: If during the down, a player's helmet comes completely off, other than as the direct result of a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for the next down. The game clock will stop at the end of the down. If the ball carrier's helmet comes off, the ball is whistled dead. If it is a player other than the ball carrier, the ball remains alive, but he cannot continue to participate in the play beyond the immediate action in which he is engaged. If a player does continue to play without his helmet, a 15-yard personal foul

will be called. 4. Defensive team leaping the shield on a punt: A player cannot attempt to block a punt by leaving his feet in an attempt to jump over a player behind the neutral zone inside the tackle box. It is not a foul if the defensive player jumps straight up in an attempt to block a punt. 5. Halo: The halo rule is back in effect. Before the receiver touches the ball, if a member of the kicking team enters the area defined by the width of the receiver's shoulders and extending 1 yard in front of him, it will be a 15-yard penalty. There are no 5yard halo penalties, however.


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The Manhattan Mercury

Wildcats find motivation Finney leads new-look O-line in preseason Big 12 picks Grant Guggisberg gguggisberg@themercury.com Compared to the rest of the Kansas State offense, the Wildcat offensive line will look awfully green this season. K-State returns eight offensive starters from last year's 10-win season, but the three players lost to graduation were left tackle Zach Hanson, right guard Colten Freeze and right tackle Clyde Aufner, leaving only B.J. Finney and Nick Puetz as returning blockers in 2012. Head coach Bill Snyder doesn't see that as a problem. "I think we have the capacity to be an improved offensive line," he said. "We have the capabilities to do so. We're not collectively there yet, but I think we're moving in that direction." Emerging in the spring to take those vacated spots were junior Cornelius Lucas and redshirt freshmen Boston Stiverson and Cody Whitehair. Barring injury or an unexpected surge during fall camp, those will likely be the season-opening starters on Sept. 1. Offensive line coach Charlie Dickey thinks this unit has potential, but still has plenty to polish in the coming weeks. "Well, there's always going to be some growing pains, but we're working through them," Dickey said. "The kids are working through them and there were probably more growing pains in the spring then now." Lucas saw time in 12 games last season, providing depth to the veteran offensive line, but Stiverson and Whitehair have not taken the field in a Division-I football game. Finney, who knows all about performing well despite a lack of college experience, thinks the two

freshmen will be fine. "Cody and Boston are very good athletes," he said. "They're hard workers. They take everything the coaches say to heart to try and improve." Finney's role will reverse this year. He'll follow up a freshman All-America season in which he was the youngest starter with a year of expectation and leadership among a group of inexperienced teammates. "He brings toughness, he's a hard worker and he's real accountable," Dickey said of Finney. "He cares. All the intangibles that you're looking for that make you a good football player. He works hard and he's a good athlete. "You want all your offensive linemen to have those types of attributes." Dickey couldn't pick any one area as a biggest need for improvement this year, but learning to block upfield for quarterback Collin Klein, who may take off running on any given play, is pivotal. "Well, there's a lot of things we've got to get better at, so I can't really pick any one thing," Dickey said. "But we're all working hard and we want to be the best offense we can possibly be. We know we want to be a more dominant running team and we want to be able to throw the ball better. We want to get better on both of those sides." Finney knows it will take time for the unit to become cohesive in its protection of Klein, but hopes that the new starters, as well as the depth players off the bench, will get there eventually. "We're all becoming the utility kind of players, creating depth at the various positions," he said. "You've got to work with what you've got, and sometimes you get the short end of the stick. "It's not a big deal, you've just got to work harder."

Joshua Kinder jkinder@themercury.com Though Bill Snyder won't completely admit it, there had to be a degree of satisfaction when he heard his Kansas State Wildcats were picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 last week. A year ago, the Wildcats were No. 8 to open the year and yet K-State finished second behind Oklahoma State and played in the Cotton Bowl. Perhaps it's all part of Snyder's master plan of providing motivation to his group of "underdogs" picked to finish behind Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU. "I don't know how good we'll be — if I were voting, I'd probably put us 99th," Snyder joked during the July Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. "I think last year when they were selected down the ladder, there were some feelings expressed about that. But the bottom line is, going into last season, we hadn't done anything that would allow us to feel like we should have been higher. "You have to prove yourself all the time." Yet this year, the Wildcats are coming off a 10-win season and are ranked in the preseason Top 25 polls — despite being picked in the lower half of the league. "Every year is different," Snyder said. "You can look at a lot of different areas and say, 'you know, if you don't get this shored up or that shored up, if you don't get better there, there's some risk there.' We have a lot areas we need to get a lot better at." A year ago, despite seven straight wins to open the season, the Wildcats were repeatedly branded an underdog week after week — a stretch that included wins over Miami, Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech. After finally entering a game as the favorite — a win at Kansas — K-State then lost two in a row at home to Oklahoma and on the road at Oklahoma State, perhaps adding fodder to

Mercury file photo

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is entering his 21st season with the Wildcats. the notion K-State was deserving of its regular underdog label. But again, the Wildcats surprised people when they defeated Texas A&M at home, then beat Texas on the road, only to close the regular season with a win over Iowa State in Manhattan. "Do we perform better as underdogs? That I don't know," Snyder said. "Last year, obviously, we played reasonably well in those circumstances. "I have a greater concern about game by game when we are perhaps selected as favorites. I think that — as any coach probably would say — is where your greatest concern lies, just not making sure that young people don't take things for granted or we as coaches don't take anything for granted." K-State is in a unique spot right now. While the league media didn't think all that highly of the Wildcats, they are actually expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 25 polls that come out next month. So, there are expectations for a great season, especially with 17 returning starters and a host of Wildcats named to 15 different award watch lists to open the year. "It's not about everyone

else's expectations," K-State junior linebacker Tre Walker said. "It's about ours. We were picked number eight last year. Look how we finished. It doesn't matter how people will think you will do. It matters how you come out and play and Saturdays and how you play against those top-ranked teams. That's really what defines you." Last year during the league's media days, Snyder made no effort to hide his displeasure with some members of his team for skipping out on the "voluntary" summer program. What a difference a year makes. "We're talking about almost 60 percent of the guys showing up for summer workouts to now over 90 percent of the guys being there this summer," Walker said. "It's changed tremendously. It's not a credit to the success we had last year, but really the guys totally buying into the system." And with everyone buying into the system, just how high are the Wildcats' expectations this season? "Our goal is like any other team — to win the Big 12 championship," Walker said. "We won't accept anything less."


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Veteran DEs lead front four Collin Klein now

Grant Guggisberg gguggisberg@themercury.com

When Kansas State got a big hit on an opposing quarterback last season, oftentimes, Meshak Williams was the reason. The good news is he's back. Williams returns for his senior year as the most dynamic player on the defensive line that will also return Vai Lutui and Adam Davis. "He was a seven- or eightsack guy last year, and he's got some really good passrush ability," new defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said of Williams. "I expect a big year out of him." Williams and Davis — both Georgia natives — have received some all-Big 12 buzz in the preseason, but the departure of seniors Ray Kibble, Raphael Guidry and Jordan Voelker create some question marks for this year's unit. The starting position vacated by Kibble is of primary concern to Hayes, with all indications pointing to John Sua as the favorite to start alongside Lutui on the interior. "We lost four or five seniors that we have to replace, with Ray Kibble being one on the defensive line," Hayes said. "He played on a consistent basis for us for 13straight games. He's 6-4, he's 300 pounds — you've got to find somebody who can step in there for him." On the ends, Adam Davis is the incumbent for the spot o p p o s i t e Wi l l i a m s , w i t h Laton Dowling in the mix there as well. Regardless of who lines up where, the unit's goal of ramping up the pass rush remains the same. Keeping the quarterback pressured would not only make life harder for opposing offenses, but would also help out the Wildcat secondary, which struggled in both of K-State's regular-season losses last season. "I think our defense will have more speed than last year," Lutui said. "And hopefully that will help us become SEE

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a married man Joshua Kinder jkinder@themercury.com

Staff photo by Sarah Midgorden

Kansas State’s Adam Davis, left, and Meshak Williams will anchor the Wildcats’ defensive line this season.

Sorry ladies, but Collin Klein is off the market. The Kansas State quarterback married Shalin Spani, a former Wildcat basketball player and daughter of K-State great Gary Spani last month in Kansas City, Mo. Then just hours after tying the knot, the senior was whisked off to Dallas for Big 12 Media Days to talk about the upcoming football season and the mountain of expectations that challenges that await his team. Don't worry though, by that week's end, Klein was on a beach in Cancun with his new bride. "It is busy," Klein said. "It's a little hectic, but you just make the best of it and enjoy the heck out of it." Klein — who married Spani after a five-month engagement — isn't the only newlywed QB in the Big 12 this season either. Oklahoma's Landry Jones recently celebrated his nuptials to former Sooner basketball player Whitney

Hand. K-State coach Bill Snyder said his married QB and basketball bride are a perfect match. "I thought (the wedding) was wonderful — two great families," he said. "I've always had a great deal of respect and appreciation for Gary and his family. His girls are wonderful young ladies. And getting to know the Klein family the last several years, they're also a marvelous family. "I think it's going to be an amazing relationship — not just for Shalin and Collin — but for the families because they all have those same values that we talk about." The now married Klein has always had a lot on his plate as K-State's do-it-all quarterback. And so far, the Loveland, Colo., native has always been able to strike a balance between family, his strong faith, education and football where he's a candidate for the Davey O'Brien Award this season. "There's one segment that he hasn't balanced yet, and that's marriage," SnySEE

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offensive

PLAYERS TO WATCH

collin klein

6-5 226 SENIOR QUARTERBACK Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein doesn’t have much to prove this season. The senior rose to stardom a year ago when he took the reins of the Wildcats’ offense and guided K-State to a 10-3 season. Everyone knew Klein could run. But last year, the Loveland, Colo., native showed that he can throw the ball a little too. The 6-foot-5, 226-pound QB finished with nearly 2,000 yards passing and more than 1,000 yards rushing, while accounting for 40 combined touchdowns. While topping those numbers will be difficult, Klein expects nothing more than to do just that, while focused on one thing — winning more football games. "I know I say that every time, but I want to be better at everything," said Klein, who is a candidate for the Unitas, O’Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards. "Everything is pertinent to getting better overall. I feel like I made

some improvement. Now I just need to continue doing it." Klein has the weapons to open this offense up even more than he did a year ago during his first season as the everyday starter. He’s got a returning running back John Hubert, who himself, nearly had 1,000 yards rushing. He also has targets to throw to in receivers Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson on the outside. If Klein can stay healthy this year, which is saying something considering the abuse he takes running the ball so much, he might just give the K-State fans something they’ll never forget. "We just have to do it again," he said. "We need to keep doing what got us here in the first place, and that was staying together, playing tough, not beating ourselves and ultimately getting better each week. "If we do that, over time, good things will happen."

john hubert 5-7 191 JUNIOR RUNNING BACK If it was up to John Hubert, the junior running back would be rushing for 1,000 yards this season. Hubert heads into his junior season coming off a near-1,000 yard campaign, finishing with 970 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. Can he do it? Co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said it’s possible if Hubert can take pressure off quarterback Collin Klein. Dimel said improving Hubert’s 4.8 yards per carry would also be a plus. “I’d like to John to get 1,000 and I’d also like to get some of our other backs some carries too because we’ve got some other talented running backs,” he said. “Maybe if we don’t get John there, let’s improve his yards per carry.” Hubert isn’t shy about making his 1,000-yard goal known. And with the offensive line he sees in front of him, he is confident it’s a mark he can reach.

“It’s going to be a great season this year,” he said. “We’ve got some excellent guys up front that are going to open some big holes, and my goal is to get to the 1,000-yard mark.” Hubert knows his role, and the role of any other running back, is extra important this season, as they look to keep Collin Klein from shedding too much blood. “This year, I’m going to have to pick my game up because I know they’re going to be eyeing on Collin,” he said. “Somebody has to step up and I look forward to stepping up.” Hubert is at 998 yards in his K-State career, leaving him just a 2-yard carry away from reaching the 1,000-yard mark for his career, making him the 25th running back in school history to reach the milestone. With another solid season in 2012, Hubert could begin climbing the table of career rushing leaders at K-State.


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defensive

PLAYERS TO WATCH

arthur brown 6-1 228 SENIOR LINEBACKER There may not be a better linebacker in the Big 12 than Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. The Wichita East product goes into his senior season with the Wildcats as the anchor to a defense that wasn’t great a year ago, but was improved, and always seemed to find the big play when it needed it the most. Brown was a big part of that — whether it was chasing down running backs after barely receiving the ball or picking off Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter to help K-State defeat Baylor — the former Miami transfer did it all for the Cats last year. And believe it or not, Brown might be even better this season. K-State coach Bill Snyder said during Big 12 media days in July that Brown might be

tre walker

6-3 225 JUNIOR LINEBACKER Tre Walker has lived up to his role as one of the more outspoken leaders of this football team. The junior linebacker has always been that way, even as a freshman, often speaking in a rhythmic manner similar to that of a preacher. "He's the most vocal on the team — offense or defense," fellow linebacker Justin Tuggle said. "He's stepped up and knows his role. He's been here — starting for three years — and has game experience. "He's out here working everyday, trying to perfect his craft. He's not just out here talking. He's working — he's working hard everyday. He practices what he preaches." But while Walker has no intention of quieting down anytime soon, he does want to make that next step as a player on the field. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Olathe

North product was a Freshman AllAmerican when he collected 47 tackles in 2010. Now Walker wants to be a junior All-American and provide the same punch his teammate Arthur Brown does from his linebacker position. With Brown, Walker makes up easily one of the most athletic linebacker duos in the Big 12. But Walker — who had 52 tackles last year — also knows if its going to be the best duo in the Big 12, he needs to be more consistent and deliver more big plays every week — like he did in the Wildcats’ win at Miami a year ago. "I do want that All-American," said Walker, who has 99 career tackles. "I want more interceptions — I dropped four in my hands last year. I can't do that. That's my goal, to make those big plays and make those big stops, make more of those kinds of plays."

as close to a perfect player as one can get. That’s high praise, for sure, coming from Snyder. "My belief is that there isn't a ceiling for anybody," Snyder said. "But I will say this, when you look at guys like him and guys like Collin (Klein), if there were a ceiling, they're awfully close to it." Brown led the Wildcats with 118 tackles a year ago and is a preseason candidate for the Bednarik, Butkus and Walter Camp awards this year. Becoming a better leader is what Brown wants to focus on this season. "One of the main reasons I came back to play this year was to embrace this opportunity and grow and develop as a leader under Coach Snyder," Brown said. While Brown returning to Manhattan was good for K-State, it might just give the rest of the Big 12 nightmares.


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The Manhattan Mercury

Former Indian Burton set to play this season Joel Jellison jjellison@themercury.com

Staff photo by Sarah Midgorden

Kansas State freshman and Manhattan High product Deante Burton is expected to contribute immediately for the Wildcats this season on offense.

The most surreal thing for Deante Burton wasn't seeing his new Kansas State jersey. For the freshman wide receiver that grew up in Manhattan, the moment he realized he was a Division I football player came in team meetings. "It's no longer taking a knee on the 50-yard line and listening to the coach for 10 or 15 minutes," he said. "It's sitting in the meeting room for two hours, hearing what's going on, using your books to find where you're at and taking that out on the field." The changes for Burton have been big since joining the Wildcats. He learned what a playbook truly was, using his hands to show the size he estimated at about two large phonebooks. And that jersey in his locker, it's the first to ever have his last name, emblazoned over the purple in white letters. In practice, things have gotten noticeably faster, and teammates are bigger and stronger. The talent gap between the Centennial League and the Big 12 Conference is about as wide as it gets, but Burton said he has plenty of resources around that show him what it takes to be a Division-I wide receiver. "I think a big thing about the

Big 12 Conference and how good the quarterbacks and the passing game is, is you don't have to go far to watch," he said. "You can watch that on ESPN — guys like Justin Blackmon, Kenny Stills, Ryan Broyles — guys that are very electrifying and good receivers. "I can just come out here every day and watch Chris Harper and he's someone I idolize with his size and speed and ability to catch the ball. It's not hard for me to come out here and see good receivers." Harper still remembers when he first heard about the recruitment of Burton. A Wichita Northwest alum, Harper knew enough about Manhattan High's offense to wonder just what Burton had to offer. "I remember when we started recruiting him and I asked (wide receivers) coach (Michael) Smith, because he said he went to Manhattan High School, 'can this dude play? Is he a player,' and he says 'he's good,'" he said. "He came in and is definitely really athletic, but the thing is in high school, if you play wide receiver, you don't get coached, that was the thing with him. He hasn't been coached, and now he is going to be coached by one of the greatest that's played here." Burton said he has been practicing behind Harper's spot in the lineup along with

fellow freshman Steven West. It might be no coincidence that Smith draws some comparisons between the type of players Burton and Harper are. Harper is 6-foo-1, 229 pounds, while Burton checks in a 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Both are athletic, quick, agile and have tremendous leaping ability. "Chris is a little bit thicker than he is, but athletically I think Deante has all the tools to be a great wide receiver," Smith said. "He's got a lot to learn about the position, but just his athleticism makes it exciting for me to work with him." Burton said he considers Harper to be a role model to the young receivers on the team, as well as Curry Sexton and Tramaine Thompson. Although he might not be catching passes right off the bat, he is expected to factor into the kickoff and punt units this season. Burton flew somewhat under the radar recruiting wise, and Smith said they felt fortunate to keep him in Manhattan. "I kind of had an in with him because my daughter goes to Manhattan High and I had seen him in camps," he said. "We feel very blessed to have him in, he's the kind of kid that fits in our program and I look forward to working with him."

Becoming a leader key to Brown's success NO. 1, FROM PAGE 3 said. "When you go through things together and you come through it on top, it really changes your comfort zone and how you open up to people. “We had a lot of those moments last year." Brown, though still softspoken, said his teammates and coaches "cracked his shell" last season, which allowed him to become that better leader. "It was hard for him, but what made it so easy for us or for me, is that he's such a caring person," Snyder said. "You

hear me talk about those values so much and he brings those to the table. He has those and genuinely cares and he's willing to make those sacrifices to do what's right." One of those sacrifices was Brown making a commitment to return to school this year and putting dreams of the NFL off for another year. "One of the main reasons I came back to play this year was to embrace this opportunity and grow and develop as a leader under Coach Snyder," said Brown, who is a candidate for Bednarik, Butkus and Walter Camp awards.

"With the guys on the team, they really help that development as well. It's about being able to build those relationships that are longer lasting than any NFL career." Brown said he took a leap a year ago and realized that if he was going to take that next step as a player he had to step outside of his comfort zone. "I recognized opportunities that were there for me to maybe step out and encourage or correct my teammates," he said. "It's about recognizing the opportunity more than anything and taking advantage of it... Everything just followed after that."

Kansas State’s Arthur Brown makes a tackle on Missouri quarterback James Franklin last season at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mercury file photo


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KANSAS STATE

RB Hubert has big plans Joel Jellison jjellison@themercury.com John Hubert is setting his goals high this season. Kansas State's junior running back is expected to return to his role as the starter from the 2011 season, when he ran for 970 yards and three touchdowns. More yards and more touchdowns are what Hubert has on his plate in 2012, as he looks to take some of the hurt away from quarterback Collin Klein, who led the team in rushing with 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns. "It's going to be a great season this year," he said. "We've got some excellent guys up front that are going to open some big holes - my goal is to get to the 1,000-yard mark." The big goal on offense collectively will be keeping Klein's elbows from bleeding too much, and spreading the ball out to a number of playmakers is a way they can achieve it. Co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said increasing Hubert's production is a step in the right direction. "I think we want to take some pressure off of Collin, and in order to do that, we have to get more productivity out of our running back position," he said. "I'd like to get John to 1,000 and I'd also like to get some of our other backs some carries too, because we've got some other talented running backs. So maybe if we don't get John there, let's improve his yards per carry." Hubert knows the reason he needs to take up a bigger chunk is because of the focus on Klein. Hubert averaged nearly five yards per carry last season, but Klein's role in the offense as a runner and passer puts much of the attention squarely on his shoulders. "This year I'm going to have to pick my game up because I know they're going to be eyeing on Collin," he said. "Somebody has to step up and I look forward to stepping up." Hubert hasn't rushed for more than 1,000 yards since

Cox inherits good situation at linebacker at Michigan State (2003-06), Louisville (1998-2002), Utah State (1995-97) and at his Mike Cox couldn’t ask for alma mater, Idaho (1987a better situation at line- 1994). backer. Snyder said he is excited The new Kansas State linebackers coach arrived to have him with the football in February, and took over a program. "The players group that already have a lot of returned two starters in Arthur respect for him Brown and Tre Walkand he fits in well er, with guys like with our defensive Jarell Childs and staff and our entire Justin Tuggle hopstaff,” he said. ing to get a shot. “He's a very pleasIn his short time ant fellow who has on the job, Cox is a good knowledge already liking what of the game. he sees. Cox "He's funda"It's going really good," he said. "I mentally very think guys are working sound with the players. He's extremely hard and that's a a good instructor as a trait of this team. I think it teacher and believes in the has always been with coach things that our program is (Bill) Snyder's teams and I really all about." can see that. I love it, Cox said he is looking forabsolutely love it." ward to working with the KCox came to Manhattan from Washington, where he State coaching staff. "They're really good had served as the linebackers coach since 2009. guys," he said . "I didn't realBefore his time at Wash- ly know a lot of these guys ington, Cox's resume was before I came here, so it's anything but boring. been exciting getting to During the 2007-08 sea- know them. They're hard son, Cox worked as a defenworking guys, and it's always sive assistant coach with the fun to be working with guys St. Louis Rams. Cox also spent time as the like that, they don't let you assistant linebacker coach down." Kelly McHugh sports@themercury.com

Staff photo by Rod Mikinski

Kansas State junior running back John Hubert returns this season after winning the starting job a year ago in a crowded backfield. Hubert rushed for 970 yards and three touchdowns last season setting the Waco city rushing record in 2008 with 2,524 yards. The K-State junior broke a record held by NFL great LaDainian Tomlinson. Hubert said he received congratulations and advice from Tomlinson in a phone call after setting the record. "I didn't know him as a person, but I heard about him," he said. "I knew he held the record there, and once I got the record he gave me a call and it was pretty interesting. I tip my hat to him and am happy I can have both our names together. "He told me records are meant to be broken and he was glad I was one of those guys that could break them. He just told me good job." Hubert also said it came down as a big deal to the media in Waco. He said it was important to him to break the record, but he thought the

exposure he was receiving was some kind of joke. The junior received more coverage when local Big 12 Conference school Baylor decided to pass on offering him a scholarship. For that reason, the Baylor game has become a special one to Hubert, who said it felt great to beat the Bears in Manhattan last season. He wouldn't, however, trade in his purple and white to become a Baylor player now. "I'm glad to be here in the K-State family, and be a student and to have Coach Snyder as my head coach," he said. "I'm just happy to be at K-State." The Wildcats will play at Baylor this season on Nov. 17, and Hubert said many of his friends and family will be in attendance to see him in action back in his hometown.

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KANSAS STATE

10

Lockett healthy and ready for another big season Kelly McHugh sports@themercury.com Tyler Lockett has a lot to celebrate from his freshman season at Kansas State a year ago. But the wide receiver from Tulsa, Okla., also has something he’d like to forget about too. The sophomore had an All-American season a year ago, but it all ended too quickly when he suffered a seaso n - e n d in g i nj u r y against Oklahoma State on Nov. 5, 2011. Lockett was enjoying the best game of his young career that night in Stillwater when he racked up 315 all-purpose yards. But after landing on the ball late, he realized something was wrong. The son of legendary Wildcat receiver Kevin Lockett had lacerated a kidney — costing him the rest of his season. "I think the injury really helped me in a way," Lockett said. "It may not seem like that to others, but it really humbled me. It just showed me that the football gifts and talents that I have could be taken away at any moment." Going into this season, Lockett is already picking up where he left a a year ago with early preseason accolades as an All-Big 12 and All-American candidate. Lockett could prove to be a major game-changer for the

Staff photo by Rod Mikinski

Kansas State sophomore receiver Tyler Lockett looks to move on from a stellar freshman season that was cut short because of injury. Wildcats this year, as he broke Big 12 and school records with his 35.2 yards kickoff return average last season. Lockett also returned kicked in consecutive games last year. Lockett said he tries not to think about the attention he’s been getting as the season approaches. "I mean, I don't pay attention to it at all," said Lockett, who had 18 receptions for 246

yard s l ast season . " M y biggest thing is just to stick to what got me here and not lose focus. “So, that's what's got me through and that's how I'm going to do it. I will work harder than I did last year. I worked hard, but at the same time, I believe I wasn't as consistent as I want to be this year. So I'm working on being consistent and really mastering the wide receiver

position." If there’s one person who understands exactly how Lockett feels right now, its junior receiver Tramaine Thompson. Like Lockett, Thompson had a great start to his freshman season, but also suff ered a season- ending injury. Their families are friends, and Thompson has known Lockett since their days of playing high school

football in Oklahoma. “Watching him grow up and be a great player is really fun to see," said Thompson, who’s from Jenks. "He's a really competitive guy and he brings a lot to this team." Co-offensive Coordinator Dana Dimel said Lockett’s value to the Wildcats starts with the fact that he can do so many things. "He is going to be a really special w eapon for us, " Dimel said. Including Thompson, helping him out a long the way are a veteran group of receivers. "It's competitive (between the wide receivers), but at the same time, it's something fun because we're getting closer together as a receiving corps," Lockett said. "All the guys are pretty close, we could call ourselves a family. “It's like we're competing on the field, but at the same time, if we see somebody mess up, we're going to help them and they're going to help me." And though Lockett has plenty of memories from his first season in the purple and white a year ago, he’s ready to create some more now. "I have a lot of goals and expectations for myself this season," he said. "But at the end of the day, I don't control it, so I'm going to just do what I can do — work hard, be consistent, be dedicated and to be able to help others and not just try to help myself."

Big 12 begins a new chapter of stability, unity NO. 1, FROM PAGE 2 selection committee will choose the four playoff teams. Using an RPI system like basketball does to rate teams isn't exactly possible in college football. "As we shape what will become the new postseason, one of the things that we have to build into the system, is we have to make sure that it's fair, it's transparent and it's understandable," Bowlsby said. "But we also have to do things in terms of how we structure the selection process to make sure that we encourage highlevel matchups in the month of Sep-

tember. " We n e e d t o e n c o u r a g e t h o s e games, we need to relish those games, and we need to make the month of September as good as the months of October and November are." As for the teams that don't schedule the more compelling games, Bowlsby said the message to those schools must be clear from the start. "Putting together a schedule that never takes you off your campus, that doesn't play against intersectional opponents, that doesn't create matchups that are significant for the media and significant in terms of

comparison of the best teams in the country — the complete absence of that — will also likely be penalized," he said.

Neinas honored by Big 12 Chuck Neinas took over the Big 12 as interim commissioner when it needed leadership the most, facing two more defections in Missouri and Texas A&M and following the dismissal of Dan Beebe. Under Neinas, the Big 12 added West Virginia and TCU to the conference, negotiated a major TV deal and helped create the Champions Bowl, which pits the Big 12 champ

against the SEC champ. During the league's annual media days this past July, new commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced that in an effort to honor Neinas' efforts in the last the year, the conference's coach of the year award will now be called the Chuck Neinas Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year Award. "Under his guidance, we brought TCU and West Virginia into the league and he had a tremendous calming force," Bowlsby said. "And through his sage advice and insights and experience, we were able to get through a very tough time."


11

KANSAS STATE

Game 1

MISSOURI ST.

Game 2

Sept. 1, 6 p.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium

Sept. 8, 11 a.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium

SCHEDULE

SCHEDULE

Sept. 1 at K-State Sept. 8 at Louisville Sept. 15 MURRAY STATE Sept. 22 SOUTHERN ILLINOIS Sept. 29 at South Dakota State Oct. 6 at Indiana State Oct. 13 SOUTH DAKOTA Oct. 20 at Illinois State Oct. 27 WESTERN ILLINOIS Nov. 3 NORTH DAKOTA STATE Nov. 17 at Northern Iowa

Sept. 1 at Boston College Sept. 8 at K-State Sept. 15 BETHUNE COOKMAN Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech Sept. 29 NORTH CAROLINA ST. Oct. 6 vs. Notre Dame (Chicago) Oct. 13 NORTH CAROLINA Oct. 20 FLORIDA STATE Nov. 1 VIRGINIA TECH Nov. 10 at Virginia Nov. 17 USF Nov. at Duke

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

22,866

2-9 (2-6)

Conference

Series history

Missouri Valley

KSU leads 2-0

Game 3

Courtesy photo

Missouri State head coach Terry Allen has striuggled against Bill Snyder at 0-6.

THE BEARS The Bears are still in a search for their QB this season, as sophomore Kierra Harris and junior Missouri transfer Ashton Glaser are in an a battle for the starting spot. Both players bring different abilities to the position — Harris is a runner and Glaser is a thrower. Coach Terry Allen has struggled against Bill Snyder in his career at 0-6.

NORTH TEXAS

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

15,629

6-6 (3-5)

Conference

Series history

ACC

KSU leads 1-0

Game 4

SCHEDULE

SCHEDULE

Sept. 1 at LSU Sept. 8 TEXAS SOUTHERN Sept. 15 at K-State Sept. 22 TROY Sept. 29 at Florida Atlantic Oct. 6 at Houston Oct. 16 LOUISIANA Oct. 27 at Middle Tennessee Nov. 3 ARKANSAS STATE Nov. 10 SOUTH ALABAMA Nov. 17 at ULM Nov. 24 at Western Kentucky

Sept. 1 at UTEP Sept. 8 FLORIDA A&M Sept. 22 K-STATE Oct. 6 at Texas Tech Oct. 13 vs. Texas (Dallas) Oct. 20 KANSAS Oct. 27 NOTRE DAME Nov. 3 at Iowa State Nov. 10 BAYLOR Nov. 17 at West Virginia Nov. 24 OKLAHOMA STATE Dec. 1 at TCU

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

35,754

5-7 (4-4)

Conference

Series history

Sun Belt

KSU leads 5-1

Courtesy photo

THE MEAN GREEN Picked seventh in the Sun Belt, North Texas is coming off a 5-7 season a year ago. The Mean Green will travel to Manhattan for the fourth time since the turn of the 21st century ��� the three other visits resulting in losses of 55-10 in 2000, 54-7 in 2005 and 45-6 in 2008. Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney is in his second season with UNT.

Associated Press

Al Golden went 6-6 in his first season at Miami a year ago.

THE HURRICANES Miami was up-and-down under first-year coach Al Golden last season, missing out on a bowl after finishing 6-6, including a 28-24 loss to K-State. The Canes will look different with the departure of four-year starter Jacory Harris at QB. The likely replacement is Stephen Morris. The Hurricanes start the season with consecutive road games.

AT OKLAHOMA Sept. 22, TBA, Memorial Stadium

Sept. 15, 6 p.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium

Former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney is entering his second season with UNT.

MIAMI

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

30,315

10-3 (6-3)

Conference Big 12

Series history OU leads 71-17-4

File photo

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has his Sooners sniffing serious title hopes in 2012.

THE SOONERS The Sooners are early title contenders, but their season will swing up or down with the arm of QB Landry Jones. OU added Penn State WR Justin Brown, giving Jones another target. Defensively, the team has all three linebackers back and three of its four defensive backs returning. Former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is also back at OU.


KANSAS STATE

12

Game 5

KANSAS

The Manhattan Mercury

Game 6

Oct 6, TBA, Bill Snyder Family Stadium

Oct. 13, TBA, Jack Trice Stadium

SCHEDULE

SCHEDULE

Sept. 1 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE Sept. 8 RICE Sept. 15 TCU Sept. 22 at Northern Illinois Oct. 6 at K-State Oct. 13 OKLAHOMA STATE Oct. 20 at Oklahoma Oct. 27 TEXAS Nov. 3 at Baylor Nov. 10 at Texas Tech Nov. 17 IOWA STATE Dec. 1 at West Virginia

Sept. 1 TULSA Sept. 8 at Iowa Sept. 15 WESTERN ILLINOIS Sept. 29 TEXAS TECH Oct. 6 at TCU Oct. 13 K-STATE Oct. 20 at Oklahoma State Oct. 27 BAYLOR Nov. 3 OKLAHOMA Nov. 10 at Texas Nov. 17 at Kansas Nov. 24 WEST VIRGINIA

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

28,718

2-10 (0-9)

Conference Big 12

Series history KU leads 65-39-5

Game 7

Associated Press

Charlie Weis has tall order this year, taking over a KU team that was 2-10 las year.

THE JAYHAWKS A new coach and new QB. KU looked to make a splash after another disappointing season under Turner Gill by hiring former Irish coach Charlie Weis. Weis immediately found his QB — Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist. Much work needs done on a defense that surrendered a record number of yards and points a year ago.

AT WVU

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

24,343

6-7 (3-6)

Conference Big 12

Series history ISU leads 49-42-4

Game 8

Oct. 20, TBA, Puskar Stadium

SCHEDULE

Sept. 1 MARSHALL Sept. 15 JAMES MADISON Sept. 22 MARYLAND Sept. 29 BAYLOR Oct. 6 at Texas Oct. 13 at Texas Tech Oct. 20 K-STATE Nov. 3 TCU Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State Nov. 17 OKLAHOMA Nov. 23 at Iowa State Dec. 1 KANSAS

Sept. 1 NORTHWESTERN STATE Sept. 8 at Texas State Sept. 15 NEW MEXICO Sept. 29 at Iowa State Oct. 6 OKLAHOMA Oct. 13 WEST VIRGINIA Oct. 20 at TCU Oct. 27 at K-State Nov. 3 TEXAS Nov. 10 KANSAS Nov. 17 at Oklahoma State Nov. 24 vs. Baylor (Arlington)

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

29,617

10-3 (5-2 Big East)

Conference

Series history

Big 12

Tied 1-1

Associated Press

THE MOUNTAINEERS West Virginia has lofty expectations in its first year in the Big 12 — the league media voted them to finish second. WVU capped a Big East title season in 2011 with a 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl, perhaps indicating that they plan to fit right in with the high-powered offenses of the Big 12.

Associated Press

Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads is 18-20 in four seasons with the Cyclones.

THE CYCLONES Iowa State was picked eighth in the Big 12 this year. Going into his fourth season as the Cyclone's head coach, Paul Rhodes holds an 18-20 record. The Cyclones bring back senior linebacker A.J. Klein, Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Last year, K-State won a close 30-23 victory over Iowa State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

TEXAS TECH Oct. 27, TBA, Bill Snyder Family Stadium

SCHEDULE

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgerson is known for his high-octane passing attack.

AT IOWA ST.

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

31,637

5-7 (2-7)

Conference

Series history

Big 12

Tech leads 8-4

Associated Press

Tommy Tuberville is 13-12 in his two seasons leading the Red Raiders, including 5-7 in 2011.

THE RED RAIDERS The Red Raiders started last season 4-0, but crashed and burned at the end. Close loses to both Texas A&M and K-State started the meltdown, as Tech lost the last five games of the year. Tommy Tuberville is entering his third season with the Red Raiders, owning a 13-12 record overall and 1-1 mark against the Wildcats.


13

KANSAS STATE

Game 9

OKLAHOMA ST.

Game 10

Nov. 3, TBA, Bill Snyder Family Stadium

Nov. 10, TBA, Amon G. Carter Stadium

SCHEDULE

SCHEDULE

Sept. 1 SAVANNAH STATE Sept. 8 at Arizona Sept. 15 LOUISIANA Sept. 29 TEXAS Oct. 13 at Kansas Oct. 20 IOWA STATE Oct. 27 TCU Nov. 4 at K-State Nov. 10 WEST VRIGINIA Nov. 17 TEXAS TECH Nov. 24 at Oklahoma Dec. 1 at Baylor

Sept. 8 GRAMBLING STATE Sept. 15 at Kansas Sept. 22 VIRGINIA Sept. 29 at SMU Oct. 6 IOWA STATE Oct. 13 at Baylor Oct. 20 TEXAS TECH Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State Nov. 3 at West Virginia Nov. 10 K-STATE Nov. 24 at Texas Dec. 1 OKLAHOMA

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

35,073

12-1 (8-1)

Conference Big 12

Series history OSU leads 36-22

Game 11

Associated Press

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is coming off his first Big 12 title with the Cowboys.

THE COWBOYS The Cowboys had their best season under Mike Gundy last year, and that success might be tough to reproduce this season. OSU lost QB Brandon Weeden and top target Justin Blackmon to the NFL. They do return RB Joseph Randle and WR Tracy Moore, while the QB might be true freshman Wes Lunt.

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

9,518

11-2 (7-0 MWC)

Conference

Series history

Big 12

AT BAYLOR

First meeting

Game 12

Nov. 17, TBA, Floyd Casey Stadium

Big 12

KSU leads 7-2

Associated Press

Head coach Gary Patterson had taken TCU to a bowl game seven straight years.

THE HORNED FROGS It's a new era for TCU, which enters the new Big 12 this season. The Horned Frogs, coached by former Wildcat Gary Patterson, has been a mainstay in the Top 25 for years now — including 10 bowl games and a current streak of seven straight with two BCS appearances, one of which was a victory.

TEXAS Dec. 1, TBA, Bill Snyder Family Stadium

SCHEDULE Sept. 2 SMU Sept. 15 SAM HOUSTON STATE Sept. 21 at ULM Sept. 29 at West Virginia Oct. 13 TCU Oct. 20 at Texas Courtesy photo Oct. 27 at Iowa State Head coach Art Briles is 25-25 in four years at Baylor, including 1-1 vs. K-State. Nov. 3 KANSAS Nov. 10 at Oklahoma Nov. 17 K-STATE THE BEARS Nov. 24 vs. Texas Tech (Arlington) With Robert Griffin III in the NFL, this will Dec. 1 OKLAHOMA STATE obviously not be the same Baylor team this season. That doesn't mean, however, the VITALS Bears should be overlooked, as they do return senior QB Nick Florence who proved Enrollment Last season 15,029 10-3 (6-3) he can lead Baylor a year ago when he filled in for an injured RG3. Art Briles is 25-25 in Series history Conference four years at Baylor — 1-1 against the Cats.

AT TCU

SCHEDULE Sept. 1 WYOMING Sept. 8 NEW MEXICO Sept. 15 at Ole Miss Sept. 29 at Oklahoma State Oct. 6 WEST VIRGINIA Oct. 13 vs. Oklahoma (Dallas) Oct. 20 BAYLOR Oct. 27 at Kansas Nov. 3 at Texas Tech Nov. 10 IOWA STATE Nov. 24 TCU Dec. 1 at K-State

VITALS Enrollment

Last season

51,145

8-5 (4-5)

Conference

Series history

Big 12

KSU leads 7-5

Courtesy photo

Head coach Mack Brown is faced with a QB controversy for the second straight season.

THE LONGHORNS After a couple of down years, the Texas Longhorns have increased expectations in the Big 12, picked to finish third and ranked No. 15 in the preseason coaches poll. However, they also return a familiar QB competition between David Ash and Case McCoy, one that limited the effectiveness of the Longhorn passing game.


KANSAS STATE

14

The Manhattan Mercury

Cats’ league-worst secondary has two holes Grant Guggisberg gguggisberg@themercury.com If you're looking for a finger to point in Kansas State's two regular-season losses last season, the trendy pick is to blame the secondary. In back-to-back weeks, the K-State defense allowed more than 500 yards through the air as the Wildcat secondary gave up big play after big play to, statistically, two of the best offenses in the league. While K-State's rush defense finished in the top half of the league, the Wi l d c a t pass defense ranked dead last by season's end. Factor in the loss of veteran starters David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman, and it seems as if this year's unit has its work cut out for it. New defensive coordinator and second-year defensive backs coach Tom Hayes doesn't see it that way. "The first thing is our stats are skewed somewhat, in the way that we played against OU and Okie-State two weeks in a row," he said. "We didn't play very well, and they played very well and they're very talented on offense, both of them. We gave up a ton of yards to them, and we lost both those games.

"They kind of skew what happened in the whole picture of things over the course of a 12-game season." Hayes isn't saying this group won't struggle at times, or that the new faces at defensive back will be seasoned players by week one, but he doesn't expect his guys to succumb to the pressure of playing in a pass-first league. "A lot of these guys I've been talking about, they're seasoned p l a y e r s," H ayes s a i d. "T h e b ri gh t lights aren't going to b o t he r t h em , b u t they've still got a lot of work to do to gain that experience and on-the-job training." As far as which players will begin t ha t t r ai n i n g, t h e frontrunner to replace Hartman is currently Thomas Ferguson, a hard-hitting safety that got the majority of the work this spring alongside Ty Zimmerman. Also in the mix there is juco transfer Kent Gainous, who may play his way onto the field as the season goes on, but is still adjusting to the Division-I level. "We recruited Kent because he's got size, he's got length," Hayes said. "He's got speed. He played well for his community college and I liked what I saw when I saw

Zimmerman

the film. We're glad we got him, it's just too early to tell with him right now." As far as who takes Garrett's spot alongside Nigel Malone, head coach Bill Snyder mentioned Kip Daily and Randall Evans. Another ch oi ce wou l d b e Bu b b a Chapman, who saw playing time last year in a limited role. When asked who might be on the other side of the field from him, Malone wouldn't single out any one player, though he is doing everything he can to help his teammates along. "I definitely see a willingness to get better," Malone said of his teammates. "There are a lot of guys coming in and we have a little bit of experience. From the young guys, the incoming freshmen guys and the transfer guys, I've definitely seen the willingness to get better." Recently, Malone has been helping his teammates f rom t h e si d el i n es as h e deals with an injury that kept him sidelined most of t h e s u m m e r, t h o u g h h e insisted he will be ready to play by the Sept. 1 season opener. "I did get a little bit banged up, but I'm good now," Malone said at K-State media day. "I missed a few (practices), but I'm guessing I'll be back pretty soon in the next week. "I'll be ready."

Veteran DEs lead front four NO. 1, FROM PAGE 5 one of the top-tier defenses in the Big 12." Williams knows the new faces will have to work hard to adjust to life in the Big 12, but didn't seem worried about how they'll fare. "They know it's a different g a m e r i g h t a b o u t n o w, " Williams said. "But they're adjusting well, asking questions. They're doing real good." Lutui echoed that sentiment. "Everybody's working

hard," he said. "Everybody's putting in the effort." Lutui knows firsthand how difficult the adjustment to Big 12 football can be. After a standout career at Mt. San Antonio Community College, he came to K-State and immediately contributed to last season's successful 2011 campaign with 34 tackles. "When I came in, it was really tough at first," Lutui said. "The new guys are going to have to take it with the punches and see how it goes."

For Williams, continuing to improve off his breakout season is his goal, though he's also got his eyes on the K-State single-season sack record of 11.5 held by Nyle Wiren (1996) and Ian Campbell (2006). He led the team with seven last year, despite coming in off the bench in every g a m e . N o t s u r p r i s i n g l y, Hayes sees him as an everydown guy this year. "He's going to be a good senior leader for us," Hayes said. "He needs to play well this year and stay healthy."

Mercury file photo

Kansas State cornerback Nigel Malone returns an interception against Oklahoma last season at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.


15

KANSAS STATE

Hayes brings wealth of experience to KSU sideline Grant Guggisberg gguggisberg@themercury.com Tom Hayes is a well-traveled football coach. He's made stops at nine different colleges and a pair of NFL teams over a football career that spans more than 40 years. After just one year at Kansas State, Hayes was promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator over the offseason with the departure of Chris Cosh. "The biggest difference is you're responsible for a lot more organizational things, and you're responsible for the oversight of the staff and the players," Hayes said. "But I've had several of these jobs, so it's nothing new to me." He has served as defensive coordinator in several of his positions over the years, but has not held this title since a one-year stint at Stanford in 2005. In addition to his new duties, he must work to fill two holes in his secondary — a league-worst group against the pass last season — while filling three other positions in the defensive unit. Consider Hayes motivated. "I've had the chance to be around great coaches and great players, and I've learned a lot of football by being around them," he said. "I'm looking forward to it, I'm

K-State Sports Information

Tom Hayes takes over as Kansas State’s defensive coordinator this season after serving as the Wildcats defensive backs coach in 2011. looking forward to the challenge, and I can't wait to get going." Hayes isn't planning to overhaul the defense after replacing Cosh, though he admitted things will change. "Personalities are different. Everybody's different," he said. "You can't worry about those kind of things, we're all built a little bit dif-

ferent. But as coaches, we're all in the same fraternity. "We're all geared to trying to get our players to play to the best of their abilities. That's what we do." Hayes first order of business as the new coordinator is to establish depth, something easier said than done. "I think the biggest thing

we're trying to do is build a good two-deep in our entire defensive team," he said. "That takes time." Head coach Bill Snyder had known Hayes for many years as an opposing coach before bringing him on his staff last season. He made the decision to promote Hayes from within rather than go after someone from outside the current coaching staff. "He's got a plethora of experience as a coordinator..." he said. "It's just the fact that the experience on an ongoing basis is significant and demands the respect of his players, because of his knowledge of defensive football, and football in general." That football knowledge began accumulating as a defensive back for Iowa from 1967-1971 before he took his first coaching job with the Hawkeyes in 1977. Hayes spent nine seasons at UCLA before returning to the Midwest and coaching at both Texas A&M and Oklahoma. He then transitioned into the NFL where he c o a c h e d t h e Wa s h i n g t o n Redskins for four years under Norv Turner. He then landed at Kansas, where he served as interim coach for three games after Terry Allen was fired. His next stop was Stanford for a season before coaching the

New Orleans Saints defensive backs for two years. He followed that with a oneyear stint at Tulane in 2010. "I've been at it for 40-plus, so you just have to hope that all those experiences guide you through the current job that you're in," Hayes said. "And they should. I've been lucky to have been at a lot of different Division-I institutions and a couple NFL teams." One of his immediate p r o j e c t s f o r t h e Wi l d c a t defense this year is to make things easier for his secondary by improving the play of the defensive line. "We need to continue to work on trying to develop a quality pass rush," he said. "Because part of coverage is being able to get that quarterback to speed up and throw that ball when he's not ready to throw it, and hopefully that leads to opportunities in the takeaway area." While he's excited to build on the success of last season, Hayes knows this year's team can't lean on last year's good fortune. "2011 is gone," he said. "And it was successful for us. But let's say it was a failure, it wouldn't make any difference, it's still gone. You've got to separate what happened last year and move on to this year. "We're excited about it. It's a new challenge."

Klein now married NO. 1, FROM PAGE 5 der said. "He's just now getting into that. That remains to be seen." Snyder has faith in his prized quarterback's ability to add married man to his already long list of responsibilities. "Collin is a very mature young guy," he said. "I don't want to take him for granted — that wouldn't be fair to him — but I think he has the capabilities to be successful in being able to manage all the balls he has in the air." And as hectic as things are

for Klein right now, the AllBig 12 pick has only one word to describe his new circumstances. "Blessed," said Klein, who accounted for 3,059 yards and 40 touchdowns last season. "It's the perfect word to describe it. Whatever the Lord sees fit to do with my career and this season and our team, I just want to give everything back that he's given to me. Whatever happens, I will be grateful and content and try to become the best that I possibly can for him."

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Everyone knows Nigel now Brady Bauman sports@themercury.com

K-State Sports Information

Kansas State’s Andre McDonald makes a touchdown catch against Arkansas during the Cotton Bowl last January in Arlington, Texas.

Wildcat TEs on same page as Klein Brady Bauman sports@themercury.com Travis Tannahill had a hard time listing all the quarterbacks he's had throw to him in his three years as a tight end at Kansas State. There's a reason for that, though. In his freshman season the quarterback position was split between Grant Gregory and Carson Coffman, and then in his sophomore year, Coffman competed against Collin Klein late in the season before Klein won the job outright last year. But going into his senior year — and for the first time in four years — Tannahill and fellow tight end Andre McDonald, a junior, will have the same man behind center for back-to-back seasons. “This will be the first year I've had a returning quarterback, which will be nice,” Tannahill said during the team's media day in August. “We are definitely on the same page, we can read each other's mind... he can give me a little wink here, and a wink there. We've taken hundreds, if not thousands, of reps together, so it will be good. “I can tell even from the Arkansas game to the first day of Spring ball he has improved. He's definitely always going to find a way to

get better.” McDonald — a giant standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing in at 264 pounds — was also in good spirits about his rapport with Klein. “I feel real positive... it's going to be another big season,” McDonald said. “I'm looking forward to this season. “Collin is a real good quarterback. He knows how to read the guys and goes for the open ones. If I'm open, he really knows how to get the ball to me. I've lost a little bit of weight, so I'm hoping to get in more pass offenses so I can help us a little more. However it comes out, I'm ready.” The tight end duo combined for 19 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns last season, and both split nearly even among those numbers individually. McDonald averaged 15.1 yards per catch, while Tannahill averaged a first down every catch at 10.4 yards per grab. While both have been crucial run-blockers for the Wildcats offense, they came up with big catches at crucial times last year as well. McDonald had a significant catch for 34 yards in the nail-biting win at Miami in the third game of the year and SEE

NO. 2, PAGE 22

Going into the 2011 season, not many knew about Kan sas S t at e d ef en si ve back Nigel Malone. He was a junior-college transfer out of City College of San Francisco and was just a three-star player according to Rivals.com. Then he played for the Wildcats. Now, going into t h e 2012 season , p l en t y know about Kansas State defensive back Nigel Malone. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound native from Manteca, Calif., came out of obscurity to lead K-State in interceptions by a wide margin with seven picks and was one of 15 sem i f i n al i st s i n t h e entire country to be in the ru n n i n g f or t h e T h orp e Award, among other national award s. T h e T h orp e Award, in particular, puts Malone in good K-State company, as he is the first Wildcat to be in the running for such an honor since Terence Newman in 2002. He was one of only four others that had multiplepick games last year and had 58 tackles. His seven i n t ercep t i on s — on e of which was returned for a touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage at Texas Tech — led the Big 12 an d were t i ed f or t h i rd nationally. He was named first team All Big-12 by the coaches and is a preseason All-American. Malone, though, hasn't let himself get too carried away. “If anything it pushes me a little more to work a little harder,” Malone said during the team's media day in August. “I just want to make an impact on the field, whether it be statistically or just by leadership... however I can help. I just try to do my best, focus on the season and not let too many outside distractions weigh in on anything.” Team co-captain and fellow member of the secondary Ty Zimmerma has plenty of respect for Malone.

Staff photo by Sarah Midgorden

Kansas State cornerback Nigel Malone has been named a preseason candidate for the Thorpe Award. “I really admire Nigel and what he brings to the game,” the junior said. “He's so in tuned to his technique in each and every play... you never catch him slipping. “He's done a great job of putting himself in a position where he can come in this season and be a great leader for this defense, and I know he'll continue to make plays like he did last year.” At this time last year much of the attention in the secondary went to David Garrett, who many — like Malone himself — saw as the energy-source of the unit. But Garrett has since graduated, and Malone said he is fine with accepting that

role. “I wouldn't say there is one specific guy (I'm trying to mentor),” Malone said. “I try my best to be a good teammate and available to everybody. Whether it be a veteran or a young guy coming in, I don't try and discriminate in helping anybody. “I definitely see a willingness to get better from the other guys. I see guys that go out there and not take anything for granted.” Defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said Malone's breakout year has resulted in motivation. “It doesn't really change SEE

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Klein remains focused on getting better Joshua Kinder jkinder@themercury.com If anybody has proudly worn the badge of ambassador of Bill Snyder's "16 Goals for Success," it's Collin Klein. The senior quarterback rarely misses an opportunity to recite one of the 16 goals Kansas State's football program is built on. He'll do it on cue and even when he's not being tested. Klein truly believes the 10-3 season a year ago is a prime example of what can be accomplished if everyone's on the same page. But as believable as that statement is, the way the Wildcats opened the season — a 10-7 victory over Eastern Kentucky — is also an example of what can happen when there are breakdowns in the Snyder doctrine. "If you watched the Eastern Kentucky game, I don't think there was an area we didn't grow (as the season progressed)," Klein said. "Decision-making — it was just a disaster. "We definitely left room for improvement. Hopefully we can start a little further along and finish further along. That's our thing — we're just going to try to get better day in and day out the best we can." After surviving the Week 1 scare, K-State went on to win six straight games before losing its first contest of the year at home against Oklahoma. The Wildcats won in a variety of ways too — with special teams, big defensive plays at the end of games and with a runningbased offense more reminiscent of the old Big Eight. The Wildcats won eight games by seven points or less — all with Klein leading the charge, seemingly doing whatever K-State needed that given day. The All-Big 12 selection passed for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for another 1,141 yards and an FBS-quarterback record 27 scores on the ground. "Last season took on a shape of its own where I'd do whatever I have to do to win," Klein said. "It ended up that I ran the ball a lot, but its whatever the team needs at that time and we'll do it." Klein — a preseason candi-

Mercury file photo

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein scores a touchdown against Texas during the 2010 season. Klein passed for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for another 1,141 yards and 27 scores a year ago. date for the Unitas, O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell awards — said the Wildcats' offense always strives for balance, despite this team clearly being more apt to run the ball in the pass-happy Big 12 last year. "We want to strive for balance, obviously, but I think the definition of balance could vary on the outcome of the game," he said. "If we threw 70/30 and we win, then we had good balance. If we run it 60/40 and we win, then we had good balance. "Whatever we have to do to win the ballgame is what we'll do." But while the 6-foot-5, 226pound signal caller has emerged as one of the Big 12's elite QBs going into this season, questions still remain as to just how well Klein can throw the football. Those questions linger despite Klein completing more than 57 percent of his passes and throwing just six interceptions a year ago.

"He's been developing his passing game each and every year, and hopefully this is the year he can really step up and be really diverse," K-State cooffensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. "He's been working on his fundamentals quite a bit and spent a lot of time in the offseason working on his fundamentals and learning how to throw the ball more efficiently with what he does." When asked what specifically he's worked on this offseason, Klein's answer was, as expected, "everything." "I know I say that every time, but I want to be better at everything," he said. "Everything is pertinent to getting better overall. I feel like I made some improvement. Now I just need to continue doing it." And if Klein continues to do just that, he believes good things are to come for this year's Wildcats — again. "We just have to do it again," he said. "We need to keep doing

what got us here in the first place, and that was staying together, playing tough, not beating ourselves and ulti-

mately getting better each week. "If we do that, over time, good things will happen."

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Outspoken Walker practices what he preaches Joshua Kinder jhkinder@themercury.com On fourth down, with less than a minute to play, Tre Walker chased down Miami quarterback Jacory Harris and tackled him one yard shy of the end zone to seal Kansas State's 28-24 win on the road. It's a play Walker won't soon forget and a play that could be argued changed the fortunes of the Wildcats' season a year ago — or at least set K-State on a path that landed the Wildcats in the Cotton Bowl in January. It's a play that, so far, has defined Walker's career at KState. Now, the junior wants more just like it. "I want something better than that," Walker said. "I'd be crazy not to want that. People talk about that play and I'm glad they do, but I'm ready for something else. I want Tre Walker to be known for something else, another play." A two-year starter for the Wildcats, Walker hopes the play in Miami is just the beginning of something special for his career at K-State. The Olathe North product and son of a preacher, isn't shy about his expectations this season, either. Walker said the goal is to win a Big 12 championship, but individually, he wants to be a junior All-American. "I do want that All-Ameri-

can," he said. "I want more interceptions — I dropped four in my hands last year. I can't do that. That's my goal, to make those big plays and make those big stops, make more of those kinds of plays." A year ago, while the final numbers weren't always great, the K-State defense did its job in the clutch, seemingly coming up with big play after big play when it mattered most. The Cats' defense was clearly a bendbut-not-break unit with eight of K-State's 10 wins coming by seven points or less — including the signature victory at Miami in Week 3. Winning close games against Baylor, Missouri, Texas Tech and Texas A&M created a momentum for the Wildcats that Walker said they're still riding today. "What helped us was coming out and beating those topranked teams," said Walker, who had 47 tackles a year ago. "Those teams were ranked in the top 10 and we were still beating them — realizing that we didn't have the fourand five-star recruits and we had two- and three-star recruits and still beat them." But this defense has to be even better this year with a potentially more difficult schedule ahead — one that includes a pair of road games at new Big 12 members TCU and West Virginia. "Defense, it's like anything else, we've got to get

better in everything — we've got to be," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "The numbers would indicate that we were a little better against the run than we were against the pass. And people say, 'you've got to improve against the pass.' And indeed we do, but we also have to improve against the run. "Collectively, we have to become a better defensive football team." Snyder said the defensive numbers will never be too pretty as long as the Big 12 remains a pass-happy league. "You look at this conference — 59 or so throws per ballgame — and the teams are throwing for 400 or more yards per game against some very, very fine football teams," he said. "So, in this league statistics throwing the ball are going to be significantly higher than they would normally be in most conferences, and consequently, the reverse effect is you're got be better on pass defense, unless you're going to lineup and outscore people, which is not our case." Perhaps it's because KState lived so much on the edge a year ago that league media voted the Wildcats sixth in the preseason Big 12 poll. So many close games that could have gone the other way, the difference between winning and losing SEE

NO. 1, PAGE 21

Staff photo by Sarah Midgorden

Kansas State junior linebacker Tre Walker is poised to make more plays like he did against Miami a year ago.

Tuggle follows his father’s legacy as linebacker Joel Jellison jjellison@themercury.com When Justin Tuggle considered changing positions last season, he didn't have to look too hard for some expert advice. Tuggle turned to his father, all-pro linebacker Jessie Tuggle, for a little help. Tuggle's father played 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, being named to the Pro Bowl five times and an All-Pro three times. He recorded a record number of tackles between 1990-99, leading the league with 1,293. The Kansas State senior made his

decision to leave the quarterback position midway through the season in 2011, using the guidance of his father. By the time the team was preparing for the Cotton Bowl, Tuggle was a practicing linebacker. Tug gl e sai d ch an gi n g from a quarterback to a linebacker felt natural to him. "It's not something you see everyday, but I went to coach (Bill) Snyder, probably halfway through the season last year, and told him I wanted to make the switch," he said. "I talked to my dad and he played a big role in this as well."

Tuggle transferred to K-State last season from Blinn College, brining memories of another Blinn quarterback in Michael Bishop along with him. But he slid to third in the rotation, with Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur taking the spots ahead of him. The main reason for making the positional switch was the chance to get some playing time. "I just want to get on the field," Tuggle said. "I know Collin had a good season last year so I didn't really want to be the guy to back him

Tuggle

up the whole year this year. I wanted to do something, so I made the switch." Tuggle did play a little defense in high school, playing linebacker and safety primarily, but his total college experience up until December of last season had been throwing the football. The K-State senior struggled in his first stint, at Boston College, and then looked to turn it around at Blinn. But he entered a quarterback competition at K-State that likely already had a clear cut starter in Klein. As much as Klein went SEE

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Backup quarterbacks staying ready for chance Grant Guggisberg gguggisberg@themercury.com Kansas State fans know this year's team has the chance to be every bit as good as last year's 10-win team. That's the good news. Unfortunately, much of that success falls upon the shoulders of one man, quarterback Collin Klein. He spent much of last season at the bottom of a scrum, bleeding from his arms and toward the end of the season, not practicing because of too many shots to his ribcage. So if the worst happens, and Klein must miss time at quarterback due to injury, who takes his place? Head coach Bill Snyder won't reveal that kind of information until minutes before the season opener, if even then, but the two most popular choices to come in off the bench are redshirt freshman Daniel Sams and true freshman Tavarius Bender. Sams has more experience in the system, with an entire redshirt season under his belt, while Bender had the better spring, taking the primary backup spot in the spring game, despite dealing with a minor injury that kept him off the field most of the day. Both players insisted this position battle is competitive on the field and friendly off it. In the end, they both want to get better so they can see serious playing time in the years ahead. "We work together," Sams said. "It's not a dog-eat-dog competition. We watch film together, study the playbook together." Bender agreed. "Obviously, when we're out here on this field, it's strictly football," he said. "But once we're in the locker room, out of meetings, we'll go grab a bite to eat, play video games, just have a good time." Of course, it's possible the battle for the backup spot will be over before it ever really starts, as the option looms for Bender to redshirt this season and have four years of eligibility after Klein graduates. Bender recognized the possibility or a redshirt, but wouldn't say what he prefers. "Obviously Collin's the guy, and I can't make that decision,"

he said. "So I'll leave that up to the coaches and just keep doing what I'm doing." Such a move would all but assure Sams the backup job. "I come to practice or to camp as if I'm number one, because Collin still needs to be pushed," Sams said. "He isn't everything he wants to be, so I've got to try and push him to be the best he can be." Klein has been doing everything he can to help the younger quarterbacks along. He was paired with Bender in the dorms during camp but continues to influence both players. "Outside of football, he's a great leader," Bender said of Klein. "He's really pulled me up and pulled this team together and if you think about it, this whole team is based off of Collin Klein, and that's what pushes me. "Once he leaves, whoever steps up next is going to take that role." Last season, Klein started every game for K-State while backup Sammuel Lamur played only in games longsince decided. Even at the end of the season when Klein was forced to stop practicing, he retained his starting spot and went the distance for K-State. Obviously, Snyder wants his quarterback to have a similar 2012. "I want him to be healthy because I want him to enjoy his senior year," Snyder said. "I want him to have a great experience, and I want him to be able to do what he does." But for Klein's potential backups, preparing for the worst is their first priority as practices get underway. Each

Staff photo by Rod Mikinski

Kansas State quarterbacks Tavarius Bender, left, and Daniel Sams are battling it out for the backup spot behind Collin Klein this season. has different things to work on within their own skill set, but both are trying to learn Snyder's system as fast as they can. "The way practices have gone right now, I've obviously got a lot of things to work on," Bender said. "I'm actually learning the system a lot faster than I was expecting." Regardless of who takes over for Klein in the future, both Sams and Bender are doing everything they can to take over at a moment's notice. "Coaches always say you've got to be ready," Bender said. "You never know what's going to happen."

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With more weapons, Wildcats aim to create more balance Joel Jellison jjellison@themercury.com

Staff photo by Rod Mikinski

Kansas State senior Justin Tuggle makes the switch from quarterback to linebacker this season for the Wildcats.

Tuggle follows father’s legacy as LB NO. 1, FROM PAGE B1 throu gh la s t s e a s o n , a n d managed to stay on the field, the prospect of playing time at that position looked bleak. Tuggle admits there is a level of disappointment in giving up his quarterback dream s , b u t h e ha s be e n focused on turning into the best linebacker he can possibly be. H e a n d h is fa t he r t a l k often and work together on evaluating film to try and expedite that. "We talk almost every single night, so he has been giving me pointers here and there, things I can do, things I need to work on, things he

sees, it's good to hear his input since he has so many years doing it," he said. "I go over my practice film with him when I go home, just watch tape with him and see how he sees things." After a good spring and summer, Tuggle said he feels like a starter as they head into the season. And he says he's as hungry as ever to get back out on the field. "I just go out there and work everyday," he said. "I feel like I brought that when I played quarterback, and it's the same hard work and mentality I bring when I play linebacker. I go out there and out work everybody."

It wouldn't be a Bill Snyder-ran football team if the offense didn't move with a s l o w, m e t h o d i c a l , c l o c k burning pace. But as even the Kansas State head coach often points out, a team's offensive playbook is dictated by its resources. Last year's biggest resource was obviously Collin Klein, who led the team to 10 wins with his legs and his arm. But even Snyder admits they could speed things up a little more if they want. And that's likely a big if. "Last year we were a slow football team and a part of that is indicated by the amount of possession time we have during a ballgame," he said. "There's a method to the madness as well, and that gives you possession time. We're a team that's usually going to utilize the clock in that fashion; huddle, come to the line of scrimmage, let the clock run down, snap the football, but that's not collectively, not totally what we do. "We have the capacity and we go as fast as we want. We don't have to huddle and we do it just like any other team does, it's just what suits our needs in the time in the game that we happen to be participating in." If there was ever a group that could speed things up, and bring a few more resources to the table, it could be this one. The Wildcats return Klein and surround him with four talented running backs and a deep group of wide receivers that bring experience with them. It goes even past that with talent at tight end, fullback and along the offensive line. Co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said the hope for the offense this season is to put a little more balance out on the field. Mainly, they hope to take some of the load off Klein's legs and let him

K-State Sports Information

With more weapons, Kansas State co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel aims to create more balance. spread the ball around as much as possible. Dimel said Klein has been working hard to improve his throwing ability, and that's why a wide receiver like Chris Harper is so excited about going for a 1,000-yard season. "Depending on what we do, he is talented enough to do it, there is no doubt about it," he said. "He has the skills to do that, but with how each and every game goes, we don't know which direction we will have to take offensively to win a game. But if we are able the throw the ball as well as we think we might be able to, I can definitely see him doing that. But you have to spread the wealth." It's not just Harper either, a s r e c e i v e r s Tr a m a i n e Thompson and Tyler Lockett, tight ends Travis Tannahill and Andre McDonald and fullback Braden Wilson all look to factor into the pass game. Dimel said there are a lot of different ways to take the offense. "You sit back and you look at the skill players we have on offense," he said, "how do you get the ball to Tyler, how to get it to Chris, you still want to run Collin and you want to get Braden some

touches." Dimel said they want to get additional production out of Wilson this season, more so than his usual blocking and occasional route in a pass play. He said Wilson is a tough player for teams to plan around. "He creates matchup problems for people because a lot of people in the conference don't do what we do with different angles and such," he said. "Braden is big for us because of his ability to create angles." A spot that cannot be forgotten, of course, is the running back. John Hubert will likely return to his spot as the starter, but Dimel says Angelo Pease, DeMarcus Robinson and Robert Rose all could factor in to the offense in some way. Dimel says he feels like he essentially has several weapons that can be utilized this season. "I'm looking at four guys at that tailback position and trying to get all them ready to play," he said. "Right now I like what we're doing. If you told me any four of them had to start a game four weeks from now, I think you could get them ready to compete at this level. I think that's a good problem."


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Backup RBs keeping it Outspoken competitive behind Hubert Walker practices what he preaches Joel Jellison jjellison@themercury.com

John Hubert might be the starting running back. He might even be endorsed by co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel as the starter. But don't tell that to Angelo Pease. The senior running back said as far as he's concerned, the position is open until a starter is announced for the season opener on Sept. 1 against Missouri State. Pease said he is competing for the starting job with Hubert, and the same goes for Robert Rose and DeMarcus Robinson. "I don't think we are working towards a backup running back spot since we're in camp right now," he said. "The spot is open and whoever is doing the best will be the guy at the beginning of the season. That's how I look at it." Although the situation might be far from a true starting running back controversy for the Wildcats, a similar situation did play out a year ago. Wi t h t h e i n c u m b e n t Daniel Thomas gone to the NFL, John Hubert and expected starter Bryce Brown were entrenched in a battle for the spot, when Hubert seemingly came out of nowhere to snatch up the position. As the weeks played out, as so did the situation with Brown, Hubert seemed the right choice. "I'm a walk-on guy so I know exactly what it feels like to come out of nowhere," Rose said. "I think John did a good job competing for that spot, and Bryce did good himself, but it came down to who wanted it more. And that was John." Robinson said at this point, every one of the running backs feels as if they have the chance to compete for time on the field. "It's competitive, I feel like we all deserve some car-

NO. 1, FROM PAGE 18

Staff photo by Sarah Midgorden

Kansas State backup running backs DeMarcus Robinson, left, Angelo Pease, center, and Robert Rose are expected to contribute in different ways for the Wildcats this season. ries," he said. "With the work we put in during the spring and now into the fall, I feel like we are all working to try and earn our carries right now." The truth to the competition might be getting everyone better. Rose laughed when asked about someone displacing Hubert as the starter, but said it all comes down to staying competitive. "I think when you go into camp you cant have a group of guys looking to compete for second string or third string, it can be any guys job to lose," he said. "If you compete and everybody wants to be a starter, that's how you push teammates and make a competitive atmosphere. At the end of the day I think it's a healthy competition that keeps any of us ready." K-State head coach Bill Snyder said Pease is a player capable of challenging Hubert if he can stay healthy. "We need John to be better and one of the best ways is competition," he said, "and if indeed Angelo stays healthy, which he is now, I think he could create a great deal of competition." Pease said he is inspired to make a comeback in the lineup this year after struggling to produce much in his

featured Wildcat package spot. The Wildcats looked for him to replace what they lost from Thomas in that formation, but Pease said he was banged up all season. Pease’s numbers were low though, with 36 carries, 144 yards and two touchdowns. Dimel said Pease didn’t arrive at camp as early as they'd hoped last year, and it got him off to a slow start. SEE

NO. 1, PAGE 23

often coming down to plays like Walker made at the goal line in Miami. "It's really not about everybody else's expectations," Walker said. "It's about ours. It's not about what everybody projects us to be, but what we project ourselves to be. I say that because we were picked eighth last year and look where we finished. "It matters what you do on Saturday... that's what really defines you." That's Walker's message to his teammates too, as he's easily one of the most eloquent and outspoken leaders K-State has on its roster. Some guys lead by example, some more vocally. And some lead by doing both. Being a leader, especially on the defense, is something Walker takes as much pride in as the play he made in Miami. "I'm the son of a preacher man — my dad's a pastor," Walker said. "I've been this

way since elementary school and middle school. I've always tried to encourage people. "Leading is an individual thing. Some guys, you can yell at them to get them going. Some guys, you can't do that to. I think the biggest thing to do is to relate to them. I think everybody can relate when it comes to hard work, especially at Kansas State." Justin Tuggle, who is making the transition from quarterback to linebacker this season, said teammates naturally gravitate toward Walker and his positive personality. "He's the most vocal on the team — offense or defense," Tuggle said. "He's stepped up and knows his role. He's been here — starting for three years — and has game experience. "He's out here working everyday, trying to perfect his craft. He's not just out here talking. He's working — he's working hard everyday. He practices what he preaches."

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Harper has come a long way at receiver Joel Jellison jjellison@themercury.com Chris Harper still isn't far removed from the Wichita kid who transferred back home from a one-year stint at Oregon. Harper was seen as a quarterback to many when he transferred to Kansas State, and his position still seemed to be up in the air. Three years later, Harper is looked at as the go-to wide receiver and a leader to the team. Now, Harper thinks he could be on the verge of a breakout season as he heads into his last with the Wildcats. "I put the work in during the summer to do it, I just keep reminding myself and pushing myself and I think I will be able to do something," he said. Harper led the team with 40 catches for 547 yards and

five touchdowns in 2011, but he said the goals are higher this year, and a lot of it comes with what happens after he and his teammates catch the ball. "We want to double our production overall," he said. "I want to get 1,000 yards, Tyler (Lockett) does, Tramaine (Thompson) does. We want to improve our (yards after catch) — that's one thing I looked at after watching film, we didn't have any YAC, like at all." When Harper came to KState from Oregon, he was looked at as a do-it-all player. He was used at both wide receiver and quarterback with the Ducks, as well as special teams. But his wide receiver experience was somewhat limited, as he was

the fifth receiver in a spread system, and moved there after the first five games of the season. K-State receivers coach Michael Smith said Harper was still taking a lot in during his first year with the Wildcats. "Chris had to learn the position in his first year, and then he did some things last year," he said. "I'm really impressed with the way Chris has grown in his career. A lot of people forget that this guy was a quarterback three years ago, and same with Collin Klein, Collin Klein was a wide receiver. We're blessed to have a guy like Chris in our program." Co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said the growth for Harper has come natural-

Harper

ly as he has grown as a person. "It's been a maturation process for him as he has just gotten better and better and more well rounded," he said. "He has really become a balanced receiver in what he does, run game and pass game." Harper might not reach the 1,000-yard mark this season, but Smith believes the group of receivers around the senior will make him better. Smith said the depth that Harper is surrounded by at receiver will force teams to "pick their poison," on Saturdays. Smith said Harper has also embraced a role as a leader and teacher to the other wide receivers on the team, trying to guide them in the right direction. Harper said he tried to take on that role in the 2011 season, but doesn't think he did a good enough job. "I tried to be a leader last

year — it wasn't something trying to be a leader like 'hey follow me,' and talking — it was just trying to play," he said, "I don't think I was good enough last year to be the leader of our group. I'm still learning a lot, it's my third year playing the spot, this year I'm trying to refine and be in a position to show the guys how to do different things." Smith said the motivation should also be different for Harper this season, as he has the chance to leave an impact on NFL scouts before next April's draft. "I know Chris is really excited about this year, I think he has a different mindset," he said. "He's also got a different motivating factor. He wants to have an opportunity to play at the next level, and I think that's the biggest thing. When you have that as a motivating factor, it's a sweet thing."

Cats’ TEs on same page as Klein Malone anchors K-State’s secondary NO. 2, FROM PAGE 16

NO. 1, FROM PAGE 16 him, but I think it gives him a lot of confidence, and it should,” Hayes said. “He played good, and he played good against a lot of good receivers. I expect him to do the same thing, but I expect him to be a lot better in all areas. “He can continue to do what he's doing by taking the ball away for us, but he also needs to play the run better and he needs to play the pass better. He needs to work on his technique... there's a lot of things he can do to be better. He's just now going into his senior year (as a junior college transfer), so he has a lot of improvement to make, like everybody.” Malone said the challenge of the Big 12's passers is no easy one to take on. “It's definitely very diffi-

cult,” he said. “This is the Big 12, this is the passing conference. You're going against the best quarterb a c k s a n d t h e b est receivers, so it is tough, but we've got great coaches that find an advantage for us and executing what we do during the week on Saturdays.” As far as the expectations this year, Malone said that even though the outs i d e hy p e i s a b i t m ore amplified, the atmosphere within the team is business as usual. “The fans are a little more into it, but as far as the program, it's pretty much just the same,” he said. "We have to come out just as hard as we did last year. We're just ready to go to work. We're staying positive and we're going to come out here and work. It's all about what you put into it.”

Tannahill also had a key 34yard catch in the multipleovertime thriller against Texas A&M in Bill Snyder Family Stadium in November. “Both of them are veterans and their role was huge last year, certainly,” co-offensive coordinator Del Miller said. “Hopefully we will get them the ball a little bit, too, again this year in the passing game. Collin and the tight ends have a great chemistry.” Tannahill said the knowledge he's gained going into his senior year has been beneficial and that he expects a similar role on the offense as last year, which is of course, not having an exact expectation of where he is going to be. “Guys are getting better,” he said. “Our offensive line is young but they are figuring it out. I think we'll be alright. I know the ins and outs of camp and the dos and the don'ts, and the secrets of making it a little bit easier on your legs. You have to make sure to turn that dorm room air condi-

tioner down because it's always set on high so you don't wake up freezing the first night. Just little stuff like that you learn as you go. “But in Coach Snyder's offense you are asked to do a lot of things, and when that play is called you better be ready to be able to do it.” Miller said Klein and Tannahill have been clicking well in camp. “Travis is a veteran and a good leader for us, there is no question about that,” Miller said. “He finally found the weight room this year so he's a little bit stronger and has good size. He's also in a good situation where he has really good chemistry with Collin and Collin knows exactly where he's going to be on his routes, and he's a little better on running his routes, so I think they'll hook up a little bit.” Both Tannahill and McDonald are without question excited about the possi-

bilities this season brings — and McDonald admitted he's much more familiar with the playbook this time around as opposed to previous years — but Tannahill summed up the hype and expectations for this year's campaign best. “This is the most excitement I've felt for the season as a group since I've been here,” Tannahill said. “We're always excited for the games, but this year the guys were even excited for camp. “Preseason wise, you read (about the expectations) but you really don't get too much into them — especially considering last year with how little of a margin we won the games. We could have easily been 7-5 or 6-6 if the ball bounced a different way. “We know we're not going to sneak up on anyone this year. We know we will have to be a lot better if we are going to win as many games as we did last year.”

Tannahill


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KANSAS STATE

Thompson looking for increased role at WR Kelly McHugh sports@themercury.com Kansas State junior wide receiver Tramaine Thompson says he's just like every other college kid. In a sense, he is — he enjoys playing video games a n d w a t c h i n g Yo u Tu b e videos. "I've probably seen every video on YouTube," he confessed. But, unlike every other college kid, one of those YouTube videos is of him on ESPN's nightly Top 10. He earned the No. 6 spot during the week of Oct. 14, 2010 for juking University of Kansas fullback Nick Sizemore in a game K-State would go on to win 59-7. So when this 5-foot-8, 167pound wide receiver isn't being a normal college student, he's on the field working hard to be the best wide receiver he can be for KState. After redshirting in 2009 with the Wildcats, Thompson saw a 2010 freshman season where he started in five games before suffering from season-ending torn ligaments in his foot and a fractured fibula. It was last season, his sophomore year, which gave him the opportunity to

Mercury file photo

Kansas State wide receiver Tramaine Thompson goes into this season as one of the top targets for quarterback Collin Klein. Thompson had 21 receptions for 338 yards a year ago. shine. In K-State's win over Iowa State, Thompson caught a pass from Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein and ran for a 68-yard touchdown, an important play in gaining last year's 10th win.

He would finish the year with 21 completions and 338 yards receiving. This year, Thompson said fans can expect even more from him. "I'm fully healthy and

really excited about football," Thompson said. "I’m really excited about my team, and ready to go." The K-State wide receivers are a close-knit group. Teammate and fellow

receiver Tyler Lockett said the receiving corps is as close as family. For Thompson, the healthy competition of earning playing time is there, but, like Lockett said, he and his teammates have respect for each other along with their close bond. "Of course we all want to play so we're all going to be pushing each other," Thompson said. "But at the end of the day, we're all in the same room, we're all receivers, and we're all with the same team. “There's just a respect there that it doesn't get past just peer competition and pushing each other to be the very best we can." But in that group, there's one person in particular that Thompson gets a lot of motivation from. "Chris Harper is really competitive and he's got great drive," Thompson said. "Every day he's trying to get better — that's probably who I would look to." While he may not have exactly the same speed of Lockett — though he’s close — or the experience of the versatile Harper, Thompson is ready to prove himself as a consistent performing wide receiver for the Wildcats in 2012.

Backup RBs keeping it competitive behind Hubert NO. 1, FROM PAGE 21 "No one got to see Angelo at full speed last year because he was injured," he said. "He came into camp and did some good things, but he wasn't ready because he came in late and then all the sudden it was the grind of the season, without an offseason to get him ready. It really took a toll on him. He's a lot more prepared right now and really talented." Rose said every one of the running backs has different things to offer the position. "Me and John have been here the longest so we understand the offense more, we understand the concepts of the game," he said. "Angelo's a talented player, and once DMac really learns the system, I think he is going to be one of those

K-State greats. He's a young guy that will eventually be one of the greatest." Pease said a race between the four running backs would come down to him and Robinson. Who can hit the hardest? Well, that all depends on who is having the best day. Robinson and Pease got in a few good laughs about the prospect of a race between the two, but Robinson echoed Rose's thoughts on the depth at the position, saying they all bring something to the table. The sophomore running back said he doesn't expect the competitive atmosphere to end anytime soon. "We're all working for that one spot," he said. "Even if we don't get that spot, we're all working hard to prove we can do it. It's a grind, but we all grind to show what we can do."

Kansas State running back Angelo Pease tries to break a tackle during the annual spring game last April at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mercury file photo


KANSAS STATE

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The Manhattan Mercury

Zimmerman relishes leadership role on defense Brady Bauman sports@themercury.com Ty Zimmerman has made an identity for himself on the Kansas State football team going into his junior year. And like quarterback Collin Klein on the offensive side of the ball, Zimmerman has turned himself into a man his teammates can look up to on the defensive side. The Junction City native was voted as one of the team captains by his teammates and the former freshman AllAmerican also has another important factor going for him this season — maturity. “I feel great,” Zimmerman said. “I felt like we had a really good offseason... bettering ourselves physically and mentally. “It's really humbling to me (to be named a team captain). We have 100 guys on the team and everyone contributes some type of leadership role to the team, so a lot of guys could have taken on that role. The fact that my fellow teammates voted me in really means a lot.” For many, it comes as no surprise that the Wildcat safety would get a team-captain nod. Zimmerman, who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 203 pounds, started all 13 games last season and was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selec-

tion as voted on by league coaches. He tied for fifth on the team in tackles with 58. He also batted down five balls and picked off two passes. “He's vital in a lot of areas,” K-State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said. “He started for two years and he has a lot of experience. He's calm, he's a former quarterback and he sees the game from the offensive side as well — sometimes I think he knows what's going to happen before (the opposing team) snaps the ball because he's played over there. He just has a feel for what's going on, and that's something I really can't coach. “I'm glad we got him.” Zimmerman, who has started all but one game since he's been at K-State, said last season was a big improvement for the defensive unit, and that this year the key will be bringing the younger talent up to speed with the losses of fellow defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman. “Just looking at the team aspect of it, I feel like we had a great season (defensively) and overcame a lot of obstacles with the way things happened during those first two games,” Zimmerman said. “We kind of proved some doubters wrong. “This offseason, we've

tried to be more vocal with the younger guys with David and Tysyn gone and have just tried to help them.” The Big 12 has been considered a passing league for a while now, and Zimmerman said its a challenge trying to prove that label is false. “It is... It is really tough,” he said. “The Big 12 has a lot of great quarterbacks and a lot of top wide-outs in the country, as well as a lot of big running backs that you have to hit.” Zimmerman said the excitement going into this season — after finishing 10-3 a year ago — is special. The former Centennial League standout said he doesn't need much motivation to get ready with the fan base that he grew up with just down the road from Manhattan. “I really enjoy playing here at K-State, just because of the fact I grew up in Junction City and was so close to here,” he said. “I have a lot of friends and family that are KState fans, and I get to play in front of a lot of people that really mean a lot to me. “Coming out in front of 55,000 every week that makes so much noise for us is a great atmosphere to play in.” The Wildcats open the regular season Sept. 1 at home against Missouri State at 6 p.m.

K-State Sports Information

Safety Ty Zimmerman was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection a year with 58 tackles and two interceptions.


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