Snyder once again could have K-State in Big 12 title race
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Bill Snyder has always valued continuity, whether on the coaching staff or in the huddle.
It's why four of his assistants, including co-offensive coordinators Dana Dimel and Del Miller, have spent at least 18 years at Kansas State. And why relative youngsters on the staff, such as Andre Coleman and Blake Seiler, played for the Wildcats before joining the profession.
''It's always significant,'' Snyder said, ''to have that kind of continuity where you don't have to go through the re-teaching or changing of things you firmly believe in, not that we're not open to change. We certainly are. I love to entertain new thoughts, new ideas. … But you hear some players get up and say, `Well, I've gone through four coordinators in four years,' and that's kind of tumultuous.
''We have been fortunate not to have to go through that over the last quarter of a decade.''
In truth, things have been fairly consistent at Kansas State for much longer, and Snyder is the reason for much of it. Sure, there was his brief retirement about a decade ago, but when he returned to the corner office in the Vanier Football Complex, it was as if nothing had changed.
It took two years to get back to a bowl game. Now, the Wildcats have been to six straight.
But as the 76-year-old Snyder enters his 26th season, there are growing rumblings that it may be his last. He needs seven wins to reach 200 for his career, a significant milestone, and the talent returning from an injury-plagued 2015 season means Kansas State could compete for another Big 12 title.
Perhaps such success would make it the right time.
''The good thing about Coach Snyder is he's real consistent. There's not a lot of surprises,'' said quarterback Jesse Ertz. ''It's the same thing, the same motto, the same work habits. Everything is, `Work hard and get better each day.' I think it's proven with how our teams usually do.''
As the Wildcats start another season with Snyder on the sideline, here are story lines to watch:
SEASON OPENER: Lambasted for years for scheduling soft in the non-conference, the Wildcats will visit Stanford on Sept. 2 in one of the marquee games of college football's first week.
''They take pride in being a tough and physical football team,'' said safety Dante Barnett, who missed much of last season with an injury. ''We can be a tough football team, too, so I can't wait.''
QUARTERBACK RACE: Ertz had a season-ending knee injury on the first series in the first game last season, and backup Alex Delton went down the following week. That left former walk-on Joe Hubener, and he struggled so often that wide receiver Kody Cook was pressed under center.
All three quarterbacks are competing for the starting job, but it was Ertz who was chosen to help represent that team at the Big 12 media gathering in Dallas – a sign of leadership, if nothing else.
SPEAKING OF BIG D: The Wildcats figure to rely heavily on defense, which kept them in most games a year ago. Elijah Lee and Mike Moore are solid linebackers, Jordan Willis and Will Geary may be the best defensive tackle tandem in the Big 12 and Barnett is back to anchor a hard-hitting secondary.
''With all the experience that we had last year and all the players that had to play and step up for our team, we have all those players coming back. The sky's the limit,'' Barnett said. ''When September rolls around we can go out there and show what we can really do.''
KEY GAMES: It doesn't get much bigger than Stanford in Week 1, especially with Florida Atlantic and Missouri State rounding out the non-conference. The Big 12 slate begins with West Virginia and Texas Tech, giving the Wildcats a chance to get off to a good start before the grind begins.
PREDICTION: If the Wildcats can beat Stanford, they realistically could be 5-0 by the time they visit Oklahoma on Oct. 15. And while competing for a Big 12 title would take everything breaking right, it's hard to imagine the Wildcats missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2009.