Coach: Bill Snyder (17th season, 131-62-1) 2004 record: 4-7 Big 12 finish: 2-6 (t-5th North) 2004 I-A offensive rankings:Rushing: 25th (185.8 ypg) Passing: 94th (177.9 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 60th (148.3 ypg) Passing: 40th (201.4 ypg)
at Texas Tech
at Iowa State
Depth Chart: Offense
6 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
5 returning starters in red
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Kansas State has taken the Mark McGwire approach to the past: The Wildcats don't care to discuss it. Still, they're reminded of last season's 4-7 letdown, the program's worst campaign since 1989, by a series of plaques in the weight room. Eleven plaques carry fond memories of consecutive bowl games. One celebrates a Big 12 championship. Then there's the shoddy set of recent numerals.
"It's tough going in there," right tackle Jeromey Clary said. "You hate seeing that record."
Now it's up to Bill Snyder, his staff and a rejuvenated core of Wildcats to do something about it. K-State, littered with questions at several spots, has an uphill climb to get back to the top of the North. Only 11 returning players started in more than half the games in 2004. While Dylan Meier and the offense will be charged with breaking in a new offensive line and replacing Darren Sproles, the defense must regain its prowess.
Meier missed the spring while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but he is apparently still the man to beat. Snyder said the "last man standing" between junior Allen Webb and redshirt freshman Allan Evridge will go against Meier in the fall. Both Meier and Webb completed at least 52 percent of their passes, but their combined 12-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio leaves something to be desired.
The unsettled spot at running back following the departure of Sproles will come down to Thomas Clayton and Carlos Alsup. Clayton, a transfer from Florida State, is fast and powerful, reminding some of former standout Josh Scobey. Alsup is coming off of a torn ACL.
Junior wideouts Yamon Figurs and Jermaine Moreira return. The explosive Figurs led the team in receiving yards (483) and Moreira was the leader in receptions (39). Senior Davin Dennis is proven, but Jordy Nelson is the surprise of the lot after switching from defensive back.
Inexperience is a concern on the offensive line, where senior right tackle Jeromey Clary is the lone returning starter.
K-State ranked 43rd in the nation in total defense after finishing no worse than sixth in each of the previous seven years.
"You always feel confident but sometimes it just bites you in the butt," linebacker Maurice Mack said. "That happened last year. We'll learn from our mistakes."
The return of senior linebacker Ted Sims from injury could help mend the ailing unit. Brandon Archer is a playmaker at the strong-side, but weak-side backer Matt Butler had offseason surgery to both shoulders. Marvin Simmons is a headhunter who can play weak-side or middle.
Senior end Scott Edmonds led the team in sacks (seven), and Tearrius George showed some nastiness that could restore the Wildcats' run-stopping reputation. K-State had just 54 tackles for a loss in '04, its lowest total in nine seasons.
The defensive backfield has depth with a few potential stars in the mix. Maurice Porter is a blazer with good instincts. Former receiver Marcus Watts will challenge senior Jesse Tetuan for the free safety job.
Tim Reyer emerged as one of the Big 12's top young talents in averaging 42.4 yards on 36 punts, second nationally among freshmen. The most glaring concern is at placekicker with inexperienced Jeff Snodgrass. Figurs is the top punt-return man and will also help on kickoff returns.
To whom will Snyder hand the keys while embarking on this turnaround? Will Meier be healthy? Can Webb capitalize on a productive spring? The youth of this squad is epitomized in the youngest offensive line for a Snyder-coached team, but inexperience is a concern at many positions.
Still, the dean of the Big 12 insists this group is on the path to redemption, and Snyder hasn't suffered back-to-back losing seasons since his first two years on the job in the early 1990s. K-State gets its first big test at Marshall on Sept. 10 and isn't getting any sympathy from the schedule makers; the Cats open up their Big 12 slate on the road at Oklahoma.
Finishing in the upper half of the North Division is still a possibility. The Wildcats figure on payback vs. Kansas. They'll also get a chance to beat Nebraska for a fourth straight time on Nov. 12 in Lincoln.