June 24, 2024

Kansas State running back Justin Silmon (32) runs the ball before getting hit by Vanderbilt linebacker Charles Wright (11) in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt Won 14-7. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

The 78-year-old Bill Snyder displayed toughness and determination by coaching through health complications over the last two years. If that doesn’t motivate his young players to run through a wall for him then nothing will. Kansas State is coming off its seventh winning season in eight years and the outlook is positive for 2018. With seven starters returning on offense from a team that averaged 32.3 points per game, there’s no reason not to think the team can’t capitalize on that ranking. Snyder has yet to decide on a quarterback for the season-opener between sophomore Skylar Thompson and junior Alex Delton, but a recent depth chart revealed that Thompson may get the nod. Regardless of whoever wins the starting job they will be operating behind a veteran offensive line that returns all five starters led by senior right tackle and first team All Big-12 performer Dalton Risner. All five starters have combined for 114 career starts. Defensively Kansas State returns five starters, including three in the secondary.

Team strengths: Rush offense. It’s no secret that Kansas State loves to pound the football. The Wildcats were second in the Big 12 and 32nd nationally in rush yards per game. Thompson and fellow quarterback Delton combined for 767 rush yards and 11 rushing touchdowns last season. Running backs Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon combined for 1,044 yards and seven touchdowns. The Wildcats will unleash its ground attack again on opposing defenses this fall.

Team weaknesses: Rush defense. The Wildcats take pride in stopping the run and finished 13th nationally in rush yards allowed last season, however its a glaring weakness in 2018 with only two returning starters and several new faces in the front seven.

Players to watch: Wide receivers Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen, cornerback Duke Shelley and safties Denzel Goolsby and Kendall Adams. Zuber led the team in receptions last season with 51 for 510 yards and four touchdowns. Schoen caught 23 balls for 470 yards, three touchdowns and an eye-popping 20.4 yards per catch. Shelley had 56 tackles, including four for loss, a sack and two interceptions. Goolsby recorded 78 stops, including two from behind the line of scrimmage a sack and two interceptions. Adams had 63 tackles, including one for loss and three interceptions.

The schedule: Tough. After opening up with an FCS foe, the Wildcats will face an SEC opponent for a second straight year when Mississippi visits Manhattan. The road slate is brutal with having to face West Virginia, Oklahoma and TCU. The home games are winnable.

My take: Kansas State have enough talent and experience on offense to have another winning season, but the defense has too many holes in the front seven for this team to make it to the Big 12 title game.