Kansas State football is coming off a solid 2021 campaign. Can the Wildcats get the most out of transfer additions and take things up a notch?
Head coach Chris Klieman got his team back into bowl form last year. Now it’s time for Kansas State football to make a push for more.
The Wildcats come into the season ranked No. 40 in the FanSided Top 50 Preseason Rankings.
Here’s what you need to know about the team going into the new year.
Kansas State Football 2021 season in review
K-State opened the season 3-0 with wins over Stanford, Southern Illinois and Nevada before being smacked in the mouth at the start of conference play.
They lost to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa State, then rebounded with four-straight victories over Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas and West Virginia.
However, the regular season ended with a whimper as the Wildcats were defeated by Baylor and Texas by a combined 15 points.
A bowl game matchup with LSU gave the team the chance to go out on a high with a 42-20 victory.
Previewing Kansas State Wildcats offense for 2022 season
Returning starters (6): RB Duece Vaughn, WR Phillip Brooks, WR Malik Knowles, TE Ben Sinnott, RT Christian Duffie, LT Cooper Beebe
Notable newcomers: QB Adrian Martinez (Nebraska), WR Kade Warner (Nebraska), WR Jadon Jackson (Ole Miss)
Impact player: Duece Vaughn
The Wildcats already had a 1,400-yard running back in Duece Vaughn and their two leading wide receivers coming back in 2022. Now they have added a veteran quarterback with Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez.
Martinez needed a fresh start after four years with the Cornhuskers and this is his chance to show he brings more to the table than Nebraska ever let him show.
It’ll help that Vaughn will be the focal point of the offense, though the offensive line is losing three starts. On the plus side, All Big-12 first-team LT Cooper Beebe will be there to protect the quarterback’s blindside.
Previewing Kansas State Wildcats defense for 2022 season
Returning starters (7): DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, NG Eli Huggins, DE Nate Matlack, MLB Daniel Green, CB Julius Brents, CB Ekow Boye-Doe, S TJ Smith
Notable newcomers: LB Will Honas (Nebraska), LB Shawn Robinson (Missouri), S Josh Hayes (Virginia), S Drake Cheatum (Prairie View A&M)
Impact player: Felix Anudike-Uzomah
Felix Anudike-Uzomah and his 11 sacks should lead the way for a front seven that returns most of their key figures while adding a couple of transfers.
The linebacker corps can rely on leading tackler Daniel Green with Nebraska transfer Will Honas and Khalid Duke likely taking the other linebacker roles.
The secondary holds some concern after losing All-Big 12 first-teamer Russ Yeast though they added Prairie View A&M safety Drake Cheatum, who is a two-time first-team All-SWAC selection. Cornerbacks Julius Brents and Ekow Boye-Doe are returning starters who need to build on last year.
Kansas State football players awards watch for 2022 season
The Wildcats have five players on preseason watch lists for major national awards.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Lombardi/Bednarik/Outland
Anudike-Uzomah was first-team All-Big-12 in 2021 and is undoubtedly the top defensive player for the Wildcats this year.
Cooper Beebe, Lombardi/Outland
Beebe is one of the best tackles in the Big 12 so he’s definitely in contention for a national award.
Julius Brents, Thorpe
Brents showed real promise last year in his first season with Kansas State after transferring from Iowa.
Deuce Vaughn, Maxwell Award/Walter Camp/Doak Walker
Vaughn led the Big 12 in all-purpose yards with outstanding rushing and receiving ability. He isn’t planning to slow down.
Ty Zentner, Ray Guy
Zentner averaged 43.70 yards per punt in 2021 and is now in the running for the Ray Guy Award.
Kansas State Wildcats biggest game on 2022 schedule
In one sense, it’s Kansas at the end of the season. The Wildcats have a 13-game winning streak to uphold.
However, the Jayhawks are once again predicted to be the worst team in the Big 12, so Kansas State should instead have their eyes on the away game at Oklahoma. It’ll come just early enough in Week 4 to take advantage of the Sooners’ growing pains under new head coach Brent Venables.
KSU played OU close last year. An upset would set quite the tone for the rest of the season.
Kansas State Football best-case scenario
Dreaming of a Big 12 championship is probably a step too far. Still, the Wildcats were 8-5 last year and the arrival of Martinez could yield big dividends for them.
Kansas State hasn’t had a 10-win season since 2012. It could be within the realm of possibility if everything falls into place with the quarterback and the defensive transfers.
Kansas State Football worst-case scenario
Klieman followed up an 8-5 season in 2019 with a 4-6 campaign in 2020. After notching another 8-5 season on 2021, the Wildcats are not so loaded they couldn’t fall off that cliff again.
Injuries to Vaughn and Anudike-Uzomah would be devastating and difficult to overcome. And in the Big 12, the next loss could always come from anywhere, whether via a JT Daniels masterclass at West Virginia or Sonny Dykes getting his offense rolling at TCU.
This team isn’t in danger of dropping to the bottom of the conference but they could certainly miss a bowl game.
Kansas State Football 2022 season prediction
Martinez isn’t going to light the world on fire at KSU. That doesn’t mean he can’t pilot a successful season for the Wildcats by keeping things efficient while leaning on Vaughns and his new receivers.
The defense will create havoc upfront, which will provide a solid foundation for the secondary as they find their feet.
Another 8-5 season is in reach with nine wins dependent on notching an upset when the opportunity presents itself.
Kansas State Football 2022 Bowl Game Prediction
The latest projections from Bill Bender of Sporting News have the Wildcats in the Liberty Bowl against South Carolina.
Up Next: No. 39: Fresno State
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