2022 will mark Chris Klieman’s fourth year at Kansas State and last year saw Klieman take steps towards getting K-State back to the levels that former purple wizard Bill Snyder had during his amazing tenure in the Little Apple. Klieman’s team went 8-5 last year and finished the year with a drubbing of the LSU Tigers in the Texas Bowl. Klieman’s team has its eyes set on competing for the Big 12 Championship this year, especially with the assumption that Texas and Oklahoma are ripe for the picking.
The Wildcats will be led by former Nebraska Cornhuskers standout Adrian Martinez, who isn’t the passer that former quarterback Skylar Thompson was, but Martinez did throw for almost 8,500 yards while adding another 2,300 on the ground during his four years at Nebraska. In the backfield, Martinez will have one of the best running backs in the Big 12 in Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn, a 5’6” 170 pound sparkplug, is the playmaking machine the Wildcats plan to build their offense around. Vaughn rushed for 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns last seasons and caught another 460 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Martinez and Vaughn will be the playmakers than former Big 12 quarterback turned offensive coordinator Collin Klein will use to increase the scoring in his new up-tempo, aggressive offense.
Catching balls will be senior Phillip Brooks, who has seen his yardage increase year after year as well as his yards per catch, from 9.7 as a freshman to 12.6 as a junior. That number could take an even bigger jump this year. His counterpart will be senior Malik Knowles, a redshirt senior who provides the big playmaking threat with his 15 yards per catch.
The Wildcats lost a number of talented offensive linemen and a tight-end so the potential for a bust offensive season is high if the offensive line is unable to gel and produce the time needed for the quarterback and receivers to make plays.
Where Kansas State was methodical and very bland on offense, they were attacking and very good on defense, a defense that allowed only 21 points per game last year. The Kansas State defense was simple but effective: use a front four to create havoc and allow everyone else to play the ball. The Wildcats pressured offenses to make quick decisions then allowed their back seven to attack and limit big plays.
The front four returns several talented players, including Eli Huggins (DT), Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Nat Matlack (DE) and Khalid Duke (LB/DE). Despite the talent, the Wildcats actually thrived better against the run where they allowed on 132 yards per game (29th) but allowed opponents to complete nearly 70% of their passes at 7.5 yards per attempt. Teams got the ball out fast against the Wildcats but didn’t throw deep.
Returning at linebacker is Daniel Green, who led the team with 89 tackles last year. He’ll be joined by Nebraska transfer Will Honas, who missed all of last year with a knee injury. The back secondary lost several good players from last year’s squad, including All Big 12 Russ Yeats. If the transfers and newcomers can contribute, watch out.
2021 Full Game and Highlights
Prediction that will be right: Adrian Martinez’s first visit to Morgantown will be unpleasant
Prediction that will be wrong: Could this be a “trap” game for the Wildcats? Coming off a game against Baylor with a home game / senior night against Kansas the following week, will the Mountaineers catch the Wildcats sleeping?