|J. Pat Carter / Associated Press|
|Ty Zimmerman is the sort of unheralded playmaker who could find a real niche in the NFL.|
Manhattan's modern football miracle continues, as Bill Snyder's second term leading a program of undersized and overlooked recruits and transfers captured another Big 12 title and BCS bowl berth in 2012. That success has rarely produced early-round picks, with corner Terence Newman and wide receiver Jordy Nelson among the few exceptions (Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman was the lone bright spot of the 2006-08 span when Snyder was not at the helm).
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Without a marquee name like linebacker Arthur Brown, (a second-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 NFL Draft), Wildcat prospects will again find Day 3 of the draft their domain, another reminder of just how different the college and professional games can be.
Top senior prospects
OT Cornelius Lucas: Lucas was the anchor of a dominant, balanced attack in 2012, starting every game at left tackle as the Wildcats rolled up 194 rushing yards and 207 passing yards per game. Enormous is the only word to describe the 6-foot-9, 328-pound behemoth who uses that power to great effect. Lucas hasn't been tested on a weekly basis by top-notch pass rushers, so it isn't clear how his protection would carry over to the NFL.
S Ty Zimmerman: Zimmerman is more active than athlete, continuing to deliver impact plays in spite of what appear to be average physical tools. Zimmerman had five interceptions last season (10 career) and recovered two fumbles, with two of those takeaways coming in the road win at Oklahoma. Zimmerman seems like the kind of player who will inevitably slip down draft boards, only to contribute on Sunday.
RB John Hubert: Another undersized but productive Kansas State runner in the mold of Darren Sproles, Hubert offered a nice complement to departed quarterback Collin Klein's powerful approach. He hasn't been used much as a receiver (18 catches for 98 yards last season) and will have to excel there and on special teams to carve out any sort of lasting career.
WR Tyler Lockett: Lockett is an outstanding kick returner (career average of 38.8 yards per return, plus four touchdowns) and deep threat as a receiver. He will get a chance to be the main man in the passing game now that Chris Harper (a fourth-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 draft) is gone. Unlikely to ever put up huge stats in a grind-it-out offense, Lockett could slip under the radar.
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Three must-see games of 2013
Oct. 12 vs. Baylor: Zimmerman is at his best playing centerfield and picking off passes. With Baylor dynamo Lache Seastrunk carrying the ball, Zimmerman's instincts will get a workout off the inevitable play-action shots.
Nov. 16 vs. TCU: Lucas can show he is capable of protecting the blind side in this duel with rising sophomore defensive end Devonte Fields. Fields had 10 sacks last season, but managed just one tackle for loss in a 23-10 Kansas State victory.
Nov. 23 vs. Oklahoma: Against a less-than-vintage Sooners defensive line, John Hubert piled up 130 rushing yards and a touchdown on a season-high 23 carries. The diminutive one will again have to lead the way, keeping the ball away from Oklahoma to create the ugly, defensively oriented result the Wildcats need.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.