This story is part of the KU Edition, a special section that runs in the Lawrence Journal-World.
Wildcats at a glance
Coach: Bill Snyder
Coach year at school: 19th
2010 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 Big 12
Last year vs. KU: The Wildcats trounced the Jayhawks, 59-7, on a Thursday night in Lawrence, giving them back-to-back wins against the Jayhawks.
Returning starters: 11
Impact newcomers: Bryce Brown 6-0, 215, RB; Arthur Brown 6-2, 227, LB.
Key games: Sept. 24 at Miami (Fla.); Oct. 8 vs. Missouri; Oct. 22 at Kansas.
Vs. Kansas: Oct. 22 in Lawrence.
When the Kansas State football team opens the 2011 season, it will take the field without a backfield luxury that often swung the pendulum of momentum in the Wildcats’ favor.
The Daniel Thomas era is over in Manhattan.
“It remains to be seen if we will be a better football team when we get started in the fall,” KSU coach Bill Snyder said at Big 12 media days in Dallas.
It doesn’t take extended study hours to understand the impact Thomas had on the KSU offense.
That’s because he basically was the offense. In 2010, Thomas accounted for 66.4 percent of the Wildcats’ rushing yards (1,555). The 19 touchdowns didn’t hurt, either.
In two seasons in Manhattan, Thomas totaled 2,850 rushing yards and 30 scores.
The good news for K-State: It has a pretty good idea who will replace Thomas, taken in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins in April.
The bad news for K-State: The replacement doesn’t carry much Div. I experience.
Bryce Brown, a sophomore transfer from the University of Tennessee, is expected to see the bulk of the carries this fall. Brown’s collegiate resume may read only 101 carries for 460 yards in 2009 for the Volunteers, but K-State fans are hoping his ceiling is loaded with untapped potential. Brown was Rivals.com’s No. 1 recruit in the country in the Class of 2009.
Junior Collin Klein will take over at quarterback for a KSU offense that ranked third in the Big 12 last season in scoring offense (33.6 points per game). Klein, who last season was a scramble-first quarterback, turned heads in the spring game, when he completed 25 of 37 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns.
Klein will have a returning starting wide receiver in junior Chris Harper, along with junior Brodrick Smith (left leg injury in 2010) and sophomore speedster Tramaine Thompson (ankle injury in 2010), both healthy this fall.
“I do think we stand a chance to have far greater depth than what we have had,” Snyder said.
What truly could define K-State’s season is the effectiveness of its defense, particularly the line. The Wildcats allowed 231.4 rushing yards per game last season, worst in the Big 12 and second-worst in the country.
Junior defensive Brandon Harold, a former freshman All-American, must realize his potential.
K-State’s defense could receive an added boost from junior linebacker Arthur Brown, who sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules after playing two seasons at Miami (Fla.).
Arthur is the older brother of running back Bryce Brown. Both are natives of Wichita.
Arthur, already voted a team captain by his teammates, thrived in the spring and summer under the tutelage of Snyder.
“He’s very inspiring,” Arthur said of Snyder. “Not only listening to him, but watching his work ethic. Seeing how he works and how he’s committed to us as a team and also as individuals really has helped me and driven me to become a better leader.”
The preseason Big 12 Conference media poll picked K-State (7-6 overall, 3-5 Big 12 in 2010) eighth in the conference.
The Wildcats’ most challenging nonconference game will take place on Sept. 24 at Miami (Fla.).