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Big 12 Spring Practice: Kansas St.

Despite having Daniel Thomas at running back last season Kansas State finished with a disappointing 3-5 record in Big 12 play. Head coach Bill Snyder must now find someone to replace the NFL-bound Thomas and a new starting quarterback to boot.

Collin Klein may be on his way back to wide receiver after playing quarterback in 2010.

Two native Kansans return to their home state after transferring from power programs further east and finally get to work towards playing for the Wildcats. Will it be enough for Kansas State to get back to .500 in conference play? Let's take a look at what all is going on this spring in Manhattan, Kansas.

2010 Finish
*Record: 7-6 (3-5 Big 12)
*PPG: 33.6 (3rd in Big 12)
*Opp. PPG: 29.1 (8th)
*Rush yds/game: 199.5 (2nd)
*Pass yds/game: 179.3 (9th)

Key Departures
*Daniel Thomas (RB): 1585 yds, 5.3 ypc, 19 TD
*Carson Coffman (QB): 143.1 Eff., 65% Comp., 14/7 TD/Int
*Aubrey Quarles (WR): 51 rec., 760 yds. 5 TD
*Adrian Hilburn (WR): 28 rec., 299 yds, 2 TD
*Prizell Brown (DT): 42 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 FF
*Terrance Sweeney (CB): 49 tackles, 2 Int, 9 passes defensed

Key Returners
*David Garrett (CB): 92 tackles, 15 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 Int, 10 passes defened
*Tysyn Hartman (S): 86 tackles, 2 Int
*Alex Hrebec (LB): 77 tackles, 2 TFL, 10 passes defensed
*Ty Zimmerman (S): 74 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 Int, 2 FR, 6 passes defensed

Spring Stories
1. The Brown brothers will attract most of the attention this spring in the Little Apple. With a desperate need to find a replacement for Daniel Thomas, Snyder must hope he can tap into the talent of Tennessee transfer Bryce Brown. Thomas ran the ball last year (298 rushes) more than any one player did anything else for Kansas State (Coffman had 263 passes) so finding a suitable replacement at the running back position is priority No. 1. Bryce Brown was the No. 1 running back recruit and wound up signing with Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers back in 2009. After Kiffin left for USC Brown decided to head back to Kansas and play for Kansas State. (More on Bryce's brother Arthur later.)

2. Gone is senior quarterback Coffman, in is...well, nobody knows yet. JUCO transfer Justin Tuggle will compete with true freshman Daniel Sams and junior Emmanuel Lamur for the 2011 starting spot. Collin Klein (who Texas is still trying to tackle) appears to be headed back to the wide receiver position which really opens up the quarterback competition. It doesn't seem like any of the three guys expected to compete for the job have any significant edge over the other two so this one could go well past spring before a starter is announced.

3. The Wildcats were the second worst team in the nation against the run in 2010, allowing a horrid 231 yards per game on the ground. A potentially big piece to the puzzle in fixing that problem is Miami transfer Arthur Bryce. Hailed as one of the best linebackers in the country coming out of high school, Bryce returns to his home state of Kansas at a perfect time for the Wildcats. He will obviously need a lot of help if they are to rise up from the basement of rush defenses, and the return of eight of their top nine tacklers from 2010 could be a good start for Kansas State.

4. A hugely important part of Daniel Thomas' success on the ground was the offensive line in front of him. Not only is Thomas gone for 2011, but both starting guards are gone as well, seniors Kenneth Mayfield and Zack Kendall. While Bryce Brown may be a huge boost to the Kansas State backfield, Bill Snyder must find a couple suitable bodies to step up and man the interior of the Wildcat offensive line to give his new stud running back a chance to break loose.

5. After a season in which Kansas State relied so heavily on the ground game, the wide receiver position may actually turn into a position of strength in 2011. The Wildcats will return two players who were slotted to start in 2010 before they suffered season-ending injuries (Tremaine Thompson and Brodrick Smith), they also reportedly will move the extremely athletic Klein out wide for next season. If Thompson and Smith can both get back to the level they were playing at before the injury bug bit and Klein can make his transition somewhat seamlessly, the Wildcats may be in possession of a pretty talented group of wide receivers for the 2011 season.

2011 Schedule
9/03 - Eastern Kentucky
9/17 - Kent State
9/24 - at Miami
10/01 - Baylor
10/08 - Missouri
10/15 - at Texas Tech
10/22 - at Kansas
10/29 - Oklahoma
11/05 - at Oklahoma State
11/12 - Texas A&M
11/19 - at Texas
11/26 - Iowa State

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