5 Things: Kansas State Wildcats Preseason Preview

Photo via Kimberly Vardeman @ Flickr

The Texas Tech Red Raiders travel to Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats in the 5th game of the year. We preview K-State and a defense that returns 9 players.

Photo via Kimberly Vardeman @ Flickr

1. Game Details

Game: 5
Opponent: Kansas State Wildcats
Last Year’s Record: 6-7
Head Coach: Bill Snyder
Returning Starters: 14 (5 on offense, 9 on defense)
Date: October 8th
Time: TBA
Location: Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium | Manhattan, Kansas

2. Offense

The offense was unusually not very good for Snyder last year, especially running the ball. Kansas State only averaged 158 yards a game on the ground, which was 85th in the nation and only passed for 176 yards a game which was 108th overall. I say that’s unusually not very good because you would just think that they would be better running the ball and I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that the running backs weren’t great for the Wildcats last year.

The leading rushers for Kansas State was Charles Jones and Joe Hubener, while Justin Silmon also played a pretty big part of the running game. Hubener really was “the guy” when it comes down to the offense, toting the rock nearly 14 times a game, averaging 47 yards a game but only for 3.41 yards a carry. That has to be better. Jones could also be better, averaging only 4.9 yards a carry.

Player: Joe Hubener
Position: Quarterback
Height/Weight: 6-5/211
Year: Senior
Hubener was the offense last year and he was just okay and really needs to step up his game. Hubener threw for 141 yards last year on 48% with 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while he ran 180 times for 613 and 13 touchdowns.

The passing game was also just okay, but lots of that sits on Hubener. WR Deante Burton is the lone returning receiver and he caught 38 passes for 510 yards and 4 touchdowns and Kody Cook graduates. Also returning is Dominique Heath who caught 28 passes for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns. Burton really is a pretty good option, he’s a bigger receiver at 6’2″/205, and the yards per catch at that size is about 13.5, which is pretty good. Heath is more of an inside option (5-9/175) and I’d imagine that K-State will look for another outside option.

The one downside for Kansas State offensively is that they only return one starter on the line, Daltron Risner. Obviously, the stats don’t show that the line wasn’t dominant last year and they gave up 35 sacks last year, which was 104th in the nation. I’m sure there’s a plug-and-play aspect to what Kansas State does, but much of Hubener’s problems was the fact that he was hurried quite a bit and now he’s relying on four new players.

One other note, is that Bill Snyder took Jesse Ertz to Dallas for the Big 12 Media Days, which probably means that Hubener may be on the outside looking in as far as starting at quarterback. Ertz tore his ACL after one play last year and he’s back and healthy. Odds are that Ertz starts, but I’m not about to out-guess Snyder.

3. Defense

This is where things get fun, or at least more fun. The defense returns a ton of starters and they’re all over the place, from the defensive line to linebackers to the defensive backs. The defense last year was 105th overall, not great, 93rd in scoring defense at 31.5 points a game, 120th in passing defense giving up 285.5 yards a game and 63rd in rushing defense allowing 167 yards a game. We talked about the rushing defense being a predictor of success, like Arizona State, and with a 6-7 record for Kansas State, maybe that’s not all that true, but with 9 returning starters, I like Snyder’s chances to improve on a defense that sees the entire defensive backfield returning.

Up front, DT Will Geary returns, who finished with 45 tackles as a sophomore, 7 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Jordan Willis returns at defensive end and is ridiculously productive. Tanner Wood is most likely your other defensive end, earning 34 tackles 4 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks. That right there is some terrific production from two of your guys on the front four, especially Willis who seems like he’s got one job and he does it well. Rush the passer and create havoc.

Player: Jordan Willis
Position: Defensive End
Height/Weight: 6-5/250
Year: Senior
Willis is a one-man wrecking crew, registering 36 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 3 pass break-ups and 4 forced fumbles as well as a fumble recover. Oh, and he also had a blocked field goal to go along with these other stats.

At linebacker, Elijah Lee, Charmeachealle Moore and Will Davis all return. All three starters from last year. Lee had 3 interceptions last year along with 80 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Moore had 55 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks and Davis had 54 tackles on the year.

I may not have all of the positions correct, but there’s a really talented core returning in the defensive backfield. At safety, Sean Newlan (a former walk-on) returns, who had 52 tackles. Kendall Adams had 41 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for a loss. At cornerback, Donnie Starks was your starting nickel back last year and he’ll likely start at cornerback this next year. Starks had 55 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and 1 sack along with 4 pass break ups. At the other cornerback spot is likely Duke Shelley, who had 28 tackles and 7 passes broken up last year.

4. Miscellaneous Thoughts

Kansas State is only 58th in scoring offense at 30 points a game, but the neat trick that they’ve got going for them is that they are 2nd in red zone offense, scoring at a 95% rate when they get the ball inside the 20 yard line. As you might expect, Kansas State is also 9th in the country in fewest penalties per game. Typical Snyder team right there, well those two stats as well as Kansas state being 24th in the country in time of possession.

You never hear of the assistant coaches for Kansas State and you really should check out the coaching roster. The coordinators are grey-haired guys and I’ve only remotely heard of one of them, Dana Dimel, who is the co-offensive coordinator. Dimel coordinates with Del Miller, who has coached at Kansas State for 20 years over different parts of his career. The defensive coordinator is Tom Hayes, who has been coaching for 40 years. Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t even been alive for 40 years.

5. The Matchup

Aside from Arizona State, this will be the first big road test for Texas Tech and the first Big 12 road game. I’ll probably harp on this the entire year, but Texas Tech really does have to fix their scoring on the road issues. Here’s to hoping that a better Patrick Mahomes can cure a lot of that. And it is a real disparity, 52 points at home and 37 points on the road. That’s a big swing. Texas Tech has recently struggled on the road against Kansas State.

The funny thing for Kansas State is that I don’t know how much Hubener can really improve. I know every player can improve, but without a huge jump in completion percentage and in making plays versus creating turnovers, I’m not sure how much he can propel the K-State offense. I do think that if the running backs can get improve that helps a lot, but the nearly new offensive line is problematic, I would guess.

I think this game ends up really close and could see the spread being 3 for either team by the time the game rolls around. I keep telling myself that so much of this depends on how the Texas Tech defense looks.


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