Foundation of next season’s football team starts with veteran offensive line

Emily DeShazer | Collegian The Wildcats offensive line will be a key factor in the Wildcats offensive success and will be anchored by junior center BJ Finney.

There are question marks at nearly every position on both sides of the ball when it comes to the 2013-14 K-State football team. The Wildcats are losing some outstanding players, including Heisman Trophy candidate Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown. For head coach Bill Snyder, filling the holes left by these players will be no easy task.

However, the one anchor that the Wildcats’ offense can lean on is its offensive line. The Wildcats are returning four of the five starters from the offensive line that started in the Fiesta Bowl. BJ Finney, Cornelius Lucas, Cody Whitehair and Keenan Taylor will all be back to protect their quarterback.

The only loss the offensive line will have to deal with is Nick Puetz.

“It is huge, that is where it all starts,” said wide receiver Tramaine Thompson on having a veteran offensive line. “Having a lot of games played in between all of those guys and having those guys come back is huge, especially with a young quarterback. It can take a lot of pressure off the quarterback because they can figure stuff out amongst themselves. With BJ [Finney] being a veteran, he can almost figure out things before the quarterback sometimes.”

The offensive line will play a big role for whoever has to transition to the starting quarterback role. Currently redshirt sophomore Daniel Sams and junior college transfer Jake Waters are battling it out to see who will replace Klein.

The leadership that a veteran offensive line can provide will be instrumental to whoever gets the job. According to Sams, that need for leadership could stand in the way between him and the starting job.

“It would be my leadership,” said Sams about what he needs to improve on. “Being that guy on and off the field, because coach Snyder stresses that it is hard to be a leader if you do not do the right things off the field.”

Last year, the offensive line was critical to the team’s success. They only allowed one sack per game on average, and helped Klein and running back John Hubert become the 32nd-best rushing attack in the country last season.

Because all of the team’s returning starters are upperclassmen except Whitehair, who is a sophomore, the foundation that it can lay with the rest of the team may set the tone for the entire season.

“The dynamics are different every year no matter who does what,” Snyder said. “You would like to think that this group has gained a great deal of knowledge about things other than just football with the assistance of the young people who were here a year ago.”

Snyder said that although the team’s leadership has not developed as far as he would have liked it to at this point in the spring, he believes his team is capable of having a strong foundation.

“I think that it has not evolved yet into the quality of leadership that we would like and hope to have,” Snyder said. “I think that has taken more time than what I had hoped for. I think we will get there and guys want that. I have not been disappointed with their effort, but I think that this group really does not understand what they are capable of.”

While the offensive line is filled with returners, it may have to make changes as well. The Wildcats were a run-oriented team last season, but a more balanced approach may be the goal in 2013.

“The potential to be more balanced is certainly there, but that is always our intent,” Snyder said. “In practice, if we throw it once, we’re going to run it once. If we throw it 20 times, we’re going to run it 20 times. We are going to prepare as a balanced football team on offense.”

Fans will get their first glance at the new Wildcats on Saturday. They’ll get to see firsthand who may be winning some of the crucial quarterback battles.

Questions seem to linger for the offensive line, and on Saturday the veteran group will simply go out and continue to do what it has done for the past several seasons.