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WHEN BILL SNYDER TALKS ABOUT HIS KANSAS STATE WILDCATS, he speaks in a measured pace and in his low, gravelly, monotone voice. Snyder's understated style usually fits in with his often-underrated teams in a program that usually finds success not through blue-chip talent but through maximizing the hardworking players it has. Over the past year, however, K-State has also evolved into something else: one of the most exciting teams in college football.
It's not only that the Wildcats are in the midst of another dramatic turnaround under Snyder. (Which they are—after a three-year bowl drought they've gone to back-to-back bowls and fell five yards short of a Big 12 title last season.) It's also how they're doing it. In five of their games (four of them wins) the deciding points were scored in the final four minutes of regulation or overtime. They also have a quarterback turned receiver turned quarterback who is steamrolling defenders. In 2011, his first full season under center, Collin Klein scored 27 rushing touchdowns, tied for the highest single-season total for a quarterback ever.
The returning stars from a year ago make this year's team one of the most talented in program history. Klein is a Heisman candidate, and backfieldmate John Hubert is a 1,000-yard threat. Kansas State's receivers are dangerous with the ball, especially sophomore Tyler Lockett, who as a true freshman was a Walter Camp first-team All-America return specialist. There are questions on the offensive line, but between the spring emergence of redshirt freshmen Boston Stiverson and Cody Whitehair, and the arrival of highly regarded juco transfer Tavon Rooks, the Wildcats should be able to provide adequate protection for Klein.
Bigger concerns are on defense: Last year K-State allowed an average of four points fewer than it scored. Linebacker Arthur Brown might end up being the Big 12's best defensive player, but Adam Davis and Vai Lutui are the only returning starters on the D-line, and the Wildcats' secondary must replace heady safety Tysyn Hartman and scrappy corner David Garrett.
While you might not hear it in Snyder's voice, these Cats seem poised for another wild ride.
COACH Bill Snyder (21st year) 159-83-1 (89-64-1 in Big 12)
CO--OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS Dana Dimel, Del Miller
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Tom Hayes