As Thursday's Fiesta Bowl game versus No. 5 Kansas State rapidly approaches, DuckTerritory examines five Wildcat players Duck fans should acquaint themselves with before kickoff. Below is all the pertinent information you will need to identify the biggest weapons on both offense and defense for Oregon’s opponent heading in to the big game.
Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein is the blood and guts for the No. 5 Wildcats.
5. #3 CB Allen Chapman - SR - 5'11", 176 lbs. - San Francisco (Calif.) City College of San Francisco via San Jose (Calif.) Oak Grove and #24 CB Nigel Malone - SR - 5'10", 180 lbs. - San Francisco (Calif.) City College of San Francisco via Manteca (Calif.) Sierra
Oddly enough, despite being junior college transfers, Chapman and Malone have been teammates on the gridiron for the past four seasons dating all the way back to their beginnings at JUCO power, City College of San Francisco. Both natives of the Bay Area, Chapman and Malone seem to mirror each other in virtually every way. The two players are similarly sized and both have notched five picks a piece this season, helping Kansas State rank tied for second in the Big 12 Conference in total interceptions (18). Their efforts, combined with those of All-Big 12 First Team safety Ty Zimmerman who had five interceptions in 10 games before suffering a leg injury that sidelined him for the Wildcats' final two, should allow Kansas State to matchup favorably with the Oregon wide receivers in the Fiesta Bowl.
4. #3 WR Chris Harper - SR - 6'1", 234 lbs. - Wichita (Kan.) Northwest and #16 WR Tyler Lockett - SO - 5'11", 175 lbs. - Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington
Oregon fans are no doubt well schooled on the exploits of former Duck Chris Harper; the former quarterback turned wide receiver who transferred from Eugene to Manhattan to seek an opportunity to be the signal caller closer to home at Kansas State. Though that dream never came to fruition for Harper, the senior has found his groove and is currently playing the best football of his career. With 50 receptions for 786 yards and three touchdowns to his name this season, Harper is the team's leading receiver, good enough for All-Big 12 Second Team honors. Standing 6'1", 234 lbs., Harper's speed, strength, and athleticism comes in an interesting package, however he has established himself as arguably Kansas State's next best weapon on offense behind quarterback Collin Klein. Lockett continues a legacy of talented wide receivers from his family going on to play for head coach Bill Snyder and Kansas State. His father Kevin became the school's all-time leading receiver in the mid-1990's and his uncle Aaron is the school's fourth most productive receiver of all-time and it's second best player in terms of career punt-return yardage. Speedy and a threat to break the big play at any moment, Lockett is Kansas State's version of Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas. Lockett's 40 receptions for 657 yards and four touchdowns make him the team's second leading receiver, but his 33.3 yards per return and two touchdowns as a kick returner are the best in the Big 12.
3. #42 DE Meshak Williams - SR - 6'3", 245 lbs. - Hutchinson (Kan.) Hutchinson Community College via Sylvester (Ga.) Worth County
In his first season at the Division I/FBS level in 2011, Meshak Williams showed no signs of trouble transitioning from JUCO to Big 12 competition. His seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss were the highest such single-season totals in three years at Kansas State, earning Williams All-Big 12 Second Team honors. Yet, as good as Williams was last season, the Georgia native has been even better in 2012. This season, the senior led the Big 12 in sacks (9.5) and ranked fourth in the conference in tackles for loss (13.5), procuring Williams recognition as the Big 12's Defensive Lineman of the Year to go along with All-Big 12 First Team honors. A strong and relentless pass rusher, Williams will draw plenty of attention from blockers when Oregon is on offense, perhaps allowing fellow defensive line cohorts Adam Davis and Vai Lutui to have standout performances in Glendale.
2. #4 LB Arthur Brown - SR - 6'1", 231 lbs. - University of Miami via Wichita (Kan.) East
Heralded as one of the top linebackers in the entire country coming out of high school in 2008, Arthur Brown enrolled at Miami where he played two seasons before transferring to Kansas State in 2010. After sitting out all of the 2010 season, Brown made an instant impact in his first year as a Wildcat in 2011, tallying a team-leading 101 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, securing All-Big 12 First Team recognition. Though his stats are a bit off from their marks last season, Brown's influence on the Kansas State defense has remained the same, if not improved. An athletic sideline-to-sideline linebacking terror, Brown brought home the award for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and is once again leading the Wildcats in tackles with 91. Leading up to the game, no opposing player has been mentioned more (outside of Klein, of course) by the Oregon players and coaching staff than Brown. Knowing where the playmaking No. 4 is lined up at all times on Thursday will be of paramount concern for the Ducks.
1. #7 QB Collin Klein - SR - 6'5", 226 lbs. - Loveland (Colo.)
Whether it's through the air or on the ground, senior quarterback Collin Klein is the heartbeat of this Kansas State team. Coming off a stellar 2011 season which saw Klein post a litany of school records and earn numerous All-Big 12 honors, Klein had a truly transcendent year in 2012, finishing the season third in Heisman Trophy balloting and helping elevate Kansas State to a No. 1 ranking in November, their first since 1998. Though not blessed with an especially strong arm or tremendous speed and athleticism, Klein wills his team to victory perhaps better than any player in college football since Tim Tebow. Klein's 194 carries and 22 rushing touchdowns leads the Wildcats this season, however his 2,495 yards through the air and 15 touchdown passes are rather pedestrian compared to other Big 12 quarterbacks. These things mean little though when compared to Klein's ability to lead this team. He may not "wow" you physically, but as long as Collin Klein is on the field, the Kansas State Wildcats are fully capable of beating anyone, anywhere.