Freeman's departure leaves huge void at KSU

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Bill Snyder's rebuilding job at Kansas State just got a lot more difficult.

Quarterback Josh Freeman told ESPN.com's Joe Schad Thursday that he will declare for the NFL draft. It leaves a giant hole for the Wildcats' new coach as he attempts to bring the program back to the success it had when Snyder led it to a Big 12 championship and 11 consecutive bowl appearances from 1993-2003.

Freeman appeared to have been an ideal quarterback to work in Snyder's system, which always valued big, tough running quarterbacks who could move outside the pocket like Michael Bishop, Matt Miller and Ell Roberson. But that won't happen for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Freeman as he moves on to the NFL.

The Wildcats return a workable nucleus next season keyed by do-everything wide receiver Brandon Banks, sophomore running back Lamark Brown and wide receiver Deon Murphy. Most key players on the defense also return, giving Snyder some talent when he starts coaching again.

But the loss of Freeman was huge. Although the highest-regarded quarterback of the modern KSU era never developed into the player that some recruiting analysts thought when he picked the Wildcats over Nebraska, he still was a solid quarterback. He had a special knack of tormenting Texas, beating the Longhorns in 2006 and 2007.

It means that sophomore Carson Coffman inherits the starting quarterback heading into spring practice. But expect new KSU offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to be beating the bushes the next several weeks in hopes of turning up a junior-college quarterback who could contribute immediately or perhaps even start for KSU.

The North Division appears wide open with no real true favorite next season. Nebraska and Missouri were the two best teams in the division this season and both lose their starting quarterbacks to graduation. Freeman could have helped push the Wildcats into a potential darkhorse role as a North Division challenger if he had stayed.

That now changes without Freeman. It will be a big struggle for Snyder to work his magic and take the Wildcats back to a bowl game.