RB Darren Sproles

2002 Statistics

Coach: Bill Snyder
116-51-1, 14 years
2002 Record: 11-2
WON 48-3
at Colorado LOST 31-35
at Baylor WON 44-10
at Kansas WON 64-0
at Missouri WON 38-0
Arizona State WON 34-27

2002 Final Rankings
AP-7, Coaches-6, BCS-8

2003 Outlook

Kansas State plays in a conference that easily will account for 5-or-more teams finishing in the Top 25. This means the Wildcats have their work cut out for them - they have to finish at the top of the Big XII to likely be in the Sugar Bowl. Otherwise, they could play the USC or Iowa role from last year, not winning their conference and still decisively being a BCS candidate. Finishing with three or four losses would still afford them a poll-placement in this most-competitive of conferences. With the talent and potential this 2003 version has, the Wildcats will have no excuses if they underachieve.

Defensively, this unit has to have a strong showing in the middle up front. Departures here could threaten the phenomenal numbers achieved in 2002. Funny thing, the middle is the strength of the offense. Two returning guards will be the foundation for this line with newbies starting at both tackles. With a QB that can make something out of nothing, expect more KSU magic in the form of consistent offense and devastating defense. Opponents will bend over backwards to cause TOs and other errors with Roberson's mistake-free style. Still, look for K-State to be beaten by themselves more often than by opponents.

The entire month of September is full of "the sisters of the poor" in terms of scheduling. In fact, this slate has led NationalChamps.net to award the Cats with our Betty Crocker Cupcake SOS award for 2003. We point this out due to the detriment of 2002's schedule - too many patsy non-conference teams led to an unprepared Wildcat club losing once they met tough Big XII rivals. All too often we see highly qualified programs not line up serious challenges for their boys to grow through in the season's first tilts. This pattern can never help - either an unprepared squad eventually meets an already-warmed-up conference foe and gets slaughtered, or the year goes well only to have pollsters hold their easier slate against them, claiming those patsy opponents don't prove much. Look for similar failures as to what happened in 2002 if KSU tries gliding early. Texas, Oklahoma State and Colorado all come back-to-back as soon as the non-cons are done. At least Marshall will offer a stern test prior to the Texas duel.

With all these if-then qualifications, bank on Kansas State finishing first or second in the entire conference. They have a bumper crop of talent that outshines the rest of the Big XII from top to bottom, save Texas and Oklahoma. But their "team" will play better than those two, riding the defense and Roberson to new heights by season's end. This is the year they surprise many, and, by bowl time, they will be in control of their own destiny heading into the conference final. Mistake-free ball means sweet, sugary results…you heard it here first.

Projected 2003 record: 11-1
QB Ell Roberson
DE Andrew Shull
LB Matt Butler
QB - 4.5 DL - 4
RB - 4.5 LB - 4.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 4
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Ell Roberson, 175-91-4, 1580 yds., 7 TD's

Rushing: Darren Sproles, 237 att., 1465 yds., 17 TD's

Receiving: James Terry, 28 rec., 561 yds., 5 TD's

Scoring: Darren Sproles, 17 TD's, 1 PAT, 104 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: Joe Rheem, 9-12 FG, 53-59 PAT, 80 pts.

Tackles: Josh Buhl, 135 tot., 77 solo

Sacks: Andrew Shull, 10 sacks

Interceptions: Bryan Hickman, 3 for 19 yds.

Kickoff returns: Darren Sproles, 4 ret., 20.5 avg.

Punt returns: Darren Sproles, 15 ret., 10.3 avg.


QB Ell Roberson
OFFENSE: Marc Dunn-QB, Taco Wallace-WR, Thomas Barnett-OT, Steve Washington-C, Billy Miller-OT, Dralinn Burks-OT
DEFENSE: Tank Reese-DT, Corey White-NT, Henry Bryant-DE, Melvin Williams-DE, James Dunnigan-CB, Terence Newman-CB, Bobby Walker-FS, Travis Brown-P, Terry Pierce-LB (NFL)

The offense has a quality to it that makes K-State hard to defend. They passed for just over 2,000 yards, yet were ranked 8th in overall pass-efficiency. These numbers reflect how well they succeed when they do pass. But it isn't too often - they successfully ran the ball on over 70% of their offensive plays for a 5.2 yards-per-rush team average. That made for many rushing yards gained, enough to rank their ground attack 5th in all I-A. Through the ground or air, it all goes through senior QB Ell Roberson.

Roberson plays essentially mistake-free football. He ran for over 1,000 yards at a 5.1 yards-per-rush rate. To boot, he threw only four INTs, which means stopping his many talents can rarely be done. His ability to turn nothing into highlight-reel material will make his need to be constantly spied all-important. Look for tentative pass-rushes and opposing LBs to play on their heels when he improvises. Once defenses begin taking risks to stop Ell, KSU will find enough alternate outlets to somehow again score 79 TDs.

One such way is with RB Darren Sproles. Sproles is an "option" outlet with enough speed to take corners for a 6.1 yards-per-carry average. FB Travis Wilson is the biggest reason the K-State running game had such a high team average. The Michigan State-transfer has the footwork and size to protect his backfield mates no matter the play call. Back up RB Daniel Davis and Danny Morris give so much depth, making this backfield the most feared from top to bottom in the entire nation. With a pair of decent tackles, this running game will again lift KSU to victorious ends.

The tackle position lost its three best. Along with a departed center, 2002's phenomenal OL looks too decimated to easily bounce back in similarly strong fashion. But both guards return, which means pulling plays will again be effectively sealed by Nick Leckey and Mike Johnson. Don't be surprised if more runs go up the middle until the tackles look capable of containing their outside regions. Coach Snyder has plenty of prime-grade beef-eaters from which to select - his recruiting abilities will come to bear as the line proves whether it can or can't repeat 2002's level of performance. Bet that it can't, but also bet that offensive output, barring widespread injuries, will be similarly effective.

The receiving unit is proven. They return two seniors, along with another senior at TE. The offense basically sends them downfield as decoy(s) to open up entire sides as defenses must respect Roberson's passing prowess. They go deep enough to stretch defenses out so as to often eliminate corners from many plays. More importantly, once downfield, the Wildcat receivers are not afraid to block. They readily take their guy 30 yards deep and then put a helmet on him, all this as the DB quickly realizes the running play is coming/going right at/by him. Kansas State is quite adept at faking out confused defenses with misdirection causing over-pursuit. The high number of returning talent positions means only the lack of a gelled OL can derail the K-State offensive train.


OG Nick Leckey


Returning Starters in bold
QB Ell Roberson-Sr (6-1, 205) Jeff Schwinn-Sr (6-2, 205)
FB Travis Wilson-Sr (6-4, 240) Victor Mann-So (6-2, 230)
RB Darren Sproles-Jr (5-7, 170) Danny Morris-Sr (5-11, 200)
WR James Terry-Sr (6-5, 180) Davin Dennis-So (6-1, 175)
WR Derrick Evans-Sr (5-11, 175) Antoine Polite-Jr (6-2, 180)
TE Thomas Hill-Sr (6-5, 260) Travon Magee-Sr (6-7, 265)
OT Jeromey Clary-So (6-7, 290) Peni Holakeituai-Sr (6-6, 310)
OG Ryan Lilja-Sr (6-3, 300) Jesse Keaulana-Kamakea-Sr (6-3, 270)
C Nick Leckey-Sr (6-4, 285) Ryan Schmuecker-Jr (6-5, 285)
OG Mike Johnson-Jr (6-4, 280) Ben Rettele-Sr (6-7, 305)
OT Jon Doty-Jr (6-8, 270) Chris Boggas-Jr (6-5, 315)
K Joe Rheem-Jr (6-2, 210) Jeff Snodgrass-Fr (6-2, 200)



This year's defense may not be up to matching 2002's stellar numbers. Allowing 11.8 points-per-game led the nation for scoring defense, while they ranked second in total defense, allowing 249 yards-per-game. 2003 returns five senior starters (six overall) to evenly pepper each specific defensive region with proven talent, leadership and experience. Numbers aside, this unit will be as, if not more, effective to the ends of causing even more wins due to their superior play.

Andrew Shull will be a nightmare for opposing offenses. How he didn't make our All-American list seems criminal. Half of his 2002 tackle total is accounted for in tackles-for-loss and sacks. He will anchor a line with new faces all around otherwise. Thomas Houchin is the only other experienced down-lineman, but the reserves are so full of fresh talent that this area will bounce back from losses to neutralize opposing OLs. Their timely LBs will pick up the rest, so all these newbies will need to do is occupy as many helmets as possible until such help arrives. This will allow them the developmental time necessary so their efforts by October will reflect their needed growth in team play.

Senior LBs Josh Buhl and Bryan Hickman will work well as a team to cover the entire underneath with whoever their new crewmate may be. Buhl is a real menace all over the place, covering TEs and backs as well as he penetrates into the backfield. Neither of these two seasoned leaders is often fooled by misdirection or play-action. With three of the front-seven players back from the nation's 2nd ranked unit against the run (allowed just under 70 rushing yards-per-game and eight total rushing TDs), the core of last year's unit looks to be in tact just enough to bestow similar promise on 2003's version. As stated, numbers will not do justice to their run-stopping prowess - even if they don't reach 2002-like results, look for dominance regardless.

The nation's 3rd ranked pass efficiency defense returns two starters. Jesse Tetuan has enough potential that this 2002 reserve will likely be their starting free safety. A converted RB, Tetuan has the speed and power to make coaches believe he can develop into more than the departed Bobby Walker. Teamed with senior Rashad Washington, the deep zone will constantly be under a virtual blanket of coverage. Run-support is Washington's forte - his innate sense of each play's development make him an ideal floating eighth man, just teasing the box enough so opposing QBs wrongly check off and optimum defensive results are achieved. These two, along with cover-corner Randy Jordan, also a returning senior starter, make up one of the nation's best defensive backfields. Again limiting opponents to 180 passing yard-per-game may be a stretch. But as long as they can count on consistency from the defense's other dimensions, dominance will occur here, too.


LB Josh Buhl


Returning Starters in bold
DE Andrew Shull-Sr (6-5, 260) Scott Edmonds-So (6-4, 255)
NT Andrew Bulman-Sr (6-3, 275) Jermaine Berry-Jr (6-0, 295)
DT Justin Montgomery-Sr (6-2, 281) Derek Marso-So (6-3, 279)
DE Thomas Houchin-Sr (6-3, 260) Alax Carrier-Jr (6-4, 255) / Kevin Huntley-Jr
SLB Bryan Hickman-Sr (6-3, 230) Jerad Johnson-Jr (6-3, 220)
MLB Matt Butler-So (6-2, 225) Ted Sims-So (6-1, 230)
WLB Josh Buhl-Sr (6-0, 210) Maurice Thurmond-Jr (6-2, 220)
CB Randy Jordan-Sr (6-2, 175) Louis Lavender-Jr (6-0, 185)
CB David Rose-Jr (5-10, 180) Cedrick Williams-Jr (5-9, 165)
SS Rashad Washington-Sr (6-3, 210) Marcus Patton-Jr (6-1, 210)
FS Jesse Tetuan-So (6-0, 185) James McGill-Sr (6-3, 215)
P Jared Brite-Sr (6-2, 185) David Hamel-Sr (6-0, 170)




The only real concern here is the lack of leg strength in both place kickers. Neither Joe Rheem nor Jared Brite could put one through from outside of 40 yards. This specific problem could cost the Wildcats a close one, or two. Replacing their departed punter is another challenge more easily overcome. And as long as they can out net-punt their opponents by almost seven yards again, important field position battles will be won.

Departed CB/PR Terrence Newman will be easily replaced. Darren Sproles is first in line, but so many others will likely get their shot (Derrick Evans, Carlos Alsup, James Terry, Davin Dennis). SPRING UPDATE: It appears that Sproles will be the main weapon however, not just taking the pigskin from the QB on handoffs, but returning both punts and kickoffs as well. This could really bode well for the junior's Heisman stature. Last year's superior special teams' numbers reflect on this year's defensive ability. Similarly, these 2003 special teams should shine, revealing 2004's potential.


Head Coach Bill Snyder was not raving about his team's performance in the spring game. In fact, he compared it to "watching paint dry", and said he applauded anyone who stayed the duration of such a disappointing performance. Snyder criticized QB El Roberson's play, saying that he "wasn't terrible", but there were certainly areas where he needed to improve before the start of the season. Dropped balls by receivers were also cited as a problem on offense. A name to know now, because it will be a fixture on stat sheets, is WR Derrick Evans. A quick, breakaway receiver with soft hands, Evans is hard to contain and will benefit from the focus defenses will have on Roberson, Sproles and Terry. His current task - passing enough summer credits to remain eligible for '03… Senior Daniel Davis is expected to see time this season as a third down back, as well as WR… The Cats had reserve FB Ayo Saba work a little at TE this spring in place of the injured Travon Magee. Magee had a troubled off-season, nursing a bad hand and dealing with off the field troubles …With three starters gone from the O-line, three viable replacements need to be established. Snyder says that two of them, senior OG Ryan Lilja and junior OT Jon Doty have appeased coaches with solid spring showings

The defense, too, has been described as inconsistent by the coaching staff. CB Randy Jordan, who was a steady contributor last season, has been challenged to step up his play and accordingly his work ethic… D-coordinator Bobby Elliott credited junior CB Louis Lavender with making the biggest strides in terms of improvement.. Don't forget about JUCO (teammate) transfers, corners Corey Reddick and Cedrick Williams. Neither is very tall (at 5'9" a piece), but provide worthy cover skills. Williams' 4.33 speed is among the fastest on the team. Another name that could get thrown into the DB pot is redshirt frosh Maurice Mack. Mack is one of the strongest backs in the group and can provide K-State with an enforcer in the secondary… The linebacking corps will receive an EXTREME dose of talent in the fall when JUCO transfer Melvin Simmons arrives. We foresee this young man becoming one of the school's all-time greats!