College basketball is heading down the home stretch, college baseball has started, but let’s not forget (I know many of you aren’t) that spring practice is already getting underway across the country. We will handle spring previews for every Big 12 football team and roll them out based on when their respective spring practices begin. Next up is the Kansas State Wildcats who will start up spring practice on Tuesday March 13th.
Most Exciting Returnee: RB Alex Barnes
Around the Big 12, people love to talk about other running backs such as Justice Hill (OSU) or David Montgomery (ISU). But you know who gets lost in the shuffle a bit? Kansas state RB Alex Barnes. Alex returns as the fifth leading rusher from 2017 in the Big 12 and what Alex does great is that he is so darn patient running the football before making his cut. It fits perfectly in this offense that requires patience all around. Don’t let his patience lull you to sleep because at 6’1 227 pounds, Alex is more than capable of breaking a few tackles on his way to the end zone. Last season, Alex rushed for over 800 yards, 7 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. There is a good chance that Alex Barnes reaches 1,000 yards on the ground in 2018.
Most Exciting Newcomer: FB Luke Sowa
Stop right there, I know what you’re thinking. A fullback, Derek? Really? Think about this, what other team in the Big 12 uses their fullback like Kansas State does? Oklahoma used Dimitri Flowers nicely but overall, Kansas State has always been the Big 12 school to use fullbacks consistently over the years. Mr. Do it All Winston Dimel is now gone and for those who don’t know, he was a touchdown machine and a very important piece to this offense. Luke Sowa comes from a nearby JUCO and can make the starting lineup in no time if he shows up to play. He is very mobile for a fullback, who can not only catch it out of the backfield, but he can also provide that toughness to block linebackers or even some defensive ends.
This storyline right here is one of the most underrated storylines in the Big 12 during spring. Who is going to be the starting quarterback at Kansas State? The two contenders are redshirt sophomore Skylar Thompson (689 pass yards, 5 TD/3 INT,61.4 completion % in 2017) and junior Alex Delton (637 pass yards, 3 TD/2 INT, 57.6 completion % in 2017). Both guys had their fair share of ups and downs last season, but to me, Skylar Thompson’s arm puts him as a slight favorite over Alex Delton. However, Alex Delton was second on the team in rushing last season with 575 yards on the ground and had 8 rushing touchdowns. I will say, Skylar can run a little bit too because he had 324 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns last season. The bottom line is that Alex Delton is the better runner of the two but like I said, Skylar’s arm is a little better. Whoever wins this job will need to be more consistent or else it could be a quarterback carousel just like last year.
After the news of Byron Pringle heading to the NFL, this wide receiver group took a big hit losing their best player from 2017, but then the news came that WR Dominique Heath decided to move on as well (Transfer). With those two gone, Kansas State has only 2 wide receivers returning with more than 5 catches from last season. While that’s not a good thing, receivers Dalton Schoen (23 Rec, 470 yds & 3 TDs in 2017) and Isaiah Zuber (51 Rec, 510 yds & 4 TDs in 2017) do return for the 2018 season. This was a position that struggled early in the year but finished strong down the stretch. The question is who can help Dalton Schoen and Isaiah Zuber? Will it be Isiah Harris or someone else?
The good news? DE Reggie Walker and DT Trey Dishon will come back to their starting roles in 2018. The bad news? DT Will Geary and DE Tanner Wood are gone. Will Geary was one of the best DT’s in the entire conference and his loss will probably affect this unit the most. Replacing Will won’t be easy but look for guys like Joe Davis, Drew Wiley or Eli Huggins to possibly to fill in. Also keep in mind, JUCO DT Tyquilo Moore will arrive in the summer time to help as well. I do want to mention that the DT position has a lot of guys who don’t have a lot of experience, so it is kind of a crapshoot right now. At DE, I expect Kyle Ball or Bronson Massie to takeover Tanner Wood’s spot. The good news at DE is that these guys have much more experience than the DT group.
The Wildcats lose their top 2 leading tacklers last season in Jayd Kirby and Trent Tanking and now it’s going to be time for some new faces to step up. Da’Quan Patton, Elijah Sullivan and Justin Hughes are in prime spots to take over the linebacker roles but there is plenty of question marks behind those 3 guys. Sam Sizelove could be someone in the mix as well but still, it’s never easy replacing your top 2 tacklers from a year ago. This will be a group to keep an eye on during spring ball.