Head football coach Bill Snyder addressed the media Tuesday afternoon inside the Big 8 Room at the Vanier Football Complex. With spring practices underway, there is a lot of excitement in the air around Manhattan. Coming off of a 10-3 season that included a trip to the 2012 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, there will be high expectations for the Wildcats to continue the success from their 2011 campaign.
“Saturday we had a padded practice, which was the first one,” Snyder said. “The practices have gone, initially went well, and I was proud of the way they got started. I think our last practice was not as productive as I would like for it to be, but they have, basically have, a pretty good mindset about the things that they want to accomplish and what they are trying to accomplish.”
Going into the spring, K-State returns 17 starters from the 2011 team, including big names like senior quarterback Collin Klein, senior linebacker Arthur Brown and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
However, there are some key positions that will have new faces in the 2012-13 season. The Wildcats will be losing eight starters.
“Each team is different,” Klein said. “We’re not going to try to replace the people that we lost. It’s just another opportunity for people to step up. We’re developing our identity on a daily basis and becoming the team of 2012-2013, so again, we have to just keep striving, keep hanging together, keep having fun and good things will happen.”
The main area of rebuilding for the Wildcats will be the offensive line. K-State is losing three of their starting frontmen from last year, which means there will be a new wall protecting Klein and company in 2012. It will be the job of sophomore offensive lineman B.J. Finney and senior offensive lineman Nick Puetz to help the new players out and help them adjust to the offensive.
Last year, Finney started every game for the Wildcats and was named a 2011 First Team Freshman All-American by Rivals.com. He was also a candidate for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s top walk-on player. Puetz started the last 12 games for the Wildcats in 2011.
“We’re working hard as a unit and that’s one thing that we have to do,” Finney said. “We know that the success of the team is very much ridden on the offensive line and we are stepping up to the challenge to hopefully make this a successful season.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats will have to replace some key players, including defensive back David Garrett and safety Tysyn Hartman. Garrett and Hartman combined for five interceptions and 102 solo tackles, they both started all 13 games for the Wildcats in 2011.
However, senior defensive back Nigel Malone will be returning in 2012 to lead the defensive secondary. Malone was named a 2011 Second Team Walter Camp All-American and First Team All-Big 12 by the coaches.
“It’s a different team, it’s a new team, we have a lot of the same pieces but I think the mentality is different,” Malone said. “The sky is the limit for us really.”