By Mark Janssen
OK, it's time to answer the question that yours truly at "K-State Sports Extra" has been peppered with since the Wildcats' fall camp opened.
You know the one. You've been asking it yourself. The one that goes, "How good will Kansas State be in 2010?"
The most recent pollsters are undecided on the Wildcats. Without playing a snap, the Big 12 media, and more recently Sports Illustrated, picked K-State to be third in the Big 12 North. But in The Sporting News preview issue, no love was shown toward the Cats with a last-place prediction for the Big 12 North and an overall season of 4-8.
Well, here are 10 reasons why we believe Kansas State will be better in 2010 than 2009.
1) Kansas State is in the second season of the second Bill Snyder era. The first time around, Snyder's club went from one win in 1989 to five in 1990. It does take time to adapt - coaches and players - to a new system. That's especially true with one as disciplined as Mr. Snyder's.
2) Daniel Thomas is the Big 12's premier running back. He demonstrated the ability to run with power a year ago, and he demonstrated the ability to play with pain. With a better cast of receivers around him, plus a returning offensive line that's a year older, Thomas' job should be that much easier in 2010.
3) The Cats have the opportunity to saddle up some early-season momentum that they can ride through the second half of the season when they finish with four out of six games on the road. The first six games - four at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, one in Kansas City and one at Kansas - will be played no more than two hours from Manhattan. Using the mystique of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, plus the fact Kansas State has won in its last three visits to Arrowhead Stadium, there's every reason to believe that the Wildcats could get off to a great start.
4) K-State will be better at quarterback. Carson Coffman is a year older in the system, which was demonstrated during a spring season when he completed 78-percent of his passes with just one pick.
5) The Wildcats are vastly improved at wide receiver. Look for the scoring productivity of the K-State receivers to be improved over 2009 when the skilled guys caught just six touchdowns. The return of Aubrey Quarles, plus newcomers with BCS experience in Brodrick Smith (Minnesota) and Chris Harper (Oregon) and speedy freshman Tramaine Thompson will give the Cats the ability to stretch the field. And don't forget, Harper and Smith are former quarterbacks giving K-State tremendous versatility in the backfield.
6) Four starters - Wade Weibert, Clyde Aufner, Zach Kendall and Kenneth Mayfield - return with 46 games of starting experience in the offensive line. While not a cast of All-Big 12 performers a year ago, they were productive enough to help Thomas lead the league in rushing and for the Cats to rank fourth highest with 180 yards per game on the ground.
7) Don't forget the non-star players who thrive in Snyder's system.
Corey Adams: There is no better long snapper in the country. He has a three-year run of 356 consecutive on-target hikes of the football.
Braden Wilson: Out of the mold of former Wildcat fullback Brian Goolsby. He can run, he can block and he can catch it.
Alex Hrebec: The Wildcat linebacker does everything right and has 100 career K-State tackles to show for it.
8) K-State's run-defense was more than adequate last year, ranking fifth-best in the league (105 yards per game), but could/should be even better this year with the arrival of junior college transfer Ray Kibble inside and Brandon Harold returning with his health to an end position where he earned Freshman All-American honors in 2008.
9) Let's choose to remember Josh Cherry for how he kicked late in the year - 11 out of 14 - instead of how he misfired early - 1 of 6 - to open the season. Remember this: Cherry's 12 three-pointers ranked third highest in the Big 12 Conference last year.
10) While it is the final line of defense, K-State has a pair of All-Big 12-type safeties in Emmanuel Lamur and Tysyn Hartman.
Keep an eye out for Jarell Childs' move from running back to linebacker, plus the arrival of 325-pound newcomer Manase Foketi at offensive tackle and William Powell and John Hubert at running back and on special teams.
There you have it from yours truly at "K-State Sports Extra." Because of those reasons, ink in a bowl game into your holiday plays.
Now, what are you thinking? Let us know.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at email@example.com.