2008 Spring Football Preview
2008 Spring Football Preview
Spring practice could not arrive fast enough for the 2008 Kansas State Wildcats as those returning are eager to get back on the field after a tough ending to the 2007 campaign. After opening the year 4-2 with wins at No. 7 Texas and at home against
But, every spring marks the beginning of a new team and the 2008 version of Kansas State Football will begin with spring drills on March 29.
K-State, which enrolled six mid-year junior college transfers, will welcome a majority of its signing class during the start of fall camp. But those six players, two of which each are linebackers and defensive backs, will make an immediate impact on the depth chart and the competition of spring practice. The Wildcats signed a very impressive group in the spring signing period, which included 12 Top 100 junior college players, but its arrival will have to wait until fall training camp begins in August.
The Wildcats, who return ample firepower from last season, will be provided the opportunity this spring to build on a 2007 season that saw the offense average 418 yards a game while setting 20 school team and individual records. K-State, which will be led by junior and two-year starter Josh Freeman at quarterback, scored 20 or more points in all but one game last season and 30 or more in eight contests while averaging 275 yards a game through the air.
The Wildcats return eight players who made multiple starts a year ago, including six along the offensive line, and will be led by 2007 All-Big 12 performers Alesana Alesana at left tackle, Deon Murphy at wide receiver and Freeman behind center. K-State will have to fill the void left by All-American wide receiver Jordy Nelson and All-Big 12 running back James Johnson, but Murphy, along with several impact returners and newcomers, and junior tailback Leon Patton should step in and provide the talent and experience the Cats to need to make a run in 2008. K-State’s offense will be under the direction and leadership of new offensive coordinator Dave Brock, who coached the Wildcat wide receivers a year ago.
Freeman enters his junior season as one of the top signal callers in the Big 12 and the nation after a monster sophomore campaign. The junior honors candidate has made 20 consecutive starts in his career heading into the 2008 season and will continue to develop as a quarterback and key leader of the offense, this season under new quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero, who came to
In 2007, Freeman threw for a K-State record 3,353 yards and 18 touchdowns while also setting school marks for completions (316) and attempts (499) in a season and completions in a game with 36 (at Oklahoma State). The
The Wildcats enter the spring with three scholarship quarterbacks as sophomore Carson Coffman and redshirt freshman Tysyn Hartman give head coach Ron Prince some needed depth at the position. Coffman saw action in four games a year ago as the No. 2 quarterback and completed three of his five attempts for 22 yards, while Hartman is coming off a redshirt season and continues to develop. Both are tremendous athletes and students of the game.
K-State signed two high school quarterbacks in February that will arrive for fall training camp in Joseph Kassanavoid and Collin Klein. Both are big and strong in build who will only grow into the position under the tutelage of Ruggiero.
James Johnson became the fastest Wildcat in school history to rush for 1,000 yards last season after totaling 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior campaign, but K-State will now look to Leon Patton, among others, to take over the reigns at running back in 2008.
Patton will be the lone returning running back this spring for the Wildcats with any starting experience as the junior started two games in 2007 and three back as a freshman in 2006. He rushed for 409 yards and four touchdowns last season after setting a K-State freshman record for rushing yards with 609 back in 2006. The
Providing depth in the backfield this spring will be several freshmen who redshirted a year ago in speed merchants Dee Bell and Justin Woods, along with Frank Delarue and Rodney Kenner. More depth and talent will arrive in the fall as K-State signed several highly-touted running backs, including junior college standout Daniel Thomas, Logan Dold and Jarell Childs.
Deon Murphy returns for his senior season after making an immediate impact as a junior college transfer. Murphy, an honorable mention All-American as a punt returner and an All-Big 12 performer at wideout, is the leading returner at receiver after hauling in 57 catches for 605 yards and five touchdowns last season. The
At the other receiver spots, seniors Ernie Pierce and Cedric Wilson, along with sophomore Lamark Brown give the Wildcats plenty of options for quarterback Josh Freeman. Pierce caught six passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns last season and is a big target at 6-4, while
Tony Purvis will also provide some depth at the position, while junior college transfer Adrian Hilburn will participate in spring practice and begin to make a push for playing time. Even more depth and talent will be on the way this fall as junior college All-Americans Brandon Banks, Aubrey Quarles and Attrail Snipes could round out what could be a very potent wide receiving corps.
Alstatt will also be returning for his final season after playing in all 12 games in 2007. He was a key contributor on special teams and also caught a touchdown pass on his lone reception of the season last year at
Perhaps the most returning experience for the Wildcats on the offensive side of the ball will be along the line in 2008. The offensive line returns seven players that made multiple starts in 2007, including five seniors and five juniors, to give the Cats the most experienced group during Prince’s tenure.
There will be plenty of competition at center heading into the spring as senior Jordan Bedore and junior Trevor Viers both return after making starts in 2007. Bedore opened the season as the starter and is one of the Cats’ most experienced lineman with 22 career starts, but Viers stepped in nicely after Bedore was injured and performed well for the final seven games of the season.
K-State returns both of its tackles from a year ago as All-Big 12 performer Alesana Alesana and Penisini Liu return for their senior seasons. Alesana started all 12 games a year ago and protected Freeman’s blind side, while Liu came on strong and started the final 10 games of the season at right tackle. Nick Stringer can play the guard or tackle position and gives the Wildcats another viable option as he has started 11 games in two seasons, while redshirt freshmen tackle Kaleb Drinkgern and Clyde Aufner are two to keep an eye on in the future.
At the guard spots, senior Gerard Spexarth returns after starting all 12 games at right guard a year ago. Junior Brock Unruh, who started two games at left guard last season, also returns to give the Wildcats some experienced depth at the guard position. Junior college All-American Wade Weibert will also participate in spring drills and could make an immediate impact along the line. Also providing depth and looking to have a breakthrough this spring are Eric Benoit, Colten Freeze and Brad Rooker.
Even more talent will head to
The Wildcat defense will look to take the next step and bounce back from last year’s 5-7 campaign beginning this spring as 19 players return after earning at least one start last season, including seven players that started at least five games, giving the defense plenty of depth and experience heading into the 2008 season.
K-State finished the 2007 season ranked eighth in total defense in the final Big 12 rankings but opened the 2007 season very strong with a big win at No. 7
The defense, which returns key players at nearly every position heading into the spring, also added two junior college All-American linebackers and two all-conference defensive backs to improve both the talent and depth at every spot.
Two-time First Team All-Big 12 defensive end Ian Campbell returns for his senior season to anchor the defense, while senior Reggie Walker and junior John Houlik are the two top returners at linebacker. The secondary returns both safeties from a year ago in Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year Gary Chandler and junior Chris Carney. Joshua Moore, Kendrick Matthews and Ray Cheatham give the Cats three solid options at corner, while the two newcomers could make an immediate impact.
The departure of defensive linemen Moses Manu, Rob Jackson, Clayton Cox and Steven Cline leaves perhaps the largest hole to fill defensively heading into the spring, but the return of sophomore Xzavier Stewart, senior Brandon Balkcom, senior Chidubamu Abana, sophomore Gabe Crews and Campbell certainly gives K-State some experience and big-play talent at those spots.
Stewart and Balkcom return to fill the hole vacated by nose guard Steven Cline. Balkcom has the most experience at the position after playing in all 12 games last season as a junior, picking up 23 tackles and one sack, while Stewart brings youth and athleticism to the position after making a push late in the season as a true freshman. Stewart played in the final two games of the season and earned his first career start in the finale.
The linebacker position could be one of the more entertaining battles to watch this spring as junior college All-Americans Ulla Pomele and Hansen Sekona join a group that lost just one starter from a year ago. Justin Roland, the lone senior in last year’s group, started every game at middle linebacker, but Pomele and Sekona head into camp as two very fast and physical linebackers. And, don’t forget about Walker and Houlik. Both combined to start every game alongside Roland last season and both will enter the spring as two key players to watch. Houlik is the group’s top returning tackler after recording 68 stops last season, while
On the outside, junior Eric Childs returns after starting nine games and will look to have a breakthrough season, while Antwon Moore, Courtney Herndon and Olu Hall give the Cats even more options at the rush linebacker spot.
The secondary will look to replace departed seniors Justin McKinney, Bryan Baldwin and Byron Garvin at the corner spots, while Marcus Watts vacates a safety position that looks to be in good hands with Carney and
Cheatham, Matthews, Courtney Herndon, who could also fill in the role as a rush linebacker, Andrew Erker and Otis Johnson all provide depth and experience in the secondary after seeing playing time in 2007.
In 2006, the Wildcats finished the season ranked No. 1 in the nation in kickoff returns and last season, five touchdowns on punt returns led to No. 1 national ranking in that category, led by Jordy Nelson and Deon Murphy. Murphy returns for his senior season after averaging 17.5 yards a punt return as he earned All-Big 12 and All-America honors from numerous publications as a return specialist.
In the kicking game,
Senior place kicker Brooks Rossman returns for his senior campaign in 2008 after tying the
After opening the season at
Following two games at home to open the season, the Wildcats travel to
The Wildcats dive into Big 12 Conference play the following week as Texas Tech visits Manhattan on October 4 in a rematch of the first-ever Big 12 Conference football game back in 1996.
Four of the next five conference games will be on the road for the Wildcats as K-State visits Texas A&M on October 11 and
The 2008 Big 12 Championship game will take place on December 1 at
The Wildcats will not only play a competitive and entertaining schedule in 2008, but Prince continues to line up challenging non-conference games for the future.
In addition to its two-game series with Louisville, which will conclude this next season, and the previously announced home-and-home contracts with UCLA for 2009-10 and Miami (Fla.) for 2001-12, Kansas State recently announced the addition of two additional blockbuster series with Oregon and Virginia Tech.
The Wildcats and Ducks will kick off their two-game series on Sept. 3, 2011, when