Strong and weak: Kansas State Wildcats

This week we’ve been examining at the strongest and weakest position groups for each Big 12 team going into the fall.

We continue with the Kansas State Wildcats:

Strongest position: Special teams

I could have gone in several different directions, as the Wildcats are strong virtually across the board.

They have one of the best receivers in the country in Tyler Lockett, yet the overall group has questions. The offensive line has two big-time players in guard/tackle Cody Whitehair and center BJ Finney, but they are the only two full-time returning starters. The defensive line also has a pair of blue-chip performers in end Ryan Mueller and tackle Travis Britz; depth, however, is a concern. Quarterback Jake Waters was terrific late last season, except his sample size is fairly small.

That’s why I went with special teams as K-State’s strongest unit. On top of being an uncoverable receiver, Lockett is a dynamic kick returner. He was fourth nationally two seasons ago in kick returns, and, despite the increased work at receiver, still ranked among the top 20 last year.

The Wildcats also feature one of the top place-kickers in the country in Jack Cantele, whose older brother Anthony Cantele was an All-Big 12 K-State kicker. The younger Cantele could vie for the same award after a terrific sophomore season in which he missed only two field goals. Against TCU, Cantele converted on all four of his field goal attempts and nailed a game-winning 41-yarder with three seconds remaining. The four field goals were the second-most in a game in school history, and the game-winner was K-State’s first in the final minute in 33 years.

The Wildcats also have a secret special teams weapon in Britz, who led the nation last year with four blocked kicks.

Special teams is K-State’s “X” factor.

Weakest position: Running back

With three-year starter John Hubert gone, running back is really the only weak spot on the roster. But a strong running game could be the difference in whether the Wildcats challenge Oklahoma and Baylor for the top spot in the league.

DeMarcus Robinson had five carries for 11 yards last season, and he’s the veteran of the group. During the spring, neither Robinson nor Jarvis Leverett nor Charles Jones separated from one another in the competition. Robinson sat out the spring game with a minor injury, while Leverett and Jones both failed to break a run for more than 11 yards in the scrimmage. With the competition still muddled, the door could be open for heralded incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack to be a factor once he arrives on campus.

Warmack rushed for 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns and averaged almost 9 yards per carry during his final two years in high school.