Tag Archives: Bill Snyder Kansas State

Snyder remembers

23 Oct

Every now and again, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder will dodge a question by claiming forgetfulness. Though I’m somewhat skeptical, it might be true that the 73-year-old can no longer recall every detail of every game of the last 20-some years.

What he does remember are people.

On Tuesday I asked Snyder if he remembered a guy by the name of Jaime Mendez, a safety who played four years for the Wildcats beginning in 1990 – the year this senior in college was born. Needless to say, it has been a while since Mendez was on campus.

Except it really hasn’t. Snyder saw Mendez just a couple weeks ago, when the former player stopped by for a visit while in town.

“I remember an awful lot about him,” Snyder said. “He was not only a very talented player for us, came out of Ohio, young guy that just came here and does all the things we like for him to do, played extremely well for us, was a very successful player, is in the Ring of Honor up here, consensus All-American. He moved out to California, in fact married a very successful actress, has started his own business and has done quite well, and I still appreciate him.”

***

Players are not the only ones Snyder appreciates. All coaches credit fans for their support, but Kansas State’s coach does so with unmatched fervency and sincerity.

He talked Tuesday about the fans but also praised the football team’s support staff, naming several individuals representative of everyone inside the program, whose contributions few on the outside ever realize. These are the people who make the road trips go off without a hitch, who make the arrangements so the Wildcats get the consistency prior to each game that Snyder considers so vital.

The coach talked in particular about the journey to West Virginia, which he described as one of the most complex trips to organize. Upon arrival, Kansas State was greeted by Robert Lipson, who has been to every home game and conference road game since 1972.

Lipson might be described as something of an oddball, being so dedicated to the Wildcats that year after year after year he drives to every contest and sleeps in his car when he gets there.

As is evident by the year he began following the team, however, Lipson believed in Kansas State long before anybody else did. He supported the program long before the Wildcats gained national attention, and in fact, he remained a fan even while the program went through one of the most futile stretches in its history.

Snyder has not forgotten that loyalty.

“Who do I see when I get to the hotel? Robert,” Snyder said, then paused. “And everybody laughs. Bottom line is, he has a passion for it, and it means something to him. Young people, all of us, myself included, we need to have a great appreciation for that, someone who shows that kind of passion for what you do and makes the kind of sacrifices. Robert probably has the first car ever made, and it probably is on its last leg, and you can imagine … very meaningful.”

***

People matter to Snyder.

Tuesday might have been the only time I’ve heard him come close to raising his voice, and the brusqueness came in support of one of his players. A reporter asked the coach if quarterback Collin Klein is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. The coach had shot down the question in previous media sessions as an unfair one because Snyder does not watch film on all the other players out there who are being considered for the award. This was his response:

“I think Collin Klein is worthy of anything that he receives,” Snyder said with conviction. “He is an absolutely wonderful young man, a tremendously talented player. I haven’t seen all the people in the country. I can’t do that. If I’m going to vote, I’m going to vote on what I see, and I’ve seen him to be as fine a player as anybody.”

For as much success as he has had on the football field, the lasting legacy of Klein will not be winning the Heisman Trophy or even quarterbacking his team to a national title, if indeed the Wildcats continue their undefeated streak. Klein will be remembered for the person he is and for how he values other people.

For Snyder, it is the same.

The bond between coach and quarterback is often a strong one, but you won’t find many people more united in their values and mission than Bill Snyder and Collin Klein. (Photo from K-State Sports)

Harper describes change in program since Snyder’s return

23 Oct

Kansas State has enjoyed so much success this year and last year that it is easy to forget the depths from which the program has risen since coach Bill Snyder’s return in 2009. Following Ron Prince’s three-year tenure, the team went 6-6 and missed out on a bowl berth. The new staff – led by the legendary Snyder – had many problems to address.

Certainly, the 7-0 record of the Wildcats to this point in time would indicate that those issues have been dealt with.

There are plenty of numbers about time of possession, turnover margin and penalty yardage that speak to the fact that Kansas State is a disciplined group. Kansas State has the fewest penalties of any team in the country (24 total), leads the Big 12 in turnover margin (+12) and ranks in the top of the conference in time of possession.

But on Tuesday, wide receiver Chris Harper took a good amount of time to describe a culture change beyond statistics.

“When [Coach Snyder] first got here, we were terrible,” Harper said. “We sucked, and it was because we didn’t put the work in. Our work ethic sucked, the discipline and all that.”

Suffice it to say that some of the players on the team when Snyder returned did not live up to the high standards Snyder has for his athletes as individuals. Harper said there were some players who “were in trouble” – guys who wouldn’t even think about going to classes or who went out to Aggieville after games and winded up getting arrested.

According to Harper, those are not problems Snyder has to deal with anymore. Besides the expectations of Snyder and his staff, the players in leadership positions – the names of captains Collin Klein, Arthur Brown, B.J. Finney and Ty Zimmerman come to mind just for starters – will not stand for that kind of behavior.

“The program’s shifted,” Harper said. “There’s a total shift now in the discipline and the work ethic  … That comes from internal leadership too. You’re not just going to be held accountable from the coaches. You’re going to be held accountable from the players, and I think that’s something that matters, and that’s something that’s really big.”

Kansas State ranked behind five Big 12 teams in AP poll

18 Aug

One step forward, two steps back. The Wildcats finally received a little recognition, a bit of the benefit of the doubt in national polls … only to be listed the lowest of all teams from their conference.

After going 10-2 in the 2011 regular season and earning a berth in the Cotton Bowl, Kansas State received a modicum of respect. This year, voters for both major preseason polls – Associated Press and USA Today – placed Kansas State in the nation’s top 25. The Wildcats are No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 21 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.

What is somewhat surprising, though, at least to this writer, is how many Big 12 teams have been ranked above Kansas State – Oklahoma at No. 4, West Virginia at No. 11, Texas at No. 15, Oklahoma State at No. 19 and TCU at No. 20.

Last season the Wildcats defeated Texas and nearly defeated the hot-as-all-get-out Cowboys in Stillwater. Kansas State did not play West Virginia or TCU in 2011, but both those teams come to the Big 12 from conferences not nearly as well represented in the Top 25 … meaning the level of competition they faced each week was significantly lower for them than it was for the Wildcats.

Oklahoma is justified, sure, but Oklahoma State is minus its unearthly tandem of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, and Texas is 13-12 over the last two seasons.

I am not saying Kansas State should be in the Top 10 or anything – not yet, anyway – but it seems to me a bit of a stretch to project that there are five teams better than the Wildcats in their own conference. Time will tell, of course, but watching Kansas State’s unprecedented run last season made me a believer.

With Bill Snyder at the helm, Collin Klein and Arthur Brown emerging into bigger leadership roles than ever in their senior seasons, and more returning players than the Wildcats have had in years, I would think this is the season you go out on a limb and give Kansas State an edge over some of its flashier opponents.

Of course, maybe the slight of being picked to finish sixth in the 10-team Big 12 will do the Wildcats good. After all, they certainly flourished in the underdog role last season.

In the preseason polls of 2011, coaches picked the Wildcats to finish eighth in the Big 12. As mentioned countless times later on, Kansas State finished the season No. 8 in the country. Poll, schmoll.

The Quick Wit of Coach Snyder

29 Nov

Kansas State’s Bill Snyder has a reputation for being not the most forthcoming or scintillating interview subject. He is not a big sharer of specifics, and he can skillfully circle a topic until a reporter has forgotten the original question. Most of Snyder’s answers are true but vague responses that go back to the fundamentals of the game, team sports and life in general. To be fair, those are constant, and Snyder has been answering the same questions about football teams for decades now.

What most outside the weekly press conferences miss out, though, is this: Snyder is funny.

Today’s little quirky responses reminded me of the first time I encountered the Snyder wit.

I was a freshman in college, 18 years old and probably the only girl and the youngest person in the room. I could literally feel my pulse quicken as I prepared to ask the legendary coach a question. The response I got made such an impression that I actually transcribed it, along with the exact wording of my question, and I found it saved on my computer today.

I got a kick out of it, and I figure some others might as well.

“Coach, could you tell us about your decision to use Gregory in the fourth quarter and then why you put Coffman back in after that possession?”

“Well, you may remember Coffman was laying on the ground, flat on his back, and you can’t take snaps from there.” – Oh yes, the entire room is snickering now. –  “I didn’t mean that to sound rude. Anyway, we needed to take him out, and when Grant went in the ball game, and he did some good things, and then Grant, er uh Carson, had cramps and he had managed the ball game up to that point in time, very critical period of time, very critical drive, and just having the experience, back on the field, the experience of the game. Had that same thing taken place in the second quarter of the ball game, we probably would have gone longer with Grant. We put him back in, he came back in after that, finished that last drive and got a very critical—Carson got a very critical first down when he brought it out of the pocket and Grant got a very critical first down for us that one, so both of them did something special in the ball game.”

As you can see, he took an opportunity to make a joke, but he also followed up with a sincere answer. This is Snyder’s modus operandi. The vast majority of the time, if he pokes fun at a question, he apologizes and then gives a more quotable response.

All in all, though, it’s good to see that after 50+ years in the business, he still has a sense of humor and is not afraid to use it.

Kansas State’s Midterm Evaluation

19 Oct

It’s already past the midpoint of October, and just like that, the Wildcats are 6-0 and bowl eligible. Here’s a look at what they’ve done so far and what they’re going to need to do moving forward.

Mentality The team has really embraced this underdog persona. They might be favored in a few games, but both cornerback Nigel Malone and defensive end Jordan Voelker said the Wildcats always have a chip on their shoulder, regardless of the opponent, simply because many people did not expect this team to amount to much in general. That source of  sustained motivation is important, especially with “should win” games against KU, Iowa State and Texas still coming up. At the same time, I think the players genuinely believe in head coach Bill Snyder’s methodology and the preparation he puts them through, and that gives them confidence that they really can win any game. Obviously, that confidence and faith in each other is essential if the Wildcats plan on knocking off Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and/or Texas A&M.

Offense What Kansas State does with the football might not excite people right off the bat. That’s okay, though, because the results are exciting. In a league full of fast-moving, quick-scoring teams, the Wildcats’ attack is more measured, more methodical, and so far, pretty effective. While head coach Bill Snyder said the offense needs to be more prominent than it is now, he joked that the unit’s goal is to score more points than the team’s defense gives up, so up to this point, the offense has met its goals. The rushing game has been effective so far, largely because the Wildcats have a one-two punch between running back John Hubert and Klein. Both are averaging nearly 100 yards per game on the ground.

Going forward, the Wildcats need to develop a stronger passing attack. As quarterback Collin Klein continues to pile up repetitions, he becomes more accurate and makes better decisions. It looks like Snyder has cracked the playbook just a little bit more in recent weeks, but against meatier opponents with more seasoned defenses, Kansas State will need all cylinders firing.

Defense Easily the team’s most reputable unit so far, this group has been fun to watch. They like what they’re doing. The enthusiasm, passion and enjoyment of playing have made the Wildcats even more focused and disciplined. Simply stated, this is the area no one outside of the team is worried about. If there is one thing I would nitpick, it would be the secondary getting burnt on long pass plays. As Snyder says, this is bound to happen from time to time, but 10 different Texas Tech receivers had a catch of 10 or more yards on Saturday. That makes me worry a bit about what will happen when the Wildcats play Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Special teams This group has been inconsistent. (As Snyder says, his son Sean, special teams coach, would be pulling his hair out if he had any hair.) Last week specifically, it performed tremendously. There’s not much more you can ask for than a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and two blocked field goal attempts. A less glamorous aspect of that game was the kickoff coverage team, which made Texas Tech start an average of 79 yards from the end zone on their five drives that began with kickoff returns.

Like everything, improvement needs to be made, particularly by the punt return unit, but the potential here is high – think Tramaine Thompson, Tyler Lockett and David Garrett.

 

Kansas State vs. Texas Tech: The Breakdown

16 Oct

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

Is it really fair to keep calling the Wildcats underdogs? Week after week the line favors the other team, and week after week Kansas State finds a way to triumph. It makes many mistakes, it misses opportunities here and there, but the coaches and players overcome all that. The result? The team’s first 6-0 season since 2000, when many of the college juniors – like myself – on this year’s team were just 10 years old.

On Saturday, the Wildcats took on the Red Raiders in Lubbock. They had not won there since 1997. They hadn’t beat Texas Tech in the last five seasons. But yesterday, Kansas State did exactly that, 41-34. The team won the game and bowl eligibility even though it gave up 30 points  – only the second time that has happened in a conference road game since 1989.

During his on-field interview at the conclusion of the game, coach Bill Snyder lamented the inconsistencies of the team across the board and pointed out times the Wildcats could have put away the ball game but did not. At the end, however, he did concede this:

“A lot of it was good.”

For example, Nigel Malone’s pick-six to start the game – not the worst way in the world to grab some momentum and put a hostile crowd on its heels. Of course, two more interceptions – one by Tysyn Hartman, another by David Garrett – boosted this defense’s credentials even more. On special teams – long an emphasis of Snyder squads – the Wildcats had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Tyler Lockett, son of his school’s all-time leading receiver Kevin Lockett. (For more on Tyler, check out my AP article on him.) Oh, and Raphael Guidry blocked not one, but two field goal attempts by the Red Raiders. Offensively, there weren’t massive fireworks, but the Wildcats did score 41 points while amassing just 339 yards of offense … as opposed to Texas Tech’s 461 passing yards and 580 total yards.

Like Snyder said, though, it was not a perfect performance by any measure. The coach values discipline, and the Wildcats committed 10 penalties for 78 yards, including multiple false starts. He also wants the team to preserve a “bend but don’t break” mentality and avoid giving up the big plays that will really sink the ship. While it could be argued the Wildcats did ultimately accomplish that, the secondary got torched on several huge pass plays – including the 40-yard strike that got the Red Raiders their first six points – and the defense allowed nearly 600 yards of offense. Also, kicker Anthony Cantele missed on the extra point attempt that followed Lockett’s touchdown, and he couldn’t convert on a 31-yard field goal attempt with under five minutes to play.

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

With those pros and cons listed, here are some quick thoughts and final takeaways:

  • Can we go ahead and recognize what a talented quarterback Collin Klein is? Completing 12 of 18 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown is something that will catch Heisman voters’ attention, by any means, but stats mean a heck of a lot less than wins do. For example, Texas Tech’s Seth Doege connected on 43 of 63 passes for 461 yards, but he had 3 interceptions, and the Red Raiders lost. Plus, with Klein’s 110 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, he has numerically moved into the same conversation as Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson, the only other two Kansas State quarterback to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Klein now has 1,002.
  • Texas Tech had 10 receivers who caught a pass of 10 or more yards. Four of those caught one for more than 15 yards. Two of those caught one for 40 or more yards. Obviously, defenses will give up a big play now and then, and those big plays are much more likely to be pass plays than run plays. But giving up 461 yards through the air is not something the Wildcats can afford to do long term. Shoring up the secondary will be key to beating teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, whom Kansas State faces in back to back weeks on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.
  • Of course, since the AP now has Kansas State ranked No. 12 in the nation, that whole “underdog” persona might be difficult to hold on to, at least next week when the Wildcats face the poor, hapless Jayhawks. Obviously, the team should not overlook anyone, but if there was any team Kansas State could overlook and get away with it … Wait a minute, remember Eastern Kentucky? Better not to underestimate anyone.

Happy 72nd Birthday to Bill Snyder

7 Oct

Coach Snyder discusses a play with an official during the Baylor game. (Photo by Charlie Riedel / AP)

Since the Kansas State coach only takes time to eat twice a day, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be spending much time celebrating his birthday today, particularly with a game against a deceptively capable 2-2 Missouri team happening tomorrow.

On Tuesday, he acknowledged this. With a wry laugh, he said that Friday would consist of meetings … nothing birthday-related. Still, even if his birthday doesn’t excite him very much, you know other people want to tease him and congratulate him about it. That got me thinking – What would be a good present for Bill Snyder?

I started pondering all the different aspects of the game and life – because most of the principles he endorses are tied to both – that seem to make him happiest: family, constant improvement, discipline, and winning. While he doesn’t talk about that last one in such passionate terms as the others, I noticed that on Tuesday he wore a bright purple tie instead of the demure, pale yellow one he usually sports for press conferences. With a bit of poetic license, I interpret that as his optimism/excitement about the success this season’s team has had.

Anyway … combining all those elements … I think I’ve come up with an acceptable present for Coach Snyder:

A win in which the Wildcats 1) get more yardage than they’ve amassed against comparable opponents this season while giving up less, 2) commit no penalties or turnovers because everyone is in the right place at the right time, and 3) display tremendous morale and support for each other throughout the game.

KSU Game 2: Previewing the Golden Flashes

16 Sep

At 6:10 in Bill Snyder Family Stadium tomorrow, the Wildcats will take on the Golden Flashes. It will be Kent State’s first ever visit to Manhattan. While the team began its season 0-2, it also turned Alabama over five times during its season opener, and it has not begun a season 0-3 since 2000.

Ignore for a minute the fact that Kent State is part of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). Believe it or not, this team has one of the elite defenses in the country. Last year, it ranked 10th overall, allowing on average only 306 yards of offense per game. Even after the departure of the defensive coordinator and four players to the NFL, the Golden Flashes got five turnovers off of Alabama and held Louisiana (their second opponent) to only 179 yards of offense. That’s the fifth time in a span of 14 games in which Kent State has held an opponent to under 200 total yards of offense.

I don’t care who you are. That’s impressive.

The big name on the Kent State defense, of course, is Roosevelt Nix, who last year was the first true freshman to ever be named MAC Defensive Player of the Year. A consensus Freshman All-American, he began his sophomore year with a sack and two tackles for loss against the Crimson Tide. Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder certainly appreciated what he saw of Nix’s play.

“I think he’s as fine a player as you’ll find,” Snyder said. “He’s an undersized defensive back. He creates a lot of havoc for everybody, did for Alabama. He’s a very talented young player, and so young.”

Unfortunately for Kent State, it seems that as good as its defense is … that’s how bad its offense is. In its first two games, it has amassed just 19 points. Of course, give Alabama its due; a first game against the Crimson Tide isn’t helping anyone’s averages. Snyder pointed out that the Kent State quarterback, Spencer Keith, has struggled and is currently a 44 percent thrower, but he also mentioned that the guy is going into his third year as a starter. That confidence of his coaches and teammates comes from the fact that he throws really well when he throws well, and he isn’t immobile, Snyder said.

Kent State has some quality offensive players, like receivers Tyshon Goode and Sam Kirkland, but what Snyder said would be occupying his mind is what he hasn’t seen from the team to this point in the season.

“You don’t see a lot of gadgetry, so you have to be concerned, ‘Are the reverses going to come into play? Halfback passes? And all the gadget-type stuff, is that going to come into play?’ and that’s something you’ve got to be prepared for,” Snyder said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll see an improved offensive football team. To what degree and how they become that, I don’t know.”

Kansas State defense looks to redefine its reputation

14 Sep

After finishing the 2010 season ranked as one of the worst defenses in the country, Kansas State currently sits in the No. 1 spot.

Of course, the team has only played one game, but with its next matchup coming against a Kent State team that managed only 19 points between its first two contests, it looks like Saturday will be a great opportunity for the Wildcats to continue what they have started. In its season opener against Eastern Kentucky, the Kansas State defense allowed only 129 yards of total offense. The players, however, don’t want to dwell on that.

“One game doesn’t define the whole season, so we’re really looking on building on that, keeping up the things we did well and improving on the things we did bad,” said defensive end Jordan Voelker, who had two sacks against Eastern Kentucky.

While the Wildcats’ defense looked fantastic in its debut, keeping the Colonels out of the end zone the entire game except when they started a drive on Kansas State’s one-yard line, Voelker said it is important for them to make corrections from that game and improve their tackling because the team will only face tougher opponents as the season wears on.

“Consistency is something Coach Snyder preaches about all the time,” said defensive back Tysyn Hartman. “We can’t have roller-coaster performances where we play great one game, terrible the next. I feel like that’s something we did last year, and we feel like we’re a better defense than last year, so we’ve got to prove that.”

And after a few games against increasingly talented opponents, maybe it will be proven.

“If we put a few good games together, I think people are going to start recognizing that K-State defenses are maybe somewhat back, and hopefully we’ve changed the perception of being one of the bottom defenses,” Voelker said.

Players say the early bye week – a quirk in the schedule, as head coach Bill Snyder referred to it – helped them come back to earth, so to speak, after their great performance in the opening game.

“It brought us down off our high a little bit maybe,” Voelker said, “and we realized that we still have a lot of things to accomplish and we’re not – statistically we’re the number one defense in the nation, but we don’t see ourselves as the number one defense in the nation with the mistakes we made. There’s always those things that we have to improve on, just the small things we’ve got to do to keep getting there.”

Cornerback Nigel Malone said the intensity of the defense has not faded since the win and that the team should be able to maintain it going into the Kent State game and the games after that. While the Wildcats want to be aggressive and tenacious, they also want people to tell that they are enjoying playing the game.

Voelker said that as the Wildcats watch tape of the Alabama-Kent State game, they were impressed by the Alabama defense and wanted to take on a similar look as far as effort and enthusiasm.

“We really like the way that Alabama was flying to the ball,” Voelker said. “That’s the image we want to try to put off, is a defense like that just looks like they’re enjoying playing football and enjoying playing with each other and having a good time and making plays while you’re doing it.”

 

Reasons to be optimistic about Game 2 for the Wildcats

12 Sep

1. Unity is an element that head coach Bill Snyder emphasizes. The Wildcats demonstrated that in a big way as they persevered through a long, largely futile and somewhat embarrassing 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky in the season opener. Not only did they grind away until finally getting some points, but according to quarterback Collin Klein, the mood on the sidelines was supportive despite the fact that the defense was thriving (allowing only one touchdown, and that when EKU recovered a fumble at the Kansas State one-yard line) while the offense struggled.

“We hung together as a team, didn’t start picking at each other as an offense, or our defense didn’t get on us when they were playing really well and we were struggling,” Klein said. “There wasn’t that animosity back and forth. We didn’t start falling apart. We hung together.”

2. The performance against Eastern Kentucky was only the first game of the season. After watching film of the game, Snyder said the majority of mistakes were correctable ones. Among those were inconsistencies in footwork along the offensive line, which the coach attributed in part to some of the players being a little nervous in their first game and therefore not focusing enough on the mechanics of their position on each snap.

“We’re young,” Klein said. “I know that the guys are working hard. We all did things at times that were uncharacteristic of us. I made a couple decisions that I would like to have back, but it’s trying to stay at it, be diligent, don’t get down … It really is a marathon and not a sprint.”

3. It was a bad game. Simply and truly, the game against Eastern Kentucky was not a demonstration of the Wildcats all performing at their maximum potential. Mistakes were made. In fact, center B.J. Finney called the game a “crapshoot of mistakes.” Obviously, the good news here is that not every game will be a bad game.

“I would like to think it was just a bad performance and that’s not a true read, an accurate assessment of where we’re at,” Klein said. “I know a lot of times I’ll have a one-time instance that isn’t who I am or what kind of player or person I am. It’s the kind of thing where obviously it’s a wake-up call … I know we’re further along than what we showed on Saturday, but like you said it’s a matter of proving it, and we’re going to do the best we can to do it.”