The Wildcats sit at 2-2 a third of the way through their 2013 schedule. After Texas dominated the Cats, optimism in Manhattan may be at a low point. Looking back at my season preview, I had the Longhorns beating Kansas State, but I don’t believe anyone would have predicted both team’s paths to their matchup. But the season is not lost, there are many things the Cats and Bill Snyder have done right and as the record shows, many things the Wildcats can improve upon to push towards the Bowl season. I will hit my main two positives and main two negatives from the first quarter.
- Tyler Lockett. Tyler Lockett is quickly turning into a superstar. I think most already knew Tyler Lockett was something special, but I don’t know many that thought his effort against Texas was something possible. The 5-11 Junior broke Jordy Nelson’s school record of 214 from 2007, actually shattering the record at 237 yards on 13 catches. During Lockett’s first 4 games, the wide out has 29 catches for 469 yards, currently 5th in the nation. As Lead Editor Dave Thoman pointed out earlier, Tyler Lockett is a clear choice for All-American status. (Check Dave’s work out here http://jugofsnyder.com/2013/09/23/k-states-tyler-lockett-continues-march-american-status/) Wildcat fans knew how explosive Lockett was his first two seasons, seeing Lockett returning 4 kickoffs for scores (2 as a freshman in 2011, 2 as a sophomore in 2012), but are now seeing what he can do as the main threat in the passing game. Lockett currently is on pace to crush his past season highs (2012) of catches (44) and yardage (687). While the season has had some unexpected moments, you can still hold your breath and watch when the youngest Lockett has the ball. Who knows, the greatest Lockett in the tradition at Kansas State University may be the one we are currently watching. Time will tell.
- Blake Slaughter. There may not be a better sounding name for a linebacker than Blake Slaughter. After the week one loss against North Dakota State, I pointed out that the linebacking core needed to step up, after losing standout Arthur Brown. I have noticed and heard Coach Snyder sing Slaughter’s praise many times since. The 5-10 Senior was voted a Captain after redshirting the past season to help the Wildcats defense this year. That is leadership many of his teammates noticed. He has responded by leading the team in tackles with 37 while adding in 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 3 passes defended. Arthur Brown’s role was big to fill, but Blake Slaughter is making sure you know his name.
The Not So Good
- The Offensive Line. What many thought would be a dominant point on the team has disappointed to a point so far. While they haven’t been a complete disaster, the team’s lack of a consistent run game has to be put partly on their shoulders. Texas, a team that had been run on for over 500 yards a few weeks back, held Kansas State to only 115 yards for a meager 3 yard average. A group that returned the same starting five from a team that dominated the ground game last season, the same results has not been consistent enough this year. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of ability on this offensive line. Both Junior Center B.J. Finney and Senior Left Tackle Cornelius Lucas earned various Preseason Honors, both well deserved. The entire unit needs to help get John Hubert going, opening holes and allowing Hubert to break down the defense. This is something that may continue to gel, getting used to the revolving door at quarterback. We can only hope.
- The Defensive Line. While the offensive line struggle against Texas, the defensive line did not fair that well either. Losing Meshak Williams and Adam Davis has hurt, but former walk on Ryan Mueller has impressed. The unit has had trouble stopping the run, allowing 227 yards in the loss against Texas and 215 yards in the loss against North Dakota State. This unit is entirely new, so the chance to grow and improve is there. Ryan Mueller has made the most out of his chance and is tied with Slaughter for the team lead in sacks (2). I also look at Senior Chaquil Reed and Sophomore Travis Britz to grow in their position and help stuff the run, something that will have to happen if the Wildcats want to right the ship and push towards a winning season 2013.
All is not lost Wildcat faithful, fear not. Coach Snyder deserves our trust that things can swing in the Cats favor to get on the winning track in Big 12 play. The stadium is named after the guy, I think we owe him this one.