TAVON ROOKS One of the nation's top juco linemen last year, the offensive tackle chose the Wildcats over new Big 12 rival West Virginia. Rooks is under 300 pounds but is extremely athletic. The junior could be the starting left tackle when the season begins.
Travis Tannahill In his first three seasons the tight end established himself as an outstanding blocker. But this spring the senior emerged as a pass-catching threat and impressed coaches with several highlight-reel grabs. As Klein develops as a passer, Tannahill will be his safety net.
ONCE AGAIN, Bill Snyder has concocted a Big 12 contender out of overlooked recruits and transfers. The current crew features Collin Klein, a wide receiver turned quarterback who tied an FBS record for QBs with 27 rushing touchdowns last year. Middle linebacker Arthur Brown, a Wichita native who returned to his home state after washing out at Miami, heads a unit that improved by 100 yards per game against the run. In 2011 the Wildcats were expected to battle for bowl eligibility; instead they came within a win of the Big 12 title. Their conference rivals will be ready for them. "Did I anticipate last season going exactly as it did? No," says Snyder. "I really have a tremendous amount of respect for the young people in our program."
THE WILDCATS' offense should improve as Klein makes strides as a passer, and thanks to All-America kick returner Tyler Lockett the QB will frequently have favorable field position. While talent is lacking on defense, Brown is good enough to pick up the slack. Last year Kansas State had nine games that were decided by seven points or fewer—and won eight of them. The cast is largely the same in Manhattan, but the Big 12 is different: With Oklahoma and Texas on the rise and West Virginia and TCU joining the conference, replicating last year's success will be a tall order.