The K-State roster is getting some well-deserved recognition ahead of next season.
The notion of the program lacking top talent and constantly relying on lesser-known players has been around for a while. This year, though, the Wildcats have been recognized for getting a good group together and are now touted as having some of the best players in the Big 12, with six names from the squad making it to the All-Big 12 team.
No other team has as many selections; Texas comes the closest with 12.
This is also the most K-State has had on the said team since 2000, which bodes well for betting in Kansas, with platforms such as Caesars sportsbook Kansas set to go live in the state this year.
While they have six players picked among the best in the conference, it won’t mean much if the Wildcats post a losing season. There is still a lot of work to do – K-State ranked fifth in a Big 12 preseason poll, behind Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas, but this is the highest they’ve been picked in five years. A national writer has also branded them a dark horse program to win the Big 12 title.
All of the hype is a result of the work head coach Klieman has done in terms of putting the roster together, as well as the player development that has seen Felix Anudike-Uzomah voted Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, having been named a Co-Defensive Lineman of the year last season.
Uzomah is the first K-State player to be named preseason player of the year, offensive or defensive, since Darren Sproles in 2004. He is the prime option on a defensive line tipped to be the best in the conference next season and will be playing alongside the likes of sixth-year defensive tackle Eli Huggins and Jaylen Pickle, a fifth-year senior. Khalid Duke and Nate Matlack, a pair of defensive ends, could help take some of the pressure on him too.
Also named on the Preseason All-Big 12 team are junior running back Deuce Vaughn, junior offensive lineman Cooper Beebe, senior kickoff returner Malik Knowles, senior linebacker Daniel Green and senior cornerback Julius Brents.
Vaughn is one of two players who are on the list unanimously and has been touted as a talent who could win the Heisman Trophy at the end of the season. The RB, one of only five Consensus All-Americans returning to college, registered 1,872 yards from scrimmage last season and was one of three players in the nation to put up 1,000 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards.
It will be interesting to see which RB will be working behind him in 2022/23.
The program also boasts transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez, who is the first 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher K-State has had since 2008. Martinez, an athletic QB has more than 10,000 total yards to his name and is likely to form a deadly pairing with Vaughn.
Beebe, meanwhile, was a First Team All-Big 12 team member last season, when he was a sophomore. He became the first offensive lineman to get first-team honors since Dalton Risner in 2016.
Knowles worked for first-team representation last season and is still here, having tied for second nationally among active players on the back of three career kickoff-return TDs and an average per kickoff return of 28.9. The kickoff returner was a Second Team All-American last term and could end his college career as one of the top 10 Wildcats players in his position. He will be among a wide receiving group of returns, including redshirt freshman RJ Garcia II, who could have a breakout season this year.
Green is now widely thought to be one of the best linebackers in the conference, which is really saying something as there were once doubts over whether he would ever play for the Wildcats because of NCAA eligibility issues. K-State will be quite pleased to have this rectified as Green led the team with 89 tackles, including 16 for loss. He received high praise from Klieman at Media Day last week.
“Daniel Green has become really, a great vocal leader on our defense,” the coach told reporters. “Something that we’ve been wanting and asking for over the last semester once we got back from the Texas Bowl. We kind of put some more things on his plate and he’s done a great job of being a leader in the locker room, in the weight room, and on the field.”
The Wildcats are continuing to build backfield depth and are returning two of the best cornerback in the conference in Brents and Ekow Boye-Doe. The former transferred from Iowa ahead of last season and was a starter in all 13 games. He made an interception against Oklahoma during the campaign.
K-State has only finished a season with six All-Big 12 selections three times since the league started its 10-team format in 2011. They had seven such honors in 2012 and won the Big 12 Championship then.