August 11, 2006

Saturday storylines

Kansas State will hold its second open practice of the fall on Saturday, and there's sure to be plenty of attention paid to the quarterback spot, which now features just Dylan Meier and Josh Freeman, by both the fans and media in attendance at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Quarterbacks may continue to get the headlines, but there plenty of other storylines worth watching as the countdown to kickoff of the 2006 season continues.

1. Quarterbacks
The departure of sophomore quarterback Allan Evridge has easily been the top story this week, but Saturday the focus will shift to the intriguing battle between Meier, an experienced fifth-year senior, and Freeman, a wildly gifted yet inexperienced true freshman signal caller. Indications point to Meier being the leader at this point, but Freeman will be given every opportunity to push for the top spot, and some believe it's just a matter of time before the 6-foot-6 mountain of a quarterback becomes K-State's starter. Coach Ron Prince has an unknown date set to name a starter at the position; perhaps Saturday's work will figure heavily into that decision.

2. Newcomers
There are plenty of junior college transfers and true freshmen worth watching, but perhaps none more than a pair of transfers along the defensive line. Robert Jackson has reportedly shown all the physical attributes needed to help out immediately at defensive end and should continue his push for playing time on Saturday. The same can be said for defensive tackle Brandon Balkcom, whose blend of spend, athleticism and strength make him a great fit for the three technique senior Blake Seiler has been moved to. That's another position battle worth watching. Also, keep an eye on the reps given to true freshman Leon Patton, not only at running back, but also as a punt and kick return specialist.

3. Offensive line
No position has been harder hit by the now infamous "PUP" list than the offensive line, but with the recent news of Brock Unruh passing the conditioning test only one offensive lineman remains in question. Of course, that lineman is returning starter and team captain Greg Wafford, easily one of the most important players on the offensive side of the ball for the Wildcats. Wafford was on the list last week and still practiced, however, so it will be interesting to see whether or not he's kept on the sidelines if he doesn't pass the test by Saturday's session. Keep a close eye on right tackle and a developing battle between sophomore Gerard Spexarth and redshirt freshman Nick Stringer.

4. Marcus Watts
Speaking of players who practiced last week despite being on the PUP list, Watts worked with K-State's No. 2 defensive unit last Saturday, and it will be interesting to see if the junior safety is elevated back to his spot with the starters after passing the conditioning test this week. Replacement Andrew Erker was solid last Saturday, once picking off Meier in 11-on-11s, but there's no denying the importance of getting Watts back to speed and ready to lead the secondary once again.

5. Special teams
K-State spent a lot of time working on special teams last week - more than one player called last week's session a "special teams practice" - and it's likely that the Wildcats will again focus much of their attention on this key area of the game. As mentioned earlier, look for Patton to work in the return game, but also watch and see if cornerback Justin McKinney continues his work as a return man on kickoffs. McKinney has great speed and seemed comfortable in the return game last week. Is it possible that Patton and McKinney could claim much of the return duties held down by Jermaine Moreira and Yamon Figurs for most of the last two seasons? will once again have full coverage of Saturday's open practice with a photo gallery and notes packages throughout the weekend.

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