Mac Stevenson
Summer is always a slow time for sports fans and this year the Kansas City Royals have made it more like torture than “slow.” Nevertheless, in just a little over three weeks, August will be here and the focus will switch to college- and NFL football.
Expectations are high for Kansas State’s football team; the Wildcats return seven starters on offense and five from last year’s defense. This fall Coach Bill Snyder will be coaching his 27th season at K-State; Snyder has had numerous superb teams at K-State and the upcoming season promises more of the same.
Snyder has two experienced and talented quarterbacks in sophomore Skylar Thompson (6-2, 205) and junior Alex Delton (6-0, 204). Both had big moments last year and they also had some poor games. In the 35-17 win over UCLA in the Cactus Bowl, Delton took over in the second half and ignited an offense that was struggling—including Thompson—in the first half. It’s widely assumed that Thompson will be the starter; from here, it looks like Delton will get his chance to lead the Wildcats.
Delton is a better passer than the pundits give him credit for and he surpasses Thompson as a runner. In any event, Snyder has two proven QBs—either one could emerge as an exceptional talent this fall.
Kansas State’s offensive line is set; the five starters from last year’s 8-5 team return. And they are seasoned in big-time games. Senior RT Dalton Risner (6-5, 300) was All-Big 12 last season and he will be playing in the NFL in 2019. Junior Scott Frantz (6-5, 297) is at LT and he and Risner form a formidable tandem at the tackle positions. In addition, the Wildcats have talented depth on their OL.
Running back is strength: K-State has maturity and talent and depth at this vital position. Junior Alex Barnes (6-1, 227) is a proven RB and he’ll be the starter.
Pass receiving has been mentioned as a possible weakness, but it doesn’t look that way from here.  Junior Dalton Schoen (6-1, 207) could be one of the leading wide receivers in the Big 12 this fall; he was K-State’s most reliable pass catcher last year. And Isaiah Zuber (6-0, 183) played well last season and should be an able complement for Schoen. The leading rookie at WR is Chabastin Taylor (6-4, 227) who had a sensational spring scrimmage.
On the defensive line, junior DE Reggie Walker (6-2, 246) has a chance to be an outstanding pass rusher. At DT, junior Trey Dishon (6-2, 305) has NFL potential. The linebackers will be better than forecast; junior Da’Quan Patton (6-2, 220) hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he could this year. Snyder has signed several JUCO prospects, and Elijah Sullivan and Sam Sizelove will be solid starters with Patton.
The defensive backfield returns three starters and Snyder always has quality reserves waiting for their chance. K-State’s defense will be more than adequate to go with an offense that will be in the upper echelon of the Big 12.
Coach Sean Snyder lost almost everyone from last season’s special teams and that’s a potential shortfall. If Snyder produces another group of stellar kicking- and kick-return units, Kansas State will break through in the national rankings.
The Wildcats face a daunting challenge in three of their first five games: Mississippi State at Snyder Stadium on Sept. 8, at West Virginia on Sept. 22, and at home against Texas on Sept. 29. If K-State can win these three—a severe test—the sky’s the limit from there.
There’s the usual number of skeptics concerning Chancellor Douglas Girod’s hiring of Jeff Long as KU’s new athletic director. They are ill-informed. The skepticism is based on Long being fired as AD at Arkansas, despite extenuating circumstances.
During his tenure (2003-2007) as Pittsburgh’s AD, Long hired Dave Wannstedt as head coach; Wannstedt had a successful 42-31 record there. Then, after becoming Arkansas’ AD (2008-2017), Long hired Bobby Petrino as the Razorback’s head coach. Petrino was wildly successful at Arkansas, going 10-3 and 11-2 in his last two seasons. Then disaster struck.
The married Petrino was caught having an affair with a young (26) employee he hired and Long had to fire Petrino, which made about half of the Arkansas fan base happy and the other half furious.
Long then made what appeared to be a great hire, snatching Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin, where he had a great record that included five New Years’ Day bowl games and two Big Ten championships. Bielema flopped at Arkansas (29-34) and Long became the scapegoat and was fired—even though Petrino caused the whole mess.
Jeff Long is a great fit for KU and he’ll lead the football program to an entertaining and competitive level.