College football countdown: No. 14 Kansas State

Monday, July 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Snyder pushing QB to lift the Wildcats

Most coaches would be content with a returning senior quarterback who produced 2,032 yards and 22 touchdowns last year.

Then there's Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.

Snyder never likes to have a quarterback secure in his position. And last spring's performance by redshirt freshman Ell Roberson gave him the ammunition to fire motivational warning shots over the head of senior Jonathan Beasley.

Beasley was the Holiday Bowl MVP, but by the end of spring practice, Snyder had Wildcats fans worked up about his newest phenom.

"It was important to us that it become competitive," Snyder said of the quarterback job, "but I was aware that there was a substantial gap at the start of spring practice. That gap is not as wide at this time."

That's largely because of Roberson's performance in the team's spring game. He broke a 73-yard touchdown run on the first play, then added a 58-yard touchdown run and a 26-yard scoring pass.

Still, even Roberson can see through Snyder's words and know the job is Beasley's to lose.

"[Beasley] went 11-1 and played hurt the whole year," said Roberson, of Baytown, Texas. "I thought he was a man to go through what he went through."

Despite his obvious successes, Beasley was criticized for his performance in the always-magnified Nebraska game. He was 3-of-19 passing, and the Wildcats lost, 41-15. Because of Snyder's policy of not disclosing injuries, few knew that Beasley was playing with a shoulder so sore that it would require surgery after the season.

In the wake of the criticism, Snyder announced that Beasley was playing hurt - a move he rarely makes. But now that Beasley is healed and the battle for the quarterback position is on, Snyder shows little compassion for his veteran leader.

"Sometimes I feel so sorry for him, I want to apologize," said Roberson of the so-called quarterback controversy at KSU. "He's real good and yet he doesn't seem to get the credit he deserves."

When it comes to credit, Beasley will have the help of talented receivers this fall. Senior Quincy Morgan set a Big 12 record last season by averaging 24 yards per reception (42 catches for 1,007 yards). Aaron Lockett caught 33 passes for 533 yards, and junior Brandon Clark, who missed most of 1999 because of a broken foot, will be another primary target.

Defensively, the Wildcats must replace linebacker Mark Simoneau and all-Big 12 defensive end Darren Howard. The best pass defense, statistically, in the nation last year returns virtually intact. Senior strong safety Jarrod Cooper (6-1, 210) is once again flanked by cornerbacks Jerametrius Butler (5-10, 180) and Dyshod Carter (5-10, 185).

Kansas State Schedule- Aug 26 Iowa (at Kansas City); Sept 2 Louisiana Tech; Sept 16 Ball State; Sept 23 North Texas State; Sept 30 at Colorado; Oct 7 at Kansas; Oct 14 Oklahoma; Oct 21 Texas Tech; Oct 28 at Texas A&M; Nov 4 Iowa State; Nov 11 Nebraska; Nov 18 at Missouri

Kansas State Wildcats Capsule

COACH: Bill Snyder (88-40-1 in 11 years at Kansas State).

LAST YEAR: 11-1 (beat Washington in Holiday Bowl).

OUT: Linebacker Mark Simoneau, the Butkus Award runner-up and leader of the Big 12's best defense last year.

IN: Freshman quarterback Ell Roberson of Baytown, Texas, who could push returning starter Jonathan Beasley for the reins to the KSU offense.

BIG PLUS: Special teams. David Allen is a two-time All-American kick returner, and needs 172 yards to own the NCAA record for punt return yardage. Kicker Jamie Rheem was runner-up in the Lou Groza Award voting last year and was second in NCAA field goal accuracy (18-of-21).

BIG MINUS: As always, a limp non-conference schedule leaves the Wildcats open for criticism. They simply do not play the quality opponents every Saturday, which could quiet their critics.

NATIONAL TITLE IF: The Wildcats must be flawless. Unlike other teams, KSU cannot win a national crown if it has a loss on its record. KSU must win - and convincingly.

BOTTOM LINE: KSU has earned a reputation as a national power, but with its schedule, eyes are already focused on Nov. 11. Nebraska has been the breaking point for this team too many times.

Top 25 So Far

25. Clemson
24. Mississippi
23. So. Miss.
22. Utah
21. Texas A&M
20. Penn State
19. Tennessee
18. Colorado
17. Oklahoma
16. Purdue
15. Illinois
14. Kansas State