Heaven forbid, should something happen to Collin Klein … then what?
Battered and bruised a year ago to the point that he was a one-day-a-week – game day – player toward the end of the season, Klein did muster up the courage and toughness to play on even when he couldn't practice.
But should injuries really, really sideline the K-State quarterback in 2012, just who is in the bullpen warming up?
For now, K-State coach Bill Snyder lobs out a pair of names that are mega-ball rich in talent, but dirt poor in experience.
Sams is a 6-foot-2, 211-pounder from Slidell, La., who led his Salmen High School team to a No. 1 state ranking at the Class 4A level.
"Daniel is very athletic, which is a positive thing. He has the ability to do certain things, which includes a capability to throw the ball very well, but he hasn't done it yet," said Snyder.
"But he really caught our eye as a scout team quarterback. He's a talented young guy."
Bender is a 6-3, 210-pound product from Southwest High School in Lincoln, Neb.
"He's kind of a combination quarterback in that he runs the ball reasonably well. He's deceptively fast, athletic, and throws the ball with a good throwing motion. He just doesn't' always know where he's going with it as a freshman," said Snyder.
Bender passed for 1,025 yards and rushed for 699 last year as a senior when he was ranked the No. 20 dual-threat high school quarterback. The 3.5 student opted to graduate early, so is now involved in K-State's spring drills.
Being that young in age, Snyder acknowledged that he likes the early-arrival concept, but added, "You do have the maturity level to deal with it at a young age. Hopefully, he handles that well. We think he will."
A third prospect is Johnson, a 5-11, 175-pound senior out of Topeka High School.
"He's an undersized quarterback, but he has an understanding of our offense and understanding of reading defenses," said Snyder. "He makes good decisions."
But at quarterback, it all goes back to the 6-5, 226-pound senior … Mr. Klein.
Of the first two weeks of spring football, Snyder said, "He hasn't done anything to disappoint."
MORE ON THE OFFENSE:
Snyder says he likes the competition on offense at running back with Robert Rose and Angelo Pease battling for the No. 2 position behind John Hubert, plus has been pleased with the improvement of Travis Tannahill at tight end, and Nick Puetz at offensive guard.
"Travis has become a little more physical and more aggressive player," said Snyder. "He's caught the ball extremely well, and more importantly has become a more physical presence at the line of scrimmage."
At center, Snyder also lauded the efforts of returning starter B.J. Finney: "He's a good young guy who takes care of his business and does things right. He does what you ask him to do and diligently tries to do what you ask him to do. He's competitive and trying to step up in his leadership role. He's accepted those responsibilities at a young age."
Finney is joined on the offensive line by Puetz, who is a returning starter at guard, plus Manase Foketi, who was a starter in 2010 and again in 2011 before suffering an early-season season-ending injury.
Candidates at guard with Puetz include Boston Stiverson (6-4, 306, Fr), Tomasi Mariner (6-3, 317, Soph) and Drew Liddle (6-3, 288, Soph). Depth will also come from 6-3, 284-pound sophomore Jordan Allred, who played on offense in 2010, defense in 2011, and now back to offense. Allred will also help as a long-snapper.
Snyder likes the fact that he can interchange the interior linemen, which would include playing Mariner, Liddle and Puetz as a reserve center.
The Wildcats have four top candidates at wide receiver with Chris Harper (40 catches, 547 yards, 5 touchdowns in 2011), Tramaine Thompson (21, 338, 1), Tyler Lockett (18, 246, 3) and Curry Sexton (4, 43, 0).
Top candidates surfacing have been Vai Lutui (6-2, 289, Sr), who Snyder says "… has picked up where he left off last year," and John Sua (6-0, 290, Sr). Depth could come from Wesley Hollingshed (6-1, 299, Jr), Darryl Blackmon (6-7, 281, Jr) and Javonta Boyd (6-2, 294, Sr).
Returning starters at end are Meshak Williams (6-3, 245, Sr) and Adam Davis (6-2, 259, Sr), who Snyder says have improved: "We're looking for them to take bigger steps, but they certainly haven't gone backward."
Arthur Brown and Tre Walker are entrenched at two of the linebacker positions, while Jarell Childs and Justin Tuggle are battling for the second outside linebacker position. Snyder also tossed out the name of true-freshman Mike Moore as showing positive signs.
"The position is very competitive," said Snyder.
Returning starting safety Ty Zimmerman anchors the safety position with Snyder liking his consistency.
"You go out and watch practice and ask, ‘Did Ty practice today?' You look for mistakes and he just doesn't make many. You don't want to take him for granted, but you almost do," said Snyder. "He just doesn't show up in the negative column. He's getting accustomed to playing with more weight."
Anthony Cantele drew words of praise as K-State's returning kicker. Ryan Doerr also returns as a starter as a punter with Mike Krause, a transfer from Missouri Southern, supplying the depth.
Plenty of return specialists return in Lockett and Thompson with kickoffs, and Zimmerman for punts.