Collin Klein begin the year as maybe the biggest question mark on a team full of them. His play so far has led the Wildcats to a 7-2 record and a national ranking.
Heading into this season many people wondered if Collin Klein would even be the starting quarterback for the Kansas State Wildcats as many people expected or hoped that incoming junior college recruit Justin Tuggle would take over the reins. While everyone knew from last season that Klein could run the football the wish was that Tuggle could be the more prototypical Bill Snyder run-pass quarterback ala Michael Bishop. In the end Klein held the quarterback job all the way through spring practice and into this season.
Questions remained for Klein even despite the great start of the team and Klein many people, including myself, wondered if a BCS level team could continue to win with a quarterback who is at his best an average passer.
That question seemed to be put to rest in a big way last Saturday in Stillwater, Oklahoma as Klein placed the Wildcats on his back and almost led them to an upset of the then number three ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. His gritty effort should have put many Wildcat fans minds at ease about the current and future state of the team, at least at the quarterback position.
In that game alone, Klein ran for 144 yards and threw for another 231 yards to combine for four total touchdowns. This is quite the contrast from the more typical Big 12 quarterback of late who happened to be on the other side of the ball in that game in Brandon Weeden who torched the K-State secondary for 502 passing yards and four touchdowns.
While Klein is indeed an average to sub-par passing quarterback he has found a way to throw for over 1200 yards while throwing for nine touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. Maybe a quarterback like this can't succeed in the NFL, we'll see with Tim Tebow, it has been proven that one definitely can at the collegiate level.
It is quite hard to directly explain the positives associated with Collin Klein's overall abilities as he isn't the fastest running quarterback or the shiftiest. At times when he takes off running he appears to be going quite slow but he always seems to make a positive play and get the extra yard needed. He seems to be a player with the proverbial nose for the goal line that you hear announcers and coaches talk about.
The intangibles with Klein seem to be off the chart as his toughness seems to fuel the K-State offense and allows them to overachieve in comparison to their talent level. Every K-State game you watch you are almost guaranteed to see Klein with bloody elbows constantly pulling himself off the turf to head back to the huddle after getting punished on a quarterback run play. There is no doubt that the rest of the players on the offense and likely the defense see this and gain a level of respect for their quarterback who is usually always a default leader simply due to the position of importance he plays.
This is not to say that Klein is necessarily a great college quarterback at this time as he still has plenty to work on. His throwing motion will probably never get any better than it currently is since he is already a junior. His understanding of defenses should continue to grow simply due to getting a full season of starts under his belt. While his running ability and toughness can't be questioned at this point he does need to learn how to avoid taking unnecessary punishment simply to make sure he stays healthy.
He still needs to work on knowing when to give up on a play and simply throw the ball away without taking a sack. This might be one of the biggest criticisms of him at this point is that he almost refuses at times to give up on a play and throw the football away especially as the Wildcats offense is especially not made for long down and distance situations. In Klein's defense he did throw the football away in the Oklahoma State game so this could be another area he has or is improving upon.
So with Klein's emergence this season a position considered to be a major weakness for the Wildcats at the beginning of the year has turned into a position of strength. Now when previewing games we should maybe start to look at how the opposing defense will try to stop Klein and not how the Wildcats will have to try and scheme Klein into success.