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June 13, 2012Chad May. Michael Bishop. Jonathan Beasley. Ell Roberson. Bill Snyder knows the players and teams. He's aware of the feats. As the 2012 Kansas State season approaches, Collin Klein figures to join the group as the only quarterbacks since 1993 to have started in a clear majority of games as both a junior and senior.
It's been a rarity, really.
So excuse the 72-year-old certain lock for the College Football Hall of Fame as he leans back in his office chair and with his fingers massages the end of his chin, as if in contemplation, while staring into space for a moment.
The fact: Starting quarterbacks improve statistically under Snyder between their junior and senior seasons.
The question: How might Klein's growth best be reflected on paper in 2012?
"At the conclusion of the year? Making a comparison between his junior season and senior season? I can't," Snyder said. "There's no way I could honestly project that.
"As I've said so many times, if I could project that I'd be in Las Vegas right now."
"All I know is that he'll do his very best," Snyder said. "Where that takes him and where that takes us remains to be seen."
Snyder knows where this conversation is headed.
"The one thing everybody has to be extremely careful of is it's not a one-man show," he continued. "It's not about Bill Snyder. It's not about Collin Klein. It's about the collective body of people, the assistant coaches, the staff, and players, and it takes everybody."
Klein completed 57.3 percent of his passes for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2011. During his first full season as a starter, the 6-foot-5, 226-pounder established a K-State quarterback record with 1,141 rushing yards, led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 317 carries and rushed for 27 touchdowns, which tied the FBS season record for a quarterback.
Klein, mightily disregarded by reporters at the Big 12 Media Day event last July, finished as an honorable-mention selection by Sports Illustrated and as a first-team All-Big 12 all-purpose performer. Some talk in the offseason suggests he'll enter the fall in the Heisman Trophy discussion. The Sporting News on April 22 listed Klein as the No. 3 player in college football "based upon a combination of on-field performance and next level potential."
K-State comes off a 10-3 season capped by an appearance in the Cotton Bowl -- a 29-16 loss to sixth-ranked Arkansas. The Wildcats finished ranked at No. 16 in The Associated Press final poll.
K-State, when coming off a 10-win season under Snyder and returning no fewer than 12 offense/defense starters, has never finished with fewer than 10 victories in the following season.
But back to the players and their numbers. In May, Bishop, Beasley and Roberson, each made improvement -- some in multiple categories and perhaps across the board -- between their junior and senior seasons as starter.
The following is a compilation of their statistics as a junior and senior.
For reasons unknown, the NCAA didn't begin counting bowl statistics toward individual statistics until the 2002 season. For comparison's sake and in an effort to create a level field, individual bowl statistics, and wins and losses in bowl games, are included here as well. Why omit the 1993 Copper Bowl? And what would the 1997 season be without the Fiesta Bowl?
The numbers are interesting, as will be the discussion as the Wildcats head into the 2012 season.
Snyder reiterates his sentiment.
"Collin could have the same numbers and we could be a miserable football team," Snyder said, "and he could have diminished numbers and we could have a great football team.
"The deal is, you just don't know. The good things that have happened with Collin in terms of numbers, he'd be the first to tell you it doesn't happen just through what he does. It's a team sport and he's very much aware of that and, honestly, he knows. Everybody will say, 'I couldn't do it without my teammates,' but he knows and believes that it wouldn't happen without quality teammates, which is an accurate assessment."
And now a look at some numbers.
Bishop experienced the biggest rate of growth as his completion percentage took a mighty leap while he threw for nearly 1,200 more yards and added nine more touchdowns and tossed one fewer interception from his junior campaign. Meanwhile, Roberson threw for nearly 1,000 more yards and his touchdowns jumped from seven to 24 as a senior.
What jumps out first is the completion percentage. In fact, Klein needed only slightly more than 100 more passing yards to climb above Bishop and sit below May, the first-team All-Big Eight selection and Big Eight Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 1993. Obviously, May's primary threat was through the air. Who can forget when he set the Big Eight record with 489 passing yards at Nebraska? Truth is, Klein put up decent throwing numbers in his first full year as a starter. He gained confidence early in completing 12 of 18 passes for 133 yards and a career high-tying two touchdowns at Miami without throwing an interception. Not bad for a guy who ultimately jumped onto the national scene primarily for his running ability.
With his powerful arm and legs, Bishop obviously was sensational as runner-up to the Heisman Trophy. Bishop took off behind his increased knowledge after a year in the system, which translated into dramatic improvement and patience in the pocket. He threw for 300 yards three times while arguably his best outing was a 23-of-40 effort for 441 yards and four touchdowns against Northeast Louisiana. Bishop didn't suffer an interception in four straight games. That changed against Nebraska. That's OK. He went 19-of-33 for 306 yards and two touchdowns in the historic win. It'll be interesting to see whether Klein can add 1,100 yards to his 2011 total (it would give him 3,000 passing yards in his senior season) and it'll be interesting to observe the rate at which he throws touchdowns and limits interceptions. Bishop's 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 1998 will be hard to beat.
A total of 23 different FBS quarterbacks have rushed for 1,000 yards during a season in the last decade, but nobody has seen a BCS conference quarterback command an offense so repeatedly on the ground to the tune of 24.4 rushes per contest. Until now. Klein led the FBS in rushing attempts and carried the ball more than any Big 12 player since Adrian Peterson had 339 in 2004. Then there's the matter of the 27 touchdowns, which tied the season record by a FBS quarterback. Also of note, K-State is one of only five FBS programs in the last decade (joining Nebraska, Navy, Air Force and Kent State) to have two different 1,000-yard rushers at quarterback in that span.
No K-State quarterback has rushed for 1,000 yards twice in a career. Might that change in 2012? Klein will be a red-letter name on many Big 12 and national record watches. Among them, Klein needs 12 rushing touchdowns to own the FBS record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in consecutive seasons. Northern Illinois' Stacey Robinson (19 in 1989, 19 in 1990) and Heisman Trophy-winning Eric Crouch (20 in 2000, 18 in 2001) currently share the mark with 38.
Again, for reasons unknown, the NCAA didn't begin counting bowl statistics toward individual season statistics until the 2002 season. But for comparison's sake, it would be a crime to wipe away K-State's first bowl victory. Similarly, would the 1997 season have been complete without the milestone win in the Fiesta Bowl? The wins, the losses, they're all a part of the final tabulation here.
A couple items of note: K-State went 11-1 in 1999 but Beasley went 10-1 as a starter that season. He didn't start at Texas. Some might recall that Roberson didn't start the first four games of the 2002 season (Marc Dunn did) and that Roberson didn't play against Eastern Illinois that season. It also remains popular belief among some K-State loyalists that had Roberson not suffered an injury that kept him out against Massachusetts and Marshall during his senior season, the Wildcats could've achieved a school-record 12 wins -- or more -- in their 2003 Big 12 Championship season. As it was, Roberson went 10-3 as a starter that season.
Heading toward the 2012 season, it's worth repeating that K-State, when coming off a 10-win season under Snyder and returning no fewer than 12 offense/defense starters, has never finished with fewer than 10 victories in the following campaign.
No doubt, talented teammates aided May, Bishop, Beasley and Roberson along the way during their junior and senior seasons as starting quarterback. Regardless of preseason projections for the Wildcats -- good, bad, indifferent -- Klein understands he'll receive help as well. And that could very well translate into one of the most successful stints by a starting quarterback during his junior and senior seasons under legendary Snyder.
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