The expectations for the Kansas State football team in 2012 definitely are much higher than they were heading towards the 2011 season. That is the small price the Wildcats must pay for their unexpected 10-2 regular season which resulted in a Cotton Bowl appearance.
Before last season there were a multitude of questions regarding Bill Snyder's squad that no one really knew what the answers would eventually turn out to be. The questions consisted of things like if Collin Klein could provide an adequate presence at quarterback and if transfer Arthur Brown could live up to the hype he had generated during his redshirt year. Those issues obviously were answered in an extremely positive way for K-State fans during the course of last season.
Naturally though with a new season on the horizon there are bound to be some new questions that fans will have concerning this year's edition of Kansas State football. So what are a quick few of the questions or issues that K-State fans will be looking to have answered either before or during the 2012 season?
1. Who is going to be the backup behind Collin Klein at quarterback?
In a perfect world neither candidate, Tavarius Bender and Daniel Sams, would ever see the field in a meaningful situation but with the way Klein plays the game there is always a chance of injury. While it would have seemed that redshirt freshman Sams should have the advantage in this competition simply due to his experience in Bill Snyder's system it was true freshman Bender who was taking the majority of snaps with the second team in the spring game.
Do not expect a direct answer from Snyder on this competition when the fall rolls around as this battle will likely continue right up until the first game of the season. It would not be surprising though if the K-State coaches want to redshirt Bender so they do not have to burn a year of his eligibility but that would mean Snyder would need to have full confidence that Sams could handle the job if necessary.
2. Who will step up and become a starter on the offensive line?
It is easy to overlook an area such as the offensive line when discussing a football team as you rarely hear their name called unless they are did something that likely made you upset as a fan. The situation though at K-State is a little different as the o-line is maybe more important than at many other Big 12 schools simply because of the offensive scheme employed.
Last year's unit enjoyed great success running the ball and giving Klein time to throw but three of the starters graduated so if K-State hopes to either improve or even stay at the same level in 2012 they will need a few people to step up. The most obvious player who will be looked at to grab the starting job at left tackle is former starter Manase Foketi. He is coming off an injury last year that knocked him out for the whole season and he was thus granted a medical redshirt which allows him to finish his career in 2012. While he participated in spring practices he was held out of the spring game so while the season is still fairly far off he is one player to watch carefully when things pick up again.
If Foketi can regain his form of two years ago that would still leave an opening at guard and an opening at right tackle. The candidates consist of returning players like Jordan Allred, Ethan Douglas, Cornelius Lucas and Keenan Taylor along with junior college recruits Tavon Rooks and Ellwood Clement. Look out for either Rooks or Clement to grab the starting tackle spot opposite Foketi.
3. Of the junior college recruits who most needs to step up and become a starter?
As mentioned above discussing the offensive line Bill Snyder once again has brought in some junior college players who figure to make an immediate impact. The story of juco recruits and K-State has been well documented and was most recently shown last season when cornerback Nigel Malone stepped in as virtual unknown before the season and finished as an All Big 12 selection.
This year the Wildcats welcome in a total of six players, counting Rooks and Clement, from the junior college level. Each one of these players step into areas of need as two recruits, Wesley Hollingshed and Chaquil Reed, look to help on the defensive line while Kent Gainous and Marquez Clark will compete in the secondary and at wide receiver respectively.
If having to pick one of these players who needs to make the most immediate impact it would likely be Gainous as he is expected to compete for the starting strong safety position left open by the graduation of Tysyn Hartman.
Along with Hartman the Wildcats also lost CB David Garrett to graduation thus leaving two open secondary spots to fill. While another former juco recruit, Allen Chapman, appears ready to step into a starting role at cornerback the safety position opposite Ty Zimmerman is open game.
Gainous will likely be competing with yet another former juco player in Olathe native Jarard Milo for the starting spot.
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