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 Wednesday March 6th.
Most Exciting Returnee: DE Reggie Walker
Walker returns as one of the most feared pass rushers in the Big 12. He finished with 7.5 sacks in 12 games, which ranked 6th in the Big 12. Four of the five players that ranked ahead of him have graduated or left early for the NFL. He also ranked in the top 10 in the Big 12 in tackles for loss. As Walker gets ready for his senior season, hopefully he can become a leader and motivator for his fellow teammates, who were not exactly helping him in this department. The Wildcats ranked last in the Big 12 in 2018 with a measly 18 sacks, three fewer than Kansas, who ranked 9th in the conference.
Most Exciting Newcomer: WR Hunter Rison
With Alex Delton transferring, it’s now Skylar Thompson’s team. While both quarterbacks struggled last season, they weren’t exactly working with the top wide receiving corps in the Big 12 Conference. Rison sort of qualifies as a newcomer, maybe. He transferred following the 2017 season, leaving Michigan State to join the Wildcats, but had to sit out last season. Coming out of high school, Rison was a consensus top-300 player in the country and a top 40 wide receiver. He’s the son of, yes, Andre Rison. He went to Michigan State where he played in 12 games as a freshman, recording 18 catches for 223 yards. Can he be that No. 1 receiver the Wildcats desperately missed in 2018? I can’t wait to see and hear about how he looks this spring.
Offensive Storyline to Watch
The Wildcats are losing the most productive running back in the Big 12 Conference in Alex Barnes and the new coaching staff loves to run the ball first. At North Dakota State, Chris Klieman averaged 286 rushing yards per game compared to just 185 passing yards. So, who’s going to help him pile up those 300 yards on the ground each Saturday afternoon? There is a serious dearth of experience at the position in Manhattan. James Gilbert is the one everyone should expect to become the top running back in the program. He transferred in from Ball State where he rushed for over 2,000 career yards. Otherwise, two juniors on the roster are Tyler Burns and Harry Trotter. Burns was not part of the program last year and Trotter sat out after transferring from Louisville, where he barely played in 2017. From there, we get to underclassmen such as Cornelius Ruff IV, Bernardo Rodriguez and Michael Warmack. Long and short … It’s Gilbert’s job to lose.
Defensive Storyline to Watch
The Kansas State Wildcats typically only had two linebackers on the field last season. Will that change under Chris Klieman, who ran a traditional 4-3 defense at North Dakota State. If so, we need to start finding out who is going to be on the field at the position, which was not a strength last season. Da’Quan Patton and Justin Hughes were serviceable, and hopefully they will really blossom in their senior seasons. I’m also very intrigued by Daniel Green, who redshirted last season, but was a top-250 player in the nation in the Class of 2017. If he can finally get on the field, at least the practice field, it would be a great boost for the unit. Also, don’t forget about Elijah Sullivan, who played in all 13 games in 2017, but dealt with injuries for much of last season, only seeing the field in three contests.
*Please note: Kansas State will not host a Spring Game this year, instead it will be a Spring Showcase. More details can be found here.
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