Big 12: Nick Stringer
2009 conference record: 4-4
Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (6) P/K (2)
Top returners: RB Daniel Thomas, DB Emmanuel Lamur, DB Tysyn Hartman, DB Troy Butler, DT Prizzell Brown
Key losses: WR Brandon Banks, QB Grant Gregory, WR Lamark Brown, DB Joshua Moore, TE Jaron Mastrud, OT Nick Stringer, DT Daniel Calvin, DT Jeffrey Fitzgerald
2009 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Daniel Thomas* (1,265 yards)
Passing: Grant Gregory (1,096 yards)
Receiving: Brandon Banks (705 yards)
Tackles: Emmanuel Lamur* (68)
Sacks: Jeffrey Fitzgerald (7)
Interceptions: Tysyn Hartman* (5)
Three spring answers
1. Coffman states his case…loudly. The spring began with a three-man quarterback race, and ended with Carson Coffman throwing seven touchdown passes in the spring game. Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur will be back to compete in the fall, but Coffman’s performance, combined with his experience last season, will likely be too much for either to overcome.
2. Chris Harper won’t be taking snaps. Oregon transfer Chris Harper figured to be a factor in the quarterback race, but he elected to move to receiver and stayed there throughout the spring. His impressive size and athleticism will be used on the sidelines, rather than in the backfield.
3. Butler shining in the spring. Juco transfer Troy Butler won a starting safety job last season, but made just 46 tackles and was held without an interception. In the spring game, he picked off two passes and made eight tackles. They came against the second-team, but he’s getting to the ball, and that’s something he didn’t do often last year.
Three fall questions
1. How will the new-look receivers fit in? Kansas State has plenty of size at receiver, something it didn’t have last season. But it’s possible that all three of the Wildcats top receivers won’t have caught a pass since the 2008 season. Aubrey Quarles sat out the 2009 season, and transfers Brodrick Smith and Chris Harper could also make big impacts this season.
2. Are the Wildcats deep enough? For all the celebration around Coffman’s performance, his team’s 79-0 win in the spring game over the second-teamers suggests a wide gap in talent between only the first and second teams. If Kansas State suffers a couple injuries in the right place, could the season fall well short of expectations?
3. Playmakers wanted. Daniel Thomas is a reliable option at running back, but can the Wildcats find a way to give the offense some additional firepower? The Wildcats were short on big plays in 2010; Thomas broke runs of 25 yards or longer in just two plays. If the receivers can prove they’re deep threats, and Coffman can get them the ball, it’ll be easier for both them and Thomas to operate and produce big plays.
How about a day off? Part of me wishes the first 10 picks could be presented with giant blank checks on stage after they get their "No. 1" jersey. I'm still holding out hope it happens this year.
- Nice video as Ndamukong Suh narrates his journey from birth, to the soccer field, to Huskers lore to tonight's draft.
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter enlists a few NFL draftniks to weigh in on the likelihood Sam Bradford becomes an elite NFL quarterback.
- Former Kansas receiver Dezmon Briscoe is ready for his main passion to become his main activity after this week's NFL draft, writes Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Former Kansas State left tackle Nick Stringer hopes his chance comes, too, writes Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Former Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing likes his new office job in Manhattan, but he's not quite ready to give up football.
- This year's draft will be a quiet one for Texas A&M. Next year's won't be, writes Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News.
- Former Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's personality is drawing plenty of attention with the other draft hopefuls in New York, reports John Hoover of the Tulsa World.
Brandon Banks, WR/KR
Banks was far from unstoppable as the Wildcats' leading receiver (56 rec, 705 yards, 1 TD), but his kick returns gave the Wildcats an explosive special-teams unit and landed the 5-foot-7 Banks on the All-Big 12 team. He returned four kicks for touchdowns as a senior and averaged nearly 30 yards per kick return.
Nick Stringer, OL
The former team captain spent two seasons on the All-Big 12 team and played significant snaps for four seasons.
Grant Gregory, QB
Gregory only got to play for the Wildcats for one season after transferring from South Florida, but he took advantage of the opportunity coach Bill Snyder gave him. Gregory took over the starting spot for the Wildcats midway through the season in 2009, and got the Wildcats to within an upset of Nebraska of a bowl game.
Daniel Thomas, RB
Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing in just his first season of Division I football, and was a big reason the Wildcats' rushing offense ranked in the top third of the Big 12. As a senior, the juco transfer figures to be the central figure of the offense once again, with uncertainty at quarterback and a receiving corps full of newcomers at the top of the depth chart. Thomas loses his backup, Keithen Valentine, this season, and K-State would be well-served to find a serviceable backup this spring to help keep him healthy.
Tysyn Hartman, DB
Hartman had the fourth-most interceptions in the Big 12 as a sophomore, with five. His work earned him an All-Big 12 nod and he could secure a spot as one of the Big 12's top defensive backs this season.
Adam Davis, DE
Davis transferred to Kansas State from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College as one of the top junior college prospects in America. At 6-foot-1 and 249 pounds, he fits the mold of defensive end and could compete for a spot once fall arrives.
Chris Harper, WR
Harper is done with his year sitting on the bench after transferring from Oregon. He was originally thought to be in the running for the vacant quarterback gig, but Snyder is working Harper solely at wide receiver this spring, as was his preference, Snyder said on Monday. With sub-4.5 speed and a 6-foot-1, 234-pound frame, there's a good chance he'll find a spot to contribute on the edge instead of in the backfield.
More Revolving Door
Recruiting is, always has been and always will be an inexact science. For every can't miss product, there are others who emerge out of nowhere to become standout players.
This trend was shown after I analyzed the first- and second-team All-Big 12 teams from the 2009 season and went back to check their original ESPNU grades. On some, the service hit. But on many others, it missed like Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander.
Both had scores of 40 when they came out in their recruiting class. Weatherspoon weighed 195 pounds. Alexander was projected as a safety. And both put aside their dubious recruiting marks to develop into two of the best players in the country at their position over the course of their college career. I thought it was interesting to go back and look at the best players in the conference and see where they were ranked coming into college.
The ESPNU ratings database goes back only to 2006. That does not allow us to get ratings for players who took a redshirt year during their college careers. But it gives a pretty accurate picture about the crap shoot that college recruiting really is.
Here's a look at the Big 12's coaches' first and second teams for 2009. The positional rankings, typically listed second for most players, are national rankings.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB: Colt McCoy, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.
RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2009.
RB: Keith Toston, Oklahoma State: 77 rating; ranked 44th among all safeties; ranked 73rd in state.
FB: Bryant Ward, Oklahoma State: Walk-on.
WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas: Class of 2004, no information available.
WR: Danario Alexander, Missouri: 40 rating (as safety), ranked 229th in state.
WR: Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas: 40 rating, ranked 363rd in state.
TE: Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State: 40 rating, ranked 13th in state.
OL: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State: 73 rating, ranked 61st among all tackles, 138th in state.
OL: Trent Williams, Oklahoma: 76 rating, ranked 22nd among all guards, 78th in state.
OL: Nick Stringer, Kansas State: Class of 2005, no information available.
OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech: Class of 2005, no information available.
OL: Nate Solder, Colorado: 40 rating (as tight end), ranked 48th in state.
PK: Grant Ressel, Missouri: Walk-on.
KR/PR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2008.
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Class of 2005, no information available.
DL: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma: 89 rating, ranked 2nd among all defensive tackle, ranked first in state, ranked 21st in nation.
DL:Von Miller, Texas A&M: 77 rating, ranked 37th among all defensive ends, ranked 52nd in state.
DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech: Junior-college class of 2007.
DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska: 73 rating, ranked 86th among all defensive ends, ranked seventh in state.
LB: Jesse Smith, Iowa State: Class of 2005, no information available.
LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: 40 rating, ranked 294th in state.
LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma: 75 rating, ranked 86th among all running backs, ranked 96th in state.
DB: Earl Thomas, Texas: 71 rating, ranked 75th among all cornerbacks, ranked 170th in state.
DB: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State: 77 rating, ranked 25th among all cornerbacks, ranked 57th in state.
DB: Dominique Franks, Oklahoma: 74 rating, ranked 53rd among all cornerbacks, ranked 15th in state.
DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska: 78 rating, ranked 31st among all running backs, ranked fifth in state.
DB: Larry Asante, Nebraska: Junior college class of 2007.
P: Derek Epperson, Baylor: 76 rating, ranked 15th among all kickers, ranked 87th in state.
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB: Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: 79 rating, ranked first among all athletes, ranked 29th in state.
RB Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska: 73 rating, ranked 113th among all running backs, ranked 97th in state.
RB: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma: 92 rating, ranked first among all running backs, ranked first in state, ranked sixth in nation.
FB: Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M: Class of 2005, no information available.
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: 77 rating, ranked 58th among all wide receivers, ranked fourth in state.
WR: Kerry Meier, Kansas: Class of 2005 , no information available.
WR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2008.
TE: Riar Geer, Colorado: Class of 2005, no information available.
OL: J.D. Walton, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available (transfer from Arizona State).
OL: Chris Hall, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.
OL: Kurtis Gregory, Missouri: Class of 2005, no information available.
OL: Adam Ulatoski, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.
OL: Brody Eldridge, Oklahoma: Class of 2005, no information available.
OL: Lee Grimes, Texas A&M: Class of 2005, no information available.
PK: Alex Henery, Nebraska: Walk-on.
KR/PR: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State: 77 rating, ranked 25th among all cornerbacks, ranked 57th in state.
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL: Sergio Kindle, Texas: 92 rating, ranked first among all outside linebackers, ranked second in state, ranked seventh in nation.
DL: Lamarr Houston, Texas: 78 rating, ranked seventh among all fullbacks, ranked fourth in state.
DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma: 80 rating, ranked 11th among all defensive ends, ranked 17th in state, ranked 137th nationally.
DL: Jaron Baston, Missouri: Class of 2005, no information available.
DL: Daniel Howard, Texas Tech: Junior college class of 2007
LB: Joe Pawelek, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available.
LB: Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.
LB: Phillip Dillard, Nebraska: Class of 2005, no information available.
DB: Jamar Wall, Texas Tech: 72 rating, ranked 79th among all safeties, ranked 142nd in state.
DB: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma: 77 rating, ranked 39th among all safeties, ranked third in state.
DB: Brian Jackson, Oklahoma: Class of 2005, no information available.
DB: Jordan Lake, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available.
DB: Cha’pelle Brown, Colorado: 40 rating, ranked 287th in state.
DB: Trent Hunter, Texas A&M: 68 rating, ranked 90th among all cornerbacks, ranked 250th in state.
P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: 78 rating, ranked sixth among all kickers, ranked sixth in state.
It's interesting to note that only four members of the two teams were ESPNU top 150 selections: Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, DeMarco Murray and Jeremy Beal and Texas' Sergio Kindle.
That success vanished later in the decade, but Bill Snyder returned to help turn around the program in 2009.
Here are my choices for the top Kansas State players of the last decade.
QB: Ell Roberson
RB: Darren Sproles
RB: Daniel Thomas
WR: Quincy Morgan
WR: Jordy Nelson
TE: Jeron Mastrud
OL: Ryan Lilja
OL: Nick Stringer
OL: Jeromey Clary
OL: Andy Eby
C: Randall Cummings
DL: Tank Reese
DL: Ian Campbell
DL: Monty Beisel
DL: Mario Fatafehi
LB: Ben Leber
LB: Terry Pierce
LB: Josh Buhl
DB: Jerametrius Butler
DB: Terence Newman
DB: Jon McGraw
DB: Dyshod Carter
P Tim Reyer
K Jamie Rheem
KR Brandon Banks
Offensive player of the decade: RB Darren Sproles. The key player on the Wildcats’ 2003 Big 12 title team rushed for a school-record 4,979 yards during his career, scoring 45 rushing touchdowns and notching three 1,000-yard seasons. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003 after rushing for a school-record 1,986 yards to spark the Wildcats' championship season.
Defensive player of the decade: CB Terence Newman. Finished as the most decorated defensive player in Kansas State history, earning All-America honors and the Big 12’s defensive player of the year in 2002. In that season, Newman won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and was a finalist for the Nagurski Award.
Coach of the decade: Bill Snyder. Even a three-season sabbatical couldn’t diminish Snyder’s accomplishments for Kansas State. His 2003 team earned the school’s only Big 12 football championship, punctuating a run of four-straight bowl appearances to start the decade. After returning, he nearly took the team to another bowl game in his first season back in 2009, pushing the Wildcats into the Big 12 North title hunt until its final game of the season.
Moment of the decade: Kansas State notched a 35-7 victory over Oklahoma to earn the 2003 Big 12 title. The Wildcats overcame an early-season three-game losing streak to finish with a seven-game winning streak capped by the title-game upset over the No. 1 Sooners. Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards and Ell Roberson threw four touchdowns in the wild upset -- the last time a North team has won the Big 12 championship game.
The Wildcats entered the season with serious questions at quarterback and running back. Snyder plugged in South Florida transfer Grant Gregory at quarterback and converted Northwest Mississippi Community College quarterback Daniel Thomas into a power-running tailback. Both arrived in July, only a few days before spring practice started, but emerged as key players in a 6-6 season.
But Snyder, who returned to coaching after a three-season sabbatical, cobbled together a team that had legitimate North Division championship hopes until a late-season tailspin doomed them.
The Wildcats started the season with a 2-2 nonconference record that included road losses to UCLA and Louisiana-Lafayette.
But they returned to claim a tight 24-23 victory over Iowa State that was settled on a blocked extra point. And Snyder’s resilient bunch bounced back from a 52-point loss at Texas Tech to notch a 48-point victory over Texas A&M.
Kick returner/receiver Brandon Banks developed into KSU’s prime offensive playmaker and tied the Big 12 career record for kickoff returns for touchdowns. But when he wasn't involved the offense lagged miserably.
The Wildcats’ defense ranked in the top 20 nationally in turnover margin and rushing. But Snyder couldn’t overcome his sputtering offense against the best opponents. Among KSU’s six victories, only Tennessee Tech had a winning record.
Offensive MVP: RB Daniel Thomas
Thomas was projected as a quarterback by most scouting services when he arrived at Kansas State. But after switching to running back, he emerged as the Wildcats’ most consistent offensive threat and the focal point of the Wildcats’ offense. Thomas led the league with 1,265 rushing yards, 247 attempts, 11 rushing touchdowns and 105.4 yards per game, accounting for more than 100 rushing yards in five different games.
Defensive MVP: S Tysyn Hartman
The sophomore safety was KSU’s catalyst in the secondary with a team-leading five interceptions, 54 tackles and six pass deflections. His importance could be seen when he was injured early in the third quarter against Nebraska. While Hartman was being treated along the sidelines, Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee took advantage of the weak middle of the Wildcats’ defense on a two-play scoring drive that clinched the game and ended the Wildcats’ bowl and title game hopes.
Turning point: Nov. 14 vs. Missouri
The Wildcats returned home in first place in the North Division with two games remaining. Instead, offensive woes bit them in a 38-12 loss to Missouri in which they only scored four field goals. It got worse the following week in a 17-3 season-ending loss to Nebraska where the lingering offensive slump kept the Wildcats from making either a championship game or a bowl appearance.
The lack of bowl practice is a critical loss for Snyder, who is using the time away from game preparations to scour the nation for junior college players. Prime producers like Banks, Gregory, tight end Jeron Mastrud, tackle Nick Stringer and defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald all will depart the program. Snyder is excited about the possibilities of Oregon transfer Chris Harper to challenge Carson Coffman at quarterback. But he needs more talent -- particularly offensively -- to narrow the gap with teams like Nebraska and Missouri.
McCoy and Suh also were the only two unanimous first-team selections to the All-Big 12 team picked by coaches.
McCoy becomes the fourth Texas player to be selected as offensive player and the third Longhorn quarterback. Previous Texas selections included Ricky Williams (1997 and 1998), Major Applewhite (1999) and Vince Young (2005).
Suh becomes the second Nebraska defensive player to be honored, joining Grant Wistrom (1996 and 1997).
And Brown earns his second coach of the year honors after winning it in 2005.
One interesting note that shows the balance in the conference this season is that every team in the league was represented by at least one player on the first-team squad.
Coaches also announced their All-Big 12 teams. They were forbidden from voting for their own players.
Here's a list of the award winners, as selected by the league's coaches
Coach of the Year: Mack Brown, Texas
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
Offensive Freshman of the Year: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Defensive Freshman of the Year: Aldon Smith, Missouri
Special Teams Player of the Year: Brandon Banks, Kansas State
Defensive Newcomer of the Year: David Sims, Iowa State
Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
Defensive Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
Offensive Player of the Year: Colt McCoy, Texas
And here's a look at who the coaches chose for their first-team offensive and defensive units.
QB: Colt McCoy, Texas
RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
RB: Keith Toston, Oklahoma State
FB: Bryant Ward, Oklahoma State
WR: Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas
WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas
WR: Danario Alexander, Missouri
TE: Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State
OL: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State *
OL: Trent Williams, Oklahoma *
OL: Nick Stringer, Kansas State
OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech
OL: Nate Solder, Colorado
K: Grant Ressel, Missouri
KR/PR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State
DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
DL: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma *
DL: Von Miller, Texas A&M
DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech
DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska
LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri *
LB: Jesse Smith, Iowa State
LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
DB: Earl Thomas, Texas
DB: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State
DB: Larry Asante, Nebraska
DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
DB: Dominique Franks, Oklahoma
P: Derek Epperson, Baylor
Note: Bold notations are unanimous selections. Those selections with an asterisk are repeat choices from last season.
I was a little disappointed that the coaches can make a decision to pick a fullback as a specific positional choice and then not designate one of the picks specifically for a center. Every team in the league has a center. Not every team in the Big 12 has a true fullback that plays the majority of his snaps.
Also, it's an age-old pet peeve of mine that they don't break down the defensive choices into specific positions like ends, tackles, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.
Here's a link to the Big 12's web site for a complete listing of the first-team, second-team and honorable mention choices.
A 38-12 blowout home loss to Missouri -- the Wildcats’ first home loss of the season -- brought back a lot of doubts about the Wildcats.
But welcome to the wacky North Division, where that loss meant little in the grand scheme of things. The Wildcats still can wrap up an improbable North title by winning Saturday at Nebraska.
Everything is on the line for the 6-5 Wildcats. A victory ensures that KSU wins the North and advances to the Big 12 championship game, while also securing a bowl bid. A loss and the Wildcats will remain at home during the holiday season for the fourth straight season.
"I have never been involved in a ballgame in which bowl eligibility and a division championship were on the line at the same time," said KSU coach Bill Snyder, who will be wrapping up his 41st regular season in coaching with Saturday’s game.
The Wildcats haven’t come close to winning the division since the last time Snyder led KSU to the North title in 2003. That season, of course, is remembered for what KSU accomplished later that season with the stunning triumph over Oklahoma in the championship game. It remains the last Big 12 championship team from the North Division.
Snyder will be looking for his fourth championship game appearance. And considering what was expected before the season, taking this team to Arlington for the championship game would rank among the crowing achievements of a career that should boost him into the College Football Hall of Fame one day.
His past history has given him an idea of how important the game is. But he’s not quite sure that the Wildcats, who were picked to finish fifth in the preseason media poll, understand the circumstances of playing in the penultimate game of the season.
“It's kind of like being a parent," Snyder said. "You think you have all of the experience and you try to share with them what you think might be the right way for young people — like your children. They don't always want to listen to you.
"So it's hard to project what kind of an impact that all will have on our players. You'd like to think there would be some things we would share that would be beneficial for them and they would respond to it appropriately, but they're still only 18-years-old. It remains to be seen."
It will be a tough atmosphere at Memorial Stadium, where the Wildcats have won only twice since 1968.
But Snyder was more successful against the Cornhuskers than any North coach in the latter stages of his first stint at KSU, which ended with his retirement after the 2005 season. He beat Nebraska en route to every one of his previous title game appearances, including a 2003 blowout in Lincoln.
And is his first season back after his three-season sabbatical, he can do the same thing with another victory over the Cornhuskers.
"We've certainly been in this position before in a lot of different ways," said Snyder, who is 5-3 against Nebraska since 1998. "But by the same token, I can't remember other than in the early years when playing against a Nebraska team was not a great challenge. Certainly there were key ballgames after those initial years in which they beat us so soundly."
The Wildcats have been a resilient bunch all season. They responded to a blowout loss at Texas Tech with a blowout home victory over Texas A&M the following week. And they rebounded after an earlier loss to Oklahoma with a strong home victory against Kansas.
Both of those previous bounce-back victories were at home. But those experiences have steeled this team for what it can accomplish with another victory Saturday in Lincoln.
“We still have a chance to do something special. This is a great opportunity for our football team,” senior offensive tackle Nick Stringer said. “We didn’t play very well last week and you can’t forget about it. But if we take something away from it and improve, we’ve got a great shot to surprise some people."
Bill Snyder doesn’t say if he really expected his team to be perched at the top of the Big 12 North Division midway through his first season back at Kansas State.
But the relative parity of the North Division has resulted in a chance where any team can dream of claiming the North title.
|Jeff Moffett/Icon SMI|
|Brandon Banks is one of the new additions and reasons Kansas State is a success story this season.|
And the plucky Wildcats have jumped on it in Snyder’s first season back after a three-year coaching sabbatical. Their surprising run to the top has been one of the biggest shockers in college football this season.
“Nothing really surprises me very much, having been around the game for as long as I have," Snyder said. "I can't tell you that was projected. Nor was the way the Big 12 North is perceived at this point.
"But anything can happen. I'm not sure where we are now and what reality is."
The immediate future is remarkably clear for the Wildcats heading into their pivotal Sunshine Showdown game against Kansas Saturday in Manhattan. If they can keep winning, they have the inside track to their first North Division championship since 2003.
Few would have perceived that to happen before the start of the season. The Wildcats and Iowa State were fashionable contenders to battle to stay out of the North Division cellar.
But the 5-4 Wildcats can likely claim the title by winning their last two home games and having Nebraska lose twice.
“A lot of people have doubted us, but it’s been kind of fun to prove them wrong,” senior KSU tackle Nick Stringer said. “It might be a surprise to a lot of people, but not to us. We expected to be where we are at.”
Many wondered about Snyder’s sanity for coming back into coaching considering the recent struggles at Kansas State while programs like Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas seemingly were pointed upward.
The wily Snyder has trumped those recent gains in his first season back in what some are calling “The Manhattan Miracle, Part II.”
Earlier in his career, Snyder turned a losing culture around for the KSU program, becoming just the second program to record six 11-win seasons in a seven-season span. The moribund program he inherited when he was originally hired in 1989 was in the midst of a 0-26-1 losing streak when he arrived.
While this turnaround isn’t as complete, it’s likely as satisfying considering what he inherited.
The Wildcats’ early success is coming despite a mismatched roster. Big 12 leading rusher Daniel Thomas came to the program expecting to play quarterback. Top offensive playmaker Brandon Banks was a high-school track star who chose to attend KSU over San Jose State at the last minute. Quarterback Grant Gregory is a sixth-year senior who transferred from South Florida earlier this summer only looking for a chance to play. And top safety Tysyn Hartman nearly switched to quarterback before last season.
But this group is playing to its potential after working less than a year with Snyder.
“I think for the most part, everybody on the team bought into what Coach Snyder is all about,” said Stringer, who was originally recruited to the program by Snyder in his last recruiting class. “He’s a great coach. And he’s really got people believing in themselves and each other.”
The team had its struggles early, losing to a Louisiana-Lafayette team that Nebraska later beat 55-0.
And their play in the conference has been also uneven. They were trounced in their conference opener by 52 points by Texas Tech but later beat Texas A&M by 48 points.
“These are young guys and they want to do well, but there’s an immense inconsistency that exists game to game and quarter to quarter,” Snyder said. “We’re Jekyll and Hyde from quarter to quarter from where we want to be.”
Earlier in his career, Snyder might have been tested by a team which such maddening inconsistencies.
But after turning 70 last month, Snyder is showing remarkable restraint and coaching prowess with this team. He would be the conference’s Coach of the Year by acclamation if a poll was taken today.
“We’re really kind of a rag-tag outfit, but the youngsters have made progress,” Snyder said. “That’s the main thing. I’m proud of their improvement. The entirety has gotten a little bit better as the season has progressed. We’ve had our dips in the road, but we’ve made a progressive movement to get where we are.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at how I rank the Big 12 offenses heading into the season.
1. Oklahoma State – The conference’s most balanced offense also features the best rushing/receiving combination in Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant and one of the Big 12's best offensive linemen in Russell Okung. Zac Robinson still has meltdown moments, but he’s gotten much better with experience. The big questions will be finding a No. 2 receiver and a tight end to replace Brandon Pettigrew.
2. Oklahoma: The Sooners have the most productive quarterback in school history in Sam Bradford with the conference’s best backfield combination in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray and college football’s best tight end in Jermaine Gresham. The offensive line, however, isn’t nearly as good as some from the program's past. The line's development will largely determine if the Sooners can claim four-straight Big 12 titles.
3. Texas: Colt McCoy is back for his fourth season as starter and Jordan Shipley seemingly has been around long enough to collect a pension. That’s a great start. Vondrell McGee has emerged as a steady back who might end up earning the majority of carries running behind a deep offensive line. It will be interesting to see if they can find a tight end who will block consistently enough to keep the team from running multiple wide-receiver sets down the stretch. Developing that bruising running game will be the biggest challenge for the Longhorns.
4. Kansas: Todd Reesing might be the nation’s most underrated quarterback and the development of a tandem backfield in Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum will provide balance to the conference’s best receiving corps. It will be interesting to see how much better Kerry Meier can become by concentrating on offense. He adds with top deep threat Dezmon Briscoe, the underrated Jonathan Wilson and freshman addition Bradley McDougald. The Jayhawks’ title hopes will hinge on better pass blocking, particularly from new left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, a converted high school tight end.
5. Texas Tech: There are more questions with the loss of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, although Mike Leach seems very happy with Taylor Potts and his current group. The Red Raiders might be deeper at wide receiver with a collection of players than when Crabtree commandeered most of the catches. Baron Batch’s recovery from an elbow injury will be critical, but the Red Raiders have a big nasty offensive front keyed by All-Big 12 candidate Brandon Carter and the underrated Marlon Winn.
6. Baylor: Robert Griffin makes these guys go and he should be even more comfortable in his second season as a starter. Jay Finley might be one of the least-appreciated backs in the league and a deep collection of wide receivers will help boost production. The biggest concern will be the play of tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake, who will be replacing decorated former starters Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
7. Missouri: This offense will be different from the attack in the Chase Daniel era. Look for new coordinator David Yost to utilize a strong running game keyed by Derrick Washington, who is finally healthy after being hurt most of the second half of 2008. New quarterback Blaine Gabbert obviously doesn’t have the experience in the Tigers’ offense as Daniel, but he might have a better deep arm which will give Yost more chances to attack with long passes. It’s a typically deep collection of receivers with Danario Alexander poised for a breakout season if he can stay healthy.
8. Colorado: Other than the fact that Dan Hawkins can’t decide on a starting quarterback, this unit might be a little underrated and ready to blossom. I really like their collection of running backs with Darrell Scott poised to fulfill his recruiting promise. Rodney Stewart and Demetrius Sumler add different running styles behind a nice line keyed by Ryan Miller, Nate Solder and Mike Iltis. The passing game might sputter early as Markques Simas misses the first two games and Andre Simmons plays his way into the rotation after missing most of fall practice. But it might be surprisingly productive by the time conference play rolls around.
9. Nebraska: Lack of an experienced quarterback and tested running backs behind Roy Helu Jr. cause them to drop a little after Quentin Castille’s dismissal. I’m hearing the Cornhuskers will feature more deep passing with Zac Lee, which might allow receivers Menelik Holt and Niles Paul a chance to go deep. The best part of their offense is their five-headed monster at tight end keyed by Mike McNeill and Dreu Young. Ricky Henry’s emergence at right guard has enabled Jacob Hickman to stay at center where he’ll anchor a developing line.
10. Texas A&M: Jerrod Johnson won the starting quarterback job this summer, but I was surprised that Ryan Tannehill will remain behind him as a backup rather than a wide receiver where he was the team’s leading receiver this season. Jeff Fuller might be one of the Big 12’s most underrated wide receivers and Jamie McCoy is a productive, pass-catching tight end. A bigger, stronger Cyrus Gray will get the start at tailback, although heralded freshman Christine Michael will push him for playing time. The biggest question remains an offensive line that struggled with injuries and produced only 89 yards rushing and 39 sacks. If they are healthy, they might be a surprise after last year’s consistent struggles.
11. Iowa State: New coordinator Tom Herman will attempt to retrofit his no-huddle attack that was so successful at Rice for the Cyclones. He has a tough, savvy quarterback in Austen Arnaud and a multi-talented running back in Alexander Robinson. Keep an eye out for Darius Reynolds who has emerged as the team’s slot receiver as Darius Darks overcomes a training-camp injury. The largest offensive line in FBS will be protecting Arnaud, but needs to do a better job of dominating at the point of attack.
12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman and Daniel Thomas were named as starters today by Bill Snyder. Coffman was effective at times last season as Josh Freeman’s backup, but remains a question mark as he takes over the starting job. The position changes of Lamark Brown and Logan Dold opened up the running back job in training camp and the 227-pound Thomas took advantage. Brandon Banks is a strong player who belies his size as a receiver and kick returner. The offensive line remains a question after a season-ending injury to Brock Unruh leaves only Nick Stringer and a cast of unknowns to share playing time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas State turns to legendary coach Bill Snyder to help resuscitate the program. Snyder will find an underrated pool of talent returning, but his immediate success will be largely determined by recruiting at one key position.
With the departure of Josh Freeman early for the NFL draft, it means that Wildcat coaches will turn either to returning quarterback Carson Coffman or look for a junior college replacement to orchestrate new coordinator Andy Ludwig's spread passing attack.
Depth is needed across an offensive line that loses its entire right side in center Jordan Bedore, guard Gerard Spexarth and tackle Penisini Liu. Additional players are needed as projected starting left tackle Nick Stringer and guard Brock Unruh both will be seniors next season.
Allowances also must be made for a receiving corps that returns all four top pass-catchers in wide receivers Brandon Banks, Deon Murphy and Aubrey Quarles and starting tight end Jeron Mastrud. All will be seniors in 2009, meaning that depth must be built.
New defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will likely build his defense with the Wildcats like those at Clemson, where his unit led the ACC in pass defense and turnovers last season. That would put a premium on depth in the secondary and an infusion of playmaker types, although the Wildcats lose no starters from their 2008 defensive secondary.
It will be interesting to see if Koenning thinks his current players are good enough to thrive in his defense or if they make a big jump into the junior college ranks like Snyder's teams have traditionally done.
New starters will be needed along the defensive front as defensive end Ian Campbell and nose tackle Brandon Balkcom both completed their senior seasons last year. But the defense does have a nice building block with the return of Brandon Harold, who led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss as a freshman in 2008.
The linebacking corps needs some players for the future as Reggie Walker finished his senior season last year and starters Olu Hall and Ulla Pomele both will be seniors next season.
The transformation won't be as daunting as the one that faced Snyder when he arrived in 1993 in his first stint as Kansas State's coach. But the Big 12 figures to be even more challenging than the old Big Eight was, meaning the Wildcats must start getting some players quickly.