Wildcats overcoming loss of Nelson


    The thought seems ludicrous.
    How can an offense possibly get better after the loss of a consensus All-American? How could Josh Freeman excel without his go-to guy?
    The problem last season was that Jordy Nelson was too good. Many quarterbacks feel obligated to throw to a guy with hands that stick to the ball like super glue.
    However, it hindered Freeman’s development as a quarterback. Often times he didn’t go through his progressions and reads. Instead, he locked in on Nelson, predetermining at times that his 6-foot-3 receiver was going to get the ball.
    Defenses began to read his eyes. He became predictable — numbers don’t lie.
    Nearly 40 percent of his 322 completions went to Nelson. Nelson’s 1,606 receiving yards accounted for nearly half of Freeman’s single-season school record of 3,353 passing yards.
    It made sense though. Outside of Deon Murphy and Nelson, the Wildcats were lacking weapons. This year it looks like a completely different offense on the field for the Wildcats.
    K-State’s 57 points per game currently ranks them third in the country in scoring offense, behind only Missouri and Florida State.   
    Though it is only through two games, there appears to be a willingness to spread the ball around, in large part because of the added arsenal of receivers Freeman has at his disposal.
    The team has four receivers with seven or more receptions, which doesn’t even include K-State’s leading receiver from last year in Murphy, who has seen limited playing time due to an injury.
     The new receivers, Brandon Banks and Aubrey Quarles, have shown the ability to stretch the field, something the Wildcats lacked last year. Also, the progression of Lamark Brown provides Freeman a big, physical target to throw to over the middle of the field.
    The improvement is staggering.
    In 2007, Freeman averaged 6.7 yards per pass attempt, which ranked him eighth in the Big 12 Conference among starting quarterbacks. This season Freeman ranks first among starting Big 12 quarterbacks with 11.6 yards per pass attempt.
    His pass efficiency last year ranked 68th nationally and eighth in the Big 12. This year, his efficiency rating ranks third nationally and second in the Big 12, only behind Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford.
    He has yet to throw an interception this year, in large part because of his development of checking down to other receivers and his ability to look off defenders.
    The offense appears to be clicking much better this year. New offensive coordinator Dave Brock has shown more of an urgency to throw the ball down the field, something fans clamored for throughout last season.
    Are two games against inferior teams enough to gauge the progressions of Freeman and the rest of the offense? Who knows?
    We will know more after tonight, though, when Freeman faces his toughest test. He will have to handle a raucous crowd at Papa John’s Stadium.
    The Cardinals rank No. 4 in the nation in overall team defense. The new receivers will see much better corners. The offensive line will face a significantly tougher defensive line. Everything will be faster.
    Can the Wildcat offense handle it? We’ll know soon enough.