October 4, 2006

Freeman leads Wildcat youth movement

Coming off of two straight losses and searching for an offensive spark, Kansas State first-year head coach Ron Prince will find out a little bit more about a few of his young guns when the Wildcats face Oklahoma State on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Prince revealed at his weekly news conference Tuesday that two true freshmen and one redshirt-freshman would make their first-ever starts against the Cowboys.

As two of the five youngest head coaches in Division I-A football prepare to meet for the first time, the 37-year-old Prince, 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big 12, and 39-year-old Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, 3-1, each have seen production from younger players this season. In the Big 12 home opener for K-State, the Wildcats are expected to take their youth movement to another level as true freshman quarterback Josh Freeman, true freshman running back Leon Patton and redshirt freshman right guard Brock Unruh look for their chance to shine in the 2:35 p.m. kickoff.

The seven first-year starters listed on the K-State offense for Saturday will feature three true freshmen, two redshirt freshmen and one sophomore.

"This is a performance issue," Prince said. "Penalties are a big part of it. Protecting the quarterback is a part of it. Putting the ball on the ground is a part of it. Performance is the reason people rise or don't rise in this business. That's the bottom line to it. It's not anything other than that. We're not trying to send a message to anybody. It's just a matter of performance."

Prince's move came as a shock to Patton, who discovered Tuesday afternoon he had supplanted the team's top-returning rusher in 2005 and leading ground gainer through five weeks in senior Thomas Clayton. Clayton has gained 322 yards on 67 carries with three touchdowns, but had a costly fumble in the red zone in the Wildcats' 17-3 loss at Baylor last Saturday.

The mistake was one of several for a Wildcats' offense that coupled with a 24-6 loss to No. 8 Louisville failed to score in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time since 1991.

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