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March 29, 2008
The most significant numbers associated with Kansas State football are "5" and "19." The Wildcats managed just five wins in a disappointing 2007 season, then raised eyebrows nationally by signing 19 junior college transfers in February. Obviously, coach Ron Prince is counting on the second number to boost the first, but many of the newcomers won't arrive until the summer. Until then, the Wildcats will focus this spring on bolstering their receiver corps and secondary while looking for continued improvement from quarterback Josh Freeman.
Josh Freeman will enter his third season as the starting quarterback at Kansas State.
Offense—7: T Alesana Alesana, QB Josh Freeman, T Ben Liu, TE Jeron Mastrud, WR Deon Murphy, G Gerard Spexarth, C Trevor Viers.
Defense—5: E/LB Ian Campbell, SS Chris Carney, SS Gary Chandler, E/LB Eric Childs, LB Reggie Walker.
Special teams—1: K Brooks Rossman.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
Freeman already has spent two seasons as a starting quarterback, and last season he passed for 3,353 yards while raising his total touchdowns and lowering his interceptions. The Wildcats averaged more than 400 yards in offense last season and four starters return on the offensive line. Rossman doesn't have a booming leg as the kicker, but he's reliable inside 40 yards. Last season, he was 18 of 19 from that range.
HELP IS NEEDED
The Wildcats are thin at wide receiver and lost Jordy Nelson, who had more than twice as many catches as any other receiver in 2007. K-State allowed 27 touchdown passes and ranked 99th in the nation in pass defense in '07, and there will be two new starting cornerbacks and a new free safety in the secondary this season.
KEEP AN EYE ON
WR Lamark Brown: Although he managed only three catches as a freshman last year, Brown is an impressive physical specimen at 6 feet 3 and 229 pounds. He will be a top contender to land a starting job.
CB Josh Moore: A significant contributor as a freshman in 2006, he was suspended last season. Now reinstated, he can shore up an area that's in need.
DT Xzavier Stewart: He only notched four tackles as a freshman, but he has good quickness and is a high-energy player.
HIS TIME IS NOW
Campbell made a big splash two years ago as a sophomore when he posted 67 tackles and 11½ sacks and gained All-Big 12 notoriety. Last season, he moved from defensive end to linebacker and his numbers dropped to 45 tackles and 4½ sacks. A solid spring would be the first step in proving his 2007 performance wasn't a fluke.
The Wildcats lost several starters and contributors, especially on defense, so developing depth is vital this spring. Numerous newcomers enrolled early and 13 junior college transfers are expected this summer, so sorting out the depth chart is key. Upgrading at receiver and in the secondary is important, too.
Olin Buchanan is the senior football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.