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Kansas State QB Will Howard lands on O’Brien watch list, Beebe candidate for Outland


By Michael Goens


MANHATTAN, Kan. ( – Five holdovers remain from Coach Chris Klieman’s first signing class at Kansas State, which was during leadup to the 2019 season. One of those is Cooper Beebe, and the fifth-year senior was not a heralded recruit out of Piper High School. Beebe was not only billed as a defensive lineman by most recruiting services, neither was Beebe among the state’s best 10 recruits. The Wildcats struck good fortune with Beebe and No. 12-ranked Kansas player Taylor Poitier, who combined expect to give the team a 2023 foundation at offensive guard.

Beebe especially has exceeded all expectations and landed on four publications’ first-team All-America lists for his play during 2022. The Kansas City, Kan., native via Piper will bid for his third all-Big 12 mark and to be a lead contender for the Outland Trophy award, which recognizes the nation’s best interior lineman. K-State Kaitori Leveston was also a watch list selection.

Nearly one month ago, five Wildcats were chosen to the 2023 preseason All-Big 12 team led by Beebe. GoPowercat categorizes all of the preseason Watch List potential spread along the K-State roster. The Wildcats are defending Big 12 champions and picked to finish second by a media panel. Kansas State opens the 2023 season Sept. 2 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium against Southeast Missouri State.


The returning offensive lineman of the year will likely be a two-time Wildcat captain when those players are named, Beebe has been a four-year staple and twice named all-conference, once at left tackle and last season at left guard. Beebe’s joined on the Big 12 preseason offensive unit by H-back/tight end Ben Sinnott. Running back transfer Treshaun Ward via Florida State was named the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer on the preseason team, with Phillip Brooks as a special teams extraordinaire. On defense, safety Kobe Savage was listed on the preseason team after a three INT season in 2022.


Brooks is an electric return man and in 2022 enjoyed his best season as a slot receiver. He needs three punt return scores to match David Allen’s career mark set in 1997-2000. Brooks also needs 12 yards to become the 18th Wildcat to record 3,000 all-purpose yards, a club that Malik Knowles joined in 2022. His first TD catch of the 2023 season will be the 10th in Brooks’ five-year career.

The award is named after Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung and rewards a player’s versatility. Hornung was quarterback, halfback and placekicker for Notre Dame, where he won the 1956 Heisman and went on to be a Hall of Famer with the Green Bay Packers.


Two seasons have made quite a difference for Ben Sinnott, who opened the 2021 season with a large cast on his left arm to protect an elbow injury. That in part held the Waterloo, Iowa, native to a five-game, two-catch redshirt freshman season. Sinnott slammed the Oklahoma Sooners for a four-catch game that set the stage for a late season unveiling where he snagged four TDs and amassed much of his 447 yards in 2022. Sinnott is one of 48 candidates, six in the Big 12 and the first Wildcat TE since Dayton Valentine (2017) to be an award nominee.


Any team’s long-snapper is living the good life when he’s leading a life of anonymity. Such is the case, even for a colorful Wildcat, scooter-riding Randen Plattner. This is the second consecutive season that Plattner is nominated for the Patrick Mannelly Long Snapper of the Year award. Plattner from Parkville, Mo., reached the semifinal level in 2022 and ahead of this season is one of 25 candidates.

He’s a three-year starter on all long snaps and was the team’s primary center for field goals and extra points dating to Kleiman’s initial season in 2019. The first-team academic player is a mechanical engineering graduate.


The eyes of Wildcat Nation fall upon Will Howard, who is already a top-15 yardage passer for the program and in 2022 produced the eighth-best average per game yardage in K-State history. Two previous K-State quarterbacks – Michael Bishop (1998) and Collin Klein (2012) have been finalists for the Maxwell Award, and Howard marks a continuous string of K-State players listed for the award dating to the 2018 season. One dozen other Big 12 players are on the Maxwell watch list.


The Wildcats have had award candidates in 12 of the last 13 seasons for the Bronko Nagurski award that honors the nation’s most outstanding defender. Savage was a 2022 revelation for the Wildcats and made three tackles for loss to supplement his three interceptions. Savage was a four-game absentee due to injury that shuffled the deck in the K-State secondary, and his absence was notable. The senior strong safety is in his second year at Kansas State after his transfer from Tyler Junior College in Texas.


The Davey O’Brien Foundation announced last Tuesday that Howard would be the first K-State preseason candidate since Jesse Ertz in 2017. The Wildcats have had two finalists for the top QB award with 1998 winner Michael Bishop and 2012 finalist Collin Klein. Jake Waters made it to 2014’s semifinal level. Howard will be a starter going into a season for the first time in his four years on campus at MHK. Howard has passed for 3,132 yards in his career out of Downington, Penn. His three-game, 200-yard start streak was snapped in the Big 12 Championship when he posted 18 of 32 completions for 199 yards and two scores. Howard is a 16-game starter who has passed for 16 TDs, 5 INTs since his nine-game freshman season in 2020.


No Wildcat has ever emerged from among the preseason candidates to go further into the award list presented to the nation’s top interior lineman. Dalton Risner, Will Geary and Cody Whitehair have been recent K-State players on the preseason list. Beebe received a fair amount of 2022 preseason notice though he had played first right tackle and then left tackle before he was afforded the opportunity to move to his “natural” position inside. Beebe is a destructive force at left guard and leads a K-State offensive line group that returns every starter, which included KT Leveston at left tackle and another Outland nominee. Taylor Poitier returns to the mix after two seasons away with injury, while should he return from injury, Christian Duffie holds down right tackle with Hadley Panzer in the right guard spot and Hayden Gillum at center. Each of the Nagurski and Outland awards are presented by the Football Writers Association of America.


Savage is a highly important returner in the Wildcat secondary. He plays the strong safety position with vision and high intellect on a unit where K-State lacks a great deal of experience in the 2023 season. The secondary suffered after Savage’s injury exit during the Baylor game in 2022, a game in which Savage made his third pick of the season for the Cats. “Kobe is the unquestioned leader in that group,” Klieman said this week, “just because of the way he played and him practicing all the time now.” Savage comes off an ACL tear when the Wildcats make their Sept. 2 debut against SEMO. In 2002, Terence Newman became K-State’s first national defensive player to claim an award when the Salina native won the Thorpe.


Ward has rushed for just short of 1,150 yards in the last two seasons at Florida State, where he was the lead ball carrier and split much of the backfield action for the Seminoles. The Tampa native made a Jan. 3 portal move to play for the Wildcats, just after junior RB Deuce Vaughn announced his intent to declare for the NFL Draft. Ward has averaged 6.6 ypc for his 25-game college career and totals 12 TDs. Darren Sproles was a 2003 finalist for the award that recognizes the nation’s top running back.


Howard is a two-time nominee for the Wuerffel, which honors a player who makes a positive impact on society and inspires greater worldwide service. The award dates to the 2015 season and K-State players have been candidates each of those seasons. Previously in the Chris Klieman era, Skylar Thompson (2020-21 and Denzel Goolsby (2019) have been on the Wuerffel nomination list.