Kansas State enjoyed a historic season in 2012, winning the Big 12 in dramatic fashion with a win against Texas at home, setting off a party on the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium the Wildcat faithful will never forget.
But the party's over now, and it's coach Bill Snyder's job now to clean up the mess. Only two teams in college football return fewer starters than Kansas State, and winning the Big 12 title last season illustrates the quality of what Kansas State is trying to replace.
Talents like quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown don't come around all that often. This year, Snyder will have no choice but to employ a team that hasn't seen much time on the field in the Big 12.
"Every year is going to be different regardless of who you have back, and the number of people you have back. The dynamics change year in and year out, regardless. I’d labor under the assumption that’s true virtually everywhere," Snyder said. "We have what we have. It’s not a matter of, 'Is there some sort of magic formula where you can address the fact that maybe you have less experience than you have at some other particular year?' We’ve been here before."
To be fair, Snyder's been pretty much everywhere when it comes to coaching college football, but just eight starters return from last year's team and he's still trying to figure out who'll replace Klein.
Sophomore Daniel Sams and juco transfer Jake Waters are neck-and-neck going into the summer, but that's only one of a whole lot of position battles still unsettled in Manhattan.
"Our basic concern is not so much who it is, but how much they’re getting better day in and day out. We’re invested, and a variety of positions have become competitive during the spring, which is positive in my way of thinking. We don’t have enough of those positions that are strongly competitive, but I think about half of the position that we have, just taking offense and defense, are very, very competitive," Snyder said.
"We’d like to have the other 11 be equally as competitive."
Kansas State has earned a status as a perennial overachiever under Snyder, whose Big 12 title team in 2012 was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 by the media before the season. Even the 2011 team that won 10 games was picked to finish eighth in the conference. Is another surprise season on the way? Colleague Mark Schlabach has K-State in his top 20 after the spring, but we'll see come fall if the Wildcats have more believers with an inexperienced roster that requires faith to see it finishing in the top 25.
"It’s just a matter of doing what you can every single day, trying to get better every single day, working diligently on the entirety of our package, being able to define what our personnel will allow us to do, what it will not allow us to do and be able to circumvent your weaknesses and play to your strength," Snyder said. "That hasn’t changed in 20-some odd years."