With just 5 days left till our season opener, thought we officially start opening our books against Kansas State. These guys are going to be a familiar opponent in an unfamiliar place. Last year the Bruins beat the Wildcats by a score of 23-9 in a closely contested game in which the Bruins pulled away from the Wildcats in the fourth quarter.
If you don't remember how the game went - or how we were feeling while watching the game - here is a little flashback from the post game thread. If you recalled we went into that game high after a huge win against Hello Kiffin in Knoxville, but were shorthanded without Kevin Prince and four other players (including Courtney Viney, Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll) who were suspended for that game for unspecified team violations. Despite a decent start in the first quarter, our offense became mistake prone and sloppy, while our defense was having a hard time dealing with Daniel Thomas in Bill Snyder's KSU offense. Yet thanks to Jet Ski (over 100 yards rushing, Nelson Rosario, and Terrence Austin) Bruins under Craft generated enough offense to pull out a win.
We all know how UCLA's season turned out in CRN's year in Westwood. As for KSU they also had a 6-6 regular season record (just like UCLA), but didn't make it to a bowl game because two of their Ws (UMass and Tennessee Tech) came against lower divisions teams. While UCLA ended the season winning 4 out its last 5 games, the Wildcats ended the season losing 3 out if its last 4. Still there were number of encouraging datapoints to take in from KSU's season as the Wildcats were in contention to win the "North" division going into their last regular season game, while featuring impressive blowout win Texas A&M and an emotional victory of arch rival Kansas Jayhawks.
Heading into legendary Coach Snynder's second season (if you need to get a sense of what he means to the Wildcat program watch this video and this one again), the Wildcats are going to be an excited bunch, who will look to get off to a great start by beating up our Bruins. I am not a betting person but from my understanding in recent weeks given our injury issues the line has fluctuated starting with UCLA as 2 to 3 point favorites to Bruins being 2-3 points underdogs against the Wildcats.
I will leave it to the experts who are always looking at betting lines. Looking at the game simply from football perspective, it appears to me that the Wildcats are going to be favorites on their home turf given the uncertainty at our QB spot and the well documented OL attrition issues we have been dealing with for weeks. Still we should have a shot in this game (despite what the Trojan Times says) if we play with the same resiliency and determination we showed during the closing stretch of this previous season. So on that note let's look at some initial notes on the Wildcats after the jump.
As noted back in April while checking in with the KSU spring football camp, it appeared that the key battle in the Wildcat program was at the QB spot. Carson Coffman began last year as the starter before losing the spot to Grant Gregory. Gregory moved on creating a battle among Coffman, Collin Klein and JC transfer Sammuel Lamur. During spring it appeared that Coffman had the lead over Klein and Lamur and that Klein might have been second on the depth chart. Well according to our friends at Bring On The Cats (BOTC) it looks we have had some new developments in their pre-season ("Fall") camp:
The real surprise is that QB Sammuel Lamur apparently has blown right past Collin Klein for the right to be the backup. Most fans in attendance said Klein looked pretty bad, and there's also talk his leg and shoulder might be injured. Meanwhile, Lamur seems to have improved since we last saw him in the spring game.
Well, it's not going to matter all that much for UCLA defense, who is QBing the Wildcats because eyes are going to be on superstud RB Daniel Thomas, who rushed for 1,265 yards in his first season in Manhattan. Of course when a team has a good rusher it also means that it features a decent OL. Paul Meyerberg - the superb blogger from the New York Times - wrote about Wildcats OL and Daniel Thomas, while previewing the Wildcats on Pre-snap Read:
The offensive line should be a real strength in 2010. Four starters return, with the lone loss that of all-conference left tackle Nick Stringer, a three-year starter. Stringer is a big loss, but I like the depth and experience Kansas State has up front. The interior of the line in particularly good shape: seniors Zach Kendall, Wade Weibert and Kenneth Mayfield will start across the line from left to right guard. Depth along the inside of the line will come from Trevor Viers and Colten Freeze, two experienced hands with starting experience. While junior Clyde Aufner returns at right tackle, Kansas State will have a hole on the blind side, where it will attempt to replace Stringer's large shoes. Zach Hanson should be considered the favorite to start at left tackle, though a JUCO transfer like Manase Foketi could use the opportunity to land immediate playing time in his first year on campus.
Last, but certainly not least, there's running back Daniel Thomas, the reigning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. He was absolutely superb last fall, his first season of action after joining the Wildcats as a JUCO transfer. Thomas was an immediate success, rushing for at least 100 yards in each of his first two games en route to 1,265 yards on the year, the best total in the Big 12 and the fourth-highest output in school history. What can he do for an encore? At least match those numbers, thanks to his experience and a stellar offensive front. Thomas will also likely land more carries: the Wildcats must replace his solid reserve, Keithen Valentine, who rushed for 357 yards and 6 scores in a secondary role. Thomas is the engine of this offense; he's also the most valuable player in the conference.
Well it's going to be an interesting challenge for our front-7 to go up against this experience OL. We are going to find out real quick how our retooled DL with David Carter, Justin Edison, Nate Chandler, Keenan Graham, Damien Holmes and few talented freshmen are going to handle (well hopefully attack) this Wildcat bunch.
Speaking of battle at the trenches the faceoff between the patched up Bruin OL and Wildcats front-7 is going to be interesting. Per Meyerberg the Wildcats have had to do some rebuilding themselves with their front-7:
The front seven of the K.S.U. defense must replace some solid pieces, and enters the season as the biggest question mark - outside of quarterback - on the roster. The Wildcats will have their hands full replacing the production of end Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who paced the team in tackles for loss and sacks a season ago. It will help to land a full season from sophomore Brandon Harold, who after playing well as a freshman in 2008 was forced to redshirt last fall due to injuries. Senior Antonio Felder, a former JUCO transfer, will man the opposite end after making 30 tackles (7 for loss) and 3 sacks a season ago. Raphael Guidry returns at tackle, with senior Prizell Brown, a four-game starter last fall, expected to play a larger role. Locating depth will be key; as always, expect some JUCO arrivals to play their way into the mix.
It could be really interesting to matchup our respective depth charts. I asked TB from BOTC about the Wildcats depth chart earlier last week. He pointed me to this link in KSU's official site which indicated that "the first depth chart for 2010 will be released the week leading up to the UCLA game on September 4." That said as TB mentioned we should keep an eye on position reviews on BOTC, which already provided their thoughts on offensive line, wide receivers, TEs and RBs. Again going back to their OL, BracketCat's description of Wildcats' interior OL sound pretty impressive. They are going to be a tough challenge for Chandler, Carter et al. Keep an eye on those guys for further reviews, especially the ones on QB and the defensive front-7.
Heading into this game few weeks ago, I was pretty excited to see the unveiling of our revolver formation. I think it is still going to be fun to watch how the new offensive philosophy plays out. Given our QB issues though, I think we are looking at heavy doses of running attack from our football team. I am guessing the coaches are going to devise a game plan around Jet Ski, Derrick Coleman, and Malcolm Jones from the TB spot while take the F-Back spot for a ride in the revolver formation. If they can start picking up chunks of yardage in the new offense and combine that with smart "game managing" from Richard Brehaut (or Kevin Prince), Bruins will make it interesting.
Meanwhile, on defense, all I hope here is that Chuck Bullough doesn't wait till the second half to tighten up the screws. He should have Daniel Thomas the KSU option pretty well scouted by now from our game tapes and the Wildcats film from rest of last season. This will be a matter of our guys up front clogging up the holes, containing the run, while unleashing Akeem Ayers and other talented athletes from all over the field. I'd like to see a Bruin defense being physical all over the field.
Anyway, thought I throw this up just to start the chatter this Monday with focus on KSU. As the week goes along we are going to try to pick away at this game biting on all kinds of stories (hopefully) and keeping an eye on BOTC as well. If you have your own observations to add please do in the comment threads. Of course put up the extended thoughts (comments that go beyond 3 paragraphs) in fanposts. About time we start getting into dissecting opponents for game week.