Snyder not taking anything for granted
Published on -4/12/2012, 10:41 AM
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN - Bill Snyder is not one to leave any stone unturned.
So as his Kansas State Wildcats delved into spring practice last week, the success of a 10-3 season in their rearview mirror, he sounded his usual warning.
"My caution is not taking things for granted," he said Tuesday, after the fourth of 14 practice sessions were in the books. "That's always been the case, but I would probably highlight that more right now - the idea that because you have a certain number of returning players, that the expectation level might grow a little, both exterior and interior.
"But bottom line is it doesn't make any different if you don't do something about it."
The Wildcats do return eight starters on offense and six on defense, as well as their kicker, punter and long snapper. But no one has to remind them that of last year's 10 victories, eight came by seven or fewer points, so the margin of error was minimal.
"We realized that the games we won last year were pretty close," said senior quarterback Collin Klein, who will begin his second season as a starter. "We were either down or having to come back or something like that.
"So I don't think it created in us an entitlement like, 'You're there,' because we were clawing and fighting for everything we received."
Winning close games were an important step, said senior cornerback Nigel Malone. Now it's time to remove some of the drama.
"I think that this year we already know that we have the heart and we can finish, so let's come out and see what we can do for a full four quarters," Malone said. "I think a lot of times we won games in the four quarters, we didn't beat teams.
"A win is a win at the end of the day, but can we build on what we did? I think the best way to do that is to play a full game."
Whatever they do, the Wildcats can't forget what brought them success last year.
"Everybody knows that we're going to have to work just as hard or even harder to be just as successful this season," said sophomore center B.J. Finney.
Even with a large returning cast - 44 lettermen are back - team chemistry is a constant work in progress, according to Snyder.
"The thing that I have to caution our players about so much is every team is different," he said. "This team is far different than last year's.
"That may be a plus, it may not be. It's just the makeup of your football team changes, the dynamics change."
Klein said he is still getting a feel for the 2012 Wildcats, even though the complete team won't be assembled until fall.
"I don't know exactly what it looks like yet," Klein said. "I feel it's different; I know it's different.
"It's probably a little too early to tell what we have, but I'd say definitely the roots of the cohesiveness and chemistry are still there. It needs to be tended to and grown, but I'd definitely say the roots are still there."
Four down, 10 to go
K-State is following a Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule this spring, with the 15th and final one the annual Purple-White game at 1:10 p.m. April 28 at Snyder Family Stadium.
Snyder said he was pleased with last week's Wednesday and Friday sessions - both without full pads - but that it leveled off Saturday.
"They basically have a pretty good mindset about the things they want to accomplish and what they're trying to accomplish and we've gotten a lot of work in," Snyder said. "We've implemented an awful lot of offense and defense and kicking game and for the new youngsters it's rather difficult, but I think they've done a nice job of being able to pick things up.
"I think in particular our returning players have done quite well in terms of retention."
The only significant position changes so far have been the switch of senior quarterback Justin Tuggle to linebacker and redshirt freshman Kyle Klein - Collin's younger brother - from defensive end to wide receiver.
Tuggle is expected to challenge Jarell Childs for the starting job at strong-side linebacker.
Missing in action
Wide receiver Brodrick Smith, a starter until he broke his leg in 2010, but suspended for part of last season, is not on the Wildcats' spring roster.
Neither is offensive lineman Shaun Simon, who started the season opener last year before he was sidelined with an injury. But center B.J. Finney said Simon remains with the team, helping out as a student coach.