As expected, the question of who will play quarterback this fall created a lot of buzz along the buffet line at the Catbackers Club dinner last month in Kansas City, Kans. Nevertheless, says senior outside linebacker Ben Leber, who attended the function, for every booster curious about who will replace passer Jonathan Beasley—not to mention who will take over for the 26 other seniors who departed—two old-timers wanted Leber to know just how good the 2001 Wildcats have it. "I recently realized how bad Kansas State was before Coach Snyder came along," says Leber. "Nowadays the pressure comes from the fact that we did so well the year before."
Since arriving in 1989, Bill Snyder has built a program that had had only one winning record in the 11 previous years into a Big 12 powerhouse that has won nine or more games eight years in a row. The Wildcats capped last season with a flogging of Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl. To top last year's performance they will have to win road games at Oklahoma (the Sooners accounted for two of Kansas State's losses last year) and Nebraska. Before the season starts, however, the Wildcats have to work out what Leber euphemistically calls "some personnel issues."
They have to replace 1,000-yard receiver Quincy Morgan plus five other players who were drafted by the NFL. The secondary has only one returning starter, and the defensive line has none. Then there's that quarterback issue.
Sophomore Ell Roberson enters the fall atop the depth chart but will likely share time with Ricks ( Idaho) Junior College transfer Marc Dunn. Although "similar talentwise," says Snyder, their opposing styles—Roberson is trained in the option while Dunn likes to put the ball in the air—could create confusion early as the offense adjusts to each player. "There is an advantage to that," says senior wideout Aaron Lockett. "At third-and-short, everyone knew we were running the option. This year we won't be so predictable."
The Wildcats will have many new faces in the lineup, but they don't see this as a building year. "We have the makings of a quality football team," says Snyder. "I don't think that anyone will be surprised to see us do well."