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April 6, 2009

Snyder returns to rescue Kansas State again

He did it once. Can he do it again? That's the question most are asking about Bill Snyder, who turned a downtrodden Kansas State program into a national championship contender in his first go-round.

Now, after a brief retirement, he's back again to try to rescue the Wildcats. He can start with finding a quarterback and running back this spring as he lays the foundation for a possible resurgence.

Here's a look at the Wildcats as they prepare for spring practice.

Bill Snyder will try to turn Kansas State into a national championship contender again.
Coach: Bill Snyder
Last season: 5-7, 2-6 Big 12
Spring dates: April 6-May 2
Offense (4): WR Brandon Banks, TE Jeron Mastrud, T Nick Stringer, G Brock Unruh.
Defense (7): E Eric Childs, DL Brandon Harold, FS Tysyn Hartman, SS Courtney Herndon, CB Blair Irvin, CB Joshua Moore, LB Ulla Pomele.
Special teams (1): P D.J. Fulhage.
Positions of strength

Lamark Brown, who started six games at tailback last season, figures to move back to wide receiver with the March departure of Deon Murphy. Brown and Brandon Banks could form a nice duo on the outside. The offensive line returns several players with experience, but the linemen will have to transition to more of a power running system under Snyder. Blair Irvin and Joshua Moore are solid at cornerback.

Help is needed

Throw a dart at the depth chart and it probably will hit an area in need. Running backs, defensive line, linebackers all need an upgrade. But the biggest SOS comes from the backfield. Josh Freeman, an early entry into the NFL draft, leaves a huge void at quarterback. Brown is the leading returning rusher, but he'll likely be catching passes, so running back may be a problem. Fullback is an even bigger problem. Previous coach Ron Prince didn't use a fullback. That position is a mystery. In March, Snyder kicked Murphy and offensive tackle Ed Prince a part-time starter last season off the team, which further depletes the depth.

Keep an eye on

QB Carson Coffman: Coffman, a junior who is the brother of former Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, is the most likely successor to Freeman. He passed for 282 yards as Freeman's backup last season. But redshirt freshmen Collin Klein and Joseph Kassanavoid will challenge him.

DE Jeffrey Fitzgerald: As a sophomore at Virginia in 2007, Fitzgerald had posted 73 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He sat out as a redshirt last season after transferring, and he should take over a starting job.

G Wade Weibert: He appeared capable of starting last season but sat out a redshirt season after transferring in from a junior college. He'll have a great chance to get into the starting lineup this spring.

His time is now

Two years ago, Brown came to Kansas State as a four-star recruit with great expectations. As a freshman, he had three catches as a backup to Jordy Nelson. Last season, he moved to running back. He figures to move back to receiver this spring and needs to show he can flourish there.

The buzz

Snyder's return to coach the Wildcats created quite a stir. This spring, the three-way quarterback competition will be the hot topic around Manhattan. Coffman, Klein and Kassanavoid have to prove they can be an adequate successor to Freeman, and they must do it in an offense that differs from the one for which they were recruited.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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