There is a good chance that the 2010 K-State football season left a sour taste in your mouth.
Sure, the Wildcats ended the season above .500 after crushing KU and Texas. And yes, they played in one of the most exciting games of the bowl season in New York’s Yankee Stadium in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl.
But then Adrian Hilburn just had to go and act mildly excited about scoring a potentially game-tying touchdown. The rest is history.
The good news for Wildcat fans is that I believe that K-State can go bowling again.
The offense may have lost one of the top running backs in the country in Daniel Thomas, but transfer and preseason All-Big 12 selection Bryce Brown should step in nicely to fill the void.
Coming out of high school, Brown was considered the top recruit in the country. After a rough freshman season, Brown chose to transfer to K-State and I believe he has the potential for a 1,000-yard season.
Collin Klein was a fan favorite after the dismantling of the Longhorns last season and looks to hold down the starting quarterback role full time in 2011. He was used almost exclusively as a rushing threat a season ago, but showed fans that he can throw if he needs to during the spring game and he has several weapons, including Tramaine Thompson and Brodrick Smith.
The main issue on offense will be the line, which lost three starters including top blocker Zach Kendall. I believe the offense could take a step back from its strong showing in 2010, but I still expect a solid season.
The other side of the ball was not quite at the same level in 2010. The defense was consistently gashed by opposing running backs, including a staggering 270 yards by North Texas back Lance Dunbar and 198 yards in the Pinstripe Bowl to Delone Carter of Syracuse. Both were good backs, yes, but those numbers are simply unacceptable.
The addition of Miami-transfer Arthur Brown at linebacker could help to shore up the front seven, but it’s hard to imagine drastic improvement to the run defense.
The secondary welcomes back freshman All-American Ty Zimmerman, along with solid vets Tysyn Hartman and David Garrett, and looks to be the strength of the Wildcats’ defense.
On top of all of this, the one and only Bill Snyder will yet again be roaming the sidelines for K-State, which can only mean good things for the Wildcats. When all is said and done, I believe that the Wildcats can end with six wins and yet another trip to yet another bowl game.
The football team returns to Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 6 p.m. Sept. 3 against Eastern Kentucky.
In the slightly smaller but still raucous Ahearn Field House, the ladies of the K-State volleyball team look to rebound after a rough 2010 season in which they went just 6-14 in the Big 12 in the final season for JuliAnne Chisholm and Lauren Mathewson. The 2011 squad may not have a senior on the roster, but don’t think that means they are left without stars.
The experience will mainly come from juniors Caitlyn Donahue and Kathleen Ludwig. Donahue has always been a fun player to watch, whether she is crushing a ball for an ace, digging a ball from just off the court or setting up a teammate for a devastating kill, which she did over 1,000 times in 2010.
Ludwig has been one of the top recipients of Donahue’s passes since they were freshmen in 2009 and has consistently pleased fans with her scorching southpaw shots, which provided her with 186 kills a season ago.
The younger members of the squad are not to be outdone, starting with sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger. Pelger was a beast in her freshman season, leading the Wildcats with 328 kills along with 33 aces. Her defense was equally as impressive, as she led the team with 11 solo blocks.
The leader of it all is coach Suzie Fritz, who always gets her team ready to play. I look for a definite improvement over last season in what hopefully will be a successful 2011 for Kansas State.
Fritz and the Wildcats will begin their season in the Georgia Tech Courtyard Classic on Aug. 26 and 27 in Atlanta, Ga.