Five Wildcats named to Preseason All-Big 12 team

By The Mercury

Kansas State received one first-place vote in the Big 12 preseason media poll, but has been tabbed to finish sixth overall in the league — a year after winning the Big 12 title.

Oklahoma State is the favorite to win the league, followed by Oklahoma and TCU. Texas was picked fourth, while Baylor was tabbed fifth, ahead of the Wildcats.

Texas Tech, with first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, was picked to finish seventh. West Virginia came in eighth, head of Iowa State and Kansas, which was last, again.

Being picked in the middle of the pack is not an uncommon occurrence for the Wildcats, as they were picked to finish sixth and eighth, respectively, the last two seasons before responding with a combined 21-5 record during that span.

The 2011 squad went on to finish 10-3 and played in the Cotton Bowl before last year’s record-breaking team finished 11-2, climbed to No. 1 in the national rankings, won the Big 12 championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl.

In advance of Big 12 Media Days in Dallas this coming Monday and Tuesday, the league also announced its Preseason All-Big 12 team.

K-State kick returner Tyler Lockett was named to the team for the second straight season, joining running back John Hubert, offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas, defensive back Ty Zimmerman and punt returner Tramaine Thompson.

The five Wildcats on the Preseason All-Big 12 squad are the most by K-State since at least 2002 and the most of any Big 12 school this season.

A product of Tulsa, Okla., Lockett finished the 2012 season ranked third nationally with a 32.3-yard kickoff return average and a pair of touchdowns. His career average of 33.8 yards is tops among active players, while he ranks second in both Big 12 and K-State history with four career kickoff-return touchdowns.

Hubert, who is also a preseason candidate for the Maxwell Award, ranked fourth in the Big 12 in rushing at 72.8 yard per game last season, while he was third in rushing touchdowns with 15. A two-year starter at running back, the Waco, Texas, product earned All-Big 12 First-Team honors last season from the league’s coaches and enters his senior campaign just 15 yards shy of K-State’s career Top 10 for rushing yards.

Lucas, a senior from New Orleans, La., had a breakout season in 2012 when he started all 13 games at left tackle en route to All-Big 12 First-Team honors from the league’s coaches and second-team accolades from the Associated Press.

A preseason candidate for the Bednarik and Thorpe awards as well as the Nagurski and Lott IMPACT trophies, Zimmerman has turned into one of the most dominant defensive backs in the Big 12. An All-Big 12 performer each of his first three seasons, Zimmerman also earned All-America accolades following the 2012 season in which he registered 50 tackles and picked off five passes. The Junction City native enters his senior campaign in a tie for seventh place in interceptions with 10, while his 146 career interception return yards rank eighth.

Thompson led the nation a year ago with a 19.75-yard punt return average, more than 3 yards per return better than the player in second. He opened the 2012 campaign with a 89-yard punt return touchdown against Missouri State, the longest by a Wildcat in five seasons and the fourth-longest nationally last year.

K-State opens the season on Aug. 30 when it hosts North Dakota State at 7:30 p.m., televised by nationally by FOX Sports 1.

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