Players to Watch: Kansas State

Blanche Schaefer

Defensive back Morgan Burns

Senior defensive back Morgan Burns is a key contributor to the Wildcats’ defense and special teams. He totaled 55 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass breakups last season as a cornerback and averaged 30.7 yards per kickoff return – third in the Big 12. He’s regarded as one of Kansas State’s  fastest players and is building a strong 2015 season. Burns has played in five games and racked up 17 total tackles and five pass breakups. His biggest impact is on special teams. He leads the Wildcats with 341 all-purpose yards, all from kick returns. Burns is averaging 31 yards per kickoff return, the most in the Big 12. Texas’ kickoff-return defense is ranked No. 122 out of 127 FBS teams, allowing opponents to average a little more than 27 yards per return. Burns’ speed and agility could rip through one of the weaker areas of the Texas team Saturday.

Defensive tackle Will Geary

Former high school wrestler and Kansas State walk-on Will Geary is a force to be reckoned with. The redshirt sophomore defensive tackle is a stout 6-foot, 297 pounds and totaled 30 tackles in his debut season last year. He should well surpass that number this season, as he already has 27 tackles through six games. Geary was named to FoxSports’ Bruce Feldman’s preseason ‘Top 25 Freaks in College Football’ list, which spotlights “those guys who are the top workout warriors in the sport or the guys who possess some rare physical abilities that wow folks inside their programs.” Geary could show off those ‘freaky’ physical abilities against a Texas offensive line that’s had some struggles this season.

Quarterback Joe Hubener

Junior quarterback Joe Hubener stepped into the starting role after then-starter Jesse Ertz injured his knee in Kansas State’s season opener against South Dakota. Ertz left the game after only two snaps, and Hubener led the Wildcats to a 34-0 win with 147 yards and one touchdown pass. Hubener has settled in as a starter, amassing 866 yards and throwing four touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 240 yards and six touchdowns. Hubener still shows signs of inexperience, however. He’s thrown four interceptions and cost Kansas State a potential upset when he fumbled in the final minute of a 52-45 loss to No. 4 TCU. He was benched in the second half of a 55-0 blowout loss to Oklahoma last weekend. Senior receiver Kody Cook took over under center and both quarterbacks combined to throw for 45 yards and three interceptions, completing just 5-of-22 passes. Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder is “not sure yet” who will start against Texas. Hubener put up 268 yards of total offense and four touchdowns against the same TCU team that embarrassed the Longhorns 50-7. Hubener poses a threat if Texas’ defense performs the way it did against TCU three weeks ago.

Running back Justin Silmon

Freshman running back Justin Silmon began the season at the No. 2 spot on the Kansas State depth chart. He’s now the Wildcats’ leading rusher and top running back since making his debut in Week 1 against South Dakota with 51 yards on six carries. He’s rushed for 285 yards this season with two touchdowns. Silmon ran for a season-high 119 yards on 24 attempts in a 39-33 triple-overtime win against Louisiana Tech. Texas’ defense continues to improve each week and will need to be on its A-game to prevent Silmon from breaking through.