#62 Kansas State Football 2016 Preview

Kansas State Wildcats
Overall Rank: #62
#8 Big 12
Kansas State got off to a 3-0 start and lost their next six games. When the schedule eased up at the end of the year, the Wildcats managed to beat Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia in order to reach a bowl game. At the Liberty Bowl, K-State fell to Arkansas, but they did manage to salvage the season despite a rash of injuries.
2015 Record: 6-7, 3-6
2015 Bowl: Liberty Bowl vs. Arkansas (L 23-45)
Coach: Bill Snyder (193-101-1 at Kansas State, 193-101-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dana Dimel, Del Miller
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Hayes
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Charles Jones, RB, 696 yards
Passing: Joe Hubener, QB, 1,837 yards
Receiving: Deante Burton, WR, 510 yards
Tackles: Elijah Lee, LB, 80
Sacks: Jordan Willis, DE, 9.5
Interceptions: Elijah Lee, LB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Justin Silmon, QB Jesse Ertz, WR Dominique Heath, DB Cre Moore, DB Donnie Starks, LB Will Davis, S Dante Barnett, K Matthew McCrane
Key Losses: WR Cody Cook, WR Kyle Klein, OL Cody Whitehair, DB Morgan Burns, DE Marquel Bryant, DT Travis Britz
The Kansas State defense was average at best in 2015, but they have the pieces to be much improved. The front four was a strong point last year, led by end Jordan Willis and his 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss. Tanner Wood is an experienced end too and Will Geary is one of the better tackles in the Big 12. The linebackers are very, very good too. Elijah Lee is the best of the bunch after recording 80 tackles, 5.0 sacks and three interceptions as a sophomore. Charmeachealle Moore closed the season very strong and he is poised for a big senior season. Fellow senior Will Davis will man the middle linebacker spot after ranking fourth on the team with 54 tackles. The big problem last year with the defense was in the secondary. The unit allowed 285.5 yards per game through the air. That is bad even by Big 12 standards. The return of strong safety Dante Barnett will pay immediate dividends. He got injured after one game last season and was a key piece of the secondary in 2014. Kendall Adams will start beside Barnett after having a very promising freshman campaign. California transfer Cedric Dozier should help the cornerback situation and Duke Shelley gained some valuable experience as a freshman.
Kansas State’s offensive struggles last year stemmed from problems at quarterback. Jesse Ertz won the starting job in the spring, but did not even make it through the season’s opening drive before tearing his ACL. Alex Delton was lost for the year too. That left former walk-on Joe Hubener as the quarterback. He played relatively well, but completed just 47.6 percent of his passes. This will be Ertz’s job to lose, but at least now K-State has plenty of options. With running backs Charles Jones, Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon returning as well, the Wildcats have a few key pieces to work around. The receivers need some help, but there is some potential with youngsters like Dominique Heath and Zach Reuter. The biggest concern though is on the line where four starters are gone from 2015. That could make the offense sputter even if the quarterback situation is much more settled.  
The Bottom Line:
Not often does a Coach Bill Snyder team finish with a losing record. It had been since 2005 until last year’s 6-7 stumble. The schedule is not easy though, especially with an opener at Stanford. If it was not for an easy non-conference schedule in 2015, Kansas State would not have made a bowl. Texas Tech and Kansas come to Manhattan and a trip to Iowa State is winnable. Still, Kansas State will need to pull off an upset somewhere along the way to reach a bowl. But with Coach Snyder leading the way, that seems like a likely scenario. It is never a smart bet to pick against Kansas State going to a bowl game.
Projected Bowl: Cactus Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 157.7 (85th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 176.0 (108, 9)
Total Offense: 333.7 (112, 9)
Scoring Offense: 31.5 (93, 7)
Rushing Defense: 166.7 (63, 4)
Pass Defense: 285.5 (120, 9)
Total Defense: 452.2 (105, 6)
Scoring Defense: 31.5 (93, 7)
Turnover Margin: -0.23 (88, 8)
Sacks: 2.92 (9, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.69 (104, 7)

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