Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Xavier Sneed’s return, football predictions and breakfast tacos

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

We have a plethora of great topics to cover this week. So let’s get right to them. Thanks, as always, for your participation.

With Xavier Sneed back and ready to lead the Wildcats as a senior, I think it’s fair to expect 20 wins and a NCAA Tournament appearance next season.

Bruce Weber probably won’t have enough veteran talent to seriously challenge for his third Big 12 championship, but this group could match the accomplishments of any other team he has coached in Manhattan.

I really like the nucleus of Cartier Diarra, Makol Mawien and Sneed.

Sneed should push for all-conference honors. Diarra might have the highest ceiling of anyone on the roster. And Mawien could put up double-double numbers under the right circumstances.

Mike McGuirl and Shaun Neal-Williams also bring potential to the lineup, and, as you mentioned, K-State’s incoming recruiting class looks good on paper. DaJuan Gordon should help immediately. Same goes for David Sloan.

How quickly Montavious Murphy and Antonio Gordon develop could play a key factor. I’m still not quite sure what Weber intends to do at power forward. Does he move Sneed there and go with a small lineup? Or does he keep Sneed at small forward and go with a big lineup?

If Murphy and Gordon can be trusted at the four as freshmen, that will give the Wildcats lineup flexibility and depth.

But Weber struck out trying to find a graduate transfer that could take Dean Wade’s spot in the rotation, so he may need to get creative now. Perhaps moving Mawien to power forward and playing Levi Stockard at center might pay some dividends.

Simply put: I like the look of K-State’s backcourt and have some questions about the frontcourt.

Perhaps that will be good enough for something around a 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Small lineup: Cartier Diarra, DaJuan Gordon, Mike McGuirl, Xavier Sneed, Makol Mawien.

Big lineup: Cartier Diarra, DaJuan Gordon, Xavier Sneed, Montavious Murphy, Makol Mawien.

Creative lineup: Cartier Diarra, DaJuan Gordon, Xavier Sneed, Makol Mawien, Levi Stockard.

The small lineup probably makes the most sense, because it gets the most proven players on the court at the same time. I bet that’s what Weber ultimately goes with. But he will have options thanks to Sneed’s return.

Kansas is back to being the favorite. I doubt anyone will dispute that with Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa and Devon Dotson all coming back next year.

As long as Mitch Lightfoot doesn’t surprisingly transfer over the summer, the Jayhawks are the team to beat.

Texas Tech seems like their main challenger. Yes, the Red Raiders lose a ton. But roster turnover hasn’t stopped Chris Beard from taking them to the Elite Eight and the national championship game the past two years.

Baylor could also make some noise after losing only Makai Mason and King McClure, especially if the Bears stay healthy next year.

K-State probably leads the next tier of teams that also includes Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and TCU.

I guess Oklahoma State and West Virginia will be at the bottom, but the Cowboys have some nice talent returning and you’ve got to think Bob Huggins will find a way to improve the Mountaineers.

The Big 12 could have lots of good teams again next year.

For most of my life this was an easy question to answer. I grew up playing golf and really wanted to be on the PGA Tour when I was a teenager.

But after playing in a few major junior events in different states and experiencing a small taste of what life on the road is like for a competitive golfer that suddenly became less appealing. I also wasn’t anywhere near good enough to make it on tour, so that helped kill that dream. I still like to golf, but spending every waking moment at the course is too much. The people I’ve met while covering pro golf tournaments all seem pretty miserable unless they’re winning. So I’m not choosing golf.

If I had the talent and physical ability to do it, I would love to be a highly paid backup quarterback behind a durable star passer in the NFL. Chase Daniel basically has my dream job. The guy has made millions of dollars while attempting just 154 passes over a 10-year NFL career.

Other than being thrust into action during important games for the Chicago Bears last season, he has walked my ideal pro sports path.

Everyone handles the off season (if you can even call it that anymore) of college athletics differently, and I have used many different methods to come up with summer content before.

This weekly mailbag helps take care of Friday. So thanks again for helping me out with it!

The lack of games gives you an opportunity to get creative, so I try to take advantage of that. At the beginning of May each year I brainstorm some ideas for in-depth stories I don’t have time to work on during the fall. Whenever things get slow, I work on those.

Example: Last year, I wanted to talk to as many people as I could about Blake Seiler and Andre Coleman. They were both first-time coordinators for K-State, but Bill Snyder wouldn’t let me or any other media talk to them. But I had plenty of time to work around that and learned a ton about them anyway.

I’m working on a pair of stories right now that I’m certain K-State fans will enjoy this summer. So stay tuned.

Sadly, it’s been an eternity since I tailgated for anything. Let alone at breakfast time.

But I will happily pretend that I do it every weekend for a chance to discuss my favorite breakfast foods.

Breakfast tacos is the way to go (Pancakes take too much work). You’ve got three main options:

1. Bacon, egg and cheese.

2. Chorizo, egg and cheese.

3. Brisket, egg and cheese.

One of my favorite things about smoking meat in my backyard is using leftover brisket in breakfast tacos throughout the following week. So if you have brisket ready to go, I highly recommend that. Chorizo helps you stand out from the crowd. But nobody complains about bacon. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

When I asked Chris Klieman earlier this week who he liked most at receiver, he rattled off a long list of names that included walk-on sophomore Landry Weber. That makes me think the Wildcats will use a big rotation of receivers next season, making it difficult for anyone to put up huge statistics.

It will be even harder for someone to push for 1,000 yards if they get tight ends involved.

Nine different players were threats to catch a pass in every game at North Dakota State last season, so I would expect something similar at K-State. Seven of them topped 100 receiving yards, but only one eclipsed 400 yards.

That being said, Darrius Shepherd got open often enough to put up colossal numbers -- 62 catches for 1,065 yards and nine touchdowns.

So it’s possible Wykeen Gill, Malik Knowles or Dalton Schoen could finish the season with better stats (52 catches, 619 yards) than Zuber had last season. It would only take 51.6 yards per game.

If anyone can do that on a consistent basis it will be Schoen. The Overland Park senior is a team leader and a dependable receiver. He already has 55 catches for 990 yards and five touchdowns to his name. He’s never been K-State’s top receiver or a deep threat, but he’s sure-handed and knows how to get open. He was Skylar Thompson’s favorite receiver after audibles last season. He clearly trusts him.

Here’s guessing Schoen takes a nice step forward and at least leads the Wildcats in receptions. Gill is more of a deep threat. But Knowles could factor into the equation after he gets healthy.

Let me start by saying I like the look of both Joshua Youngblood and Keenan Garber. They are both great athletes and should help the Wildcats on both special teams and offense as freshmen.

But I’m more excited about Youngblood.

Klieman called him the “steal” of his inaugural K-State recruiting class and I think the Wildcats will find lots of creative ways to get him the ball whenever he’s on the field.

He also rocked an amazing purple suit when he signed with the Wildcats. That should be worth at least a few highlight catches next season.

A 2-10 overall record without a single Big 12 win seems a bit too pessimistic for Chris Klieman’s first season.

Most projections have the Wildcats winning between four and six games, including Athlon Sports, which predicts K-State to go 5-7.

That seems about right to me. As I’ve written in this space before, I can envision anything between 3-9 and 8-4.

With some of the roster hits Klieman has already absorbed, it’s hard to envision K-State challenging for a Big 12 championship in his first year. But I don’t see 2-10 happening, either.

K-State should beat both Nicholls and Bowling Green at home. Baylor, TCU, at Kansas, West Virginia and at Texas Tech all feel like toss-ups. No way the Wildcats lose them all.

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