The Kansas St. Wildcats, back to prominence over the last few years with the return of former Head Coach Bill Snyder, will open the 2014 regular season as 175-1 longshots to win the National Title. But that doesn’t stop the optimism coming from the program. Here is Bill Snyder discussing his team.
Moderator: We’re now joined by Coach Bill Snyder, Kansas State coach. Your thoughts about the upcoming season.
Snyder: Probably as any season we’re anxious for it to begin. It will happen very quickly. Summer is disappearing in a heartbeat.
There’s seven of us here from Kansas State University right now. Sean Snyder, my son and associate head coach, special teams coordinator. And we have our five captains: B.J. Finney, our center; and Jake Waters, our quarterback; Tyler Lockett, one of our receivers; and then on the defensive side Jonathan Truman, linebacker, and Ryan Mueller, a defensive end and returning Defensive Player of the Year last year. All people that I’m immensely proud of, people that have had a great impact on our program.
As you visit with them, you’ll realize that they’re quality young men and wonderful people, great representatives of our university and great representatives of the conference.
Question: Looking at this current team, the reports you’ve heard, summer conditioning and the workouts and knowing what you have returning, what kind of signs of optimism do you carry heading into the fall?
Snyder: My degree of optimism is negotiated daily, I think, and the mantra of our program has always been centered around that daily improvement. And when we make daily improvement, then I become a little more optimistic. And when we don’t, obviously I don’t.
I think my major concern and going in the opposite direction but my major concern is always young people taking things for granted. I say young people. I probably can reference everybody in our program, is not taking our performance level, our talent level for granted, not taking the preparation for opponents for granted, not taking our workouts during the course of the summer for granted. Trying to find that way to get better every single day.
And I’m not alone in that. I think that’s probably a feeling that permeates collegiate athletics across the board.
I’m proud of so many of our youngsters, the five that are here and so many more that we have back in Manhattan right now who have really invested themselves during the course of the summer.
I would share a fairly high degree of optimism for today, but tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll see how that goes. I can’t make projections in regards to what kind of a football team. I know what we have capabilities of being and whether or not we can reach that level or not is dependent upon a lot of things, and the biggest thing is not taking anything for granted.
Didn’t tell you anything, did I (laughter)?
Question: Can you talk about how you’ve seen Tyler Lockett mature on and off the field since he arrived at your program?
Snyder: Tyler is a tremendous representative of our program. He has matured greatly, but he was a reasonably mature young man when he came into our program.
We’ve had his uncle and his brother in our program as well. Comes from an amazingly wonderful family. And each of the three that we have had, even though far different skill capabilities on the field, all of them quality players.
But probably more importantly than anything else is the fact that they are truly genuine young people, have a great value system brought forth by their family, their parents.
Tyler has taken perhaps the same road as Aaron and Kevin did when they were in our program. Worked diligently at trying to be better people, better family members, better players, better students, et cetera, day in, day out.
Tyler does exactly that. He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s a young guy that right now?? tomorrow’s another day, but right now I’m so proud of his attitude, his value system, and part of that guides him to do anything and everything that he can to get himself a little bit better every day.
He’s one of those guys that you leave the practice field, you go in your office, you look out the window and you’ve got the equipment managers out there twiddling their thumbs wanting to get the lights turned off and Tyler won’t let them because he’s out there catching balls off the machine and keeping quarterbacks out to throw to him.
So just a young guy that he’s got all his marbles in the right place.
Question: At the safety position, what all did Ty Zimmerman do for you guys in the last few years, and which guys are you going to count on to step into that place?
Snyder: You know, Ty was a quarterback in high school. Father was a high school football coach. They came from just up the road in Junction City.
And Ty was a starter for us as a redshirt freshman and really did grew in the program. He was very knowledgeable. His high school background was beneficial to him in the program. He was a good director of traffic, so to speak. He was quality leader. He was one of those young guys again that had a great value system, promoted well by his family.
He always did the right things. He always tried to do the right things. He was a very caring young guy. He took on a leadership role very early in the program. And when I say was a good director of traffic, he was one of those guys that made most of our calls for us and would be able to get people in the right position.
Very valuable young guy.
Question: I wonder what kind of sense did you get from the group coming back after the way that your team finished winning six of the last seven and especially the Bowl game? What did that do, do you think, for the program?
Snyder: Well, the hope would have been and was that we had learned lessons along the way. And the lessons dated back to the outset of the season in which we were not a very good football team. We were 2-4 the first half of the season and lost the very first ballgame to a very fine North Dakota State University team, but a game that we were supposed to win.
And the result of that game was brought forth I think by what I mentioned a little bit earlier, by taking things for granted, taking our performance level for granted, taking the opponent for granted, certainly some other things, but by and large that led to the charge.
And I think that the way that our young people finished the season allowed them to understand the value of not taking anything for granted because they certainly didn’t toward the end of the season or the last half of the season and preparing yourself that way on a very consistent basis. And we had a lot of dialogue about that during the last three quarters of the season.
And probably the period of time that I was most proud of the young people in our program was the approach that they took to our preparation for the Bowl game.
I don’t know, we’ve been to 16, 18 Bowls at Kansas State, but I cannot recall a preparation that was as pleasing to me as the one that took place this past season.
I thought our young guys were tremendously focused. They brought that value system to the practice field and their preparation off the field and in an environment that’s totally different than what you go through during the course of the season.
And I was just extremely happy and pleased and proud and very hopeful that that preparation and that approach to the preparation would carry over during the course of the out of season, spring practice and the summer, and then our preseason workout starting here in August.
Remains to be seen. I think sometimes they learn valuable lessons, but sometimes when you learn valuable lessons, then you have a tendency to reinvest and taking that for granted that you’ve learned your lesson and everything is in order.
And hopefully we don’t do that. And I think during the course of the summer we’ve been pretty good, at least, grades probably 90 percent. That’s not perfect, but still tells me about 90 percent of the young guys in our program have carried that experience forward and are putting it in place to help them achieve success during the course of this year.
Question: In his first season, Jake Waters reported the highest passer rating of any non?senior quarterback in K-State history. The legacy of your quarterbacks between the junior and senior season has been well documented. What signs from Jake give you encouragement in his further development as he heads into his senior season?
Snyder: Jake, as I mentioned before, Jake is one of those young guys that has a tremendous value system. He’s a young guy that understands what our program is truly all about. He’s a young guy that works diligently to improve his plight in life and on the football field on a very regular daily basis.
He was a young guy that entered our program with very little experience. When I say very little experience, he was in our program for a very short period of time and didn’t have the experience in our program to get started off as he would have liked and I would have liked as well.
And he had a rocky start in the first half of the season. But at no time did he ever stop trying to improve his plight. He’s a bright, young guy. He works well. But it was just a new environment for him and just having the experience, we all do that in whatever our routine is.
The more we do it, the more we do it with the intent of doing it the best we can, the better we get at it. And that’s exactly what has happened to Jake in the last half of the season and began to catch hold and became better and better and finished the season extremely well.
His level of confidence I think has grown immensely. I think that experience from last year has benefited him greatly, as it should, with any young guy. And he’s embraced it.
Like I mentioned with Tyler, he’s one of those young guys that’s always going to do everything he can and try to do the little extra to improve his plight and become a better player and better person, and he does that consistently. And I think we saw the benefits of that towards the latter part of the season and hopefully it continues.
Now, again, there’s always caution that because he is feeling that greater confidence we don’t want him or us to take him for granted and what his capabilities to achieve are.
But he’s just a tremendous young guy that I’m confident up to at least this point in time that he’s done anything and everything that he can to help himself improve and I’m pretty confident that he will continue to do that.
Question: By my count, since you were first hired at K-State, the other schools in the conference have had 48 head coaches. When you hear stuff like that thrown out by people like us, does that make you feel old and how do you sort of fight against the age thing and keep coaching at such a high-pressure, high-intensity job that you’ve got?
Snyder: Well, I don’t pay much attention to what the turnover ratio is from one school to the next. And there’s a variety of different reasons.
Sometimes people move on. The age factor, I can’t negotiate that. It is what it is. And I’m as old as time and that’s not going to change.
Probably the significant thing for me?? and I think I’ve learned this a long time ago?? when I was a young coach, started off in the high school level and moved to a lot of different places, and I was always one of those coaches that I wanted to be someplace else other than where I was.
In other words, I wanted to continue to climb. So when I was a high school assistant, I wanted to be a head coach. When I was a head coach, I wanted to be a college assistant. When I was a college assistant, I wanted to be a head coach. So that went on for a considerable period of time.
And I was half in/half out, so to speak. And consequently I was not a very good football coach at all, probably not a very good person.
And I learned some time ago, probably 30 some?odd years ago, that I needed to do it a little differently.
And my decision was, simply put, that be where you are. And I chose to do that. And that allowed me, I think, to become better at things I was doing and never looked to move on. It wasn’t significant to me. I valued where I was, where my family was and doing what we were doing, and that was kind of the approach that I’ve taken. And I think that’s probably why I’m not one of those 48, I guess, that you’re talking about.
Where do you get those stats, Barry?
Question: I looked it up.
Snyder: What was the end result you were hoping for?
Question: I was thinking 75.
Snyder: Okay (laughter). Dig a little deeper; you might find it.
Question: We were talking about coaches and you have a new one in the Big 12 in Charlie Strong. You have a good rapport with your fan base there, Kansas State. What kind of advice would you give him if he asked you, because he said some things that’s kind of irritated the Longhorn fan base, or was this just kind of a to each his own kind of thing?
Snyder: I visited with Charlie just a little bit ago. I was pleased to hear him talk about his family and daughters moving to Austin.
It’s not easy being a child of a head football coach anyplace in the country for that matter. I think the important thing is just be who you are. And if you indeed do that, be who you are, care about people. I think Charlie cares about people. I think things can work out fine for him.