Early returns are still difficult to determine with the Kansas State offense. Yes, Daniel Thomas is the real deal, but Saturday against UCLA, he was basically the only deal on offense as the quarterback game sputtered.
Kansas State's offense came out of the 2009 season needed a fixing.
The Wildcats ended the season scoring just 15 points – five Josh Cherry field goals – in losses to Missouri and Nebraska.
The ‘Cats were 9th in the league in scoring (23.0), 12th in pass offense (169 yards per game) and 9th in total offense (349 yards per game). Those numbers despite having the league's best rusher in Daniel Thomas, who averaged 105 yards per game.
How and why will the Wildcats be better?
Here are five predicted Stars for 2010:
DANIEL THOMAS, 6-2, 232, Sr, Running Back:
Thomas is bigger and stronger than a year ago, and as he demonstrated Saturday with a 234-yard performance against UCLA, just as good if not better than a year ago. "The real deal," said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisal after the game.
On Thomas' 2009 season, running back coach Dana Dimel said, "He came in and didn't know the system and didn't know much about being a running back. All he knew was how to run with the football. He certainly didn't understand the intricacies of being a running back and reading blocks and understanding coverages. "It's amazing what he did. Now I'm anxious to see how much better he'll be." Thomas' personal goals this year are 1,600 rushing yards and 20 TDs.
AUBREY QUARLES, 5-11, 205, Sr, Wide Receiver:
After a 34-catch for 407 yards in his junior season in 2008, Aubrey Quarles, a transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College, missed the 2009 season due to a hip injury, but now he's back.
On his return to the field, receiver coach Michael Smith said, "With Aubrey, we're getting very good leadership qualities, plus he's a tough, strong and very smart. He's one of our team captains."
It's a new cast of receivers with Brodrick Smith, Chris Harper and Tramaine Thompson, but the thinking here is that Quarles will have the biggest impact by season's end.
BRADEN WILSON, 6-3, 244, Soph, Fullback:
Remember how K-State never even had a fullback on its roster during the Ron Prince era? Well, the Wildcats have one now, and he's one that Dimel says is out of the same mold as Brian Goolsby a dozen years ago: "He gives us nice versatility because he can catch the ball so well and he's athletic enough to block on the edge. He has the size and toughness to block in the box and he can run the ball."
Coach Bill Snyder adds, "Braden is kind of like I am in the respect that he doesn't change. He is one of those guys that is going all-out every time you see him. You would like to have 105 Braden Wilsons."
Watch for Wilson to be used in a variety of ways from blocker, to receiver, and even in the option game.
WADE WEIBERT, 6-4, 303, Sr, Center; ZACH KENDALL, 6-2, 312, Sr, Offensive Guard:
Weibert and Kendall are two of four starters returning to the offensive line.
Weibert calls the group, "A band of brothers." How many times have fans gone into the season wondering about the offensive line? Well, worry no more because this one, coupled with Mr. Thomas, is Big 12 good.
Of the two leaders of the line, coach Charlie Dickey says of Weibert, "Wade is an extremely hard worker, who just made a huge move in his game last year. He's physical, determined and has become a very smart player." And of Kendall he says, "Zach gives us a physical presence and is a very good pass blocker. With Zach, we're getting very good leadership qualities, plus he's a tough, strong and very smart. He's one of our team captains."
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Looking ahead, here are our predictions for the most gifted and steadiest offensive performers for 2010 heading into Saturday's 6:10 start against Missouri State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.