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Wildcats work on team building

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The HDN

MANHATTAN -- Tyler Lockett was coming off the best individual receiving game of his career and one of the first things Bill Snyder asked him was what he could do to get better.

No, Snyder wasn't singling out Lockett, whose 237 yards on 13 catches against Texas two weeks ago broke a Kansas State single-game record.

But the fact the Wildcats dropped their Big 12 opener, 31-21, to the Longhorns and fell to 2-2 on the season with a bye week ahead led their coach to try a little team-building exercise.

"I think one of the things that we've done as a whole this week and one of the things that coach Snyder emphasized was just being able to improve day in and day out from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and so on, and just get better individually," Lockett said. "Because if we get better individually, then we get better as a unit and get better as a team."

What Snyder wanted was for his players to sort some things out on their own.

"We did a drill in which everyone stepped up and said, 'Here's what I haven't done as well as I need to and here's what I'm going to do to try to help this football team,' those types of things," said Snyder, whose Wildcats travel to Stillwater, Okla., Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. game at Oklahoma State. "Things became forthright (and) came out."

Snyder gave them fair warning, and by most accounts it was well received.

"Guys had thought about it because Coach told us the day before, 'I want you guys to focus on some things that you need to do to get better and help this team get better,' " said junior center B.J. Finney. "Just hearing guys stand up and say things - little things that really would help this team get better - kind of put it in perspective that everybody has something to work on when nobody's there."

Lockett, who is having a breakout season with a league-leading 29 catches for 469 yards, agreed that getting things out in the open had a positive effect.

"Being able to say that, after it comes out of your mouth, you're kind of accountable for some of the things that you say," Lockett said. "So being able to have teammates who heard what you said and being able to push you and get you to do exactly what you said, I think that says a lot and it helps us together as a team at the end of the day."

Sophomore safety Dante Barnett, a first-year starter, liked the timing of the meeting.

"He wanted us to tell our whole teammates our mistakes so we can make sure everyone is improving during the bye week," Barnett said. "I would say my mistakes were having the passion and making sure I was making tackles, because I have been missing a couple of tackles in the past week.

"So I want to improve my tackling this week."

Sophomore defensive end Marquel Bryant said he saw immediate results.

"I have improved," he said. "I feel like there's more I should bring to the plate, that I could give.

"Just this week I've been seeing more guys every day after practice out there working on something - stay after practice, getting more time in. I catch more guys in the film room, watching more film."

Snyder divided the team into four groups - travel squad offense, travel squad defense, scout team offense and scout team defense - for the soul-baring.

"That way everybody had an opportunity to talk," Finney said. "Those are the guys you're going to play with day in and day out.

"There's guys that you have to build that sense of camaraderie with, so you hear everybody that plays with you, is next to you, be able to focus on one thing or one aspect that they need to improve on to help this team get better. It means a lot."

With a Wildcat team still searching for an identity, maybe it will help.

"I think for young players in your program, you'd like for them to have something - a rallying point, perhaps," Snyder said. "I think that's something that has to come from within.

"It's easy for me to say, 'Do this, do that,' etc., but the bottom line at the end of the day is, it's how they feel and what they believe that is really significant to them, and how they respond to it. There's a dialogue about what's our rallying point (and) that's something they define collectively, I think."