MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It was supposed to be Carson Coffman's time. He'd sat behind first-round draft pick and starting quarterback Josh Freeman for two seasons, and now he was going to take his turn, continuing a family tradition. His father, Paul Coffman, was a standout at Kansas State before going on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL. Older brother Chase Coffman caught more balls at Missouri than any tight end in college football history.
Carson Coffman's looked ready to carve out his own legacy, especially after beating out transfer Grant Gregory for the starting job in fall camp after Bill Snyder regained the rein for the Wildcats.
Before long, Coffman says, the pressure got to him.
"All of it," he said.
As a first-year starter, he'd never had a whole team counting on him every time the ball was snapped. By the time conference play arrived, Gregory took over as starter.
"I think it was just a mind game last year. My head was just messed up," Coffman said. "I was thinking way too much."
Coffman didn't have to think much when he watched from the sidelines as Gregory helped the Wildcats knock off Iowa State in the conference opener at Arrowhead Stadium, the same place his father finished his career with the Chiefs in the NFL.
"I felt a lot of pressure last year, I felt a lot of pressure from the coaches and my family and the players and the team," Coffman said. "I just think I need to go out there and play and have fun. I’ll play a lot better that way."
He's tried that this spring, and he's emerged, along with former receiver Collin Klein, as a frontrunner to re-win the job he lost last season. The issue likely won't be settled by Saturday's spring game, but Coffman will try to beat out Klein again in the fall like he did last season, prompting Klein's position change. Sammuel Lamur is also hoping to win the job.
"If one of those three individuals would gain the kind of consistency we're talking about, then I think the depth chart would define itself a little bit more clearly than it has," Snyder said.
Klein and Lamur can't compete with Coffman's experience. Coffman can't compete with either player's athleticism.
"Ultimately, it’s going to be what the team needs at the time they need it," Klein said. "And I think we’re still developing some identity as an offensive unit. So, [the starter will be] whoever fits that picture the best and who’s best able to serve the team."
Coffman knows he's been there. Made his mistakes and learned from them. He remembers what it was like before those four interceptions were thrown, open receivers missed.
"I learned a lot just about myself through sitting on the bench and being benched. I could have been real down on myself and had a bad attitude, but I feel like I handled it pretty well and supported the rest of the team, Grant and everything they were doing," Coffman said.
Both know they have a long way to go to separate from the other. Asked where he needed to improve to do so, Klein laughed and glanced at the ceiling.
"We could be here for awhile," he said.
Snyder wants his quarterback to understand the game. Every day, he stresses not trying to force the offense through defenses set up to stop it. That's where Coffman hopes he has the advantage.
"If me or Collin check a play, I think he gets pretty excited about that," Coffman said. "I feel I have a leg up, just with the confidence to check those plays, because I’ve been in there. I know what I’m doing and the other guys I’m competing against haven’t had a chance to do that."
They'll be able to showcase their skills on Saturday. Coffman hopes his second chance comes in August and doesn't end until December -- or maybe January. He just wants to stay there.
This time, he says, he's ready.