AMES — Bill Snyder’s reign as Kansas State football coach is officially over.
Snyder retired for the second time after last season — he retired once before in 2005 but came back in 2009 — and you have to think this time the retirement will stick now that he’s 79 years old.
Snyder was the only coach in Kansas State history to have anything resembling success. Snyder went 215-117-1 in his career and won two Big 12 championships, one in each of his Kansas State tenures.
Taking away Snyder, Kansas State has an overall record of 316-530-40. Even with Snyder, Kansas State was so bad before he got there that the program still has a sub-.500 record.
Kansas State hired Chris Klieman of FCS juggernaut North Dakota State to take over and try to continue Snyder’s success.
Klieman won four FCS national championships in his five seasons as the North Dakota State coach.
Klieman brought his offensive coordinator, Courtney Messingham, with him to Kansas State. Iowa State fans might remember Messingham from his days as the Cyclones’ offensive coordinator from 2012-2013. Before that, Messingham was a receivers and tight ends coach at Iowa State.
Iowa State had the second-worst offense in the Big 12 in Messingham’s two years as the play caller for the Cyclones. The only team worse was Kansas.
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It’ll be interesting to see if Messingham has learned how to call plays to keep up with the high-powered offenses in the Big 12.
Scottie Hazelton is Klieman’s defensive coordinator. Hazlelton comes to Kansas State by way of Wyoming, where he was also the defensive coordinator. Wyoming had the second-best defense in the Mountain West last season behind only Fresno State. His 2017 Wyoming team led the nation in takeaways, forcing 38 turnovers.
On the field, Kansas State returns starting quarterback Skyler Thompson. In 11 games, Thompson passed for 1,391 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 59 percent of his passes. Thompson was also the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher with 373 yards on the ground in 105 attempts.
Kansas State’s most productive receiver from 2018, Isiah Zuber choose to transfer after last season, so Thompson will need to find a new No. 1 target.
Kansas State lost its most dynamic offensive weapon, running back Alex Barnes, to the NFL Draft so the Wildcats will need to look for a replacement for him. The prime candidates are both graduate transfers. One is North Carolina transfer Jordan Brown, who rushed for 347 yards and three touchdowns on 81 carries last season. The other is Ball State transfer James Gilbert, who totaled 659 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games in 2018.
Kanasas State does return its leading tackler in linebacker Da’Quan Patton. Patton recorded 70 tackles, three tackles for loss and three hurries.
The Wildcats also return their leading sack producer in Reggie Walker. Walker tallied 35 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He also forced four fumbles.
Way-too early prediction: Kansas State’s defense should be a good Big 12 defense in 2019.
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It’s the offense that’s the worry. Messingham hasn’t proven to be a Big 12 play caller and Thompson hasn’t proven to be a Big 12 quarterback. On top of that, Kansas State’s only productive offensive player in 2018 left for the NFL Draft.
Klieman is a good coach who is coming into a near-impossible situation — replacing a legend with a mostly bare offensive cupboard.
Kansas State will be right down there with its Sunflower State neighbor Kansas in the Big 12 cellar.
Iowa State should win this game handily, even though it’s at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
With this win in the final regular-season game, I have Iowa State going 9-3 overall and 6-3 in the Big 12.
Northern Iowa, Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia, Kansas and Kansas State are all games Iowa State should win. Texas Tech could be a tough one, but the Cyclones should win that one too. I have Iowa, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State all as toss-ups and I gave Iowa State the Iowa, TCU and Oklahoma State toss-ups because they’re home games, but I could see Iowa State dropping any one of those. The big dogs — Oklahoma and Texas — are the two toughest games for the Cyclones, but Campbell has shown that he’s able to topple giants. Regardless, this is the best and most well-rounded team Iowa State has fielded in some time, and there is preseason hype to match.
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